The Cycle Lane on the A22 and Other Things

Posted on Facebook WHIEG Group:

The Cycle Lane on the A22 and Other Things – WARNING – This is a long post – best grab a cup of tea! There’s been a number of posts regarding the A22 pop up cycle lane since the delineators have been put in. It seems that some residents don’t like people riding their bikes on the road, they don’t like people riding their bikes on the pavement and they don’t like bike lanes – basically people shouldn’t ride bikes 😉. So, I thought I’d try and add some semblance of balance to the debate. Not to shut anyone down, everyone is entitled to their views and long may that continue. But it’s important to understand that there’s always another side to the story.

Please read the whole post before commenting.

I must be open and say from the start that I am a town councillor but my views here are not the views of the Town Council. One reason for me putting myself up for election last year was to try and make it safe and easy for members of our community to ride their bike or walk around our wonderful town.

For transparency I sit on a couple of council committees, I’m a trustee of the museum (please do support it if you can), I volunteer at the repair café (you guessed it, I help fix bikes there) and I am chair of the working group tasked with putting together the LCWIP for the town. LCWIP stands for Local Cycling & Walking Infrastructure Plan (I can provide a link to the Gov website if you’d like to know more).

I am not an Extinction Rebellion insider, I’m not a green vigilante, you won’t find me chained naked to a bike rack in town and I also love driving.

Please don’t send of loads of emails to the council if you disagree with what I say below they won’t go anywhere but I’d be happy to have a coffee/beer with anyone about the subject or lend you a bike so we can go out for a spin some time.

Before I get into the whys and wherefores of the A22 cycle lane, I thought it helpful to add some facts and some common sense truths relating to traffic, congestion, cycle lanes, safety, dangers etc in to the debate. These will hopefully illustrate that cycle lanes and bike infrastructure are a good thing. The first few facts aim to counter some of the more popular views/arguments and I realise I take the risk of a few rotten tomatoes being thrown at me but let’s keep everything civil, kind and decent and then we can all push the debate forward.

a) There will always be drivers of vehicles and bicycles who don’t follow the rules, let’s not tar everyone with the same brush. Sometimes drivers of cars jump red lights as well as people on bicycles.

b) The cycle lane on the A22 has been there for 10 years (except for the segment between the Felbridge and Imberhorne lights, a small section before the Texaco garage and after windmill lane). The only difference is that there are now delineators at strategic sections of the road heading south that separate people on their bikes from vehicles.

c) Taking the delineators down won’t speed up your journey on the A22.

d) The cycle lanes around the country have recently been put in place for a number of reasons – currently the number of seats available on public transport is reduced, space required for social distancing is limited in places. But in general, the government are asking local authorities to look at alternative ways for members of the community to get from A to B and to enable people to think about other options on those short journeys in to or around your town/city/village.

e) Road tax was abolished in 1937. It was replaced more recently with VED (Vehicle Emission Duty). Vehicle owners pay a levy dependent on the emissions of their vehicle.

f) Electric vehicles don’t pay VED. That means over 1 million vehicle owners don’t pay ‘tax’ to drive their car on the public highway.

g) VED, VAT, income tax plus all the other taxes raised by the Exchequer go into a central pot, get divided up and given to each local authority to maintain their services – highways, children’s services, schools etc. Ours is West Sussex County Council.

h) Congestion in East Grinstead will only get worse if nothing is done and we, as a community, must look at the modes of transport we use. I’m not saying you have to walk and cycle everywhere. A number of journeys by car are essential for most people.

i) Building more lanes for cars will only result in more congestion, it’s called induced demand or Jevons Paradox.

j) The East Grinstead bypass ship has already sailed, the residents of EG said no to it in the Neighbourhood Plan. A bypass would need to be paid for by a huge development in excess of 10000 homes I believe.

k) There are tight spots all over town that have delayed emergency vehicles. Less congestion would help.

l) We have a licence to drive a car due to the fact we are responsible for a 2 tonne box of metal. We have to demonstrate we are capable of safely operating a machine that’s capable of killing people, hence the test.

m) To clarify, the budget for potholes comes out of a different highways budget from WSCC. The initiative for the cycle lanes and the respective budget comes from a Government funded initiative to enable people to travel by other modes of transport than car that was implemented due to the covid crisis.

More facts:

1. In the UK 5 people every day are killed by people driving vehicles.

2. Every 20 minutes someone is injured in the UK by uninsured or untraceable motorists.

3. A local man riding his bike was sadly killed by a driver at the Sackville roundabout during lockdown.

4. Building protected active travel routes is not just catering to the 5% of people who already cycle or walk. The idea is to make these modes of travel a viable option for a larger share of the community.

5. Good quality bike infrastructure begets more bike trips. People feel safe doing it.

6. If you enable one person or family/couple to cycle on a journey, rather than take the car, you have one car off the road and it has an immediate effect on the congestion. If you take 10 off the road, it will have an even bigger impact. You can see where I’m going with this can’t you. I will re-iterate though; I know some journeys have to be made by vehicle.

7. Riding a bike or walking more will never be an option for 100% of people. Nor is owning or driving a car. That’s really okay.

8. An additional 20 million vehicles are on the roads now compared to 1990.

9. Statistics show that a large percentage of drivers flout the law regularly, especially speeding.

10. Most journeys by car in a town like East Grinstead are inside 1 mile.

11. Whilst fossil fuels have revolutionised people’s lives around the world, the car remains the most inefficient use of road space. Single occupancy vehicles in the UK account for 60% of all journeys.

12. It’s not against the law to ride 2 abreast on the road. It actually means there is a shorter overtaking distance for drivers.

13. The recommended distance to leave between a person riding their bike and your car is 1.5m.

14. It’s illegal to overtake a person on a bike if there are solid white lines and they are travelling over 10mph (not many people know that)

15. It’s a popular misconception but cycle lanes aren’t the cause of congestion. Unfortunately it’s us in our vehicles that cause congestion.

16. Our town survey last year overwhelmingly came back with the main barrier to people not cycling or walking more is safety.

17. The main reason you see people riding their bikes on the pavement is they don’t feel safe. Why? Most likely because they have had a bad experience with a vehicle passing too close or punishment braking in front of them. There are probably other reasons too.

18. The average household in East Grinstead has 3 bikes.

19. There are incredible economic, environmental and health benefits to our community if we invest more in active travel.

20. A study around the world found that protected bike lanes led to a drastic decline in incidents for ALL users of the road and an increase in bike usage. Painted bike lanes had no improvement at all.

21. As drivers of vehicles it’s our responsibility to protect vulnerable road users (people on motorbikes, bicycles, pedestrians and horse riders).

The A22 Bike Lane

The segregated bike lane is most definitely a step in the right direction to enable more people to use active travel as an option of getting into town. It’s not perfect but it is part of a much larger active travel puzzle for East Grinstead, to help unlock the road system for everyone.

Common sense prevailed on the first day to remove the dangerous part of the cycle lane by the Imberhorne lights and quite rightly too. I’m also in contact with WSCC about the Lingfield Rd roundabout section as this needs looking at and modified.

The addition of the delineators has increased the level of visibility of the bike lane, as I’ve said already it’s not perfect.

Originally WSCC wanted people to walk from the roundabout to the traffic lights at Maypole road, then use Maypole Road to the station and get into town from there. Going forward St Margaret’s Loop would link nicely with the Lingfield Roundabout and then Worth Way and into town.

Solutions

Congestion in and around town will not improve and will only get worse if we carry on as we are, that is an irreversible truth. Car ownership is increasing every year and this won’t change anytime soon either. There’s no space to widen roads and as I’ve said above (i) it will only mean more cars use the road system. So we are in a tight spot really. However, we do have an incredible opportunity to really put something exceptional in place that would improve the local economy, improve the air quality for everyone, improve the health of our residents and become a town of even happier people!

It’s not going to be easy, change won’t happen overnight, there will be some tough decisions to be made, it will require us all to compromise a little and be civil and understanding of everyone’s views. But with some thoughtful and forward planning, all users of our public highways can get to where they need to get to in a safe and timely manner in the not too distant future.

There is no magic wand though. The whole community needs to recognise that building safe, accessible bike and pavement infrastructure will bring huge benefits to everyone in the town. Enabling our children to walk and cycle to school safely. Linking each area of our town with safe routes to walk and cycle, connecting Worth Way with Forest Way properly, putting in a wider bridge over the railway, linking Ashhurst Wood with EG. This is all hopefully part of the LCWIP I mentioned at the beginning. Not everyone will agree and that’s okay. But the tangible benefits of having this infrastructure will be good for our town and will mean some members of the community who only drive might very well get to their destination quicker!

In summary, the cycle lane and the orange poles are a step in the right direction but I know that not everyone can see that right now or indeed agree. I would encourage us all to show some kindness to those vulnerable users of the road. Remember they are also mums, dads, sons, daughters, uncles and aunts. They might not be able to afford a car, have a medical reason for exercising etc but please don’t take out your anger on them. Give them some space, hold back overtaking, if it’s not quite safe to do so, and have a think about what it is like being passed by 2 tonnes of metal with inches to spare – it’s frightening.

Let’s be the town that welcomes all road users of all ages – a little bit of kindness really does go a long way. Thanks for reading, tin hat is on!

Steve Ody

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