One of the great things about family life in Eastbourne is getting out and about on our bikes. Our children love the fresh air and the sense of freedom offered by the town’s few car-free routes. Quite often we roll along to Sovereign Harbour.
And when we get there, we always take the broad, quiet quaysides, which offer great views and plenty of places to stop for picnics or to venture onto the beaches. Distances are large, and the terrain flat – ideal for bicycles. Walking from Langney Point to Pevensey Bay sailing club may take 45 minutes, but cycling it takes just 10 minutes, even for a 7 year-old.
So it was a great surprise and shock to hear that such simple pleasures are, in fact, forbidden. In the latest edition of their Waterlines newsletter, Sovereign Harbour Residents Association has gone on the offensive. It’s awash with bold assertions and claims that need to be countered. Here goes:
1. “Promenades are for pedestrians”
Yes, but also cyclists. 125 British seaside towns now allow bicycles on their seafront promenades, including Bexhill, Brighton, Hastings and Seaford.
2. “The law is very clear”
Or is it? Sovereign Harbour’s quaysides do not run alongside roads, and are therefore classified as footpaths rather than pavements. While cycling on pavements is an offence that can lead to a fine, riding on footpaths is not illegal unless there is a specific byelaw.
3. “Vehicle drivers, cyclists and pedestrians were all given dedicated space in which to move around”
Largely untrue – most of the cycle provision in Sovereign Harbour is shared with pedestrians. And it is poor quality – cyclists are forced to give way to traffic at the many road junctions, and sightlines are often obscured:
4. “Waterfront cycle park is rarely used”
True – but there are good reasons. The location is hidden, inconvenient and the Grippa cycle stands are hopeless – locking a bike to them is almost impossible. What on earth is wrong with locking bikes to the railings that encircle the harbour? And, indeed, sharing the space?
5. “The SHRA supports cycling for transport and leisure”
Really? Very few people cycle regularly in Eastbourne, despite the flat terrain and the best weather in the country, high levels of obesity, diabetes etc. Why? Mainly because it doesn’t feel safe enough – the cycle “provision” we have is poorly designed and not properly connected to places where people want to go – e.g. from residential areas to the town centre. Eastbourne’s quaysides and promenades are eminently suitable.
6. “The young and elderly are at particular risk”
They are certainly at the greatest risk from road accidents. Both groups would benefit greatly from more opportunities to cycle safely, away from traffic.
7. “Only then will this anti-social behaviour be eradicated from our harbour footpaths”
How is this anti-social?