Dear Cllr Maynard,
Bespoke Cycle Group, as you may know, is campaigning to make it safer and easier for anyone to ride a bicycle in and around Eastbourne. We are writing to you concerning a collective failure to increase the number of people cycling. It is considered that, however well-meaning your intentions, the current approach is not succeeding. Bespoke believe that the first step to remedy this would be to implement a much stronger Walking and Cycling strategy
Over the last few years Bespoke have taken considerable criticism from the local population, including from fellow cyclists, in terms of supporting new cycle infrastructure, which has in many cases failed to deliver the improvements we had hoped for. This perception is exacerbated by the widening gap between what Councils are achieving in places such as Brighton, Cambridge, Leicester, Bristol and London.
Therefore we cannot, at present, support the overall approach to cycle infrastructure. Designs often do not meet basic national guidelines, featuring for example intermittent painted lines on busy roads, which do not offer any physical or legal protection and are completely unsuitable for children or the less confident. It is our belief that a joined up network of safe secure and segregated routes around Eastbourne is required, in line with the 2014 London Cycling Design Standards (LCDS), which we consider to be the best guidance in Britain.
Bespoke are encouraged with the DfT’s “Setting the First Walking and Cycling Investment Strategy” Dec 2015. We want a much stronger East Sussex Walking and Cycling Strategy – one that is centred on a vision of doubling the number of journeys cycled, and linked to a plan to achieve it.
In a recent letter from Cycle East Sussex to ESCC, the following points were made: “The DfT state that [w]e welcome the steep increase in cycling levels in London and wish to encourage similar increased cycling activity across England… The case for change is clear and compelling. Increasing the numbers walking and cycling will help reduce congestion… this will improve town centres and generate increased economic activity… Underpinning our ambition are the commitments… to double cycling activity, and reduce the number of cyclists… killed or injured.”
A review of national cycling statistics (CW0111 DfT – Sport England) shows that East Sussex has fewer cycling journeys than the England average. However, the data also show other councils have managed to achieve significant increases. Looking at these successful councils’ strategies, it is clear that their main aim is to increase cycling, which drives the rest of their strategy. These councils often use the DfT “doubling activity” target, or set even higher targets such as tripling or for 10% of all trips to be cycled.
Evidence from other Councils strategies show that space is at a premium and hard choices have to be made to re-allocate space to bus, cycling and walking solutions. Bespoke has to be guided by the facts and the evidence is that a weak Walking and Cycle Strategy does affect other initiatives.
Examples where a more robust strategy would influence other Departments
Clear guidance to other ESCC departments in terms of cycle parking provision.
Example: The ESCC Library Service are still failing to provide adequate cycle parking. Hampden Park library, has no parking. Willingdon library persists with the useless “Butterfly Stands”. The nearest library with cycle parking that meets national guidance (simple Sheffield stands that retail for £29.99) is Bexhill.
Wealden Plan 2015
Wealden DC housing schemes will be extensive. Plans for new housing developments would benefit from clear guidance on walking and cycle infrastructure and would mean its inclusion in the original design or else under CIL/ S106. Retro-fitting a solution is never the correct choice.
Guidance for designing new housing estates should include 20mph, permeability, shared pavements and routes around the periphery. These could be linked to create a wider network of routes.
Example: In Eastbourne on Kings Drive the Meadows View development had a cycle route specified, which was supported by EBC and the former MP, Stephen Lloyd. However, it was later removed from the plans and hence never built. A strong Cycle strategy may well have enabled this to be built under S106.
The Local Transport Plan (Implementation Plan) 2016/2021
Does not address the reality that using ESCC’s own data there are significant constraint issues for motor traffic. ESCC are clear that opportunities to improve the road networks within towns are very limited. The consequence is that there will be more traffic and slower speeds.
Example: Data from the Hailsham to Eastbourne Sustainability Corridor show traffic speeds are projected to be 25% slower and journeys 67% longer at peak times. This does not even take account of the suggested 10,000 new homes in Hailsham. Subsequent proposals have been watered down.
Cycle schemes across East Sussex
Many schemes simply do not meet the minimum standards from DfT, TfL or Sustrans.
Example: The route linking Eastbourne DGH to the town centre along Kings Drive and The Avenue is the catalyst for this letter. Many ESCC schemes are designed only to support utility cyclists and currently Kings Drive north of the DGH has features Advisory Cycle Lanes (painted lines offering no physical or legal protection). These are not wide enough and disappear at junctions and pinch points – clearly far from good practice. The DGH roundabout features several “crossing points” for pedestrians and cyclists but there is no signage or lines on the road to assist them, or for that matter, drivers. The Advanced Stop Line on The Avenue has no feeder lane, which means it cannot be safely reached.
Town Centre planning
Clear guidance should support green, pedestrianised and safe spaces.
Example: Eastbourne Town Centre and Ring Road. The DfT guidance is to use this hierarchy in order:- Pedestrian, Cycling, Public Transport, Specialist vehicles ( e.g. waste) and then Cars. This is rarely adhered to.
A move to healthy travel choices and a better environment
Bespoke believe that a review of the equivalent strategies from successful Councils such as Brighton, Leicester, Cambridge, London and Bristol would show how a different approach may be more successful.
Bespoke hope that you find these comments constructive and would be happy to discuss the matter further.