Councillors support our calls for further development to West Sussex cycling strategy

Over the last year WSCC has been drafting a much-needed new cycling strategy. A lot of good work has been put into developing a system for listing potential cycle routes so the council can be ready to bid for any external sources of funding that become available.

But with no money in the budget, no targets to meet and no leadership to carry it out, can this really be called a strategy?

The draft document also leaves out hugely important issues such as how to improve our streets so that people of all ages and abilities can realistically choose to use a bike for everyday short trips and how to ensure that the thousands of new homes due to be built in the area will be cycle-friendly.

After pushing so hard to get a new cycling strategy and putting in many hours of their free time to help the council, cycle forum members around the county were dismayed at the prospect of this very limited “strategy” being adopted and effectively putting a halt to further progress.

So, on the same day that the “strategy” went to committee for approval the West Sussex cycle forums staged a protest outside County Hall in Chichester.

Under banners reading “No Money, No Targets = No strategy”, protesters voiced their frustration. We also contacted all the councillors calling on them to recognise that much more needs to be done to develop a robust strategy that will serve the county well for the coming decade.

Protesters outside County Hall

Protesters outside County Hall

We were therefore encouraged that during the debate several councillors picked up on our key criticisms of the draft strategy.

Although the strategy was approved as expected, we were pleased that a resolution was put forward by two Horsham councillors, Nigel Dennis and Jim Rae, stating that the committee considers further work is required, specifically on sources of funding, on developing a coherent network of routes and on embedding walking and cycling in the county’s strategic priorities.

In the Committee Chair, Cllr John Rogers asked for progress on the strategy to be reviewed in a year’s time.

Crucially, it was also recognised that urban routes (where the biggest gains in encouraging people to cycle can be made) should be given similar importance as inter-community utility routes.

This is a positive step forward and WSCC can now focus on assessing which schemes to take forward to the next stage. Meanwhile there is an opportunity for the forums to continue arguing for a better strategy that will genuinely meet the challenges of the next decade.

It is worth bearing in mind that most of those who will benefit from a successful strategy are not “cyclists” but businesses, residents, children and the elderly: people of all kinds, however they choose to travel.

The key challenge for the cycle forums now is to get this message through and to win political support for cycling. In the end, what will make the difference is not the words in the strategy, but the size of the cycling budget together with strong leadership to drive through real change, in spite of the inevitable obstacles.

What Councillors said

Nigel Dennis (Lib Dem, Horsham Hurst)

Nigel Dennis (Lib Dem, Horsham Hurst)

Nigel Dennis (Lib Dem, Horsham Hurst)

“This is more of a report than a strategy. There’s not much evidence of how funding will be delivered. It doesn’t really seem to be joined up in terms of a strategy or network. I’m not convinced we’ve got the level of officer support and expertise that’s really needed. We still seem to be going backwards in some areas at the moment with things like cycle lanes being taken out in Horsham and new developments going forward without best practice walking and cycling facilities.”

Philip Circus (Con, Storrington)

Philip Circus (Con, Storrington)

Philip Circus (Con, Storrington)

“I welcome anything that encourages more cycling and walking; the health of the nation demands it.”

Jim Rae (Ind, Roffey)

Jim Rae (Ind, Roffey)

Jim Rae (Ind, Roffey)

“This strategy first needs to be embedded in WSCC departments: Strategic Planning, Highways Planning. They need to work with our districts and boroughs…gain their acceptance that walking and cycling should form a central part of future developments. We’ve seen this ignored only too often.

Aspirations of a joined-up network will never ever, ever happen if we do not change the thought patterns of our districts and boroughs so that they are aligned.”

Simon Oakley (Con, Chichester East)

Simon Oakley (Con, Chichester East)

Simon Oakley (Con, Chichester East)

“I would say there that I wouldn’t want to put too much emphasis on behaviour change at the expense of capital works. You can do a lot of behavioural change work in the classroom, in the school playground, at work etc., but if they then launch themselves out onto the highway network and then find a completely unsuitable network then all that work is for nothing.”

Michael Jones (Lab, Southgate and Crawley Central)

Michael Jones (Lab, Southgate and Crawley Central)

Michael Jones (Lab, Southgate and Crawley Central)

Cllr Jones said that it was a shame that the cycle forum had not been permitted to speak during the debate and spoke of “repeated concerns about whether the council had got the vision right…that there was nothing for the town… concern that the council still doesn’t necessarily have the expertise….and adding all that together, was it really a strategy?”

He summarised by saying “If the cycling forum is not happy with it, how can I be as a member?”

John Rogers (Con, Cissbury)

John Rogers (Con, Cissbury)

John Rogers (Con, Cissbury)

Cllr Rogers asked officers to go through the list of schemes and “pick out the urban improvements that cycle forums think should be more of a priority and then, when you report back in, say, twelve months’ time, tell us what improvements have been made on those.”

He asked for assurance on design standards for new developments including “the huge numbers of housing that’s going to be put for example in the Horsham area.”

“Districts and boroughs, they do take quite big notice of our Highways officers’ comments and I don’t think that sometimes our highways officers are asking for enough.”

Derek Whittington (Con, Fontwell, County Cycling and Walking Champion)

Derek Whittington (Con, Fontwell, County Cycling and Walking Champion)

Derek Whittington (Con, Fontwell, County Cycling and Walking Champion)

Cllr Whittington said the strategy is “a stepping stone which is going to be subject to revision and more detailed investigation over the coming weeks and months.”

Chichester City Councillor Sarah Sharp

Chichester City Councillor Sarah Sharp

Chichester City Councillor Sarah Sharp

Sarah was hit by a car last year as she cycled along the road in central Chichester and is still receiving treatment for her near-fatal neck injury. According to government figures, every time we prevent just one serious collision such as this, it saves society an average of £235,000.

She holds up a picture of the collision as she demonstrates for a new county cycling strategy that will make cycling in West Sussex a safe and attractive option for people of all ages and abilities.

“My accident was not my fault and was not due to my lack of training. The road system needs to be improved to prevent someone else suffering in the way that I did.”

Comments

  1. Rosemary Hebblethwaite says:

    I live a 10 minute cycle ride outside of Chichester centre but every time I do that journey I feel that I am taking my life in my hands. We need more off road joined up cycle tracks.

  2. James Mcloughlin says:

    I was knocked off my bike and sent to A+E after a car knocked me off my bike on the green cycle track at the fire station roundabout. I do not believe that the changes have made this any safer. i would not allow a child to use this if I was a parent.

    I am also disgruntled that on the Oaklands Park path (closed for 10 weeks to make it a formal cycle path complete with numerous posts indicating shared use ) a sign has now gone up instructing cyclist to dismount half way along going towards town -is this a cycle path or an excuse for one?

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