Retain Old Shoreham Road cycle lane council officials urge ahead of crunch meeting

Councillors are being urged to keep the “temporary” Old Shoreham Road cycle lane in Hove because the government might withhold almost £280,000 in funding for cycle training.

Monday, 9th August 2021, 3:34 pm
The Old Shoreham Lane cycle lane being installed last spring

A committee rejected plans to make the temporary lane permanent last month but this week a sub-committee will be asked to overturn the decision.

And in the meantime campaigners, council officials, Green councillors and even a government minister have turned up the heat on those opposed the controversial cycle lane.

Brighton and Hove City Council has called an Environment, Transport and Sustainability (ETS) Urgency Sub-committee meeting for 11am on Tuesday (10 August).

Three councillors – one each from the Greens, Labour and the Conservatives – will consider a 34-page report in which officials again recommend retaining the cycle lane.

If councillors vote again to remove the temporary lane, officials have suggested keeping the section between The Drive and Holmes Avenue.

The earlier decision was made after a heated four-hour debate at Hove Town Hall when a series of other “active travel” measures were voted through.

Now, officials have told councillors that it would cost £50,000 to restore the road as well as placing other government funding at risk.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has told the council that it would require additional assurances about the council’s commitment to active travel before releasing further funds.

Proposals to go before councillors on Tuesday include adjusting zig-zag markings at various crossing points along the road, adding cycle priority signals at junctions and “improved” pedestrian crossings.

More “wands” are also proposed at various points along the road as well as replacements for those previously removed.

The council wants to move the central reservation by the corner of Olive Road and create a temporary one from water barriers to shorten the right turn lane.

The “temporary” Old Shoreham Road cycle lane was installed along almost a mile and a half on each side of the Old Shoreham Road on Monday 11 May last year.

The scheme was paid for from the government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund which was set up fund schemes designed to allocate more road space to cyclists and pedestrians.

The move, during the first national coronavirus lockdown, was in response to the government’s instruction to people to find alternatives to public transport whenever possible.

Brighton and Hove was awarded more than £660,000 for active travel measures including changes on Brighton seafront.

Part of a cycle lane – between the Palace Pier and the bottom of West Street – was removed after it was blamed for delays to bus services. Changes to Madeira Drive also attracted criticism.

The criticisms revolved around the lack of consultation, the disproportionate problems created for people with disabilities and the artificial creation of unnecessary traffic jams which better planning would have avoided.

A year ago, the council was allocated a further £2.3 million from the government’s Active Travel Fund for more work, including an extension of the Old Shoreham Road cycle lane into Portslade.

The £2.3 million included £249,000 for “improvements” to the Old Shoreham Road cycle lane.

A report to the sub-committee meeting on Tuesday said: “Should these funds not be used as intended within the grant application, then the council would need to request reallocation from the DfT, although the timescales to design, consult and implement an alternative scheme by March 2022 is not believed to be achievable.

“Reallocation within the city is not certain and, potentially, this grant funding would be lost.

“If the committee agrees to remove the phase 1 temporary cycle lane on Old Shoreham Road, this will cost an estimated £50,000.

“However, if the section between Holmes Avenue and The Drive grant is retained, this will reduce to £20,000.

“There is no funding set aside to cover this cost and the Active Travel funding cannot be used for this purpose.

“Therefore, this additional cost would need to come from existing capital resources within the Local Transport Plan and so expenditure plans for this capital programme would need to be reprioritised to accommodate this additional expenditure.

“The DfT has stated in a letter to all transport authorities that schemes need to be allowed to bed in and tested against normal traffic conditions.

“Premature removal of schemes without time to demonstrate a difference would waste taxpayers’ money.

“The DfT can and have sanctioned councils who have removed the phase 1 active travel measures by removing funding and/or removing access to future Active Travel funding rounds.”

West Sussex County Council is understood to be barred from bidding for funds from “tranche three” of the government’s Active Travel Fund.

The sub-committee report said that an “equalities impact assessment” found that removing the cycle lane would have a “disproportionate impact on families, particularly children, women and disabled persons who are using the lanes as a safe, protected cycling route to access the city and local education settings.

“Feedback from recent public consultation indicates that more people who previously did not feel safe or confident cycling on Old Shoreham Road now do, following the introduction of the protected cycle lanes, including disabled people.

“It is likely that these people will return to using other modes of transport to travel in the area if the temporary cycle lanes are removed.

“This may increase congestion and lead to poorer air quality in the area. It will also have an impact on people’s level of physical activity and health.”

When councillors debated the issue last month, Green councillor Jamie Lloyd said that all of Hove’s secondary schools are north of the road and could not be moved. He said that children used the cycle lane to reach them.

The report said that 6,171 primary and secondary school pupils at eight schools in the Old Shoreham Road area could benefit directly from the cycle route.

More than 4,000 people responded to a public consultation about improving and extending the active travel schemes in Brighton and Hove.

The Old Shoreham Road cycle lane attracted the highest number of negative or critical comments.

Councillors closest to the route have also reported an unprecedented number of complaints from voters since it was installed.

The Environment, Transport and Sustainability Urgency Sub-committee is due to start at 11am on Tuesday (10 August) at Hove Town Hall. The meeting is scheduled to be webcast.