Royston Smith, the Conservative MP for Southampton Itchen, has complained that the City Council is exacerbating congestion by constructing pop-up cycle lanes. The Government has instructed local authorities to swiftly provide more space for cyclists in a bid to prevent gridlock, but Smith believes that “taking out lanes” exacerbates the problem.
Smith told the Daily Echo he had received about 200 complaints about a temporary bus and cycle lane along the A3024 Bitterne Road West inside 24 hours.
“You need to put your programme to the people,” he said. “We all want cleaner air. Taking out lanes and narrowing others does not achieve that. Instead it makes it worse.
“Idling traffic is a significant cause of pollution and by implementing these changes the council will be damaging the health of residents, not improving it.”
The Department for Transport (DfT) appears to see things differently. Yesterday it wrote to councils informing them it wants to see “an even higher level of ambition” when it comes to proposals for emergency active travel measures.
Announcing a first tranche of funding, it said authorities had been given 100%, 75%, 50% or 25% of their respective bids, “based on the extent to which they aligned with the criteria.”
Those with especially strong proposals have been given more than their indicative allocations.
Smith said the pop-up bike lane on the A3024 was not in line with the Government’s recommendations.
Despite owning Bitterne Park bike shop Triangle Cycles from 1993 to 2003, while still working as an aeronautical engineer, Smith appears convinced that only electric vehicles qualify as a viable alternative to cars.
“The Government’s instructions are clear,” he said. “Do not use public transport unless you have to. We need to encourage people to use cleaner, greener transport, for example electric vehicles where possible.
“Of course, public transport is positive where practical but we should also be encouraging commuters to use e-bicycles and e-scooters (when they become legal) to deal with Southampton’s surrounding hills.
“You can’t force people out of their cars without an alternative and currently that doesn’t exist.”