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"Own your mess": Cyclists and campaign group criticise council over second fatality on road where bike lane segregation was removed

Bolton Council insists safety is their "top priority" and argues both fatal collisions happened at junctions where orca wands were never in place...

A campaign group has criticised the council and urged "more ambitous" plans to protect cyclists after a second rider died in a hit-and-run on Bolton's Chorley New Road, the second fatality since cycle lane segregation was removed.

Walk Ride Bolton said that the orca wand segregation "could have protected people cycling on Bolton's roads", comments that come two weeks after a man in his 30s was hit and killed while riding a bike on the A-road connecting Bolton and Horwich.

The October fatality followed another in May of this year, the second since cycle lane wands were controversially removed, never to be seen again, in July 2021.

And while the council insists both incidents happened on streches of the road where there was never segregation, a cyclist told the Manchester Evening News the council must "own their mess", while Walk Ride Bolton argued the council needs to be "more ambitious".

"In recent years, our Council Exec has cancelled, delayed or watered down scheme after scheme that could have protected people cycling on Bolton's roads," a campaign group spokesperson told the local news outlet.

"This includes a scheme to put protected cycleways on Chorley New Road, which was removed before it was even completed on the basis of a short, very weak and ambiguous online consultation in which only a tiny part of the borough's population participated.

"Six years on from the publication of Chris Boardman's ambitious plan for walking and cycling in Greater Manchester, 'Made to Move', Bolton still has less than half a mile of protected cycleway that even comes close to meeting the national guidance issued in Local Transport Note 1/20.

"If we are to encourage walking and cycling for short journeys whilst preventing tragedies like the recent one as well as the deaths of Lee Rayner six months ago, we need the council to be far more ambitious in implementing the road space reallocation to walking and cycling that has been required of local authorities by the government since May 2020."

In the weeks since the second fatality some have pointed out how issues surrounding the removal of the cycle lane segregation were flagged in September 2021 in a Bolton Council meeting about the Chorley New Road Active Travel Fund, where councillors were told that the newly non-protected bike lane would not meet the national minimum safety standards.

According to minutes from the meeting, the permanent removal of the orca wands "would mean the scheme would no longer comply with the minimum standards set out in the Cycle Infrastructure Design Guide or the Greater Manchester Interim Walking and Cycling Design Guide."

"The scheme would also fall short on complying with Active Travel Fund criteria for schemes to be compliant with national standards," councillors were informed.

However, much of the council's response to criticism has centred around stressing the "tragedy" of the hit-and-run deaths, and highlighting the fact they happened at junctions where there was never segregation.

"Every fatal accident is a tragedy, and the safety of all road users is always our top priority," a council spokesperson said.

"The council is committed to promoting active travel and we are delivering a number of schemes designed to make our road network safer for cyclists. The orca wands were installed on Chorley New Road during the Covid-19 pandemic, using the government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund, which sought to deliver active travel schemes with public consultation to follow.

"A consultation exercise was held in spring 2021, during which 68 per cent of respondents said they were unhappy with the scheme. However, the council has committed to support future active travel schemes, subject to full consultation taking place before implementation.

"Many accidents involving cyclists occur at junctions and we urge drivers to be considerate of other road users at all times. Following any serious accident, we work closely with Greater Manchester Police to understand what has happened and how we may reduce the risk of serious injury or fatality in the future."

In January 2021, the council said it had "no intention to enforce" parking restrictions on the road's segregated cycle lane after pictures appeared online of the cycling infrastructure being used as a parking lane.

Chorley New Road

In March this year, two months before Mr Rayner's death, a sign mocking the council's decision to remove the wands appeared below another asking: 'Think active travel: Why not walk or cycle?'. 'Probably because we removed the cycle lane' the reply suggested.

Dan is the news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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Secret_squirrel | 1 year ago
1 like

I have some minor sympathy with the council, whilst they obviously don't give a shit about cyclists that is the main issue and the removal of the cycle lane is a symptom rather than the cause and that nuance is getting lost in all the coverage. 

OTOH fuck em.. they made their bed they can lie in it.

mr_pickles2 | 1 year ago

"However, much of the council's response to criticism has centred around stressing the "tragedy" of the hit-and-run deaths, and highlighting the fact they happened at junctions where there was never segregation."

This is hardly a defence! If anything, it highlights how the original scheme should have been improved on with proper junction redesigns and full segregation. The design of their roads enabled people to be killed, and they knew that judging by the council meeting minutes.

Absolutely appalling abdication of responsibility by the councillors. If I was a relative of the deceased or a local campaign group, I'd investigate whether there was a possiblity to take legal action against the council for knowingly ripping out the segregated lane and installing something they knew to be unsafe for some road users.

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