Pickles and Portas aren’t listening

I’ll start with a confession. Eric Pickles is the reason I started writing this blog.

Back in the winter of 2011, he attended a conference organised by The Economist, on Urban Planning and Liveable Cities. After he had spoken, Mark Ames posed the following question -

As Secretary of State for Communities, and given the known effects that over-use of private cars has on local communities in terms of urban blight, noise pollution, obesity etc, how do you reconcile and balance these issues with your declaring the end to the so-called war on the motorist?

Pickles’ response was breathtakingly bone-headed -

Don’t be such a puritan. Not all of us can pedal up and down in rubber knickers you know; we need to find balance. Of course, let’s encourage cycling and walking, and we need to make cycling safer, but let us not treat people in cars like the enemy!

It’s hard to imagine a clearer illustration of this government’s total failure to engage with the bicycle as a serious mode of transport – one that can solve all the problems Mark alluded to – than this comment. Cycling is for those people, Pickles is saying, as he presents those who ride bikes as a weird, freakish minority. Yes, we can’t seriously expect everyone to wear rubber knickers! Of course, while we should ensure that the tiny minority of people who want to pedal up and down in their strange outfits aren’t seriously injured – or at least killed – we have to focus on the balance. And by balance we mean keeping things exactly the same as they were before; not imposing any restrictions on driving, and not doing anything to make riding a bike or walking an attractive prospect by comparison. Because that would be puritanical.

The logic is circular; because riding a bicycle is an unpleasant, stressful and inconvenient mode of transport for most people in Britain, it remains the preserve of a minority. And because only a minority are willing to ride bikes, so we must continue to accommodate the needs of mass motoring within our towns and cities, with deleterious effects for all, including those who drive.

The government are either unwilling to break out of this vicious cycle, or lack the awareness or understanding to contemplate how things could be very different – even with an example parked right on our doorstep. This is in marked contrast to Boris Johnson, who now seems to grasp the basic economic logic of designing for greater bicycle use, rather than waiting for more cyclists to appear and then accommodating their needs. Major engineering firms are also now stating, loudly and clearly, that our cities have to focus on the bicycle as a mode of transport.

For central government, however, nothing is changing, and indeed we even seem to be going into reverse, if Pickles’ announcement at the Conservative Party Conference of yet more policies designed to make urban motoring easier (although whether they would have that effect is very uncertain) is taken seriously.

This is the idea that motorists should be entitled to park for free while ‘popping into shops’, coupled with calls for more off-street parking. In an echo of his earlier remark about ‘puritanism’, Pickles spoke of

a rigid state orthodoxy of persecuting motorists out of their cars, with no concern about its effect in killing off small shops… I believe we need to give people the good grace to pop into a local corner shop for 10 minutes, to buy a newspaper or a loaf of bread without risking a £70 fine.

Naturally, the absurdity of people driving to their local corner shop is not even considered.

The whole policy is predicated on a fallacy; namely, that to reverse the decline of the high street, we must make it as easy and cheap to drive to as it is to drive to an out of town shopping centre.

This is not possible. There is not the space in our towns and cities to accommodate unlimited motor traffic (something that has been appreciated for half a century). Motor traffic restraint is necessary not for ‘puritanical’ reasons, but for self-preservation. Free parking everywhere would create chaos, not just for people on foot and cycling, but for other motorists, and for the shops trying to receive deliveries. It is fundamentally impossible to level the playing field between towns and shopping centres built miles away on cheap land, and we should stop trying.

Making it cheap to park on streets degrades the quality of the urban environment, and so destroys the reason why people might choose to shop there, instead of driving past and heading off to an out of town centre. Once you are in your car, the hassle and stress of finding a parking space close by, in town, will obviously be trumped by the lure of unlimited and pain-free parking a little distance further away. As a blogger astutely observed yesterday, with respect to a street in a northern suburb of Bristol -

why is this high street so mediocre? Because its so painfully car centric that it only welcomes people in a car – and once you get in one, you may as well drive all the way on to the ring road instead of shopping in such a run down street. Encouraging people to park simply discourages people from walking to the shops – and once in a car, they can shop where they want.

Another blogger voiced similar thoughts -

Often I have to ‘fire up the Quattro’ just to nip to the shops.

When I get there it’s a flipping pain in the arse. Finding somewhere to park, often having to get change for the parking. And the Quattro is ruddy enormous, I often drive round and round trying to find a big enough space.

To be honest, once I am in the car, I may as well go somewhere that is free to park and has a big multi-storey carpark.

Does this sound like somewhere familiar? You see, the moment I utter the words ‘FIRE UP THE QUATTRO!’ you have lost me.

The money it will cost me in petrol, insurance, parking, etc etc I may as well go a bit further afield and get a few more things. Shopping that I know will probably go off and be thrown away before I eat it, but hey, I was there, it was on special offer……..

But I don’t want to do that.

I want to go to my local Butcher and buy tonight’s tea. Not £150 of over manufactured crap. I want a steak, or some sausages. I want to go to a proper Greengrocer for the veg. I would like to go on my bike, not have to worry about parking or change. I just want a nice trip to the local shops.

If you insist on making your high street attractive only to those who arrive by car, well, you’re going to kill it; car drivers will opt for the easier place to get to, the shopping centre that is actually designed for the motor vehicle, not the high street, which is fundamentally incompatible with mass motoring.

Across the country we now have countless examples of thriving streets, with higher footfalls and longer ‘dwell’ times, all places where the motor vehicle has recently been excluded or restricted.

DSCN9985DSCN9887DSCN9447These are street environments that would be fundamentally ruined as destinations – as places people might want to go to – if all motorists were at liberty to park for free on them. Their attractiveness would be lost.

Most worryingly of all, this lesson does not seem to have been learnt by retail expert Mary Portas, who was charged by the government with carrying out a review into the future of our high streets. She tweeted yesterday

Councils with any sense and commitment to their local shops should listen to Eric Pickles 10 minute parking idea

This is fatuous, and wrong. Councils with any sense should concentrate instead on making their high streets attractive places, and give up on futile attempts to compete with out of town shopping centres on the latter’s terms. Several people pointed this out to Mary Portas on Twitter – that unrestricted motoring in towns and cities would ruin them.  Unfortunately her response was even more troubling -

Anything that allows shoppers to stop has to be a good thing.

I couldn’t disagree more. If all those shoppers are arriving directly on the high street by car, that is not ‘a good thing’, not for me, not for anyone, not for the high street itself. But unfortunately Portas, like Pickles, is fixated on the motor vehicle as a mode of urban transport. The Portas Review does not mention walking or cycling even once, yet mentions cars, and car parking, dozens of times. This is despite a mountain of evidence that those arriving on foot, or by bike, actually spend more over the long term, and invest more in their local neighbourhood – you know, the High Street - than those arriving by car, who are more likely to be passing through on their way to somewhere else.

If anything is killing the High Street, it’s the car. Stop pandering to it.

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27 Responses to Pickles and Portas aren’t listening

  1. Mark says:

    Crawley Borough Council have just finished refurbishing Tilgate parade at a cost of £400,000 and they’re quite proud of this achievement. But the new parade prioritises cars and provides parking for them outside every store. The cycle parking is located about as far from the shops as it could possibly be; and the old railings have been ripped out leaving no opportunity to park a bike any closer.

    I haven’t checked out the other parades that CBC have spent £18m refurbishing, but I doubt they’re much different.

  2. Jim Moore says:

    Pickles and Portas – who writes this stuff – Charles Dickens?

    Attempted jokes aside this is a great post. Didn’t these clowns listen to the announcement from Boris last week? Their utterances sound the same as those I hear from many ignorant shopkeepers, which I can only presume their parents were/are, just like the Iron Lady’s who was herself an ignoramus on good economics.

    The pics are good too. Locations? It would appear that the only motor vehicles parked there are those that need to be there for business reasons. These probably arrived before opening time and will depart after closing time, thus posing no danger to people shopping. If this was “shared space” that any motorist could drive along at any time then it wouldn’t work. SS is like trying to cross a river in two jumps.

    • Lorenzo says:

      As they appear (top to Bottom) the locations of the pictures are:-
      New Road, Brighton
      Exhibition Road, London
      East Street, Horsham,
      I believe.

  3. Tony says:

    Nice to see a pic of my home town (Horsham). Cars are mostly kept out of the town centre making it a nice place to shop. Loads of people walk or cycle and if you want to drive there is a multi storey car park with access from the ring road. It is also noticeable that motorists in Horsham are in general more considerate of cyclists than elsewhere I’ve cycled. We share the road.

  4. Great post Mark, pretty much sums up the massive problems with the Pickle & Portas logic.Thinking about some of the more pleasant town centres I’ve been to each one has a very good pedestrianized area (Croydon, Bromley and Woking spring to mind) and each has multi-storey car parks within a good walk of most areas.I do recall seeing a “shopper shuttle” service that ran in Woking to help that with mobility problems to get around.

    Even the most tooted “out of town” shopping areas can fall down if badly planned. Valley Park in Croydon is a great example of an out of town shopping area but when you only have 1 route out of each of the 3 major areas, all sharing a roundabout with the entrance then it’s not uncommon to spend 30 minutes just trying to get out of the car park once you’ve finished shopping. it’s not fun I can assure you.

  5. monchberter says:

    What Pickles and Portas also fail to understand is that people drive to malls to experience the kind of communal and completely pedestrianised and accessible shopping experience that the High Street is being strong warded off emulating, going by their comments.

  6. When it was announced that Mary Portas was leading this review there was a fair bit of dissent that she was just a TV celebrity the government had parachuted in to make them look like they were doing something. Being a high-earning celebrity, it’s hardly surprising that Ms Portas travels pretty much exclusively by car – she probably assumes that if she took public transport, she’d get mobbed. What is surprising, and disappointing, is that this means she can’t see that a lot of people don’t travel by car – they’re reliant on public transport, walking or cycling. As a ‘retail guru’, she needs to be able to see past her own experiences and consider the things that effect people who don’t drive.

  7. Paul M says:

    Not an original observation, having been tweeted this morning by someone else, but Pickles is not exactly a good advertisement for the benefits of going everywhere by car!

    My home town, not far from Horsham, also beginning with an H, has nothing like the same car-free environment. No doubt that is partly because it has an A road going through the middle of it and no scope for a bypass (even if that was a good idea in the first place) but the drowning-out racket of the local free-parking campaigners doesn’t help. They are utterly fixated on parking being free and unrestricted on the road, and cheaper or free in off-street car parks. They are convinced that charging is a conspiracy to make money by the local council – never mind that they get that back in reduced council tax precepts – when the reality, as patiently explained by the council, is that charging, and pricing differentials, are a vital tool in enabling a car park to work efficiently and to the maximum benefit of the retailers it serves. (There is of course a subtext, not so much shouted as whispered by the campaigners, about the retailers themselves, and their staff, expecting to be able to park free, when in many cases they can’t really afford the car they wish to park).

    They are convinced that parking charges and restrictions adversely impact the health of their town centre. Of course they have no evidence of this (John Dales I see is tweeting asking if anyone can produce a study which supports this view). There is however evidence against this, in the 2012 London Councils Parking Study https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B4oZCrMghdvoX1NEOFhJaG5ydU0/edit and the 2012 TRL Parking study https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B4oZCrMghdvoZzl4NF9WZG5WcVk/edit . More to the point, it is the other way around – the health and quality of the retail offering is what drives parking charges higher, to manage demand. Before Christmas, the president of the chamber of trade in Wokingham described free pre-Christmas parking as a “sticking plaster to mend a broken artery”. He observed that what was needed was a higher quality retail offering. Their near neighbour Reading, for example was clearly a bigger draw because although car parking charges were significantly higher there, cars were still queuing around the block looking for space in the town’s car parks.

    The true existential threats to our small town shops come from elsewhere. Rapacious chainstores – we had a WHS move in recently and I hate it, but its opening hours are longer than the local independent stationer/newsagent, it possibly sells cheaper (I wouldn’t know, I stick to the independent and have not been in there) and it can afford the rents; sky-high rents, hefty business rates and – not least – not a particularly attractive environment in which to shop, dodging the through traffic, waiting for the lights to change, the noise, the smell etc.

    And that “popping in” stuff is just farcical. That is the kind of comment you frequently see in the on-lne comments in local papers when the subject of parking charges or restrictions comes up. “What am I to do now when I want to pop in to the 7-11 for a pint of milk?” What are the odds that the 7-11 is only a half-mile or less from popper’s front door? Why doesn’t popper do a proper shop if he/she wants to use the car, and buy several day’s milk at one go – after all, we have these neat devices today called fridges?

  8. Tim says:

    It’s so clear that the pedestrianisation and parking restrictions are straw men in these situations.

    Is it possible that the economic circumstances – recessions, austerity measures, etc – are the real cause of the woes of these ailing high streets? But we can’t do anything about the economy so let’s fill the roads with cars, make them even less pleasant to visit and kill the high street off altogether! Perhaps Pickles and Portas think that speeding their demise is the kindest thing…

  9. fonant says:

    Presumably Pickles and Portas would want to turn all our many pedestrianised high streets into motor roads again? They can’t be that daft, so there must be a hidden agenda. Sponsorship by the motor industry, perhaps?

  10. Thanks for giving me more reasons to despise Pickles, he hates local government workers. Portas had a consultancy (I think she still does), one of her customers was cornerstone of the high street, Westfield. Finally, the big engineering firms are swarming around cycling like flies round the proverbial because they smell work. Pure and simple.

  11. It mentions in the Portas report about parking being key to reviving the dying retail on our highstreets. Ely, Cambs particularly, she warned that the planned out of town retail would kill the city centre. The district council attempted to introduce paid parking – it is currently free to park anywhere in Ely, and after an expensive and clumsily done consultation, the Parish Council and the traders association got it overturned and kept free parking. I am on the City Forum set up to deliver on the Portas Report (it’s one of the so called ‘Town Teams’ she recommended). The traders association were saying
    “We need to tell the world we have free parking! This will bring the visitors to Ely!” only to be reminded by a few others on the team that on Market Days the parking is currently at capacity with all the people who live within a couple of miles of Ely, the locals and the surrounding villages. These visitors will leave after spending a while looking for somewhere to park in vain.
    Ely is a very picturesque market town in the Fens with a huge cathedral that attracts thousands of visitors (who rarely go further than the cathedral anyway). It is flat and is surrounded by villages within a couple of miles. Over the past couple of decades the over use of cars, the cutting of buses and the lack of even a path along fast a roads, it’s only for the very brave to cycle into Ely on the A10 or A142.
    Our vision is to create a network of dedicated paths connecting the villages and a network connecting all the neighbourhoods within Ely so that everyone, old, young, disabled and able can safely cycle. Many of the City, District and Council support us but when the existing roads are so bad and badly funded, it makes no difference without the money and priority from Central Government. We are making ourselves heard though!
    At the last Neighbourhood Panel Meeting, I managed to get the linking of the villages and Ely for cycling on the list of local priorities at least on paper. The Ely Cycle Campaign has a strategy http://elycycle.org.uk/strategy/ that we are currently trying to get the County Council and District Council to adopt. The idea is that this will be come a reference document and when developments go into the consultation period, this will be used to get dedicated cycle provision and when we point out where there’s none, they will have to listen.
    It’s still a long way from what we have now but maybe if more local cycle campaigns do what I’ve done and infiltrate the parish council, become councillors, make strategies which relate to the area you live in, it will all add up.
    It’s bang on that we are dominated by the car in the UK, none more so than where I am and I feel like an anti-smoking campaigner trying to ban smoking in pubs did back in the 80′s. We are starting to get somewhere now though thanks to the Times, and the All Party Cycling Inquiry.
    It will only happen if cyclists represent where they live and go to the planning meetings, talk to their councils and hassle them. They have to listen, they will tell you there’s no money but when the money does come, and it does and will, we need to be there waving our hands getting the provision how and where we want it. We mustn’t leave it up to the current bunch of under trained, unimaginative, over worked highways engineers we have now.

  12. rdrf says:

    Nice post Mark.

    Another example of killing your parents and complaining about being an orphan. If the essentially car-centred out of town shops (or rather hypermarkets, Bluewaters etc.) had not been built, then this wouldn’t have happened so much in the first place. As the “Fire up the Quattro” guy says, if you want to make it easy for car use, you will be going to these places, and not thehighh street, anyway.

    Then there is all the evidence about shoppers coming in large proprtion, and spending a fair chunk of cash, by non-car modes.

    I can’t think of a legal framework for it, but one possibility is that a levy could be placed on superstores based on the numbers of cars that arrive there , which they could pay for by charging motorists to park. plenty could pay £5 – 10 a shot, which would be a nice earner for the treasury, and probably give Portas, teh daily mail etc. a colelctive heart attack.

    One final crazy, off the wall, bit of lunacy: Maybe shopping isn’t the most important thing in the world?

  13. Oh something else, I don’t drive. When I lived in Holland back in the 90′s I remember that if you wanted to do a course or something organised by the County Council, it had to make sure that you could get there by public transport and where there was none, something would be done so that anyone could access the course or event without needing access to a car. Here in the UK I am frequently held back by the fact that the courses I’d like to sign up to mean that without cadging a lift or paying for a taxi, I can’t do it. I have effectively become disabled. Maybe we should start putting the fact that we don’t drive down as a disability on feedback forms. Maybe in the interests of equal rights and inclusion, local authorities will then have to start taking this into account.

    • Dave H says:

      I think that all advertisments for employment which have the words “driving licence essential”, but are not for jobs that specifically require driving to do the work, should be referred to the body responsible for excising employment discrimination. On notable victim of such discrimination was a perepetetic arts teacher in Aberdeenshire, in her 50′s and never having been a driver, but doing her job across a wide rural area by bus and taxi. Forced by her employer who decreed that she could not do the job she was doing – quiet well for over 5 years, without driving a car.

      Others have been refused interview, simply because they don’t have a driving licence for work which has no need for car driving to carry out the task for which you are employed.

      Driving licence essential is a major piece of employment discrimination. At least Sustrans and I think CTC employ staff who don’t cycle.

  14. Can’t stop ranting! Did a parking control scheme with pay and display about 18 months ago in order to manage demand and all day parking at a busy district centre in outer-London. The usual business moaners are newsagents and bakeries/ sandwich shops who claim people stop on their way to (or elderly people who have to drive) in their cars, to get a paper/ bread/ sandwich. Whether they do irrelevant as charging starts at 9:30 which takes out the argument. Now, the bays are fairly empty before 9:30 and them packed all day and the scheme makes a fortune – this is great as it is income which offsets costs such as highway maintenance. The key here, is the shops are a little different to the main borough town and is still vibrant in the depths of recession. Oh, and the Internet had removed the need to travel to the shops for lots of specialist things such as craft and brewing supplies to name just 2.

  15. 3rdWorldCyclinginGB says:

    Quite. Just to add an anecdotal comment on

    “elderly people who have to drive”

    “Elderly people who have to be driven”, I’d accept , but… I know the the lady in the green coat here. http://goo.gl/maps/QHVsn She turned 90 last year, though her hips are a lot younger. She has just walked the 700 metres from her house, is doing some shopping and will walk the 700 metres back, with maybe a slight detour for a chat with a friend, as she has done maybe 5 times a week since we’ve known her. Most of the cars parked along the street belong to people at least 40 years her junior.

    About 800 metres from these shops is a care home. One middle-aged guy who is staying there uses a motorised wheelchair because he has had a stroke. He goes up to the shops in this. Others who are more disabled are often seen being wheeled by their carers to the shops. So for local travel, even quite severe disablity does not mean a car has to be used.

    I wonder what proportion of people “have to drive” to the local shops.

    @rdrf “Maybe shopping isn’t the most important thing in the world?” – no but having a nice centre to meet your pals/take your family and have a bit of craic over a beverage/cakes etc is up there.

  16. rdrf says:

    @3rdWorldCyclinginGB – you are absolutely correct that having a good place to meet up, chat etc. is desirable and indeed neccessary for civilised living. In fact, a future for high streets could involve lots of places where people hang out together, but maybe don’t actually shop in the traditional way.

    The point I was referring to was the obsessive concern with the public SPENDING AS MUCH MONEY AS POSSIBLE – as a kind of moral duty – which i am not so wild about.

  17. Rob says:

    Here in Merton the local council are intending on de-pedestrianising Mitcham Town Centre by building a bus lane right through the heart of the shopping precinct – see http://www.yourlocalguardian.co.uk/news/local/wimbledonnews/10299422.Shopkeepers_rally_to_support_Mitcham_bus_lane

    Many local shopkeepers are in support as they believe that having plenty of bus stops outside their shops will result in more passing trade, although I’m not sure how many people will linger and browse given the buses belching out exhaust fumes and the traffic making it difficult to cross from one side to the other.

    In another part of Merton, the rather more affluent Wimbledon Village has parking problems of its own. In 2011 the council reduced the amount of free parking on the main high street area from 20 to 10 minutes, to much uproar from shopkeepers, and it has now done a U-turn and reinstated the old rules.

    Local councillor opinion is that there needs to be more parking – one is even calling for a new car park to be built! To be honest the lack of places to park is probably due to most local residents taking up one and a half spaces in their Range Rover, but I would imagine the catchment area of the Village is quite small and most could easily walk there in 10 or 15 minutes. Plus it’s mostly cafes, restaurants and boutiques with no large supermarkets so there’s very little reason to take the car.

  18. Phil Tonks says:

    Good post. Also don’t forget bus passengers – The High St receives 40% of its footfall from bus users, 30% from car users. (Greener Journeys research)

  19. Ray Wilkes says:

    “buses belching out exhaust fumes” Modern buses do not do this. Sustainable transport has to include buses as well as cycling and walking. I am all for maximizing cycle use, but I do not wish to cycle, I prefer walking, but there are limits and trains and buses meet the need.

    • Hester (@hesterkw) says:

      Agree that any transport strategy has to include public transport. But equally I don’t want to sit outside and drink a coffee on a street used as a bus route, I don’t want to go for a wander and browse along such a street. Buses still are polluting, they are noisy and large and potentially dangerous and do not contribute to an attractive environment.

      They should be access for pedestrianised areas, not bisect them.

  20. Mike Lambden says:

    A couple of observations.
    Good point about shopping malls offering traffic free shopping. What people also always forget is how long it can take getting in and out by car.
    I would challenge corner shops being in town centres. They were near your house and going to the town centre in the sixties was rather like going out of town now. Where I lived up to 15 we had several local shops within a few minutes walk or about a minute of the bike. Most of them also offered home deliveries.
    I then moved to a village of about 400 people and we had three grocers all of whom would also deliver the shopping once a week.
    I think people getting cars was what killed the local shops long before out of town centres.
    The town I now live in (Droitwich) has a high street and the supermarkets are in the town centre. The most bouyant part of the town is the centre where you cannot take your car though.
    I am sure that this is true everyewhere but every time car parking charges are changed it is alleged that people will shop elsewhere despite the fact that other places are actually more expensive.

  21. Nico (@nfanget) says:

    I am not surprised by Pickles, because he is a dinosaur, nor by Portas, who did most of her career employed by or consulting for John Lewis, TopShop, Harvey Nichols, Westfield… Note a thread? All those are places that have big car parks. When we say High Street we mean small businesses owned locally, they mean big shopping centres a la Westfield, preferably corporate-owned.
    Consider my case, I live near Neasden. If I need to do a big, weekly shop (2 kids), I have a choice of nearby large Tesco, Sainsbury and, a bit further, Asda, all of which I drive to. For nearby shopping there is a corner shop about 0.5 mile away, but I rarely go there. Should I want to spent time outside strolling about, having a coffee and a muffin with the family, there is zilch. The cafe in Gladstone park is pretty much closed now (open only during restricted hours in warm season). The alternatives are dire: the shopping gallery in Neasden Lane is horrible, and right next to the North Circular, Cricklewood Broadway has a double carriageway (A5) going through it and High Road (A407) is run down and permanently clogged with traffic. On all those roads, on the rare occasions there isn’t a jam many vehicles are speeding. So instead of risking my little ones’ lives and lungs, we go to Brent Cross, which is where P&P want us to go and spend as much as possible.
    I’d rather there was an area nearby more like York centre, or (to compare it with something P&P will understand) like the O2, but outside. I’d go there with my family and spend money, meet people etc. It is time small independent shops realised this: P&P are not trying to help you, and you are competing with both large chain supermarkets and the internet. A parking space is not going to help you.

  22. Ron Spicer says:

    The active responses to the Pickles individual are probably a natural and deserving set of replies but there are other interests that I feel should also be brought to the fore . . .

    Whilst little has happened in the way of very positive support for free cycling without involving the danger or nuisance of the motor vehicle and its fumes, it has become obvious to me over quite some time when communicating with Bespoke at Eastbourne, that despite the extreme serious intent of cycling support by that organisation, there is a certain blindness to demands for the institution of routes that do not impinge on those roads used by motor vehicles.

    I refer, of course, to the route alongside the railway line through the parkland area between Hampden Park and Eastbourne which has not been pursued at it should, being a completely separate route for pedestrians and cyclist alike, free from all aspects of the motor vehicle. Indeed, I now have no responses to my communications with Bespoke, probably because it doesn’t have a reasonable argument against my proposal yet is loathe, for some unknown reason, to openly .pursue and support it – even though in recent times it has been forced to accept the remote possibly of such a route’s inception through the normal channels of County and Borough Council interest.

    I have been actively engaged in trying to persuade those concerned to take up the idea but over time, that certain blindness I have mentioned has stood in the way of intelligent action in the matter, strong pursuance having been made for such cases as cycling along the Eastbourne sea-front. Indeed, Councillor Wallace, who is seemingly supportive of Bespoke’s wishes. recently informed me that, as there had been no cycling accidents in Kings Drive over the past five years there is little reason for not continuing with that roads cycle usage! He further informed me that he does not take notice of any letters in the local press; so you see, even those close to home who one could expect to be all for whatever demands regarding cycling are made, cannot be fully trusted!

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