Removing West Sussex pop-up cycle lanes a ‘shambles’

The decision to remove pop-up cycle lanes in towns across West Sussex has been condemned as a ‘shambles’ by the county’s cycle forum.

Thursday, 5th November 2020, 3:20 pm
One of the county's pop-up cycle lanes. Pic by Steve Robards

West Sussex County Council invested in new temporary routes for cyclists after receiving money from central Government to help support active travel as the country emerged from the first lockdown.

The schemes did not go down well with many motorists, who have been extremely vocal about the congestion they have caused.

Last month cabinet member for highways and infrastructure Roger Elkins approved the removal of the Chichester scheme, but this has been called in and will have to be debated by a scrutiny committee before it can be confirmed.

And on Tuesday he decided to scrap the remaining pop-up cycle lanes in Worthing, Shoreham, Horsham, Crawley and East Grinstead.

This decision is also subject to a call-in period.

It has been criticised by the West Sussex Cycle Forum, which points out how the pandemic is not over and as the county enters a second lockdown active exercise is ‘more important than ever for people’s mental health and safety’.

The group also suggests removing the protected lanes is discouraging cycle use and ‘going against government advice’.

A statement from the group said: “On one hand WSCC says they are no longer needed - that is debatable; and on another, WSCC says popular opinion was against them. Our view is that people will cycle if the designs are right - so that argument falls away. If it is about the design – as cabinet member he approved the designs just a few months ago. If he doesn’t like them now, he shouldn’t have approved them then.

“This arbitrary decision is based on what Cllr Elkins believes is popular opinion rather than the right thing to do. This arbitrary decision is based on inaccurate or insufficient data about use, vehicle congestion, and pollution. This arbitrary decision hasn’t allowed WSCC staff to significantly adjust the designs during the consultation period that is still running.”

Geoff Farrell, chair of the WSCF, added: “A clear and rational justification should be provided so the public can judge. £781,000 of Government (taxpayers) money has been spent and wasted, taxpayers’ money will be spent taking them out. We’ll go back to a time when people were afraid to ride a bike in our towns. What a shambles.”

Announcing his decision earlier this week, Mr Elkins said: “The schemes fulfilled their main objectives of offering people dedicated space to cycle rather than using public transport, or to leave the car at home and use their bike instead. This was in response to the unique set of circumstances during the first national lockdown, including schools and colleges having been closed for months and vastly-reduced public transport capacity.

“The extraordinary environment that led to their installation no longer exists even though we are about to enter into a new national lockdown: schools and colleges are open, traffic volumes have increased and, although public transport capacity is not back to pre-March levels, it is significantly improved.”

The impact of the schemes has been monitored during their operation. Feedback showed the majority of responses were opposed to the cycleways, citing increased congestion as a key issue. Automatic traffic counters also indicated relatively low usage by cyclists in comparison with other traffic.