Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Revolutionaries take over traffic island in Brighton

25 May 2011. A group calling themselves the "Spanish Revolution" have occupied the traffic island known as the Old Steine in central Brighton and Hove.

The group says on its website that it will deliver "real democracy" and a demonstration to "take over the streets" on 4 June. It says it is run by an "Assembly" and that it will hold meetings daily at its "camp" on the Old Steine. Other activities include yoga, belly dancing and capoeira.

Spanish Revolution website says: "We are individuals who have come together freely and voluntarily. Each of us has decided, after the concentrations on Sunday, May 15, that we are determined to continue fighting for dignity and political and social awareness."

Link to the website is given below.

The Green-led council has engaged with the Spanish Revolutionaries. Councillor Ben Duncan, Cabinet Member for Communities, Equalities and Public Protection, said: “I have spoken with members of the group and received assurances that any activity associated with their protest will be peaceful, lawful and transparent.

“The Old Steine isn’t just a public space in the city centre it’s the heart of a residential area so I am glad the protestors have liaised with the police and asked all supporters to recognise the need to respect the neighbourhood in which their encampment falls.

“In these respects the encampment is a model of the kind of engaged, peaceful protest the council and police are committed to facilitating, but of course we will be watching closely to see if this changes in the future.”

Valley Garden Project
Sustainable Transport-related background information: The Old Steine is a series of large grassy traffic islands surrounded by dual carriageway traffic in the center of Brighton. Until recent times, this area was a social centre of the town, but road developments cut the parks off from the town and surrounded them by hectic traffic. In 2000, the city made plans to reverse this domination by the car. The Core Strategy included plan to redirect traffic, and make a big park connecting the traffic islands and the Pavilion/N Laine areas. This Valley Gardens Park Project was going to create a park in the city center, reclaiming it from cars in favour of people, but these plans were squashed by Tory admin last year. The local Green Party has made it part of their manifesto to revive a city centre park project.

Spanish Revoluiton

Brighton and Hove Green manifesto at

Brighton's £6.3m Lewes Road sustainable transport bid includes a direct bus-to-railway link and electric bicycles - but can it solve the problem?

24 May 2011. Brighton and Hove City Council yesterday published details of its £6.3m bid for funding for a sustainable transport project in the Lewes Road Corridor. The bid is widely supported as a step in the right direction, though there are concerns it does not go far enough.

The bid, made on 18 April, seeks funding of £4m from the Department for Transport (DfT) Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF), with additional funding of £2.3m from local stakeholders including the bus and train companies, Sussex University and the council's own Local Transport Plan. If successful, the bid funds will be applied to capital and revenue projects over the period 2011-2015.

The bid application includes letters of support from major stakeholders including the Brighton and Hove Buses and Southern Rail, the Universities and several community organisations including Lewes Clean Air Campaign.

In January this year the DfT announced the £560m LSTF, intended to encourage Local Authorities to make plans to promote sustainable transport. Brighton and Hove's application was submitted to the DfT 18 April to meet the DfT deadline for the first round of funding ("Tranche 1"), for projects up to £5m. Winning bids will be announced end of June. A second round of bids for up to £5m closes 6 June (Tranche 2). Then there is another round for projects up to £50m. Deadline for expressions of interest for this is also 6 June.

Links to download details of Brighton's bid can be found at the end of this article.

Is the plan any good?
Cycle campaigners said that the application was prepared in a short time by the council planners, and there was insufficient time for community consultation.

Lewes Clean Air Campaign spokesperson Duncan Blinkhorn said: "Lewes Road for Clean Air / Bike Train are a community partner in this bid. We support it because we want to see real progress toward this route being a sustainable transport route which can have a positive impact on local health, well-being as well as the global threats of climate change from significant reductions in emissions of CO2, air polutants and noise.

He added: "We have some concerns that the bid lacks sufficient ambition and offers little in the way of practical steps to improve cycling but we hope that these things can be developed more a later stage."

Major elements of the proposal include publicity to promote cycling, walking and public transport, bus stop improvements including weather cover and "real time" bus information displays, and improved access to the South Downs National Park, including signage and resurfacing of routes and improvement of access including rights of way.

This is all to be welcomed. However, in the absence of a citywide sustainable transport plan, it will be hard to improve the problems of slow public transport links with other parts of the city, and dangerous cycle routes into town.

In particular, the publicity-promotion of cycling seems optimistic, without provision of safe cycling routes around such obstacles and pinch points as the Underpass, Vogue Gyratory and the Level.

The report does acknowledge: "The poor surrounding cycling and pedestrian facilities mean parents and carers are reluctant to let their children walk or cycle which also contributes to a lost opportunity to improve health."

The local improvements might encourage more people to use the South Downs National Park, but will it encourage more people to cycle and walk to work and school?

To ease congestion we want people to use cars less. To do that, we need to make sustainable transport the mode of choice: prioritise public transport, so becomes as fast to get the train station by bus as it is by car; make walking and cycling safe and attractive.

There are some nods in this direction: a "green wave" on traffic lights in Vogue Gyratory will give sustainable transport priority. And a new direct bus service will allow residents to get to the station without having to change buses (extension of route 21). But overall journey times on buses are likely to remain long as buses struggle through congested streets. And a green wave for cyclists on Vogue Gyratory is unlikely to make it less intimidating. A cycle bypass is needed there, and cyclists still have to confront the Level...

Imagine a fast tram to the station,  and delightful cycling and walking routes... people leaving their cars at home or on the city outskirts. Am I dreaming? Actually, there used to be railway line running though the Vogue Gyratory, it was demolished only in 1984. Ultimately we will need to re-engineer the city to get where we want to go. That will help stimulate the economy as well.

For the time being, in my opinion, without an overall city plan that coordinates a sustainable transport policy, it will be hard for a local project like this Lewes Road Corridor bid to persuade substantial numbers of people to switch to sustainable transport for trips like work and school.

It is doubtful that more community consultation on this isolated project could have come up with better ideas - and in the end, the vocal spokesperson for Lewes Road Clean Air Campaign, Duncan Blinkhorn, gave the project his support.

In my opinion, the money would be better spent on making an integrated city plan - then we can make a start on some of the serious civil engineering obstacles - like Vogue Gyratory. And similar obstacles on Old Shoreham Road. So let's go for the big prize, the £50m bid.

In the meantime, this bid should be supported, not because it promises fundamental change - but because it is a step in the right direction, and an opportunity to focus the city's attention on what is needed to promote real modal shift toward sustainable transport. If it does not go ahead, we will lose the funding opportunity.

Bid Details
The application includes elements under the following headings:
SC1 – Personalised Travel Planning (PTP)
SC2 - Travel Planning (Universities)
SC3 - School Travel Planning
SC4 - Community Road Safety Campaign
SC5 - Electric Bikes Research and Promotion
TI1 - Links to South Downs National Park (SDNP)
TI2 - Traffic Signal Review and Upgrade
TI3 - Pedestrian Wayfinding Extension
TI4 - Bus Real Time Information (RTI) Extension and Upgrade to GPRS
TI5 - Rail Station Access Improvements
TI6 – Improved Bus Stop Waiting Environments
TI7 - Bus Service Improvements to Brighton Station

Download the full details of Brighton and Hove's "Lewes Road Corridor
2011-2014" LSTF Bid here:

On Thursday, will Greens accept the Local Transport Plan made by the old Tory-led council?

Core Development Areas (LTP3-App 3)
24 May. The delayed Local Transport Plan (LTP) will be presented to a Special meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council on Thursday 26 May 2011.

This LTP was devised under the just-demised Tory leadership of the council. So is the LTP full of plans to remove cycle lanes and turn green spaces into parking spaces? Not at all. In fact, the Plan makes it sound like the Tories had a Road to Damascus Moment and converted to the Green Cause. Here is the vision statement:

“To deliver an integrated, accessible and balanced transport system that supports economic growth and enables people to travel around and access services as safely and freely as possible while minimising damage to the environment and contributing to a safer, cleaner, quieter and healthier city.”

OK, no mention of the "sustainable" word in the vision statement, but plenty inside.

The LTP is a truly awesome document in hundreds of pages. A quick scan (link below) shows how transport planning impacts many aspects of our lives - housing, how we go to school, work and shop, what our cities look and feel like. Air quality affects our health, traffic affects our enjoyment of the urban environment. Our economy depends on how transport flows - not just how quickly, with billions being lost by traffic jams - but also how enjoyable the experience is, with some high streets being blighted by noisy dangerous traffic, and others boosting retail trade with safe enjoyable pedestrian areas like New Road in Brighton.

UK's local authorities are supposed to work to 12 year strategic plans, and the last one (LTP2) was drafted in 2000. So a new one (LTP3) was supposed to be agreed by the end of March 2011. But the council administration was in a turmoil - with the possibility of council opposition defeating the LTP just weeks before the May local election - so everyone agreed to delay considering the LTP until after the election.

Well, as we now know, the Tories lost, and the Greens won the election by a margin that surprised everybody.

So the LTP becomes almost the second major policy document to be debated by a the Green-led council. (The first item on the agenda is councillors' allowances - Green promised to scrap these as part of thier election promises).

Although created under the demised Tory administration, the LTP is supposed to be non-political, being drawn up in the best interests of the city by council officers. But, as we experienced over four years of Tory admin, council officers are susceptible to political pressure - as the sad demise of Old Shoreham Road Cycle Freeway, Valley Gardens project, etc etc bears witness. Many of these were components of the last (2000) LTP2.

Back in November I did query the questions asked in the public consultation that formed part of the LTP. For example, there was no clear question that asked: Do you favour a clear commitment to Sustainable Transport?" The closes we got was:
"To reduce the need to travel  - and enable people to travel more sustainably."
The the above, 73% agreed,  21% neither agreed nor disagreed, 6.5% disagreed. So what part of that sentence did they disagree to? This is a trickster question. It is important, because the the LTP bases it's priorities on the results of public consultation. Other policies had higher approval so these get given priority.

My sources tell me this new LTP3 is masterpiece of worthy generalisation, which would have allowed a Tory administration to adapt the sustainable-sounding plan to its nefarious ends, while still being fit for the purpose of securing government funding.

But the good thing about this vague kind of Plan is that it allows the incoming Green administration an equal flexibility.

The word is that it will be adopted by council on Thursday.

In any event, delay would be extremely uncomfortable - government funds will not be forthcoming until the LTP is agreed. Local highway authorities have a statutory requirement to produce a Local Transport Plan [LTP] as part of the process to secure government grant funding. The current LTP expired at the end of March 2011 and the third LTP [LTP3] for Brighton & Hove was supposed to be in place by the beginning of April 2011.

Click link here for downloadable copies of LTP3. The details are in Appendix 3 and 4.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Bike Train to 
Springwatch Festival at Stanmer Park, Brighton, 5 June 2011 - call for volunteers

Bike Train visiting the Drive, Hove
Brighton's Bike Train will try out an hourly service on 5th May, along the Lewes Road to Springwatch festival at Stanmer Park. The ride is part of the run-up to national Bike Week (18 -26 June).

Details of ride times and call for volunteers shown below.

Bike Train provides a safer, escorted service along Lewes Road - one of Brighton's main cycle routes - which is notorious for its dangerous pinch points and cycle-unfriendly junctions.

Organiser Duncan Blinkhorn said: "Bike Train enables people to cycle two abreast, taking up one traffic lane, in a fun, sociable, assertive and safe formation."

An hourly, family-friendly, group cycle-ride will go between The Level in central Brighton and Stanmer Park. There will be two speeds of ride each hour - an "Easy Rider" slow ride and a faster, though still moderate speed, "Express train". All rides will be supported by experienced ride marshalls and accompanied by some groovy tunes (yes, you heard that right - Mr Blinkhorn has a sound system mounted on his bicycle, loud enough to be heard in the traffic).

"If successful, we will run similar services to other events at Stanmer and the new Falmer Stadium," Mr Blinkhorn added.

Call for volunteers
Mr Blinkhorn called for volunteers: "We need lots of help on the day staffing the two Bike Train stations and supporting the rides."

If you can help for part or all of the day (8am - 6pm), contact Rebecca on 07739 181337 or Duncan on 07944 152706 or by e-mail info@biketrain.org

Depart from The Level:
10am, 11am, Noon, 1pm.

Return Rides from Springwatch:
1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, 5pm.

Join at any point along the Lewes Road Route.

More info: http://www.biketrain.org/

The event is registered with Team Green Britain Bike Week as an official Bike Week event: http://www.bikeweek.org.uk.

Brighton's Bike Train offers safety in numbers for cyclists in rush hour traffic

A community-run project offers Brighton's cyclists a safe way to cope with rush hour traffic by gathering them together in one big group - the "Bike Train".

Bike Train is a volunteer-run project set up by the Lewes Road for Clean Air community group, which is working to clean up air pollution on the Lewes Road
"through positive citizen action, promoting a shift to sustainable transport for a low-carbon future".

Of all Brighton's official cycle routes none are as scary as Lewes Road, with the Level and Vogue Gyratory and the underpass pinchpoint danger spots. The latter is where cyclist Joanna Walters was killed 14 July last year. She was cycling on the cycle route near the underpass on the Lewes Road when she was struck by a delivery van.

Other danger spots along this cycle route - National Cycle Route 90, no less - include the "Vogue Gyratory", a monster roundabout built in the mid 1980's with no provision for cyclists, and "The Level", with its cycle paths positioned in the path of oncoming buses.

Bike Train runs daily from The Level to Sussex University, departing from The Level at 8.30am.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

With no money in the budget, can policy alone achieve Sustainable Transport in Brighton and Hove

On Thursday (21 May) the UK's first Green council administration was voted into power by a full meeting of the city council in Brighton and Hove. The council officers are said to be overjoyed to be working with a Green administration and bursting with ideas of how to implement the local Green manifesto. How exciting, you might think, now we can put all those sustainable transport plans into action? Not quite. There is no money at all for new capital projects in the council's Transport budget, so this rules out infrastructural changes.

But not everything needs money. Significant change might be achieved through policy decisions alone. I've been chatting to activists, consultants and councillors about what can be done. Above all, what the city needs is a detailed sustainable transport plan. Some policy changes might be effective in the short term:

1. 20 mph default across the city. Signage is expensive, and planning is needed, eg where higher speeds are needed. But on the face of it, 20mph default should cost almost nothing.Some big signs as you enter the city, possibly enforced by sub-contracted commission-paid officers presently engaged in parking ticketing. 20 mph will make other transport options more attractive by slowing traffic - and if people use other transport options, traffic will be less and journey times may even end up being shorter - even by car. We can visit Portsmouth and ask them how they did it.

2. Planning suburban traffic around 'semi permeable cells'. Suburban areas can be planned so 'rat-run' type traffic speeding through residential roads (and endangering children) is blocked. This is done by 'semi permeable' barriers such as one-way streets and bollards, creating cells with limited access to cars but open to walkers, cyclists and public transport. Cars can only enter via a few roads. Cells are linked by traffic arteries. So if you want to travel by car from suburb to neighbouring suburb, you need to drive out of your cell onto a connecting road (such as a ringroad) and back into the neighbouring cell. In Dutch cities this type of planning means that short journeys are much more convenient by foot, or cycle or public transport.

3. Speed up bus transport. We need rapid buses on strategic routes. It is ridiculous that it takes an hour to travel from Aldrington to Hollingbury or Falmer by bus - but 15 minutes by car or taxi. Brighton's main bus company is a near-monopoly that runs huge buses on centralised routes that suit them. Encourage more independent bus services to bid for routes that communities help to plan. Set up a council-led community bus service so that a self sustaining community service can evolve. Policy decision and encouragement may be all that is needed here.

4. Invest in planning. The budget inherited from the Tories allocates £4.5m to improving car parks. This can be put off for a little while. Invest the money into making a unified transport plan for the city. Maybe we won't need these car parks in these places if we do a proper plan.

5. Look at best practice. Let's talk to the Dutch. We may even find the EU will help pay for consultation with people who have already made sustainable transport work. EU funding is allocated to Brighton and Hove for sustainable transport - this was used to pay for the cycle counters installed last year. Better to use this money for planning than for cycle counters.

6. Central Government has set up a £560million Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF). Brighton and Hove applied for grant funding from this, during the previous Tory administration. But the proposal involved scant community consultation and I have not yet seen it - I'm hoping to soon. It is said to involve the Lewes Road corridor, which has issues of heavy traffic, poor air quality and a dangerous cycle route.


When voters reacted against the Labour government and let a Tory minority administration take power in 2007, the city suffered four years of mean spirited self interest that clearly saw sustainable development as a threat to the Tory way of life - especially the right to drive and park cars everywhere. The Tories leaned on the city's planners, and tore the heart out of the city's sustainable transport plans by cancelling the core elements of it, for example the city centre Valley Gardens project, Old Shoreham Road cycle freeway and Marine Parade cycle lane. In January 2011 they actually tried to repeal the council's commitment to sustainable transport.

Tory admin was voted out of power in the 5 May local elections, and the voters have entrusted the city to a new group of Green councillors. But the period of freely available funds is over. We will long regret the damage done to our city by the Tory failure to take the golden opportunity during the decade of unfettered funding.

The budget inherited by the Green administration from the Tories imposes £23million of cuts on the council. This is due to cuts in funding from central government. More cuts are indicated in future years?

Friday, 20 May 2011

Cyclists protest against the removal of cycle parking facilities from Brighton Railway Station

This cycle parking at Brighton Station is scrapped. greynet.org.uk
19 May 2011. On Friday 13 May cyclists at a meeting of the Station Gateway Group protested against the removal of cycle parking racks from the main (south entrance) of Brighton Railway Station. Scores of cycles are now chained to railings at the front of the station and facing the bus depot and surrounding shops.

A Brighton resident who was at the meeting said: "There was no community consultation about the decision to remove the cycle racks. Southern Railways says cyclists can use the cycle racks at the rear (north entrance) of the station. But most people arrive at the station from the main entrance, which faces the seafront and the North Laine shopping and entertainment areas. To get to the rear you have to dismount and walk through the station and onto a platform. Studies show that cyclists typically won't go more than fifty meters to park their cycles. The response of the station manager who was at the meeting was unsympathetic to cyclists - he said that since cars have to park at the back, there's no reason why cyclists should not do so as well."

Chris Hudson, Media Relations Manager for Southern Rail who operate the station, said security was the primary reason for the decision to remove all cycle storage facilities from the station frontage on a permanent basis. He said the chained cycles represented a security risk in the crowded front for the station, since rucksacks and satchel bags are left attached to bikes.

"People have been chaining their bikes to the railings around Brighton station for many years. There are sufficient cycle parking facilities at the rear of the station, so there should be no need for people to chain their bikes to railings at the front," Mr Hudson said.

"We re-painted the canopy which stretches across the entire station frontage and in order to carry out the work safely bicycles the coffee bar and the taxis were moved from the front to the back. Cycles are now permanently parked at the rear of the station which has been the intention for some time," he added.

In answer to speculation that Southern Rail will use the space freed up by removing the cycle storage for retail sites, Chris Hudson said: "There are no plans at present to develop the area left free by the cycle park at the front of the station."

Cycling England lives on... website given a new lease of life by DfT

When Cycling England was closed by the DfT, it was thought that Cycling England website - containing much research and reports - would be closed. But the other day I thought I would check - and I see the DfT has decided to keep the website on-line, without updating it. That's a good decision - at least local authorities chasing the DfT's Local Transport Fund money will be able to take a look at the results of the 6 years of work and £160 investment inspired by Cycling England's vision.

Cycling England website. http://www.dft.gov.uk/cyclingengland/

Farewell from Cycling England

Regular readers of my blog will recall that I tried hard to get comment from Phillip Darnton, head of Cycling England, before his organisation was closed down. He press officer told me it would not be appropriate for him to comment. But the day after my article was published in the Guardian, Darnton did make a comment on Cycling England's website.

In an open letter titled "Farewell Note from Cycling England", Darnton says: "The Government’s decision to abolish Cycling England – as being a “quango” is regrettable, and cost ineffective but it is not the demise of this little group of managers which is to be lamented it is the loss of the nationally extended network of enthusiasts, with their acquired knowledge, skills and engagement which is the real waste.

"With the backing of the Professional Support Team as well as the crucial involvement of Sustrans and CTC and other partners in their many schemes, cycling was well on track for long- term growth and much positive momentum.

"Unfortunately, Government has yet to appreciate these key lessons of consistency, continuity and the need for a long term strategy for an integrated transport policy for Britain.

For full text of the Farewell Note, click Read More

Friday, 6 May 2011

Greens now biggest party on Brighton and Hove City Council after elections today

Greens are now the largest party on Brighton & Hove City Council after election results today. This is the first time a local council in the UK has elected the Greens as the largest party.

People voted Green across Brighton & Hove. Greens held all their seats and gained 10 more for a total of 23 Green councillors, making them the largest group of on the council, and the largest Green group of councillors in the country.

It’s a huge vote of confidence in the Greens. Green convenor Bill Randall said, “The the city has listened to the Greens and we have listened to the city. Greens will now sit down and plan how to take the city forward in these difficult times."

Bill Randall said: “The next step is for us to talk to other parties about how we will work with them and implement our manifesto pledges at a very challenging time for local government budgets."

Key Green wins included:
• Goldsmid returned three Greens, winning one seat each from Labour and Conservatives. Alex Phillips, Ruth Buckley and Rob Jarret were elected.
• Brunswick & Adelaide returned two Greens. It was previously LibDem stronghold
• Queens Park returned three Greens, despite determined efforts by Labour to win back the three seats they lost in 2007.
• Regency returned two Greens - up by one.
• Hollindean And Stanmer had three labour councillors - now they have one. The other two seats were taken by Green candidates Sven Rufus and Christina Summers.
• Conservatives lost another seat to Greens in Central Hove.

• Safe Green Wards St Peters & N Laine, and Preston Park returned three Greens each.

I spent an exciting day at Hove Town Hall watching the vote being counted. Here is my video of council leader Bill Randall after the results were announced.

For full results see the Council Website