After many years in the waiting, the first section of the Lewes to Ringmer cycleway was completed in 2006.
While this was very welcome, its incomplete nature and its relatively short length made it inadequate as a safe route between the town and the village and it was generally recognised that the route should be completed as a matter of urgency.
In 2013, local cyclists were delighted to hear that the county council had managed to secure further funding to complete the route and that a public consultation on options for the route was to take place.
The result of that consultation, carried out in July 2013, was that an overwhelming majority of respondents (89 percent) supported the completion of the route.
During the consultation exercise five alternatives were presented for the most difficult section of the route, where the B2192 meets the A26 at Earwig Corner. A significant majority of those responding (over 68 percent) identified the route via Mill Road as being the best alternative at the current time. In October 2013, following the consultation exercise, the county council agreed to carry out the work of completing the cycleway using this route.
It was with some surprise, therefore, that I read (‘Safety issues raised as cycle path is built’) that some local councillors are now questioning the route that has been decided upon and which was supported by the public and by key stakeholders.
I am sure that motorists and cyclists alike would prefer the creation of a completely redesigned junction at Earwig Corner – one that would avoid the considerable queues that currently build up at peak times, and one that would also create a safe passage for cyclists travelling the route. This would be very expensive and, in the current financial climate, it is clear that there is no real possibility of funding being available for such a project in the near future.
In the light of this, Cycle Lewes, the campaigning group for local cyclists, decided to support the Mill Road option. It provides a safe route, keeping pedestrians and cyclists separated by a hedge from road traffic, and it avoids the difficulties presented by negotiating the turn from the A26 into the B2192 at Earwig Corner. In addition, as Mill Road is a cul de sac, there is relatively little traffic flow making it safer for cyclists.
The objections to using Mill Road appear to be twofold:
It is a steep hill and therefore unsuitable for cyclists to travel up. Well, cycling in and around Lewes does, inevitably, involve cycling up hills. To arrive at the foot of Mill Road a cyclist would have already travelled up either Church Lane or Malling Hill both of which are hills. If you are new to cycling, and find hills tough, then it is not too difficult to push one’s bike when necessary. After a while, with added fitness, you will find the challenge of a hill quite manageable.
It is a steep hill and is dangerous for cyclists to travel down. Again, cycling in and around Lewes involves going downhill. Frankly, it is the responsibility of cyclists to make sure that their bikes are in good working order, including the brakes. It is also the responsibility of cyclists to decide if weather conditions are such that cycling is dangerous. Icy roads are one of those rare situations where it would be foolish to ride a bike and I am sure most cyclists appreciate that.
At Cycle Lewes we are delighted that the completion of this important link between Lewes and Ringmer is now being constructed. We are confident that the county council has listened to the public and to local cyclists and, in the current circumstances, has identified the most practical route. We believe that the completed cycleway will encourage many of those who travel between the town and the village, whether for work, education, shopping or for pleasure, to do so without the need to use a car. This can only help to reduce traffic congestion and carbon emissions, and will contribute to a more healthy lifestyle for those who use the cycleway. We look forward to joining the celebration of its opening in 2015.