Councils are in many cases spending tens of thousands of pounds removing the pop-up cycle lanes installed using emergency active travel funding. Southampton City Council – which will spend almost £37,000 removing one mile of cycle infrastructure – said its Bassett Avenue scheme had been a “positive trial” which had provided “valuable learnings”.
Back in May, Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke of a “new Golden Age of cycling” having told UK mayors that far more commuters would need to cycle when the nation begins to emerge from lockdown.
In an effort to encourage this, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced a £225m Emergency Active Travel Fund for the construction of walking and cycling infrastructure.
However, since then, many schemes have been removed and ITV reports that this process has, in many cases, proven costly.
As well as the cost of the Bassett Avenue scheme, its report highlights the £25,000 cost of removing a scheme in Southsea and £33,000 spent on removing schemes in Dover, Ashford, Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge.
The Southsea schemes were removed after only three weeks following complaints from local traders.
Cycling UK has recently expressed alarm that some councils appear to be ripping out cycle lanes in response to objections from a vocal minority rather than based on consideration of the evidence and benefits of the schemes.
Commenting on the removal of the Bassett Avenue scheme, Southampton councillor Steve Leggett, Cabinet Member for Green City and Place, said: "From the outset, we have stressed that all of our pop-up schemes are trials and that we will continuously monitor the changes and feedback received.
“The temporary pop-up cycle lanes on Bassett Avenue were a positive trial that served their purpose well, helping to keep people safe and paving the way for longer-term behaviour change in how people travel in and around Southampton.
“This trial has given us a wealth of valuable learnings to take forward as we continue to develop our plans for cycle infrastructure across the city."
A £781,000 figure is also listed by ITV in connection with the removal of all of West Sussex’s schemes, but it should be noted that this sum also includes the cost of installation.
West Sussex County Council said it had taken the decision to remove all its pop-up infrastructure on the basis that, “the extraordinary environment that led to their installation no longer exists.”
Amongst other things, this means that a segregated cycle lane on Upper Shoreham Road in Shoreham is now due to be removed, even after the council voted to keep it.
Cycling UK has written to the council requesting a pause in the plans, and a clarification of the process which led to the decision.
The council said: "The Government-funded schemes were part of an emergency response in the COVID-19 crisis and were designed to be temporary.
"They 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.
“Some of the temporary cycleways had components that may well have a place in permanent schemes in the future, subject to funding being available, detailed designs being developed and consultation with all stakeholders.
"We have also learned a great deal from public feedback, and data gathered about the cycleways’ usage, which will be invaluable for the future.
"We recognise the support and enthusiasm shown by some people for the Shoreham scheme, which is why we are looking to see if a redesigned, permanent proposal can be progressed. This is subject to there being sufficient funding from the Department for Transport and would require full consultation with the public and all other stakeholders."