Last year, Upper Shoreham Road was one of six areas in the county where pop-up cycle schemes were installed – but then removed months later following a public backlash.
Then, in early 2021, West Sussex County Council sought views on possible measures to encourage more cycling and walking in Shoreham.
During the summer, a formal consultation was held on a permanent scheme for Upper Shoreham Road, among other measures
More than 1,600 responses were received showing support for improved cycling and walking facilities across the town.
But according to West Sussex County Council, neither of the two options put forward for segregated cycle facilities in Upper Shoreham Road ‘were well-supported’.
A total of 51 per cent of respondents opposed a one-way cycle track on both sides compared to 45 per cent in support, while 65 per cent opposed a two-way cycle track on the south side compared to 25 per cent in support.
BUt campaigners at Shoreham-By-Cycle have pointed out near identical levels of support and opposition from respondents when they were asked generally about a scheme to improve walking and cycling facilities along Upper Shoreham Road.
A total of 48 per cent were opposed compared to 47 per cent in support.
A spokesman for the group also highlighted government guidance around not treating consultations as referendums, which tells councils not to expect absolute consensus or be solely driven by numbers.
Shoreham-By-Cycle has also spoke against basing a decision on numbers for two options that have essentially split the vote.
The group also argues a report on the consultation responses contains positive qualitative content and makes a strong case for improvements.
It also points out how there was no mechanism on the survey to prevent repeat entries, while the age split for responses was ‘very unrepresentative’.
A spokesman said: “It would be disappointing if the results were just being cherry picked to give a preferred impression that does not reflect what people want.”
Lastly they highlight that improvements in Middle Road were not put forward as an alternative to those for Upper Shoreham Road but as a separate matter, these were not accompanied ‘in any meaningful detail’, while the only measures that were popular were trivial ones.
WSCC committed to improvements
The county council says it remains committed to providing cycling and walking improvements and will engage with stakeholders to see if there is a solution for Upper Shoreham Road and the surrounding area that would deliver meaningful improvements whilst allaying residents’ concerns.
Part of this work will be to engage more closely with schools, which would help the council to understand what detailed proposals might be achievable.
Joy Dennis, WSCC’s cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “First, I would like to thank everyone who took part in the consultation and provided feedback.
“Although it attracted strong support from some people, there was local concern about providing a cycleway on the Upper Shoreham Road. However, there is an appetite to progress some of the measures to encourage walking and cycling in the area, with a focus on school travel.
“The best way to make progress is to carry out further engagement. I realise this could be frustrating for some people, but it’s important to take concerns on board to see if answers can be built into the proposals. This would also give any suggested improvements the best-possible chance of securing the funding needed to progress them.
“The stakeholder engagement will take place over the coming months and we will engage more closely with schools, which will allow us to work on more detailed proposals for further consultation in 2022.”
Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, said: “I am grateful for the very extensive consultation carried out by the County Council following the earlier survey work carried out by local councillors and myself. It is disappointing that there is no clear consensus about a cycle lane on Upper Shoreham Road at this time and it is essential that we are able to take a large number of local people with us if we can progress such a scheme and that is also a qualification of funding from the Department for Transport.
“Whilst we will need to look at further options in Upper Shoreham Road, I am delighted that work on the very popular suggestion for the crossing over Steyning Road will go ahead shortly and work is now going to be progressed in Middle Road and other surrounding roads to ease congestion and make cycle routes safer for local schoolchildren and families in particular.”
Cycle UK launched a legal challenge against WSCC’s decision to remove the pop-up scheme and this week it was announced that a court date of January 25 has been set for the start of High Court proceedings.
A county council spokesman said: “Following the Court of Appeal’s decision to allow elements of Cycling UK’s case to proceed, the County Council intends to defend its previous decision to remove the temporary cycle lane.
“We have just published details of the consultation which we carried out during the summer on the proposals for a permanent scheme together with our suggested next steps. We would like to thank all for their continued interest in this proposal.”
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, said they were hoping to set a precedent and ‘put a stop to short sighted decisions like this which are happening across the UK’.
He added: “Though we’re a cycling charity fighting over a cycle lane’s removal, at the heart of our legal challenge this really isn’t a cycling issue. We’re fighting to ensure children can travel to school in safety, so people don’t have to breathe foul air, and for healthier, safer streets where we live and work.
The cycling charity is relying on crowdsourced funding through its Cyclist Defence Fund for its legal challenge and is asking for donations to cover the costs for the trial and to support CDF’s wider work.
Mr Dollimore added: “We’re truly grateful for all the support we’ve received from the public so far for our legal battle in Shoreham and hope they can continue to support us and our ongoing work to make the UK a better place for everyone.”