Further comments on the Grand Avenue/Drive cycle lane

There has been an awful lot of interest generated by my Administration’s proposal to remove the Grand Avenue / The Drive cycle lane and I would just like to take this opportunity to explain more fully the reasoning behind it and to put a few facts straight:

  • The cycle lane was not agreed by my Administration and the Conservative Group has never supported it. The decision to go ahead with it was taken in March 2007 by the previous Labour Administration. It is, therefore, not true to say that we are proposing to spend money undoing something which we put in.
  • The cycle lane is not well used and it is certainly not attracting lots of young, new and inexperienced cyclists, as it was originally intended to do. As Adam Trimingham so rightly said in the Argus this week – it is ‘the wrong lane in the wrong place’. No amount of tinkering with access, parking places or driveways will change that.
  • There remain serious safety concerns with the cycle lane. Thankfully, the number of accidents have dropped slightly over the last couple of years but there were still 42 casualties between 2008 and 2010. For what was originally sold as being a safe segregated space for cyclists, to me this is completely unacceptable. Indeed, the cycling campaign group, Bricycles, have continued to raise concerns about the safety aspects of the cycle lane and successive safety audits have backed this up. Bricycles conclude that these issues can be addressed by relatively small alterations to the layout of the lane but I’m afraid I disagree. I think that the problems are of a more fundamental nature, particularly on the downhill section, where cyclists are travelling at considerable speed.
  • I can understand people’s concerns about the cost of removing the cycle lanes. As a Conservative, I am acutely aware that this is residents’ money which we are proposing to spend and my philosophy since taking over the administration of the Council in 2007 has always been to seek maximum value for taxpayers’ money at all times. However, I don’t expect removal of the lane to cost anything like the £1.1 million which has been budgeted for. This figure includes funding for seeking a safer alternative south-north route from the seafront and also includes provision for paying back £300k to Cycling England, who partially funded the scheme in the first instance. As this quango is shortly to be abolished, I don’t expect this to happen.
  • It is also worth pointing out that the proposed funding for the removal is from our transport capital allocation for next year, which incidentally is significantly higher than it was last year. So, it is not a simple question of choosing to either spend it on removing the cycle lane or on, for example, funding children’s services. As opposition councillors well know, capital and revenue funding are two entirely separate things and can’t be used interchangeably. To give some context, we are also proposing to spend significant amounts of this transport capital funding on our vision for a new ‘Brighton Station Gateway’ which we believe will bring enormous benefits to the City.

All of these issues beg the question as to why the cycle lane was installed in the first place. Bricycles stated in their submission to the consultation at the time that ‘Grand Avenue is currently not a difficult road to cycle in for people with average cycling skills.’ And cyclists have told me that this complete segregation is actually counter-productive as it makes both drivers and cyclists less aware of each other, particularly at the road junctions and where driveways cross over.

I am not anti-cycling by any means – I think that the seafront cycle route is a fantastic resource for example and is used by thousands every day. We are also actively looking into the possibility of a ‘Boris Bikes’ type cycle hire scheme here in Brighton & Hove as we fully recognise the health and environmental benefits that cycling can bring.

However, 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. Of course, opposition councillors may take a different view at the Budget Council meeting on 3rd March and that is their prerogative, but I believe we need to take action on this now.

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8 Responses to “Further comments on the Grand Avenue/Drive cycle lane”


  1. 1 Paul Ward February 26, 2011 at 8:07 am

    I use the lane with my young children, and I know many others who do. I know some who don’t like the layout, but they are looking for small changes in it, not for it to be got rid of. I have talked to many about this and no-one sees removing the lines as a priority in this time of shortages of funds.

    I am a driver myself but everyone knows that cycling and improved public transport are the future. We don’t need more space and more funding for cars.

    If you really think that it needs changing and really support safe cycling then why only explore the possibility’ of another North South route? Surely the new route should be in place first before the old one is taken out, or you should make a definite commitment as to when it will be in place and how it will be funded?

  2. 2 Russell Honeyman February 26, 2011 at 11:10 am

    Dear Councillor Mears,

    Thank you for the post. I do have a personal interest – I am a cyclist and am committed to green issues – but I think we all want to see a lovelier Brighton and Hove. This is not just about one cycle lane, its about a cancellation of two other important cycle lanes other last year or so, and your moves to repeal council’s commitment to sustainable transport – in favour of increased facilities for cars.

    Seems to me there is a gulf in understanding. Surely we all agree it would be better if more people used buses and cycles to get to work and school? Do you really think they will do this if the roads remain choked and dangerous with frustrated private cars? Even now school kids have no choice but to cycle to school along the pavements (Old Shoreham Road).

    How can this situation be changed? By “modal shift” – if more people use public transport, or walk, cycle to work (like 27% of people in Holland vs 2% in UK do), then there will be less traffic on the roads, and traffic will flow easier, and both buses and cars will move faster and air pollution will reduce.

    This is apart from the strategic importance of the cycle freeway connecting South Downs to the Sea via Hove Railway station.

    Lastly, please note, your safety argument doesn’t work – as you note, casualties dropped after this cycle lane went in so we can only presume they will increase after you remove it – if you succeed with your plan.

    There are issues with driveways crossing the lane. They haven’t resulted in increased casualties, they reduced them.

    Please, this is an opportunity for visionary thinking! Think of a better cycle freeway before you destroy this one.

    Russell Honeyman

  3. 3 Steve February 26, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    this is a good article.
    I think what you describe as “the real issue” is probably correct. That is “car driving constituents:” who have to focus more on cyclists coming at speed down the cycle free-way make making it hard for them to come off and on the road and into and out of their driveways.”

    I think this is what has resulted in the lack of accidents over the past years because
    the cycle lane forces the car driver to concentrate twice as much they did before when entering and leaving a stream of traffic.
    Without the cycle lane a driver leaving it’s drive way and entering traffic would simply have 2 things to worry about. Namely pedestrians and oncoming traffic but the cycle lane forces the driver to be extra cautious almost vigilant. Now the driver has 3 things to look out for. Pedetsrians, cyclists in the cycle lane and the oncoming traffic from the main road.
    This may seem a lot to think about and may seem uncomfortable and frustrating for a driver that is so used to simply pulling out from his driveway into traffic but we can argue that this cycle lane forces drivers to slow down and concentrate when entering and leaving the stream of traffic and lifts them out of complancency which they may have fallen into in the past.

  4. 4 Chris O'Grady February 26, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    Dear Mary,

    I found your response frustrating to read as you, like every other politician these days, appears to blame someone else for any particular issue. Whilst your response may or may not be technically sound, the fact that your first bullet point effectively says “it was not my fault” is annoying to say the least.

    I have ridden the offending cycle route many times and I find it usable, better than riding on the road, but also quite an odd design. It is fair to say that as a culture we all need to look out for cyclists far more than we do currently and once this happens this cycle route and others should be quite safe. I am certain that the huge monies to remove the cycle lane are not warranted at this difficult time.

    Regards

    Chris, Hove

  5. 5 Jethro Gauld February 26, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    Dear Councillor,

    I welcome the idea of a communal bike scheme in the city.

    However, it seems absurd that so much money is to be spent removing a cycle lane when this money would surely be better spent improving cycle routes elsewhere in the city. A few suggestions include the cycle route along the Lewes road which is heavily congested and no longer fit for purpose or along London road to the schools as currently few children cycle this route which has implicit impacts upon their health later in life.

    Your first point is an utter cop out, it does not matter which administration spent the money it is still paid for by the taxpayer so it is a kick in the teeth to spend so much removing something which required a significant investment to put in place.

    As oil prices continue to rise as supplies become heavily reliant upon less stable areas of the world or oil extrated from delicate ecosystems such as the Amazon rainforest, citizens will require more sustainable and cheaper tranport than cars. Most people in a survey conducted by the campaign group bike train cited safety as a top reason as to why they choose not to cycle. We need to make it easier for people to make the healthier, more environmentally friendly option rather than spend so much on reducing cycle routes in the city.

    On that note I would like to cordially invite you on a Bike train, we leave the level every weekday morning at 8:30 toward Falmer. We are planning to run a bike train to the springwatch event in June also. We can provide a bike and helmet given enough notice, we may be able to provide a tandem bike so the cycling will be less work. This would give an oppurtunity to point out oppurtunities for improvement along the route aswell as the hazards a cyclist encouters in brighton.

    I would also suggest you ask York City council for advice as their cycle route between the university and the city is exquisite.

    Regards,

    Jethro Gauld

    jethrogauld@hotmail.co.uk

  6. 6 PhilCorn March 3, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Thanks goodness the Council are removing this cycle lane. Please don’t let the noise made by this tiny minority stop you going ahead with this. This cycle lane is hardly used and has completely ruined the Drive – one of our many wide and ‘grand avenues’. It is dangerous and counter-intuitive. The number of times I’ve seen car drivers who think they are waiting behind a car for the lights to change only to realise it’s a car legally parked halfway across the road because of the cycle lane.

    Too many of the few cyclists using these lanes ignore the traffic signals and simply go through on red or mount the pavement to get round those ‘irritating’ red lights.

    When cyclists obey the rules of the road, keep off the pavements and display proper lights at night perhaps people will take them and their ‘needs’ more seriously.

    The Council could go nmuch further by removing the junction narrowing measures which reduces too many junctions to a single lane causing more congestion.

    • 7 Paul March 3, 2011 at 9:02 pm

      @PhilCorn – so you are essentially saying that the cycle lane is annoying for people who don’t know how to drive (if they think a car is parked in the middle of the road), and should be removed as a sort of group punishment for people who don’t know how to cycle. I use it, and 3000 people signing a petition is not a tiny minority.

      I also wonder why PhilCorn’s comment was published and not my own, which was critical but not inflammatory.

      • 8 PhilCorn March 4, 2011 at 4:31 pm

        Paul

        3,000 people looks like a tiny minority out of a population of 258,000. I’d be surprised if 3,000 different cyclists have used these cycle lanes since they were constructed. It’s a pity an independent body hasn’t conducted a count of cyclists using the lanes over a 7 day period.

        The point I was trying to make was that parked cars now occupy what was the inside lane of the Drive. People who aren’t used to seeing cars parked 4 feet from the kerb, especially when there’s a lone car parked in the last space before the lights at the junction with Cromwell Road, where the road returns to two lanes. I’ve seen it happen several times and it’s not because the people don’t know how to drive. It’s just a stupid road layout.

        Also, I’ve never seen cyclists using the huge spaces reserved for them at traffic lights.

        The previous Council spent the money to create these lanes on the basis of misplaced idealism. I believe they got half the money from a quango so good it has now been axed.

        Here’s a comment from a cyclist, taken from Road.cc:

        “Living locally, I know & use these lanes regularly & they are, as Rob says, frighteningly ill conceived. Cars are forced to park in the middle of the road, confusing queueing traffic &, perversely, the road is so wide that there is plenty of room for all road users irrespective. The converse of the situation in London where the nearside lane is often compromised to fit a bike lane in, making the whole situation worse.

        The lanes are only wide enough for one rider, so overtaking is not possible, as kerbs on either side & usually blocked with cars, delivery vans & road works, hence throwing you out into the main carriageway with moments notice.
        A shocking waste of money to build (wherever it came from) & a regretable further drain in removing, but I applaud the action of the Council in sorting it out.”

        So even one cyclist thinks the lanes are bad. There was no need to build the lanes at the kerbside thus permanently closing off that space from the road. Much better to leave things as they were and put the lane alongside the parked cars. So the road would still have had two full lanes and the odd cyclist could have used the painted lane on the road.

        I don’t have a problem with cyclists. Everyone has a choice of the way they get about. But next time you have a pleasant walk along Hove seafront after traversing the excellent cycle lane, notice how many cyclists much prefer to break the rules and cycle on the area in front of the beach huts marked with 4 foot high lettering which read “No Cycling”. And nobody seems to bother to stop them….


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