In 2008, a cycle lane that largely separated cyclists from passing traffic was constructed along the Grand Avenue and The Drive in Hove, at a cost of several hundred thousand pounds. Now Brighton and Hove Council are proposing to remove this cycle lane, at an estimated cost of £1.1 million, for the purposes of improving
the visual impact and traffic flow along this important north – south corridor.
The proposal can be found, buried away on page 210-11, of the ‘Cabinet Supplementary Agenda Items’ document.
Suffice to say, this is utter lunacy, on just about any level you choose to consider it.
Let’s look first at the official reasons given. Improving the ‘visual impact’ of a street by removing a cycle lane along it only makes sense if you consider the presence of cyclists on a road unsightly, and you are willing to ignore the four parallel rows of parked cars that take up most of the street (see the photograph from Streetview below). So this isn’t a real reason, but nevertheless is a vivid insight into the thought processes of the local council.
How about improving the traffic flow on this important north-south corridor? That sounds quite serious, surely? Let’s generously set aside any scepticism about just how ‘important’ this road genuinely is, and consider ‘traffic flow’.
Grand Avenue is one of the widest streets in Hove. It is huge.
If the cycle lane is removed, how will traffic flow be improved? Are the council proposing to add an extra lane in each direction? If they are, then they will need to remove at least one of the parking lanes, and not just the cycle lanes. But that is not happening.
So in essence the council thinks traffic will simply ‘flow better’ if the existing carriageways are a little bit wider than their already generous width.
Draw your own conclusions.
Perhaps aware that these reasons for removing the cycle lane were not really cutting the mustard, so to speak, once the proposal had come to wider public attention, the leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, Mary Mears, has taken to her blog to… err… come up with some different reasons, the main one of which seems to be ‘safety’.
There remain serious safety concerns with the cycle lane… my primary concern as Council Leader has to be ensuring the safety of residents. In my view it was a costly mistake by the previous Administration to agree this cycle lane in the first place. I truly believe that the only responsible option now is for us to remove it and to explore an alternative, safer route in consultation with residents and all stakeholders.
The problem with this argument is that casualties on this road have fallen since the construction of the lane, as Mears herself is forced to admit –
Thankfully, the number of accidents have dropped slightly over the last couple of years but there were still 42 casualties between 2008 and 2010.
Oh dear. Mears is understandably reluctant to supply the full figures, instead choosing to misleadingly quote the scary casualties figure, in isolation of the previous figure. So here they are.
between 2005 and 2007 there were a total of 41 accidents and 52 casualties along the entire stretch. Between 2008 and 2010 this dropped to 32 accidents and 42 casualties
That is, a drop of around 20% in both accidents and casualties, which is hardly ‘slight’, as Mears claims. Even more significantly, this is against a backdrop of cyclists casualties rising across the rest of the city over the same period, according to Russell Honeyman.
But this is not good enough for Mears.
For what was originally sold as being a safe segregated space for cyclists, to me this is completely unacceptable.
Evidently the only good cycle lane is one on which there are never, ever any casualties at all. Mears is so convinced of the rectitude of this argument she is quite prepared to spend a million pounds to make conditions on the road more dangerous for cyclists.