Running out of road in Eastbourne

Increasingly people are complaining about the level of traffic in Eastbourne. Some are calling for more roads. In response East Sussex Highways have identified a few improvements that could be made but the reality is we need to use the road space more effectively. The designers had proposed the idea of a 10% modal shift, that is one in every ten car journeys being made on foot, cycle, bus or train. The following was Bespoke’s comments to Eastbourne Borough Council as to our suggestions to achieve this.

10% Modal Shift in Eastbourne’s Traffic?

Executive Summary

This report recommends that Eastbourne Borough Council, adopt the idea of a “10% Modal Shift”, towards more active travel. That is by using healthier alternatives for 1 in 10 car journeys.

Research for this report shows that although local councils have a large number of strategies and plans, what is needed is the political will, to make change a reality.

East Sussex County Council identified improvements in traffic congestion, that could be made in the future, by reducing the number of car journeys. The Hailsham to Eastbourne Access Corridor estimated that in 10 years time, it would take 70% longer in the rush hour to drive into town. However by reducing the number of cars journeys, by just 10%, it would be less than 50%. This effect is the “10% Modal Shift” used in their report and referred to in the title of this document. However this idea of modal shift could easily be extended, if there was the political will, across all of Eastbourne and South Wealden.

A comparison has been made, in this report, with a neighbouring council that has managed to make significant changes and achieved the equivalent of the “10% Modal Shift”. This report has deliberately not restated all the planning and strategies, that are in place for health authorities, councils and other agencies. The purpose is instead, to try and develop a consensus that something should be done.

Contrary to the opinion, held by some, it will benefit drivers when walking, biking and buses are more attractive, because they will not have to compete, as much, for a finite amount of space. In summary if Eastbourne remains dominated by cars, it will become congested for everybody, including the car drivers.


To support this target there needs to a vision. It could be “A healthier town where the population is more ft and active, where congestion is reduced, where people have alternatives to cars and where air quality is improved.”

6 Steps to Success

To make this a success there needs to be the following in place
1) “Buy-in to the idea of more active travel. That would encourage less sedentary lifestyles and a healthier population.
2) Accept that many plans for active travel, such as bus, foot and cycles have, at best, been only partly successful.
3) Accept that cycle numbers in Eastbourne remain very low, with no sign of increasing.
4) Commit to the idea of a “10% modal shift” across all of Eastbourne.
5) Accept that bus lanes, cycle lanes and newly pedestrianised areas may mean some re-allocation of space and parking provision.
6) Commit to a campaign to win over the “hearts and minds”. There will be section of the public that will not, without being convinced, accept these changes.

It is considered that further strategies and plans will have only a marginal effect, unless there is a top down vision that drives the process.

Hailsham to Eastbourne Corridor

It was recognised in 2010, that improvements to the key A22/A27 junctions alone, would not be sufficient to mitigate for the additional traffic generated, by the proposed housing developments in South Wealden and Eastbourne. Improvements would also be required to the local road network, together with bus priority measures and cycling and walking measures, to provide a greater travel choice, and facilitate a ‘step change’ in the use of sustainable transport (Often referred to as active travel)

Scenario Description

1. 2011 Base – The highway network as of 2011.
2. 2027 Do Nothing – Where all the proposed housing up to 2027 has been built but no highway mitigation work carried out (i.e. the worst case scenario).
3. 2027 MAS – The situation whereby all the proposed housing up to 2027 has been built and the improvements to the strategic junctions (MAS schemes) only carried out.
4. 2027 MAS+MAC – Where all the proposed housing up to 2027 has been built and the improvements to the strategic junctions (MAS schemes) carried together with the local measures (MAC schemes). ( Assumes 10% Modal shift)

Travel Time Scenario 2 Scenario 3 Scenario 4
AM Peak +67% +62% +47%
PM Peak +71% +68% +49%

To make further progress there would have to be synergy from other initiatives such as in health and pollution.

A 10% modal shift, where car traffic is estimated at over 50% of all journeys, would have implications for pollution, reducing the number of chronic health conditions, parking, tourism and an improved town centre experience.


There are concerns, within the national media, as to the high levels of pollution in the town which has exceeded recommended guidelines for particulate pollution, laid down by the World Health Organisation. This is partly caused by traffic and without action is likely to worsen.

Each year in the UK, around 40,000 deaths are attributable to exposure to outdoor air pollution which plays a role in many of the major health challenges of our day. It has been linked to cancer, asthma, stroke and heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and changes linked to dementia. The scale of the UK’s air pollution crisis has been recognised, and there is support for action at local and national level.

For a local context, 61 people a year in Eastbourne die, due to particulate air pollution, according to Public Health England. On top of this are the multiple medical conditions, exacerbated by pollution, especially around schools.

Use of Road Space

To a large extent there is no space, for more main roads, in the town. Some marginal improvements in the network can be made but the reality is, the existing space needs to be used more effectively.

Shown here is a famous picture, from Munster, showing the inefficient use of road space by cars compared to buses and cycles. This does not even show, the additional space, taken up when these cars are parked

Walking and Cycling in Eastbourne

Eastbourne cycling numbers have remained very low over the last 10 years. In terms of those who walk once a month Eastbourne is in the bottom half of Local Authorities. However there is a core group of regular walkers (fve times a week) that make the town above the national average in this category.

Percentage of Residents undertaking walking and cycling.

Frequency 1 x month cycle 5 x week cycle 1 x month walk 5 x week walk
England 17.1? 3.4 77.3 30.9
East Sussex 13.6 2.0 79.2 32.7
Eastbourne 10.9 1.4 74.5 34.7
Hastings 14.1 2.7 80.9 36.5
Lewes 14.6 3.7 80.1 36.5
Rother 13.2 1.4 77.6 27.5
Wealden 14.7 1.4 81.7 30.0

Eastbourne is the 33rd worst Local Authority for cycling numbers for those who cycle once a month. Depending on the specifc statistic within the worst 10% to 15% for the last 5 years. Source DfT 2016 Table CW0302. Eastbourne is in the worst 5% for cycling safety numbers.

Traffic numbers for main roads

The table below shows total traffic on major roads, in thousands of miles, over 15 years. This demonstrates, that it is possible to implement greener options

East Sussex 2001 2016 Change
Cycles 34833392 -3%
Cars 1070056 1103807 3%
Buses 11391 9642 -15%

The purpose of showing Brighton, which has received special funding, is to show that increases in active travel can be achieved where the political will and budget is there. Note there has been an increase, over all journeys, of 5% Source DfT

Health and Exercise

The Academy of Medical Colleges published a report that identified how people must be encouraged to take more exercise. The lead author is from East Sussex Healthcare. Although people are living longer, there is an increase in those who have multiple long term chronic conditions, shown here in shades of pink/red, that increasingly happen at younger ages. This results in more complex hospital admissions.

There is overwhelming evidence that physical activity improves the health of people with chronic conditions and also prevents many common diseases, reducing the risk of each of these by 20-50%. It does this at a very achievable amount of 30 minutes of moderate exercise, five times per week. Only 56% of adults achieve this ‘minimum’ weekly target and many people are dangerously inactive. Physical inactivity is responsible for a large proportion of the chronic physical and mental ill-health and there is evidence of reduced need for adult social care and savings of the costs of this, if the middle aged and older populations are supported to be more active.

As the NHS faces a £30bn funding gap by 2020 the need to tackle preventable illness and disease has never been greater.

New Estates

There should be guidance for developers to design direct routes, through estates, for cycles and pedestrians even if the roads are meandering. Where possible each new estate should provide additional active travel routes and permeability away from other traffic.

Guidance, used in local campaigns, can be found at Healthy Housing
in Wealden and Eastbourne


There are plenty of examples across the country where there has been a significant shift to more active travel. For this to happen in Eastbourne there needs to be a vision and commitment to deliver.