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Dedicated cycling facilities in Hastings are limited to the cycle-way along the promenade, part of the National Cycle Network (photo: Russell Jacobs).

Walking and cycling: “ESCC’s lack of ambition dispiriting”

Funding for walking and cycling infrastructure provided by the transport ministry’s Emergency Active Travel Fund has given East Sussex County Council the opportunity to demonstrate its ambitions for creating safe and practical transport arrangements for pedestrians and cyclists alongside the traditionally prioritised road traffic. After years of interacting with the county council, however, cycling enthusiast Tim Godwin has lost all faith in its ability to provide good walking and cycling solutions. Nick Terdre reports.

“If ever there was a chance for ambitious, active travel infrastructure and policy, it’s now, with Covid 19 providing the immediate impetus, and inactive lifestyles, air pollution and climate change hard behind, like the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, though they have forsaken the saddles and are now sat in an diesel SUV,” says Tim Godwin.

A member of Hastings Urban Bikes, one of the moving forces behind the community bike workshop Bike Lab Hastings and a supporter of the proposed Hastings Greenway, Godwin has long campaigned for the rights of walkers and cyclists to be properly acknowledged in our transport arrangements, and over the years has had plentiful meetings and exchanges with transport officers from ESCC, as the local highways authority, in a largely unsuccessful attempt to persuade them to adopt what he and other community campaigners see as appropriate policies.

He recently gave a guarded welcome to the Department for Transport’s announcement of a £2bn pot to fund cycling and walking infrastructure. “The best thing I’ve ever seen from UK government on Walking and Cycling,” he told HOT. “The actual implementation will be the hard and revealing bit, we’ll see. But it is good in its ambition.”

Less sympathy

But he has less sympathy for ESCC’s efforts to improve the lot of cyclists and walkers through use of the transport ministry’s Emergency Active Travel Fund. Having secured first-stage funding for 16 temporary projects in East Sussex towns, the council dropped 12 in the face of opposition from trading and other local interests.

One of the few projects to be implemented in stage one of the Emergency Active Travel Fund – the widening of one of the widest pavements in Hastings, Pelham Place (photo: Nick Terdre).

“It would be good to ask why significant public health interventions are allowed to be vetoed by butchers, or secondhand furniture shops,” he says. “Why were other residents and visitors to the towns in question not consulted?”

He points out that that there is plenty of research indicating positive results for retail activity through improving pedestrian access and restricting car access. Living Streets’ 2018 update of The Pedestrian Pound report quotes multiple case studies from the UK and elsewhere which found that pedestrianisation and other measures to improve the pedestrian experience commonly increased footfall and boosted retail sales.

He is also unimpressed with the proposals for permanent schemes submitted by ESCC for stage two funding, in which the county council has been allocated £1.6m (see box below). For Hastings and Bexhill, as well as Eastbourne, no measures on cycling are included.

“The lack of ambition from ESCC is dispiriting,” Godwin says. “For a start they emphasise walking over cycling, with no cycling infrastructure proposed at all in Hastings. But even the walking infrastructure interventions are archaic and give the impression of a local authority stuck in the 1980s.

“I assume all their officers drive to work. They have certainly always driven to the cycling infrastructure meetings I’ve attended.”

Misleading

“In their submission ESCC suggest that there are four cycle routes established in Hastings, but this is misleading – they don’t actually exist except on the drawing board, where some of them have been in ‘development’ for over 10 years. It’s disingenuous to show these and imply that ESCC have done anything to build them.”

Godwin says he knows of various suggestions submitted to the county council for consideration as part of their bids for the Emergency Active Travel Fund, but none of them have been acted upon.

As it happens, Hastings Borough Council has an agreed walking and cycling strategy, drawn up in collaboration with, among others, ESCC. It was published in 2014 and is part of the Local Plan, but has yet to be implemented.

Cycle routes proposed in Hastings Borough Council’s Cycling and Walking Strategy. Only the National Cycle Network (marked in red) is so far a reality.

“Other local authorities around the UK are doing much more, much faster, to provide safe infrastructure for active travel,” Godwin says. “The reasons for not doing so here in East Sussex are invisible to me.”

On the ball

Other local authorities are much more on the ball, in his view. Among various measures planned by Leicester City Council as part of its Covid recovery plan is the creation of a mile of walking and cycling pop-up paths per week over a 10-week period, while Liverpool has set up a £4m fund to pay for up to 65 miles of pop-up cycle lanes along seven key routes across the city.

And, he points out, “There are many reports and research from organisations like Sustrans, Living Streets and others produced over the last decade which demonstrate the benefits of walking and cycling, but the one ESCC should surely be paying attention to is from the Department of Transport itself,” he says.

This is a 2016 report entitled The Value of Cycling, from which Godwin draws attention to two findings in particular:

  • Cycle parking allows five times more retail spend than the same space for car parking
  • Cycle-friendly neighbourhoods can have greater retail spend.

“East Sussex County Council and Hastings Borough Council need to wake up to the urgency of the situation we are in – the combined problems of air pollution, road danger, public health inactivity and climate wrecking emissions leave no time to waste in implementing safe and useful walking and cycling infrastructure in this town,” says Godwin.

“Our elected representatives need to adjust their attitude towards transport infrastructure policy, which is stuck in the 1980s.”

ESCC’s proposals for stage-two funding

The following proposals for permanent measures have been submitted by ESCC for the second tranche of the DfT’s Emergency Active Travel Fund, for which it has been allocated £1.6m.

Scheme 1 School Streets, covering eight schools across the County: walking enhancements and a schools behaviour change package
Scheme 2 Eastbourne walking enhancements (Ashford Road – Lottbridge Drove)
Scheme 3 Bexhill and Hastings walking enhancements, including:
Bexhill–Upper Sea Road to Pebsham Lane
Hastings – Core Walking Zone
Hastings – Cornwallis Gardens to Hollington Old Lane
Scheme 4 – Newhaven & Lewes LCWIP package, including:
Lewes–Falmer to Woodingdean Cycle Route;
Lewes–Southover Road to Brighton Road
Newhaven–Drove Road to Denton Road.

All the schemes in this programme are identified as priority projects in the council’s draft Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP), ESCC says. The plan is due to go out to public consultation.

 

Article amended by Nick Terdre on 25 September 2020.

 

Posted 11:32 Wednesday, Sep 23, 2020 In: Transport

10 Comments

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  1. Hastings Greenway Group

    Good article, Tim

    Such a wasted opportunity to push through some long-overdue “innovations”. There is always a natural resistance to change, so this was the time to introduce more car-free areas, whether this is pediatrianised areas, cycle lanes, cycle-only routes and greenway routes. The sort of things that make towns a more enjoyable place to live…and people want to visit – ideal for a tourist town.
    However, ESCC and HBC are utterly lacking in imagination and ambition. I don’t know who is worse. ESCC for the charade of consultation and then ignoring us or HBC who are pertrified of pressure groups and refuse to engage with us.

    We should have another (socially-distanced) day of action!

    Comment by Hastings Greenway Group — Saturday, Oct 10, 2020 @ 14:31

  2. Chrys Brookes

    It is disappointing to hear that our Local Authorities have not changed & embraced new & creativecwayscof working. Hastings has had so much potential wasted by those in power. It really is time for those archaic individuals in power to leave & give their posts to some new blood, as they are clearly no longer ‘fit for purpose’. Is there anything we, as individuals, can do?

    Comment by Chrys Brookes — Thursday, Sep 24, 2020 @ 22:18

  3. Catherine Taylor

    Let’s get together to enable all those who have got their bikes out of the shed to exercise in lock down times and make Hastings a cycle friendly town.

    While waiting for infrastructure projects to give separate cycle lanes, let’s act to curb speeding and driving that endangers life. We all know people who drive locally and it is a chance to begin conversations on the subject of reducing speed, making way for cyclists whilst behind the wheel.

    Living Streets can help up with ideas on limited road closure events and future planning around cleaner air and safer roads. HBC Councillors want to get these changes and local cyclists can encourage them to act for our mutual benefit.

    Comment by Catherine Taylor — Thursday, Sep 24, 2020 @ 20:20

  4. kay waters

    Excellent article, thank you HOT. I walk and cycle everywhere around the town. I certainly do not want to cycle on the pavement but want to feel safe on the road and want separate cycle ways to be provided. There needs to be an advertising campaign to raise awareness and tolerance among drivers in order to increase safety for cyclists and walkers. Hastings Borough Council seems to have plenty of money to fund lots of posters and signage about social distancing (all needed of course) but perhaps they could extend this to encouraging walking and cycling as a good travel option during Covid.

    Comment by kay waters — Thursday, Sep 24, 2020 @ 16:43

  5. Anna Sabin

    The most efficient way of getting about town, any town, is on a bike. It’s four times faster than walking and, if only the roads were safe, anyone over the age of 10 could be utterly free and mobile on one. And now there are electric bikes. Even easier.

    All the comments so far have been written by cyclists. ESCC should ask them and cyclists in every East Sussex town what they would need to make their roads safe and usable for the bike, take them seriously and implement their suggestions.

    Then gradually the tide will turn – people will use cars when a car is best suited to the job but be able to ride a bike when a bike would do best.

    Comment by Anna Sabin — Thursday, Sep 24, 2020 @ 15:20

  6. Bea

    I agree with Paul, visibility is crucial and a high-viz vest can save your life. I suggest the cycling lobby focus on making the roads safer for cyclists rather than trying to get them onto pavements and into parks. Measures could include advance stop lines for cyclists at traffic lights, and making sure any road closures allow enough space for people to cycle through. It would also be good to push hard for improvements to road surfaces, especially near the kerb.
    Cyclists can use bus lanes, and I would like to see more provision for buses. That’s how most people travel if they don’t have a car. So how about an alliance with the bus company?
    Walking issues are different, and should focus on improving road crossings, whether at junctions or just crossing busy roads – a pedestrian refuge (traffic island) can be very helpful with this, as well as proper pedestrian crossings, the more the merrier.

    Comment by Bea — Thursday, Sep 24, 2020 @ 11:16

  7. Ann

    It’s so dispiriting to see how badly Hasting Council have managed cycling infrastructure in the area and in particular how short sighted they’ve been in implementing next to nothing with the COVID Emergency Active Travel Fund. It was the perfect chance for Hastings Council to make what in their minds may have been unpalatable changes, but in reality could have greatly improved the quality of life for many residents.

    Hastings is not a town full of car owners, many of us walk or cycle as a means to get about, but our needs, concerns, safety and health are sidelined to the wealthy car owners demanding what they see as their right to quick and easy passage. Roads are for all of us, and pedestrian and cyclist’s needs should be as important as the driver’s.

    Comment by Ann — Wednesday, Sep 23, 2020 @ 21:52

  8. Hannah Hallett

    I couldn’t agree more.

    I wish the roads felt safer; that cyclists weren’t pushed into the potholes and gutters at the side of the road by whizzing traffic often trying to go too fast too close; that it was safe to cycle with my children and teach them a more sustainable healthier way to travel.

    I’d love for the safe routes to take us further, connect to more people and places, and make our town cleaner and safer.

    Come on Hastings!

    Comment by Hannah Hallett — Wednesday, Sep 23, 2020 @ 20:05

  9. Mat McDonnell

    If we can make improvements to our town design around walking and cycling things can get better. How many cars are too many? How dirty does the air have to get before we say enough? How many people have to die by bad design of how we live? The ideas are simple and available, there’s even a bit of money right now. We just need the will to do it.

    Comment by Mat McDonnell — Wednesday, Sep 23, 2020 @ 18:46

  10. Paul Way-Rider

    Great article and totally agree! Much more money should be spent on “improving the lot of cyclists” in Hastings.

    My wife and I took up cycling this summer and we love it. It’s a new way of life but quite difficult in Hastings. (We haven’t got a car and discovered that covid rules are not adhered to on buses – feel sorry for the drivers.)

    The current provision for cyclists in Hastings is awful. As far as we can see the only major cycle route is along the prom (and onwards to Bexhill). It can be quite difficult negotiating people who don’t make space plus their dogs on long leads which can stretch right across the route. When it works, it’s marvellous.

    One of the problems for bike riders is the plethora of potholes on most roads which might not be too bad for a car or bus to go over but they are terrible for bikes. For any newbie cyclists like us, it is well worth getting a Hi-Viz vest because it is amazing how many motorists and pedestrians don’t expect cyclists to be there.

    Despite the difficulties, cycling is great way to travel and we’ve got panniers to do the shopping. Let’s hope Hastings will follow the examples of the other cities mentioned so that we get cycle lanes, parking spaces and potholes filled in, but I’m not holding my breath!

    Comment by Paul Way-Rider — Wednesday, Sep 23, 2020 @ 14:33

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