Policy issues around cycling in Hastings

From: Bea Rogers, Wellington Road, Hastings

Pedestrian and cyclist sign  (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images) SUS-200806-134049001
Pedestrian and cyclist sign (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images) SUS-200806-134049001

Following the recent letters about people cycling on pavements being a threat to those on foot, could I raise a few general policy issues?

The government, and many local authorities, are promoting “cycling and walking” – especially at the moment when they are discouraging the use of public transport. This is entirely the wrong way round: walking should be first and foremost, given the huge numbers of people on foot compared to those on bikes (even now, after heavy bike promotion). I don’t think it has ever been calculated, but I would pluck a figure out of the air to say there are perhaps five people walking to every one on a bike. Perhaps the statisticians could have a go at this one.

Safe pavements, free of wheeled traffic, is especially important for physically or mentally disabled people, anyone with mobility problems, and especially the blind and partially sighted. Any transport strategy that fails to give them priority is just wrong. If they find pavements dangerous some will just stop going out at all.

The idea that pavements and parks can be used for cycling is one that is being pushed by the cycling lobby and by Sustrans, a national organisation that is supposed to advance the interests of all but are heavily weighted towards cycling. They have phrases like “shared space” which is a cover for cyclists intruding into pedestrian areas.

Public authorities should be very careful about proposing new cycleways and ensure that they do not disadvantage the walkers. East Sussex County Council recently proposed an elaborate system for cycling on Bexhill promenade and using pedestrian crossings, which has left the local council aghast but probably unable to prevent. The same applies to the concreting of Alexandra Park for an elaborate and rather dangerous cycle route there. All this is partly because politicians see cycling as a priority issue, forgetting all those who are walkers. They then employ cycling officers who are often gung-ho about the issue and proceed to plan ambitious routes using the easiest way through. Guess what, it’s the pedestrian areas.

I am pro-cycling, I was an early member of the London Cycling Campaign (before it was taken over by the “me first” cyclists) and I used to ride everywhere in London. But Hastings is not very suitable for cycling and when I am not walking I have taken to the buses, which are an asset of great value but also overlooked by the planners. I suggest that any cycling proposal should be subject to the strict condition that it does not reduce the space available for walkers, and that there should be no “shared” use. Cyclists have the right to go on the roads, and they should insist on that right. Where separate cycle lanes or crossings can be provided taking road space, that’s great - but that is hard in Hastings because there are few through roads.

Love your walkers, keep them safe.

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