Plans to extend a controversial seafront cycle lane at Southsea in Portsmouth have been put on hold.
The Portsmouth News reports that city council leaders say the route will not now be completed for at least two years.
As previously reported on road.cc, the cycle lane’s first stage, which cost £138,000, was approved in November 2009 despite complaints from local traders, motorists and pedestrians, who said it made the seafront more dangerous and harder to park on.
Since its introduction there have been further complaints about the dangers posed to cyclists, drivers and pedestrians alike. Among the criticisms are that pedestrians have to cross the cycle path to reach the promenade and even walk along it in places. Drivers have also complained about the road now being too narrow.
But the council says the latest delay is down to tight finances rather than the protests. The second stage will cost £250,000 (some of which would be provided by central government) and Councillor Hugh Mason told the News that the council has higher priorities. He said, “Public finances are very tight, and I can't see it's very likely to happen in the next two years.
“There will have to be some careful budget prioritising, as the money available from the government is likely to be seriously cut. We remain committed to the completion of the route, but there are several things which are unlikely to happen in the next year or two, and the cycle lane is one which is likely to be a lower priority.”
Councillor Mason admitted the scheme was controversial, but denied the delay was because of a public backlash.
He told The News, “I think controversial's an understatement. But we undertook full consultation and took advice from experts. Some of the more measured complaints will be acted upon and when we extend the route we will take those things into account as well.
“But I don't think it's asking too much of people to be careful when opening their doors into the road and we remain committed to the route's extension.”
Conservative Councillor Donna Jones said the council was trying to 'back out' of the scheme because it had proved so unpopular.
“This isn't about funding, it's an opportunity for the council to back away from something they delivered badly,” she said. “They hope to stay clear of further criticism, but they're just stalling.
“They'll either have to deliver the second stage, or remove the first, which could cost up to £250,000.”
The Portsmouth cycling fraternity has reacted to the news with disappointment. John Holland, chairman of PompeyBUG, a local cycling forum, wrote, “This is a very disappointing announcement from an organisation which is supposedly committed to encouraging healthy and sustainable travel. The phase 2 costs pall into insignificance when compared with the £6 million or so being spent on the Trafalgar Link Road at Mile End.
“Cyclists will have to endure the awful conditions on Clarence Esplanade where the out-dated and dangerous echelon parking will continue for some time to come.
“Elsewhere, London Mayor Boris Johnson is implementing Cycle Super Highways to encourage commuters to travel and from work by bicycle. His bicycle hire scheme starts soon. Prime Minister David Cameron is a keen cyclist and wants to encourage others to cycle to reduce their carbon footprints and improve their health. Havant MP David Willetts is also a keen cyclist and is campaigning to keep posties on their bikes.
“Please, Portsmouth politicians, think again. Healthy people cost the NHS less than unhealthy ones. The seafront cycle route should be the jewel in Southsea’s crown bringing more people to the seafront without the need for cars and car parking.”
As October’s public sector spending review looms and local authorities look for ways to save money, it’s very unlikely that this will be the last cycling scheme to suffer. If you know of any other schemes that have been shelved, cancelled or postponed, road.cc would be very interested to hear about them.