Come and see Horsham’s ‘East-West’ cycle route this Saturday

This Saturday the Horsham District Cycle Forum are organising a ride along the route of the town’s newest piece of ‘infrastructure’ – our ‘East-West’ cycle route across the town, funded by a Local Sustainable Transport Fund grant from the DfT to the tune of several hundred thousand pounds.


There is so much wrong with this ‘route’ it’s hard to know where to start; indeed it might even be more productive to focus on the short stretches of it that are not disastrous.

Even the route itself is shambolic. It doesn’t address any of the barriers to cycling that already existed in Horsham. Instead, it dribbles around on back streets, aimlessly wiggling its way from one side of the town to the other, quite deliberately avoiding areas where something substantial in the way of physical engineering would have been required.

The original route plan was reasonably direct – a genuine east-west route across the town, along the A281, the main road heading west out of the town (although conspicuously meandering away from the large roundabout across the town’s bypass).

Taken from here.

Taken from here.

But this would have required some engineering work – ‘widening’, as you can see on the proposals – so this was inevitably abandoned, with the route instead meandering hopelessly around the edge of the town.

HOrsham East West LSTF route copy

This makes the ‘cycling route’ more than twice as long as the ‘driving route’ between the start and end points.

As the Tour of Britain rolled through the town late last summer, this nonsense was proudly on display at a council stand.

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 22.52.04

While I was taking this picture, I overheard someone chuckling slightly, and pointing out that ‘it’s not particularly direct’. To which the response came, ‘yes, it’s so it avoids the busy roads.’

In other words – avoiding the roads that are the problem.

Which is true, to an extent – this route does its very best to avoid providing new physical improvements to hostile roads. But because of the relatively small amount of money that has been put towards this route, it still ends up resorting to ‘on road’ cycling on roads that can be busy (and are) at peak times. Roads that are hostile enough to force parents with their children onto the footway.

Blackbridge Lane - part of this 'East-West' route where you are expected to cycle on the carriageway. Not many people want to.

Blackbridge Lane – part of this ‘East-West’ route where you are expected to cycle on the carriageway. Not many people want to.

Hills Farm Lane. Again, cycling 'on carriageway' is the route here. This child is cycling in a verge, not even on a footway.

Hills Farm Lane; another part of the ‘route’ where you are expected to cycle on the carriageway. Here a child is cycling in a grass bank; there is no footway here.

If you are expecting people to cycle on these kinds of roads, then it’s really quite baffling why the route wiggles around in such a desperate attempt to avoid roads of near equal hostility, until you appreciate the process behind developing this route. Namely; two points have been picked on a map, and a line of least resistance has been drawn between the two.

That means giving up at places where it got too difficult. This route involves dismounting and walking in two separate locations.

The cycling route through the town centre. Give up and walk here.

The cycling route as it passes through the town centre. Give up and walk here.

The cycling route as it passes under the railway line. Give up and walk here.

The cycling route as it passes under the railway line. Give up and walk here.

Both these sections of the route are vitally important in their own right. Safe crossings of the railway line are desperately needed; likewise a safe route from north to south through the town centre is also required.

But both these challenges have been ducked; new ‘No Cycling’ signs have been erected, presumably with the cost drawn from the DfT’s cycling funding. It was just too difficult and too expensive to bother attempting constructive solutions to these problems – it’s plainly easier to ask people to give up, even if that does make a complete mockery of the alleged ‘cycle route’.

The councils’  decision to use the money from the DfT on as long a route as possible, rather than concentrating that cash on concrete improvements to one particular road or issue, has backfired spectacularly. The money has dribbled away to nothing, spread so thinly people who cycle regularly in the town are not even aware that a new route is in place.

The quality of the route as a whole is woeful, with ‘new’ bits that are bodged, and hopeless pre-existing bits of crap remaining in place.

One of countless 'corners' on this route that could have been improved, but hasn't been.

One of countless ‘corners’ on this route that could have been improved, but hasn’t been. New sign pole helpfully placed on the desire line.

Another section of the 'route'. Mountain bike required.

Another section of the ‘route’, with another new sign pole, but no improvement at ground level. Mountain bike required.

Another bodge. Here the northbound section of the route (heading away from the camera) veers right, onto a busy main road, while the southbound route employs the cycle route on the footway. Clear?

Another bodge. Here the northbound section of the route (heading away from the camera) veers right, onto a busy main road, while the southbound section employs the cycle route on the footway. Clear?

Clear now? A forest of new signs, attempting to explain this bizarre layout

Clear now? A forest of new signs, attempting to explain this bizarre layout

Existing, dire ‘infrastructure’ has been cobbled into use to make up this route. A particular favourite of mine is this bit of shared use footway, with a ‘bidirectional segregated cycleway’ painted on it, which of course gives up at a very minor cul-de-sac entrance, containing only around 20 dwellings.

DfT money paid for these lines to be repainted.

DfT money paid for these lines to be repainted.

Attempts to persuade the council to make this a continuous footway/cycleway across this junction fell on deaf ears.

Because the ‘cycling side’ is furthest from the carriageway, that’s naturally the area pedestrians walk on – a recipe for conflict.

You can see this on Streetview, along with someone sensibly ignoring this rubbish.

You can see someone walking on ‘the cycling side’ on Streetview, along with someone sensibly ignoring this rubbish.

Sadly the brand new stuff is just as hopeless.

This funny loop apparently allows you to get off the carriageway to cross the road.

This funny loop apparently allows you to get off the carriageway to cross the road.

... The problem is that just a few yards earlier you are expected to cycle in the middle of the road to get around these parked cars.

… But  just a few yards earlier you are expected to cycle in the middle of the very same road to get around these parked cars.

Meanwhile a brand new bridge that forms part of this route (over the town’s bypass) has come ready made with zig-zag barriers built into it.

Brand new. Enjoy.

Brand new. Enjoy.

This ineptness makes for a tragic contrast with the background in this photograph; here the town’s bypass has been widening to eight lanes from its previous four, and a large grade separated roundabout has been added; precision engineering, at tremendous cost. Yet woeful design when it comes to cycling and walking.

You've got to the end of the bridge, and want to head towards the supermarket? Tough - we've put another barrier in your way! Enjoy another zig-zag.

You’ve got to the end of the bridge, and want to head towards the supermarket? Sorry, we’ve decided to put this barrier in your way. Because that’s not the route!

There might be some progress happening in some of Britain’s cities, but out here in the sticks, with pitiful levels of funding, and basic ineptitude when it comes to making decisions about how to spend it, and how to design infrastructure, it still feels like we’re a million years away from getting anything like this in our town.

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 23.52.53

So please come and join me and fellow Horsham cycle campaigners for a good laugh on Saturday (you have to laugh, or otherwise you’d cry).

We’ll be meeting at 1:30pm at Forest School (the notional ‘start’ of this route, although typically there isn’t actually any infrastructure at all to speak of to connect this school with the town), which is a short five minute cycle from the town’s train station. We’ll be passing back past the railway station (through the aforementioned underpass) if you are late arriving.

The pace will necessarily be slow; and we will be stopping for tea and cake at the end, segueing seamlessly into a pub for those who wish to hang around. Do join us.

This entry was posted in Horsham, Infrastructure, The Netherlands, West Sussex County Council. Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Come and see Horsham’s ‘East-West’ cycle route this Saturday

  1. ken barker says:

    Astonishingly bad, so sorry for you are other cyclists in Horsham.

  2. Average Joe Cyclist says:

    Reblogged this on Average Joe Cyclist and commented:
    Excellent post that highlights the immense gap between what is actually needed for cycling to be safe and accessible for all ages and abilities – and what is actually provided for us, even in one of the oldest civilizations of the modern world (England).

  3. Naren Srem says:

    Fantastic! Help save environment in your country helps reduce pollution in mine.
    Thanks so much for support.

  4. Chris says:

    Good luck. 40 years ago I used to live on Guildford road and had a part time job in Broadbridge Heath. The traffic level on the roundabout was awful for cycling (I used by Dad’s 1934 BSA bike which was a wonderful 3 speed). That journey is not helped at all by these changes. I moved away from my home town that year and never returned. Proper infrastructure is needed and DfT should be ashamed to be wasting public money on stupid white lining and small elbows that won’t be used.

  5. michael says:

    Annoying that the cost of this sort of rubbish then gets added to the total ‘spent on cyclists’, which petrolheads then proceed to grumble about. That it includes the cost of ‘no cycling’ signs is just the icing on the cake.

    I hope that if roads are blocked off to through-traffic or pedestrianised, the cost of the bollards and other barriers will be listed as money ‘spent on motorists’?

  6. cyclestrian says:

    Just hope that the council doesn’t secure celebrity endorsement to give a famous name to the route. I hope Dani King has overcome the embarrassment of her name above a poorly maintained, cheaply blue-signed section of pavement in her home town Hamble.

    • Mark says:

      Living in Southampton, I go past those signs fairly often. I’d be very embarrased to be named after it! I also like the “Eastleigh Borough Council – Tackling Climate Change” signs that I drive past everyday, I find them very amusing. Especially since I don’t even want to drive to work, it’s just the least crap option.

  7. Some of the worst things that are wrong with this route are actually invisible.

    Only around half of the money that was granted was actually used on the route. What has happened to the rest? Presumably it has been ‘lost’ in various overheads and pet projects or is being spent outside of Horsham.

    The project proceeded in almost total isolation from what was happening in the town without taking into account a whole range of other plans and developments that were happening along its length. Examples include:
    The new Waitrose -which would have made it simple to incorporate a direct route across the Albion Way inner ring road into the heart of the town
    The realignment of the existing cycle path past Tanbridge school -we have ended up with avoidable blind corners and there is no link across the (temporary) show home car park
    Plans to signalise the A24 roundabout at Farthings Hill -these could have been improved and incorporated and resulted in a straight line east-west route
    Closure of the old Waitrose -which led to delay and additional redesigns because the designers didn’t know what was going on
    The local council’s own plans to redevelop the Tesco site -this was an opportunity to secure much better cycle links across the site both now and to incorporate them in the developing plans for the new leisure centre.
    The rollout of new lamp posts – with proper coordination most of the signs could have been placed on these reducing cost and clutter and it would have been possible to prevent new lamp post being plonked where they obstructed the planned route.

    The route is, in the worst sense, simply that. The design does not link into the rest of the road network so that people can join and leave easily at any point. It does not provide links to and from destinations along the way such as schools, the park, or the swimming pool.

    The project has thrown WSCC’s current lack of ability to provide for cycling into pitiful focus. There is no one in the organisation with responsibility for cycling. There is a lack of knowledge and experience of cyclists’ needs and of current guidance and best practice. This was so profound that it meant the council was unable to effectively subcontract the job which was not only inadequate, but didn’t even start until after the DfT’s final deadline for completion.

    Cycling is not being seen as a core part of our highway system. This means that the roads are being designed for cars and HGVs (and, to some extent, pedestrians), Cycling design is being treated as optional: an ‘add-on’ which is only done at the end of the design process and only if there is a specific pot of external funding and the work will not affect any aspect of provision for motorised vehicles. This is design for failure.

    • Tellingly, there was no public consultation on the plans.

      Genuine consultation of cycling and other groups and the general public would have highlighted a lot of the howlers and might have alerted the council to the inadequate process before the money was wasted.

  8. Tim says:

    Another issue with having non-cyclable “cyclists dismount” sections on a cycle route is that it can make it harder to get route finders like Google maps to refer to the prescribed route.

    Mind you, perhaps that’s appropriate and as it should be – that Google maps will try to find a route which actually allows you to ride all the way.

  9. cyclestrian says:

    A day trip by air to Amsterdam and train to Utrecht or Leiden can be had for well under £100. Cycle hire and a knowledgeable guide (perhaps best a fellow Brit) for a handful of UK council employees must also come to less than £100 each. £200 per engineer/planner/local councillor for 6-7 hours on the ground in the Netherlands should surely be the first few hundred spend of every new UK transport infrastructure project.

    • Very good proposal. What about a teaser to whet their appetite, this excellent, completely rewritten guide to cycling in the Netherlands by Eric van der Horst:
      Also, wouldn’t it be useful to have a DVD produced (perhaps a cooperation between Mark Treasure and Mark Wagenbuur, who have already written so much excellent material) with an introduction about cycling in the Netherlands? It could then be bought by campaigners and sent to every local engineer/planner/councillor engaged in infrastructure projects. Perhaps it could serve as a discussion tool in local cycling campaigns or even be used as an educational tool in schools and colleges.

  10. John Wright says:

    It sounds like a cycle route I followed between Ayr and the ferry terminal at Ardrossan during a holiday last month. It, literally, went all around the houses and must have added at least five miles compared with the road route I used on my return journey.

  11. Cyclists Dismount signs pah!! A recent scheme in Preston has End of Route signs across every minor road the scheme crosses. I would love to know the total spend on such anti-cycling signs.

  12. Hendrien says:

    Just to compare:
    I know that this is a Fast CycleRoute, but is has been build using existing infrastructure and adding to it.

  13. Simon says:

    Staggeringly poor, but no worse than we have come to expect from the UK.

    I live in Haywards Heath – I can’t think of any attempt at cycling infrastructure in that town, bar a few rusty (and virtually unused) bike racks in car parks.

    I would join you on Saturday, but unfortunately I have other plans already.

  14. Scipio says:

    Why is Britain so retrograde and primitive when it comes to cycling, compared to other rich and supposedly efficient north European countries, such as Germany, the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands and so on?

    Is it a problem of innate narrow-mindedness? Like a genetic collective disease or what?

    It looks as they could not put their money to good use. Shame on them as this economic boom they’re experiencing is not guaranteed to last forever and they’ll find themselves with the same problems they had before.

  15. Andrew L says:

    This is so bad it’s almost beyond belief. I actually feel a little sorry for WSCC – I picture them as just utterly confused and unaware as to how to plan for and provide decent cycling infrastructure… Maybe they are really pleased with this and now upset that we appear so ungrateful? It’s pitiful – in that I pity their lack of expertise and skill in delivering something that would actually be safe and practical.
    This has examples of all my personal favourite British cycle paths: Cyclists Dismount signs, chicanes, cycle lanes to nowhere, being made to give way at EVERY SINGLE side road then spurted onto busy main roads where a better option can’t be found (i.e. they can’t bother to find one)… What a shame, what a missed opportunity, what an utter farce. It makes me so angry and sad.

    • Andrew L says:

      PS I can’t decide what my favourite bit of this whole shebang is….
      Is it the chicane on the brand new bridge?
      Is it the post in the middle of what should be a nice smooth radius corner?
      Is it the “CYCLISTS DISMOUNT” sign on what is supposed to be a new signed cycle route?
      Is it the pointless 3 yard long piece of tarmac whose sole purpose is to make cyclists stop and cross two lanes of traffic when they actually only need to cross one?
      So much to choose from!!!

      PPS I would love to join you tomorrow, but due to another great piece of WSCC cycle track design I broke my arm in July so am still on two feet rather than two wheels. Enjoy you guys!!

  16. Pingback: Tinkering, bodging, and fudging – money down the jug handle | As Easy As Riding A Bike

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  18. MikeC says:

    Saturday’s guided tour was much appreciated (I’d have got lost otherwise) although very depressing, especially from a taxpayers’ viewpoint! Good for improving recumbent riding skills (only a couple of tight uphill 180s defeated me, but good job I didn’t bring a trailer 😉

  19. Andrew L says:

    Has anyone got a link to or a scan of the article in today’s County Times about the cycle route?

  20. Someone do a freedom of information request to see what the breathalyzer results were of the engineers, planners and councillors when they debated this route. This route is just absurd. It would fit better in Stalinist Russia than in “modern” UK.

    I wonder what your opinions are about the bidirectional cycle superhighways East-West and North-South routes are. They seem of much higher quality than the UK usually provides, but junctions need to be better designed.

  21. JohnH says:

    I rode through some of this mess during the week on the to London from the south coast– the Crawley and Horley area is much more dangerous than central London IMHO. The “designers” ought to be fired!!

  22. Adam Lea says:

    As a regular cyclist living in Broadbridge Heath, I feel this cycle route is not that bad. I don’t use it going into Horsham but it is more pleasant when cycling back home. The side roads combined with bits of off-road route are easy to navigate and are more pleasant than using the A281 and the periodic convoys that are the result of the Bishopric traffic lights acting like a dam releasing water. I personally don’t think Blackbridge lane or Hills Farm lane are bad to cycle on, the traffic is very low on these roads as it is just local estate traffic. The best part is the route through the new estate and over the footbridge into the Tesco car park. This avoids the major roundabout with the A24, which is a bastard to go across westbound because of the tedious slog up Farthings hill, combined with the traffic convoys mentioned above (I have tended to pull into a side road when I see a convoy bearing down on me). The barriers on the footbridge are a minor nuisance, but I see that as a way to discourage cyclists from bombing down the slope putting pedestrians at risk. They could have better designed the bit that meets the corner of the car park, that is an annoying double tight 180 degree manoeuvre. The shared use subway providing access from Tesco to Broadbridge Heath is also very convenient.

    In summary, as far as cycle routes typically go in this country, the E/W Horsham-Broadbridge route is definitely one of the better ones in an urban area. If you really don’t like it, you always have the option of taking the faster route along the main roads. If I am going to the railway station, I just use the A281, Albion Way, then cut through the edge of the park, past the conservatory cafe then onto North street.

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