|Councillor Mary Mears|
Cllr Mears said: "I am not anti-cycling by any means – I think that the seafront cycle route is a fantastic resource for example and is used by thousands every day. We are also actively looking into the possibility of a ‘Boris Bikes’ type cycle hire scheme here in Brighton & Hove as we fully recognise the health and environmental benefits that cycling can bring.... However, my primary concern as Council Leader has to be ensuring the safety of residents."
These safety concerns are contradicted by the statistics she quoted in her blog.
I checked Cllr Mears blog on the advice of the Council Press Office when I asked for clarification today. Cllr Mears makes 5 main points:
1. The cycle lane was not devised under her administration, it was agreed by the previous (Labour Admin). (It came out of the 2000 Local Transport Plan to promote sustainable transport).
2. She says the lane is not well used though does not back this up.
3. She says the Drive Cycle lane is unsafe. But she contradicts this in the next sentence: "There remain serious safety concerns with the cycle lane. Thankfully, the number of accidents have dropped slightly over the last couple of years but there were still 42 casualties between 2008 and 2010. For what was originally sold as being a safe segregated space for cyclists, to me this is completely unacceptable."
Dedicated readers of this blog will already know that the Argus printed the casualty figures which showed a 20% drop in accidents along the drive since the cycle freeway was built.
To make matters worse for Councillor Mears' safety argument, this significant reduction in casualties comes over a period when cycle casualties have been rising in the rest of city. This is partly to be expected as cycling increased by 27%, but also due to the haphazard provision of cycling facilities in the city. Cycle lanes disappear in the most dangerous places, in pinch points.“between 2005 and 2007 there were a total of 41 accidents and 52 casualties along the entire stretch. Between 2008 and 2010 this dropped to 32 accidents and 42 casualties’ Brighton Argus
Points 4 and 5 deal mainly the money to demolish the lanes - she thinks it will cost a lot less than £1.1m and that includes provision for £300k they might not have to repay to Cycling England because she says, "the quango is about to be abolished", and it is a one-off payment.
Mears makes it clear cycling is not something she does. "All of these issues beg the question as to why the cycle lane was installed in the first place. Bricycles stated in their submission to the consultation at the time that ‘Grand Avenue is currently not a difficult road to cycle in for people with average cycling skills.’ And cyclists have told me that this complete segregation is actually counter-productive as it makes both drivers and cyclists less aware of each other, particularly at the road junctions and where driveways cross over."
Cllr Mears does not refer to the argument in favour of segregated cycle lanes - they are there to encourage the less able cyclists, the young or timid in a country where cars have priority on the urban roads (unlike the on the continent).
Cllr Mears says the route is not well used, but doesn't supply figures. According BH Council website: "Monitoring in June 2008 indicates around 250 cyclists per day". This is set against thousands who use the seafront route. But the Drive route was never fully implemented, eg safe crossing at Old Shoreham Road (OSR) not installed, OSR cycle route cancelled altogether.
She does touch on what is probably the real issue for her car driving constituents: cyclists coming at speed down the cycle free-way make it hard for cars to come off the road and into their driveways. They've got to wait for a gap. And if the cycle free-way takes off, with cyclists flying up and down the route from South Downs to the sea, this can only get worse.
So far as being "not anti-cycling" goes - my blog entry of earlier shows that the Conservative admin is at least pro-car and wants to reverse sustainable transport policy. They are happy with cyclists so long as they do not affect the rights of the car.
Cllr Mears has not mentioned what might replace this cycle route, but from what she says, quoting Adam Trimmington's piece in the Argus "it is ‘the wrong lane in the wrong place'" it sounds like she has got it in for the whole cycle lane from the South Downs to the sea. No plans to replace it with any kind of cycle route. Not even sensible talk of making it a mixed use. The wrong lane in the wrong place? What is the right lane in the right place, to give access to the Downs and the sea and connect both with Hove station? We need a cycle free-way.