So the powers that be at Westminster have finally had their say. And ruled that the byelaw prohibiting cycling on Eastbourne’s various promenades should not be amended.
After four years of consultations and debates that culminated in a local green light for a traffic-free east-west cycle route and detailed work by planners and engineers, which must have amounted to hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money, nothing is going to happen.
Eastbourne will remain practically the only British seaside town that does not permit safe, traffic-free cycling along its seafront. Families, commuters, students or tourists who want to ride from the town centre to the Redoubt museum, or Sovereign Harbour or beyond to the more enlightened Bexhill and Hastings must continue to take their chances on the busy and dangerous Marine Parade. At peak times it carries more than 1,000 motor vehicles an hour at speeds of up to 30mph, a level that the Government says should trigger the provision of a cycle route.
Meanwhile, the promenades will continue to host Dotto trains, skateboards, roller blades, mobility scooters, boat trailers and all sorts of other wheeled things. Isn’t Eastbourne trying to develop its tourism offer to attract families who might want to explore the town and surrounding coast and countryside by bike?
So, yes – Bespoke are disappointed and frustrated. We still think cycling is a low-cost, convenient and enjoyable solution to the growing obesity and inactivity crisis that is threatening to overwhelm the NHS.
And that riding bikes around towns is an obvious way of tackling the alarming issue of air pollution that causes 16,000 premature deaths a year in Britain – Eastbourne has been identified as a blackspot. The official figures say 61 deaths a year in Eastbourne are directly attributable to air pollution.
More than half of all car trips in Britain are less than five miles, which can easily be achieved on an ordinary bicycle in normal clothes. But most people will only do so when it is safe – preferably separated from heavy traffic.
We hear that the Councils are now working on a walking and cycling strategy – but what does this mean and how long will it take? The Councils’ record does not inspire confidence – Eastbourne’s first cycle strategy was written in 1994! While some local groups seem to be vehemently anti-cycling, they are less vocal about practical solutions.