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“Bicycles are very narrow and they’re not going to get wider”: Councillors slam plans to widen “dangerous” cycle lane, asking “why are we spending money on things they don’t use?”

The local authority says the redesigned scheme will help eradicate the “all-too-often toxic cyclists versus motorists polemic”, that it claims has been fuelled by “poor design and hurriedly installed cycleways”

Conservative councillors in Brighton and Hove have criticised plans to widen an existing narrow cycle lane to enable two-way cycling along the seafront, claiming that “bicycles are very narrow and they’re not going to get wider”, and that the existing infrastructure is both “rarely used” and “very dangerous” to pedestrians who are forced to “dodge” cyclists when crossing the bike lane.

However, the plans – which form part of a last-minute redesign hastily arranged by the new Labour administration last year – have also been questioned by local cycling campaigners, who despite supporting the scheme have expressed concerns about diverting funds that were originally earmarked for a section of the seafront which currently lacks any form of cycling infrastructure.

This week, Brighton and Hove City Council approved a £4 million scheme, which would see the installation of a “safe and direct two-way cycle lane, separated from traffic and pedestrians” along the A259 seafront in Hove.

The design, which is split into two sections, will convert space from one of the motor traffic lanes to install a two-way bike lane between Fourth Avenue and Hove Street, where shopfront pavements will also be widened, while a new two-way cycle lane pavement will be created between Hove Street and Wharf Road, where a shared-use path currently exists.

The A259 scheme was first approved two years ago at a projected cost of £475,000 by Brighton and Hove’s previous Green-controlled council, with the support of Labour.

A259 cycle lane plans, Hove (Brighton and Hove City Council)

A drawing of the original design approved by the Green-controlled council

However, last June, shortly after taking power and just before work was about to commence on the scheme, Labour paused the project to allow a redesign to take place, which the party said would change the layout of the planned cycle lanes, in line with national standards, and maintain a two-way vehicle system to ensure the “the scheme keeps traffic flowing” – a shift in focus council leader Bella Sankey claimed “has the potential to be a win-win-win for pedestrians, cyclists, and road users”.

Nevertheless, Green opposition leader Steve Davis countered at the time that Labour’s redesign – which came as local active travel activists began to question the new administration’s commitment to active travel – constituted “champagne dreams on light ale money”.

One year on, after the council gave the green light to the project, Labour now finds itself under fire from the other side of the aisle, as the Conservatives argued that the decision to widen the existing narrow cycling infrastructure along the A259 would increase conflict with pedestrians.

A259 cycle lane, Hove (Google Street View)

> Labour to redesign Brighton and Hove seafront scheme to ensure a “win-win-win for pedestrians, cyclists, and road users”

Despite failing to attend last week’s council meeting to discuss the project, local Conservative leader Alistair McNair said in a statement: “Bicycles are very narrow and they’re not going to get wider. They’re rarely used down on the seafront.

“It’s very dangerous, the cycle lane you cross as a pedestrian, you have to look and dodge them to get to the traffic lights.”

Meanwhile, deputy Conservative leader Anne Meadows told the meeting: “You’ve got cycle lanes that were put in at great expense down Grand Parade. I still see so many cyclists on the road with large lorries trying to get around them.

“They shouldn’t be on there, so why are we spending money on things they don’t use?”

> Business owners blast “totally crazy, ridiculous” plans to remove two car parking spaces – to make way for eight hire bikes

However, Sussex World reports that, despite the Conservative councillor’s claims, the council’s cabinet member for transport, Trevor Muten, pointed out that Labour’s redesign would make the cycle lanes safer for pedestrians, and help ease tensions between road users.

“A year ago we set out to show leadership on active travel to demonstrate that this could be done better and safer and to move away from an all-too-often toxic polemic – a them and us between cyclists and motorists that many have experienced, in part fuelled by poor design and hurriedly installed cycleways, with wands in the road reducing traffic capacity and increasing congestion,” Muten said.

“We’ve seen three cycle lanes installed and then immediately changed, additional costs, and a fourth removed altogether.

“A year ago, we stopped a scheme that continued with this approach, fuelling the polemic I described.

“We stopped taking out a whole traffic lane from the westbound only cyclists in front of Victoria Terrace and between Hove Street and the Lagoon, demarked using wands in the road, putting pedestrians between the east and westbound cycle lanes and all eastbound cyclists going along the often-busy shared-space promenade in front of the King Alfred.”

Labour leader Sankey added: “I’m really pleased we are now able to look at what I think will be an improved scheme, which I’m glad to see cycling organisations have welcomed as an improvement on the previous scheme, with all the many benefits highlighted.

“We are very serious about active travel as an administration, but we want to properly invest in it and create cycle lanes that are the best that we can create and that we’ll be able to sustain over the longer term.”

> "Actively against active travel": Brighton's Labour council accused of "wilfully destroying cycling infrastructure"

However, despite Sankey’s claim that local cycling groups had supported the scheme, both Brighton Active Travel and Bricycles have since emphasised that, while they do in fact back the design, they currently have reservations about the reallocation of funds necessary to achieve it.

According to the council, the £1.2 million which was secured from Active Travel England by the previous Green administration to create a brand new two-way cycle lane on Marine Parade – where activists say protection for cyclists is desperately needed – will be repurposed to help fund the A259 project.

Campaign group Bricycles has said it “believes both schemes can go ahead without cutting one to pay for the other”.

Brighton Marine Parade - via wikimedia commons

> Ex-mayor of Brighton & Hove calls for two lanes of seafront road to be turned into bike lanes

The group added: “While there are some attractive elements on the redesigned scheme between Fourth Avenue and Hove Lagoon, the loss of better safety, particularly for people who walk, wheel, and ride bicycles on Marine Parade, is of serious concern.

“A better solution would be to progress the scheme between Fourth Avenue and Hove Street (we are 100 per cent supportive of the plans for this section) and keep the Marine Parade funds for Marine Parade, where there is currently no cycle lane at all.”

Echoing the cycling group’s concerns, local Green Party leader Davis said: “When Labour took the administration, the A259 scheme was fully funded, fully consulted on and ready to go.

“Given that Labour had worked on the project and voted for it prior to last year’s election, it was a shock when they decided to delay the scheme, slowing down progress, and increasing costs.

“The massive budget over-run caused by their delays should not be reason to deny the east of the city access to safe active travel infrastructure.”

> Cyclists fear being ousted out of decision making after council abolishes active travel forum without telling them for months

“It was the previous Green council that won the £1.2 million for the improved cycle lane and now that the anti-active travel Labour council are in full control they will almost certainly not do anything to deliver on that,” former Green councillor Jamie Lloyd told road.cc last year, after Labour’s approach to active travel again came under the spotlight when it was revealed that the local authority’s Active and Inclusive Travel Forum had been disbanded – despite similar forums for bus and taxi drivers remaining.

That decision, along with the year-long pause of the A259 scheme, prompted several cycling campaigners in the coastal city to describe Labour as being “actively against active travel” and accused of “wilfully destroying cycling infrastructure”.

However, as part of its new plans for the A259, the council said this week: “While funding from the Marine Parade scheme would be reallocated, Marine Parade remains a priority area and would be delivered as part of the wider plans for a high-quality cycle route along the entire seafront.”

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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32 comments

Avatar
Benji326 | 2 weeks ago
1 like

Please correct me if I'm wrong, why are councils insistent on building two way cycle paths that are mixed with pedestrians??

They seem so unsafe for both, whereas a cycle lane each side of the road, following the flow of traffic is so much better. Motorists are much more predictable than pedestrians.

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polainm | 2 weeks ago
0 likes

Can Road CC get an interview with Alistair McNair MP, as I would love see what unbridled incompetence looks like, so I can avoid it in future. 

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mdavidford replied to polainm | 2 weeks ago
6 likes

Er, Cllr Alistair McNair.

Besides, even if there was an Alistair McNair MP (Con), I'd venture to suggest that there'd be a high probability that there wouldn't be after today.

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Tech Noir | 2 weeks ago
10 likes

"so why are we spending money on things they don’t use?"

A common complaint from the hard-of-thinking.

Imagine if a new bypass was built around a little village, but all the motorists chose to continue driving through the little village rather than using the bypass. Would anyone suggest that this was that anything but a failure in the design and implementation of the bypass?

But, build a shoddy piece of cycling infrastructure and when people choose not to use it, suddenly these people are either being ignorant and deliberately antagonistic.

Back when I worked in transport planning, we'd always repeat the mantra that cycle infrastructure needed to be "Safe enough for beginners, convenient enough for the experienced". Unfortunately, our highway engineers did not always heed our advice.

 

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Mr Hoopdriver | 2 weeks ago
7 likes

Bicycles Your minds are very narrow and they’re not going to get wider”

 

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brooksby | 2 weeks ago
11 likes

Quote:

“It’s very dangerous, the cycle lane you cross as a pedestrian, you have to look and dodge them to get to the traffic lights.”

Wait until they hear about "cars" and "roads"…

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Rome73 | 2 weeks ago
13 likes

So pedestrians are having to 'dodge' cyclists on a cycle lane that no body uses? 
I do wonder, are politicians a) genuinely thick,  b) maliciously thick, c) simply repeated  the thick things thick people say to them becuase they think it will get them votes?

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Rendel Harris replied to Rome73 | 2 weeks ago
11 likes

Rome73 wrote:

So pedestrians are having to 'dodge' cyclists on a cycle lane that no body uses?

Certainly. I well recall that when a cycle lane I use regularly was put in on the Harleyford Road (Vauxhall, London) a local councillor said in the same article that cyclists thundering down it were trapping old people in their homes as they couldn't cross over and also that it was a waste of money because no cyclists were using it.

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Rome73 replied to Rendel Harris | 2 weeks ago
10 likes

I think politicians (like cornered criminals) become so burdened  with the sheer weight of lies and misinformation they constantly repeat that enevitably they contradict themselves. 

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Brauchsel replied to Rendel Harris | 2 weeks ago
1 like

Rendel Harris wrote:

Certainly. I well recall that when a cycle lane I use regularly was put in on the Harleyford Road (Vauxhall, London)

It's certainly well-used now, and also illustrates some of the dangers of narrow cycle lanes: someone with wide bars and/or poor handling can quite easily be sticking out into the opposite lane. Then there's the weird bit when the northbound section suddenly stops and puts you into the road at a pedestrian crossing, with the cycle lane apparently ahead of you being southbound only. I've seen plenty of people not realise that, and it's an odd design choice. 

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dubwise replied to Rome73 | 2 weeks ago
2 likes

You have to wonder why "journalists" don't call them out on this.

But then again, they just rehash press releases these days.

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Cayo replied to dubwise | 2 weeks ago
1 like
dubwise wrote:

You have to wonder why "journalists" don't call them out on this.

Because a) "journalists" rarely interview nowadays - they simply search social media posts and read press releases
and b) it's even easier to attack cyclists than politicians and guarantees even greater spleen venting from their readership. Exactly what they want.

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Pub bike replied to Rome73 | 2 weeks ago
6 likes

Schrõdinger's cyclist again.  Too fast.  Too slow.  Riding in the middle of the road.  Appearing out of nowhere.  Which one is it?  Motorists and others will come up with any excuse to harrass cyclists off the roads, none of them valid, and desperately hoping something will stick

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ktache | 2 weeks ago
2 likes

MTB bars are getting up to 800mm and some of those gravel flared drops are frankly getting ridiculous...

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Matthew Acton-Varian replied to ktache | 2 weeks ago
6 likes

ktache wrote:

MTB bars are getting up to 800mm and some of those gravel flared drops are frankly getting ridiculous...

 

And modern Urban and Hybrid bikes are following suit like MTBs - as they use nigh on the same bars. The type of bike most likely to be used on these paths.

E-bikes, e-cargo bikes, adaptive bikes and bike trailers are also notably wider. Essentially the bike path is too narrow for those who need it most.

As I have seen somewhere, you don't complain motorists don't use a road bridge if the bridge is not complete. If cycling infra is not fit for purpose, it will never be used for said purpose.

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chrisonabike replied to Matthew Acton-Varian | 2 weeks ago
1 like

True.  It's even more than that, because driving "dominates the transport market".  It's like having a mile-long bridge with three motor traffic lanes in each direction and a nice wide footway - still probably not going to get much foot traffic.

Not quite zero sum but while we facilitate driving everywhere even excellent cycle infra will be underused.  It also needs to be attractive to cycle those journeys relative to other ways (principally driving).

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chrisonabike | 2 weeks ago
2 likes

Aside from bingo from Con councillors - they'll want to look up "design vehicle" in the infra guidance.

I doubt they'll ever be ready for it (by choice / ideology) but after that they might like to contemplate the social dimension of transport.

https://aseasyasridingabike.wordpress.com/2016/08/25/side-by-side/

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OldRidgeback | 2 weeks ago
11 likes

Do the councillors not appreciate that pedestrians are at much greater risk while dodging motor vehicles? It's basic physics.

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eburtthebike | 2 weeks ago
4 likes

Conservative, defn from 5th July 2024: a tiny political party which used to govern Britain, but due to being out of touch, irrelevant, greedy, corrupt, selfish and stupid, they destroyed themselves, their own actions ensuring that nobody with any morals or conscience would vote for them.

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thrawed | 2 weeks ago
1 like

"Bicycles" are getting wider actually, with every delivery company making monstrocities like this https://ebiketips.road.cc/content/news/delivery-firm-evri-aiming-to-have...

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Owd Big 'Ead replied to thrawed | 2 weeks ago
2 likes

Compared to the typical courier van?

The EAV Cargo that you link to is 90cm wide and even in its biggest incarnation, a paltry 2 metres long. 

Compare that to the typical van which is 2 metres wide and 5 metres long and there's no comparison.

Which would you prefer on your streets? A 3.5ton killer, or a sweet, cherubic bicycle?

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Mr Hoopdriver replied to Owd Big 'Ead | 2 weeks ago
1 like

Owd Big 'Ead wrote:

Which would you prefer on your streets? A 3.5ton killer, or a sweet, cherubic biQuadricycle?

FTFY

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Car Delenda Est replied to Owd Big 'Ead | 2 weeks ago
2 likes

But we're talking about cycles on cycle lanes.
The existing cycle lane isn't wide enough for one of these, and was barely suitable for bikes, so the upgrade is needed.

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thrawed replied to Owd Big 'Ead | 2 weeks ago
3 likes

I think you're missing the point Owd Big 'Ead those companies are buying them because they can ride them on bike infastructure. Not just the main roads.

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mattw replied to Owd Big 'Ead | 2 weeks ago
0 likes

There are versions which are articulated, 5m long, and half a tonne. We need to watch this one.

https://road.cc/content/forum/e-pack-5m-long-250w-x-2-articulated-cargo-...

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chrisonabike replied to thrawed | 2 weeks ago
1 like

I'm for harm minimisation, and not against 4 wheels as a form factor, and happy to see eg. more cargo bikes ... BUT this should be considered very carefully by governments.

(if only - we haven't even sorted out vehicles we have, and are doing approx zero about new ones the market is selling!  We've also seen how this has gone eg. with food delivery - and lots of that is still EAPCs or bikes near me, not bigger / faster things)

The sensible formulation for safety (never mind attractiveness of environments) is segregation by velocity and mass.

And as others have pointed out in response to "move shit olympics" posts just because you can doesn't mean it's advisable.

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mattw replied to thrawed | 2 weeks ago
0 likes

Very important questions, but that's a smallish one. Some of us have been banging this drum for some time.

There's an articulated one that is up to 5m long with 500W of power, that can be 600kg weight loaded. Called an ePack.

The Election just headed that one off with Mark Harper being a goner, but we need to be sure that our new MPs all know about their incompatibility with UK cycling infra.

They belong on 20mph roads and streets imo, not mobility infra.

https://road.cc/content/forum/e-pack-5m-long-250w-x-2-articulated-cargo-...

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chrisonabike | 2 weeks ago
9 likes

Conservative councillors: we should return our town to its proud heyday!

... Councillors: not that one...

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Cayo | 2 weeks ago
11 likes

So, on the one hand, we have a Tory councillor saying, “It’s very dangerous, the cycle lane you cross as a pedestrian, you have to look and dodge them to get to the traffic lights.”

Whilst their colleague says, “... why are we spending money on things they don’t use?”

Surely, if they're not being used, there's nobody to "dodge"?

You can't have it both ways.

And as for her comment that, “They shouldn’t be on there (the road)”. Excuse me? How did I miss that change to the Highway Code?

Or maybe she's referring to the large lorries and that they shouldn't be using the roads in towns and cities?

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Geoff Ingram replied to Cayo | 2 weeks ago
9 likes

Can't have it both ways? Oh yes you can!! it's simple. Bicycles go at breakneck speed, endangering pedestrians, while simultaneously crawling along and causing hold ups to traffic, even if they are in the cycling lane, because, well, cyclists. And some of them wear lycra, approporiate clothing to do their activity, because due to an oversight it appers to be legal. Vote Tory.

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