Thursday, 10 November 2011

Lewes Road sustainable consultation starts Friday - opinion: we need a rapid transport route

Brighton's city council has announced a series of exhibitions to consult the public about the grant it was awarded to fix up the Lewes Road - probably the city's most polluted and dangerous roadway.

In my opinion, (at the end of this article), I suggest that whatever else is done, we need a well thought-out, expert, citywide, sustainable transport plan. I'm not sure we have that yet. We might try to work toward that goal, and build a single rapid, sustainable transport link.

In a press release dated 26 October 2011 a council spokesperson said: "Residents are being invited to a series of exhibitions on revamping one of Brighton's biggest and busiest main roads."

In April this year, the council won £4.2m of government funding for a scheme proposed under the previous Tory administration to "improve the transport flows, street scene and air quality along Lewes Road and surrounding streets. The sum will be added to £2.5m in contributions from other local partners," according to the spokesperson.

The council consultation will take place during November and December with series of local exhibitions. The spokesperson said: "The shows will be an opportunity for residents and businesses to learn more about the council's broad proposals – and to make their own suggestions. Feedback from the exhibitions will then be used to help draw up more detailed plans before more consultation next year."

Cabinet councillor for transport Ian Davey said: "This is part of our priorities to make Brighton & Hove a more sustainable city and to engage more closely with residents. Lewes Road looks rather untidy in places, it can be frustrating and difficult to travel along and is also one of our worst streets for air pollution. We have some broad aims and now we want to canvass the views of local people to come up with a more detailed plan."

Council officers will be on hand for a chat and a questionnaire available to fill in. The questionnaire can also be completed online.

Duncan Blinkhorn, of the local community group Lewes Road for Clean Air, urged members of the public to participate: "This investment is a rare opportunity to bring about some real improvements to cycling conditions along this route which could be used by thousands more people on bikes than at present. At Bike Train (& Lewes Road Cycle Vision) meetings we have talked about enabling a shift from the current 2% toward 10% of Lewes Road journeys by bike and reducing car journeys and associated congestion and pollution. Let's ensure that these Lewes Road improvements make a real change toward that."

Duncan provided a consultation detailed timetable (see below). A similar but less detailed timetable is found on the council website. There is also a link for an online questionaire on the council website. Times vary – for details see www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/lewesroad or call 01273 290487 (council number). 

Exhibition/Consultations Timetable
(supplied by Lewes Road for Clean Air)

Hollingdean
Mon 7th Nov - Thurs 10th Nov, 9am-5pm,
At Hollingdean Community Centre, Thompson Rd, Hollingdean BN1 7BH
01273 236160
Council officers present:
• Fri 11th November, 2pm-8pm
• Sat 12th November, 10am-4pm

Coldean
Mon 14th Nov - Fri 18th Nov
At New Larchwood Community Café, Waldron Avenue, Coldean BN1 9EZ
Council officers present:
• Tues 15th November, 10am-8pm
• Sat 19th November, 10am-4pm

Hanover
Mon 21st, Wed 23rd & Sat 26th Nov
At Hanover Community Centre, 33 Southover St, Hanover area BN2 9UD
Council officers present:
• Mon 21st November, 3pm-6pm
• Wed 23rd November, 12pm-4pm
• Sat 26th November, 9am-1pm

Moulsecoomb
Mon 28th Nov - Fri 2nd Dec, during normal opening times,
At Moulsecoomb Leisure Centre (bar area), Moulsecoomb Way, Moulsecoomb BN2 4PB
Council officers present:
• Fri 2nd December, 2pm-8pm
• Sat 3rd December, 10am-4pm

Bevendean
Thu 8th Dec – Sat 10th Dec
At Church Hall, Church of the Holy Nativity, Norwich Drive , Bevendean BN2 4LA
Council officers present:
• Thurs 8th December, 9am-4pm
• Fri 9th December, 2pm-8pm
• Sat 10th December, 10am-4pm

My Opinion:
As readers of this blog know, I think the many of the proposals as made in the Lewes Road grant bid were good, and I await the council's revised proposals with anticipation.

We want to achieve real change, but we risk tinkering around the edges of a poor transport route. Real time bus signs and routes to the South Downs are important - but the underlying traffic plan in the city is slow and dangerous for non-car users. Until we address that, then we won't solve the underlying problem, and the plan risks failing to deliver any substantial change. (I discussed this when the award was made: link here)

So: in my opinion, we need to start with a city-wide sustainable transport plan. This might involve consulting with experts, maybe even selecting an expert group to produce a city plan for B&H if that is what is needed.

If that is not allowed because the plan must be localised to the Lewes Road, then let's concentrate on the core plan for this route: a clear, sustainable traffic route from say Falmer (or Lewes) to Brighton railway station and feed in routes from suburbs. That means a route for public transport, cycling and walking that is fast, convenient, attractive and safe - and considers transport in the depths of winter and solutions for the hills. A Rapid Bus Service and safe cycle and walking routes to connect Unversities and hard-to-get-to residential suburbs with central railway station and town centre seem needed. Radiating out from this central Rapid Bus route: strategic, cycle friendly buses up the areas steep hills would help people choose alternatives to the car.

Does an integrated public transport system seem too costly? Maybe. Then let's settle for a redesigned Lewes Road. Let's clear the clutter from the road, including the parked cars, so buses and cycles can easily get into town. Lets ask the bus companies to introduce some Rapid Bus Services (fewer stops, no bottlenecks caused by parked cars, priority at traffic lights and filters).

It's not fair that privately owned cars claim priority over sustainable and public transport. This is effectively what happens when parked cars block traffic.

Let's aim to make it as quick to travel around town by bus as it is by car. Cycle might be as fast - at least down hill!

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