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Cycling UK seeks judicial review of council’s decision to remove pop-up cycle lane

Charity says West Sussex County Council’s decision to tear up emergency infrastructure was “irrational and unlawful”

Cycling UK has applied for a judicial review of what it describes as an “irrational and unlawful” decision by West Sussex County Council to remove a pop-up cycle lane in Shoreham-by-sea.

The infrastructure on Upper Shoreham Road was put in place last September with the help of government emergency active travel fund cash, and subsequently featured in a video from the Department for Transport.

But the Conservative-controlled council removed it last month, with its cabinet member for highways and infrastructure, Roger Elkins, rejecting a 6:2 vote of its scrutiny committee to reconsider the decision.

A Freedom of Information Request subsequently revealed that the councillor had never visited the pop-up cycle lane to see it for himself, and in a bizarre twist, even as work was underway last month on removing the pop-up lane, he revealed plans to eventually install a permanent one at the same location.

> Plans to install permanent cycle lane in Shoreham where pop-up lane is being removed

According to Leigh Day solicitors, which is acting for Cycling UK, the application for judicial review, which was made yesterday, has been brought on the grounds that the council:

Failed to take into account the statutory guidance under section 18 of the Traffic Management Act 2004

Failed to comply with the statutory guidance and/or misdirection concerning the statutory guidance

Acted irrationally, given the Council’s own information did not support the reasons given for removal of the Cycle Lane and/or

Breached its public sector equality duty, in particular failing to carry out an equality impact assessment and failed to consider the impact on young people.

Rowan Smith, the solicitor acting on the case for the firm, said: “Our client feels it has no choice but to bring this legal action because this issue goes to the heart of the use of the government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund and its policy decision to promote cycling for all the wider health and social benefits it brings.

“West Sussex council’s decision sets an extremely worrying precedent and one the courts should examine closely.”

In November, it emerged that the infrastructure had trebled levels of cycling on Upper Shoreham Road without affecting motor traffic, proving popular with local residents, commuters, and parents and children using it to get to and from nearby schools and nurseries.

Local resident Karen Murphy, whose two children attend St Nicolas’ and St Mary’s Church of England Primary School, said: “We used to frequently ride along cycle lane, often joining another safe route travelling from Shoreham to Steyning, but we haven’t since it was removed.

“I’m nervous about travelling along the Upper Shoreham Road without it. I’m not the only one.

“Parents are still taking their kids to school by bike but sometimes the children have to ride on the pavement as it is no longer safe without visible markings.

“I don’t understand why the council removed what had swiftly become a valuable community asset and hope they rethink their position.”

Duncan Dollimore Cycling UK’s head of campaigns commented: “When the council introduced this cycle lane, people soon changed how they travelled locally.

“Children began cycling to school, pensioners felt safe to ride into town and commuters started swapping cars and public transport for their bikes. It was a complete success story.

“Cllr Elkins’ decision to remove the lane five weeks later without considering the evidence showing the lane’s benefits is contrary to statutory guidance.

“It demonstrates a fundamentally flawed process, which Cycling UK would argue, is both irrational and unlawful.”

The legal challenge is being funded by the charity’s Cyclists’ Defence Fund, and has been brought partly because of Cycling UK’s concerns over councils elsewhere also potentially removing emergency infrastructure in response to pressure by small but vocal opposition.

“Despite the public’s enthusiasm for having safer routes to walk and cycle along, it is frustrating to see the admirable ambitions of some councils wither away at the first sign of criticism,” Dollimore added.

“If councils decide to make baseless knee jerk decisions with no evidence, then they need to realise there will be consequences. They should expect to be challenged, because such arbitrary and irrational decision making cannot be allowed to go unchecked.”

 Clive Andrews of local cycling campaign group Shoreham-By-Cycle said: “For a few weeks, the people of Shoreham-by-Sea had a taste of what it felt like to be able to choose safer, more protected journeys by bike, on this key route across our town.

“The pop-up lanes had quite an impact: doubling cycling levels, and in some weeks even trebling them. The project was helping our town to consider how a better future for local journeys may look – especially for children’s journeys to school.

“WSCC’s decision to remove the lanes came as a surprise, given the huge increase in cycle traffic, and the potential that was there to leave them in situ while options for longer-term changes could be explored.”

He added: “The news that Cycling UK has been looking at the legalities of this decision is really interesting, and we appreciate the efforts of Cycling UK in examining the implications of what’s happened here in West Sussex.”

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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eburtthebike | 3 years ago

Let's hope that this challenge is successful and sets a precedent for other councils thinking of doing the same.  Well done CUK for taking this action on behalf of utility cyclists, and I hope this encourages more people to join an organisation which campaigns for all cyclists.

the little onion replied to eburtthebike | 3 years ago

I'm a huge fan of Cycling UK - I think they get things spot on in terms of a clear, calm yet passionate and informed voice for cycling.


My passion for Cycling UK goes back to the Daniel Cadden case - the cyclist who was convicted of dangerous cycling for not using a cycle lane. Cycling UK (or CTC as they were back then) funded a successful appeal. The consequences of that case are so important. I believe that Sustrans weren't exactly vocal in supporting that position.....

brooksby replied to the little onion | 3 years ago

I'd never heard of the Daniel Cadden case (pre-dates my interest in cycling).

Have just googled it... 


Awavey replied to eburtthebike | 3 years ago

the councils highways dept produced a report recommending to the council to remove the cycle lanes, all the council did was approve the recommendations its department responsible for highways and planning said do.

which is standard council decision making process, so what are CUK exactly challenging they did wrong ?

so I feel its more a waste of members money, & council tax payers money as West Sussex will have to defend it. Doubly so when West Sussex can already point to the fact they are funding a consultation to install a new permanent cycle lane on that same road as a result of the feedback from the temporary cycle lane.

the only people that do well out of stuff like this is the lawyers imo.

ChasP replied to Awavey | 3 years ago

But the Conservative-controlled council removed it last month, with its cabinet member for highways and infrastructure, Roger Elkins, rejecting a 6:2 vote of its scrutiny committee to reconsider the decision.

That sounds wrong to me, and if a permanent sceme is considered necessary all the more reason to keep the temporary one in place in the meantime.

Awavey replied to ChasP | 3 years ago

well it only sounds wrong because the result was a temporary cycle lane was removed, but its not the purpose of a scrutinee commitee to overturn council decisions unless the process the council followed was wrong.

the problem with keeping the temporary scheme whilst trying to make it permament, is its a bit like trying to build a house from a bungalow and then asking the council for planning permission for it. it would be ripe for another group less in favour of cycling schemes to legally challenge it.

Sussexcyclist replied to Awavey | 3 years ago

Cllr Roger Elkins didn't listen to anyone (including a 6-2 vote by the council) when deciding to remove the lane, so why would we expect him to take any notice of the results of the consultation?

A promise of a consultation is just a way of kicking the can down the road and never building anything.

Awavey replied to Sussexcyclist | 3 years ago

would you prefer to have retained a temporary cycle lane, that any opponent to,maybe emboldened by TfL vs cabbies case, could have easily legally challenged that the council implemented it against the recommendation of their own highways/planning dept and without proper stakeholder consultation

Or have a permanent brand new cycle lane, designed to LTN1/20 standards, which was designed through consultation and had the requisite tick box engagement with stakeholders, so could not be challenged.

sometimes we need to see the bigger picture with these things, not the immediate outcomes.

brooksby | 3 years ago

Maybe West Sussex will replace it with pop-up restaurant seating, because apparently that's totally fine and doesn't hold up traffic...

Awavey replied to brooksby | 3 years ago

no literally theyll be replacing it with a new permanent cycle lane if the consultation for it goes well...and Im not joking, the detailed plans should be published by now, but I guess they are abit behind at the moment still with covid impacts

it was in their tranche 2 funding announcement if people cared to notice these things. which Cllr Ekins approved earlier this year

so CyclingUK rather than waste time and money challenging something I dont see succeeding, they should instead be focusing their energy on making sure this consulation goes well

onthebummel48 replied to Awavey | 3 years ago

That's a consultation - not a commitment to build which is part of the problem surely? What chance is there of such a lane being built if the council won't even keep a popular temporary lane in place - and more to the point why not keep a successful temporary lane in place until the permanent one is built.

More to the point Cycling UK appear to be challenging the principle and looking to set a precedent so we don't see similar lanes ripped up elsewhere on a whim - would imagine given the costs and wider situation involved they're not just challenging for no good reason and are expecting a high degree of success. Hopefully other councils will sit up and take note that they can't just remove lanes because a councillor doesn't like them.

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