New cycle lanes condemned as ‘dangerous’

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Cycle lanes along a newly widened road are less than half the recommended width for a bike.

Horsham District Cycling Forum chair Ruth Fletcher told the County Times that the lanes, along Parsonage Road, Horsham, are dangerously narrow.

Cyclists demonstrate the width of new cycling lanes in Parsonage Road,  Horsham

Cyclists demonstrate the width of new cycling lanes in Parsonage Road, Horsham

The Design Manual for Roads and Bridges, published by the Department for Transport, says the ‘preferred width’ for a cycle lane is 2m, and says 1.5m is the ‘desirable minimum’.

Speaking at a roadside protest on Friday, Ruth said the new lanes near to the former Novartis site are only 72cm wide.

“If you go on Bikeability training, which is approved by the Government, then they will tell you that you should always ride more than 50cm from the kerb,” she said, explaining that this helps cyclists to avoid hazards like potholes and drains.

“Psychologically it’s bad because a driver will see the cycle lane and assume that’s all the space the cyclist needs.”

The forum website says the previous cycle lanes were not ideal but at least the road was wide enough for cars to overtake - although they might have to cross the centre line to do so.

“The design of the new junction however means that cyclists will now need to be fully within the 70cm lanes to allow vehicles to pass (the right-turn filter lane and the traffic island near the junction prevent motorists from crossing the centre line),” it says.

“However, since it is not possible to keep a safe distance from the kerb and fit within 70cm, people riding bikes will always be outside the lane yet motorists will not be expecting cyclists to be there.”

It adds: “The greatest danger for cyclists however is probably that of being left-hooked as they cross the entrance to the development. Cars are given a wide splay at the side entrance that encourages them to maintain speed as they turn left and cyclists do not have priority across the junction.”

Ruth said: “The ideal solution would have been to have taken seriously the legal requirement in the NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework], which says you have to prioritise cycling and walking.

“It’s yet again an example where nobody has taken cycling seriously and as a result we’ve ended up with rubbish. We’re stopping people cycling by not providing the proper facilities.

“We’ve had so many developments recently where cycling has been completely ignored in the design.”

Frances Haigh, who is chair of Horsham Blueprint neighbourhood forum as well as being a North Horsham parish councillor, came to the protest with fellow councillor Helen Ralston.

“We’ve come here by car, because it isn’t safe enough for many of us as cyclists to even get on a bike here,” said Frances.

“Horsham is one of the most dangerous places for cyclists and yet there’s a huge demand from young adults and families to be able to cycle.

“There’s a problem with kids not being fit enough, and if they cycled, they’d be healthier.”

A West Sussex County Council spokesman said: “These highway works are associated with a new residential development of 160 dwellings on the former Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Limited site.

“The works are not yet fully complete.

“They involve adjusting the existing kerb lines to improve pedestrian facilities and refuge islands, and a new right turn lane access into the site.

“The designer has had to manage competing demands for road space.

“The advisory lanes are below the desirable 1.5m - however they were like that before the scheme was implemented and this is not out keeping with the advisory lines on the remainder of the marked advisory route (beyond the scope of these works).

“An independent safety review was undertaken on the design and has not identified a problem with the width provided.

“We will consider this issue again when we do the safety audit review, which takes place once the works are completed.”

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