The debate about cycling on Eastbourne’s prom rumbles on and the focus, as always, is on the potential for conflict between pedestrians and cyclists. It is of course possible for people on bikes to crash into pedestrians and vice versa, just as it is for joggers or people on mobility scooters, skateboards, roller skates or Dotto trains, but fortunately this happens very rarely. So much so that all those wheeled things are happily accommodated on the prom, and have been for decades.
So what’s different about the bicycle? Well, they can be ridden at considerable speed by lycra-clad time triallists, but that’s not what we’re talking about. That’s like comparing Lewis Hamilton at Silverstone with my mum driving to church. For me, and Bespoke, this is about utility and recreational cycling – riding a bicycle as a cheap, fun, healthy and convenient way of getting around town for anyone from the age of 5 to 95: more Mary Poppins than Mark Cavendish.
Having faded from view over the decades, the humble bike is making a comeback in all sorts of places. In many ways it’s ideal for urban transport, but there’s a catch. The dominance of cars is now so complete that most people use them for even the shortest journeys. Not surprisingly, getting people to ride bikes again requires safe conditions, preferably separated from heavy traffic.
Enter the Eastbourne Cycle improvements. The plans are by no means perfect, but a safe, continuous traffic-free route along the seafront, from the South Downs Way to Eastbourne town centre, Sovereign Harbour and beyond to Bexhill and Hastings is vital – not least because the two main east-west roads, Marine Parade and Seaside, are so busy and dangerous for cyclists, particularly children.
Between 2005 and 2011 alone 17 collisions were recorded between vehicles and bikes along the seafront road, two of which involved serious injuries to cyclists.
A seafront route would be a boon for thousands of people who live in Eastbourne as well as visitors, who are increasingly looking for new ways of enjoying the great outdoors. A ride from the town centre to a beach-front café at Sovereign harbour could be easily achieved by my six year-old daughter in just 15 minutes. I don’t understand how this would spoil Eastbourne’s marvellous seafront – on the contrary, it would enhance it, bringing much needed energy, life – and money.
If more people use their bikes instead of their cars there will be less traffic and pollution and more parking spaces – and the town will become a nicer place to be.