A town whose mayor opposed pop-up cycle lanes because he believed that too many “inexperienced” cyclists on the roads, leading to a rise in casualties, looks set to get temporary infrastructure for cyclists thanks to West Sussex County Council.
West Sussex County Council (WSCC) has included proposals for a new route between Chichester Railway Station and Spitalfield Lane in its submission to the Department for Transport (DfT) for emergency cycling and walking infrastructure,
The Chichester Observer reports that the county council has put forward seven temporary cycle lanes totalling 21 kilometres on routes in West Sussex that usually would see heavy use of public transport.
Other proposed schemes, which would see wands, cones and plastic barriers used to separate cyclists from motor vehicles, include ones in Bognor Regis and Worthing.
WSCC’s cabinet member for highways and infrastructure, Councillor Roger Elkins, said: “We have been working closely with our district and borough partners to look at a whole host of ways we can improve cycling provision as a direct response to the easing of lockdown.
“If the schemes get the go-ahead, they will form part of a series of measures which will make a real difference for cyclists in each of the county’s seven borough and district areas as the Government eases lockdown.
“There is no guarantee the Department for Transport will accept the schemes for funding, but we believe we have presented a good case which could result in 21km of new, temporary cycleways in West Sussex.
“Alongside these schemes which would require central funding, we will continue to work with our district and borough council partners on other measures which could be introduced at minimal expense but add even more safe space for cyclists.”
Ian Swann, who chairs the Chichester & District Cycle Forum said: “We look forward to working with WSCC to ensure the scheme is optimised to deliver a new route which connects the railway station with the hospital and university.”
The proposals were also welcomed by Geoff Farrell, chair of the West Sussex Cycle Forum, who said: “The announcement of these schemes being put forward to the DfT is excellent news. Not only has WSCC got the bid in well before the deadline, but it shows that the council is taking seriously the need to restructure our transport infrastructure.
“The West Sussex Cycle Forum looks forward to hearing that the bid is approved, that the work is starting ASAP and more importantly - that this is just the beginning.”
As we reported on our live blog last week, Mayor of Chichester, Councillor Richard Plowman, wrote an open letter to the town’s residents in which he appeared to link inexperienced cyclists with a rise in cyclist incidents and fatalities.
He wrote: "The Government’s promotion of cycling is welcome, but there are consequences. Bicycle sales have risen a massive 40 per cent and even with the drop to 1950s levels of traffic on the roads during lockdown, cyclists’ accidents, particularly fatalities, have doubled.
“Road traffic is returning to pre-pandemic levels and construction traffic on St Paul’s Road, Orchard Road and Lavant Road has increased as building at White House Farm is under way again. I heard recently of a gentleman who had not ridden a bicycle for many decades. He bought a brand-new one, set off down his drive, wobbled, crashed into the gate, fell off and broke his shoulder. Hardly a help to the NHS!
The mayor added: “There are initiatives for so called ‘pop-up cycle ways’, but the overriding issue is one of safety. There are now many cyclists who are inexperienced. Children are often seen on two-wheelers that are too big for them.
“How many riders will stop cycling to work when the weather is cold, wet and miserable, especially when social distancing will mean few spaces at work for changing? The city council is heavily involved in this matter, and advice and training will be available soon to keep road users and pedestrians safe."
The road.cc reader who shared the letter with us said: “This is after starting with concerns that people aren't abiding by the 'no cycling' rules in the parks or through the city centre, (where there are no safe alternatives), and in the same breath talking about increasing general traffic, and highlighting HGV's etc for local building works.
“This is after the death of a much loved local lady, Gina McWilliam, who was killed by a HGV driverin Bosham in 2019, resulting in a ground roots campaign for a safe cycling route so people could cycle in safety into Chichester.
“I'm absolutely disgusted by it,” the reader added.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.