Two lanes of the main A259 seafront road should be given over to cyclists, according to a senior councillor.
Former mayor Pete West, Brighton’s first Green councillor, called for the ‘safe’ cycle lanes at an election hustings.
Councillor West questioned why four lanes were needed along the seafront at the transport-themed hustings at the Brighthelm Centre.
He said: “You’ve got a four-lane dual carriageway that is the preserve of motor vehicles because no one apart from the foolhardy like me is actually prepared to cycle along the road.
“So they’ve got it all to themselves whereas the cyclists and pedestrians are crammed together, milling on the prom.”
He said: “I think we need to dig up the A259 between the Aquarium and at least West Street and perhaps beyond.”
There were too many cyclists and pedestrians, he said, for some sections of the upper promenade which are currently shared by both groups.
Councillor West was responding to a question about the poor state of the National Cycle Network along the seafront.
He was speaking at the hustings organised by Brighton and Hove Friends of the Earth, Bricycles, SCATE (South Coast Alliance for Transport and the Environment) and Brighton Bike Hub.
He said: “I think there can be hardly anyone who uses a bike in Brighton and hires that hasn’t had a terrible experience on that stretch.
“And that goes for all the pedestrians, particularly, visitors are totally uninducted in what to expect as they wander around the cycle lane.”
When all candidates were asked by a cyclist to give a yes or no answer to whether they would commit to reducing the four lanes on the seafront to allow more dedicated space for bikes, it was a resounding yes from the Green.
He was immediately followed with a ‘no’ from Conservative group deputy leader Councillor Lee Wares.
Liberal Democrat candidate Christian Chadwick, who is a regular cyclist, was also in favour.
Labour group leader Councillor Daniel Yates managed to get away without answering yes or no.
He said: “It’s a piece of architecture just like anything else? If it becomes redundant, fine with me.”
The audience gasped for a controversial moment when Councillor Yates declared he ‘did not care’ about the planned removal of the Aquarium roundabout.
The roundabout is due to become a traffic light controlled T-junction as part of Valley Gardens phase 3 – the revamp of the Old Steine and the area in front of the Palace Pier.
He said: “The decision has been taken to take away a roundabout. I genuinely don’t care.
“If you want me to be honest about it, it’s a roundabout. A roundabout is a piece of road infrastructure.
“Whether there’s a roundabout or a junction, it doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me is the people who want to move through that space.
“How are they engaging with that space? How well are they moving with that space.
“If you’re upset, I’m the leader of the council, I’m up for election. Let the people of Moulsecoomb and Bevendean decide what they want to do with me.”
During the discussions the four candidates had the opportunity to present their party’s position on transport.
Councillor Wares said that he had heard the city described as having a ‘transport mess’ and a ‘toxic transport crisis’ with different groups sharing different and conflicting reasons why it was a problem.
He said: “The city isn’t dealing with the subject very well.
“We all see projects that don’t appear to be joined up or don’t appear to be well thought out or actually have a negative impact somewhere else.
“And then what we do is we chase our tails, spending money and time trying to correct one problem that creates another problem.”
He said that the Conservative group wanted a full and comprehensive integrated transport review and strategy for the next 30 years.
Councillor West cited BBC TV presenter David Attenborough giving the world a call to arms, warning of the need to take dramatic action or face irreversible damage to the natural world and collapse of society.
He spoke of more than 1,000 campaigners willing to be arrested as part of the Extinction Rebellion protests.
Councillor West said: “We need a radical response to the threat of extinction. And that requires a radical rethink of travel and transport too.”
He described the previous Green administration as leading the way with sustainable travel by transforming Lewes Road, introducing the low-emission zone and 20mph speed limits.
The Greens, he said, would develop a local cycling and walking infrastructure plan, support investment in electric buses and other vehicles and look into delivery services using electric vehicles for the last mile.
Mr Chadwick said that the Liberal Democrats wanted to make the city more connected and to reduce air pollution.
Key to this would be supporting Brighton and Hove Buses to develop a neutral emissions bus fleet and create infrastructure for electric cars.
He was keen on improving and expanding the city’s cycle network and said: “Another policy aimed at reducing congestion is investigating the development of the park and ride system to help facilitate our tourist industry – not bringing their cars into the city to queues and traffic and congestion.
“And hopefully, again, looking at electric vehicles to bring our visitors to the city.”
Councillor Yates described the city as trapped between the sea and the Downs with roads designed for the horse and cart.
He called on a change in mindset to think about moving people rather than moving vehicles as he spoke about catching the bus to the Brighthelm Centre, which was quicker and easier than driving.
He said: “There’s no reason for my car to move from outside my house, other than the fact that I want to be somewhere else.
“The car doesn’t want to be somewhere else. A lorry doesn’t want to be somewhere else.
“It’s about a person. And we need to therefore think how does that person move in a different way other than using the car to move from one part of the city to another.”
Currently, Councillor Yates said, about 60 per cent of the city’s population used some form of sustainable transport to get to work.
At the hustings on Thursday (25 April) he said that 21 per cent walked, 19 per cent went by train, 14 per cent took the bus and 5 per cent cycled.
The Brighton and Hove City Council elections take place on Thursday May 2 when polling stations are open from 7am until 10pm.
The count – where the results are announced – is due to take place on Friday May 3.