Bike lanes installed just three years ago in Brighton and Hove may be ripped up at great expense to local taxpayers in order to “improve traffic flow”.
Half of the cash for the installation of the approximately £800,000 semi-segregated lanes on Grand Avenue and The Drive, was provided by Cycling England in 2008 but it will cost an estimated £1.1m to remove the facility and upgrade the road.
And there is already an admission from Brighton and Hove City Council that some of the Cycling England money may also need to be paid back if the proposal goes ahead.
CTC and local campaign group Bricycles, are opposing the plan and were opposed to the original design of the lanes which they say fail to meet acceptable standards. They say that the current design discourages some cyclists altogether and allows vehicles to block the lanes entirely, as pictured above. But rather than upgrading the facility to make it more bike-friendly, the council says it should simply be removed.
A council budget report says: "In order to improve the visual impact and traffic flow along this important north – south corridor including access to the A27 / A23 from the A259 / Shoreham Harbour it is proposed to remove the cycle lane along both sides of Grand Avenue and The Drive.
“An indicative cost of removing the lanes including changes to the signalling is £1.1m to be funded by a further topslice from LTP grant. Detailed costings have yet to be undertaken and any residual funds would be given back to the LTP. There is a low risk that up to £0.3m grant funding may need to be repaid."
That £300,000 would have to be repaid to Cycling England, potentially increasing the cost of removing the cycle lane to £1.4m.
Tony Green of Bricycle told road.cc: “When instated, less than three years ago, the city council described this scheme as a state of the art Cycling Freeway, but now they think it is a blot on the landscape. The administration seems to have lost the plot and is behaving like a headless chicken.”
Council Leader Mary Mears told road.cc:
“The cycle lane up Grand Avenue and the Drive was agreed by the previous Labour Administration – we were always against it because we felt it would not be safe and was unnecessary due to the road already being so wide.
"By putting forward this proposal to remove it we are responding to residents’ concerns (and indeed the concerns of some cyclists). In addition, unlike some other cycle lanes in the City, it is not well used. Removal of the lane will also facilitate traffic flow coming along the coast road from Shoreham Harbour and up to the north of the City along this key route.
"We are not anticipating having to pay back the money to Cycling England as they are one of the quangos that the Government is abolishing. Neither are we anticipating that it will cost anything like the £1.1 million which has been allocated in the budget - this was purely a precautionary measure to cover all eventualities.
"The Green’s opposition to investment in the City’s car parks shows just how out of touch with the mainstream they are. Good quality parking space is vital to the continued growth of the local economy, attracting visitors and shoppers to the City to spend their money. The Lanes Car Park, for example, has been transformed beyond recognition since we refurbished it and many more people now use it.
"We want to facilitate sensible car use in the City, not try and prevent it for dogmatic ideological reasons. The Green’s proposals on congestion charging and hiking up the cost of parking permits for family cars would be hugely damaging to the City’s economy and would unfairly penalise people who rely on their vehicles."