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Portsmouth councillor says controversial seafront cycle lane needs re-thinking

City gears up for Prom Wars, the sequel

A senior councillor in Portsmouth has said that a controversial bike lane intoroduced on Southsea seafront last year needs to be re-examined since it is not functioning properly.

Councillor Mike Hancock, who is standing as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Portsmouth South in next week’s general election, made the remarks during a debate featuring the principal candidates and hosted by the Portsmouth News.

The newspaper added that Mr Hancock, who is a member of the Lib Dem cabinet that runs Portsmouth City Council, made his comments about the controversial bike lane in response to a question from the secretary of Portsmouth Cycle Forum, Hilary Reed, who asked the candidates how much weight each attached to sustainable transport.

Mr Hancock said: 'We have tried successful and unsuccessful cycle lanes in this city but the new one of the seafront I do have serious reservations about. It needs to be looked at again.'

The new cycle lane was given the go-ahead last November, as reported on at the time in the face of opposition from local business owners who were concerned about the impact on their turnover of the removal of parking spaces.

At the time, council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson, who had initially rejected the scheme, with planners required to make some changes before resubmitting their plans, said: “'This will provide a safe place for people to walk, on the promenade; a safe place for people to cycle, on a designated cycle lane; and a safe place for people to be able to drive.”

According to the Portnmouth News, however, things haven’t quite worked out that way, and the newspaper reported that “many people” had complained about the danger posed by the lane to cyclists, drivers and pedestrians alike.

Criticisms include the fact that pedestrians now have to cross the cycle path to get to the promenade and even walk along it in certain places, while some drivers maintain that the road is now too narrow.

While Tory candidate Flick Drummond agreed with Mr Hancock about the cycle lane being controversial, Green candidate Tim Dawes said that with 20mph speed limits in force through much of the city, plus its flat terrain, meant that it should be a mecca for cyclists but added that it was up to the people to show that they wanted to embrace that through voting for the party.

'If you want a green city, vote for it. It does make a major difference,” Mr Dawes said. “In Oxford, which does have a big green presence on the council, you will see the way they have closed down the city to cars. It's quieter, it's slower and its more people-friendly.”

Labour candidate John Ferrett added: “I think Portsmouth is often a story of missed opportunities. The light rapid transit system was a missed opportunity. Look at how places like Manchester have benefited from their tram system.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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OldRidgeback | 13 years ago

Will the bicycle lane be extended? Surely the wheel of fortune will provide the answer. It's right there in the first pic.

sponican | 13 years ago

The route is currently about 1.5 miles long. If phase 2 gets implemented it will extend to clarence pier (as pictured on the main article) and will be a shade under 3 miles long. The danger is that stories like this (as printed in the local rag) will dampen the council's resolve and we will be stuck with what we've got - that is a narrow road with echelon parking, an extremely hostile environment for cycling.


Barry Fry-up | 13 years ago

cheers for posting those pics and a bit of local flavour  1

deffo agree that narrower lanes isn't going to do anyone any harm. how long is the cycle lane?

sponican | 13 years ago

For a cycling website this is a pretty disappointing effort to cover what is an important success story for cycling in Portsmouth. This is a straight cut and paste of a story from Portsmouth Evening News which is attacking the new route because they represent the interests of drivers who resent the loss of parking and the narrowing of the road which means they have to slow down. They are, therefore, trying to find safety grounds to attack the new facility and have succeeded in making the local MP (also a councillor who helped get the thing approved) start to distance himself from it by repeatedly citing safety problems which are, at best, questionable.

The majority of these safety concerns raised in the press can be grouped into five categories:

  • Narrow lanes for motor vehicles. The perception is that narrowing the traffic lanes increases the risk of collisions. In fact it has been observed that this has reduced traffic speeds, which is the most significant factor in reducing the probability of an accident. The lanes are wider than most vehicles and are no narrower than those found on many roads throughout the city.
  • Parking machines. People are concerned that they have to cross the cycle lane to reach the parking meters and stand in the cycle lane when using them. The machines are more visible now. Drivers walk securely along the refuge area or the promenade until they reach the nearest machine. This is safer than before when drivers had to thread their way through echelon-parked cars until they discovered a ticket machine obscured by other parked cars. Visibility in both directions on the cycle path is excellent.
  • Pedestrians walking in cycle lane to reach the promenade. This actually only applies to one short section where the road is protected by the sea wall and to pedestrians alighting from motor vehicles. Once again, in reality the situation has improved. Previously pedestrians had to walk along the main carriageway to reach an access point. Now they can walk in the refuge.
  • Car doors opening. There is a marked buffer zone between the parking and the cycle lane. When properly parked a fully open car door makes little or no intrusion into the cycle lane. Most cars will be parked facing west and occupants will face cyclists heading east. Cyclists will be better able to see car passengers. There is a low risk of a cyclist being hit by a car door.
  • Ice cream vans. Ice cream vans park adjacent to the cycle lane and gather a crowd of customers who wait in the cycle lane. This is more of an annoyance than a problem because the crowd can be seen from some distance. However we do feel this should be addressed, for example by providing plinths on the promenade for ice cream vans.

There is a more detailed Q&A on the Portsmouth Cycle Forum web site if anyone would care to learn more. I have attached two images of the actual cycle route and would welcome a more insightful and positive story that represents the route from the cyclist's point of view some time.

Jon Spencer
Portsmouth Cycle Forum

dave atkinson | 14 years ago

if you've got a picture of the right part, send it on down and we'll swap it out... we didn't reckon it was worth the day out of the office and the train fare in this instance  1

automatic_jon replied to dave atkinson | 14 years ago

No I reckon that given the nature of the article and the increasing opposition to completion of the route a picture of the area where the lane is needed but not implemented is the best illustration.  2

And Portsmouth is always worth a day out, just don't expect the cycle lanes to be up to much while you're here.  3

Tony Farrelly | 14 years ago

That's the before pic… probably

OldRidgeback | 14 years ago

Err, is there a cycle lane in that pic? All I can see is a cab rank and some fading end of the pier attractions.

automatic_jon replied to OldRidgeback | 14 years ago

That's actually a picture of the wrong part of the seafront. That's the other end of the promenade, where the cycle lane will finish if the further phases are ever approved, which is looking increasingly unlikely.  22

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