The new Horsham Cycle Route missed the chance to ‘make any real difference’, a member of the Horsham District Cycling Form (HCDF) has claimed.
It said the £320,000 cycle route from the government’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund failed to create a safer and quicker route for residents, as West Sussex County Council cut the cycling officer post shortly before the project began.
Instead, the route has been criticised for being too narrow in some areas, gets in the way of pedestrians and has too many signs in the wrong place.
Secretary of HCDF Peter Silburn said: “Even when a once-in-a-generation opportunity presented itself, the chance was missed to make any real difference.”
He added: “West Sussex County Council are not taking it seriously, there is a lack of clear leadership with the proper technical expertise on how to build cycle paths.”
The forum was disappointed that large sums were spent on ‘soft’ measures, he said. Their aim was to make cycling a rational choice for the majority of people who wanted to cycle, but could not do so because of the lack of a safe route.
Providing a cycling space was also a way to resolve many of the town’s problems, such as increased congestion, air pollution and obesity.
The HCDF secretary said: “It really should be a no-brainer that getting more people out riding their bikes will help address all of these issues.”
The route, which allows residents from Highwood and Wickhurst Green to cycle to the town centre, was criticised after a protest bike ride on Saturday October 3 outside Forest School.
The forum said 25 people joined the public ride to raise awareness of the danger and unacceptable conditions of the cycle path.
Mr Silburn said: “This is not about providing for cyclists, there is clear evidence that enabling people to cycle safely brings economic and health benefits to the whole community.”
He stated that a safe cycle network should provide mobility for all, including the elderly, the disabled and those who chose not to own, or who cannot afford, a car.
The HCDF has issued a snagging list to WSCC that included some of the minor issues with the route.
However, Mr Silburn added that this will not resolve its key issues, which should have been fixed before it opened.
He said the forum was promised a ‘lessons learned’ meeting with highways officers, as well as district and county councillors later this year.
This will ensure that, when future sources of funding become available, the HCDF will gain maximum advantage from that investment, the forum secretary added.
A spokesman for WSCC said the route linked schools like Millais, Forest and Tanbridge House with the town centre and made the commute easier for residents.
He said: “Using it will reduce congestion, air quality problems, and encourage active travel.
“Several meetings were held with the Horsham District Cycle Forum who agreed the detail of the route with us.
“Over the coming months the county council is reviewing its cycling and walking strategy.
“The comments from the Horsham District Cycling Forum will be fully considered as part of that review.”
For more information visit the website: http://www.hdcf.org.uk/
The Horsham District Cycle Forum has expressed its concerns about the new crossing along Albion Way, near the John Lewis and Waitrose building, stating the layout and design could result in many ‘vulnerable road users’ getting injured by vehicles.
The crossing was completed at the beginning of October after more than a month of work.
The works saw it change from a two-stage crossing into a puffin style crossing, allowing users to cross the road without having to stop.
Ruth Fletcher, a member of the forum, conducted a survey on the new system.
She raised concerns about the new green man boxes which are located on the traffic light poles instead of opposite users.
She said users were struggling to see these boxes at peak times with many pedestrians blocking the view. Concerns were also raised about the length of time people waited to cross and the lack of time users had to make it to the opposite side leaving people ‘stranded’ on the middle island.
She said: “Albion Way is a hostile barrier for anyone trying to cycle or walk into Horsham from Guildford Road and cycling to Waitrose is out of the question for all but the most confident cyclists.
“The Horsham cycle forum believes there needs to be an additional pedestrian and cycle crossing over the northern arm of Albion Way and into the Lynd Cross area. This would form an attractive new gateway for people to walk and cycle into Horsham without needing to use the car.”
She added the group was also unhappy no green cycle lanes, which are present on many crossing the town, had not been installed.
In response to the concerns a West Sussex County Council spokesman said: “Over the coming months the County Council is reviewing its cycling and walking strategy. The comments from the Horsham District Cycling Forum will be fully considered as part of that review.”
Her concerns have been echoed by members of the public on social media.
Commenting on the County Times Facebook page Jackie Evans said: “I can’t think of any reason why it might be considered safer. I certainly don’t feel safe and it’s difficult to see the green man if you’re not in the right spot.”
Margaret Porter said: “It’s not safer - It is difficult to see the lights and the green man - the post they are on needs to be twisted towards where the pedestrian stands.”
Anna Massimo said: “You have to be really quick crossing that road as you don’t get much time before it turns red again.”
Andy Poulton said: “Dreadful. Cannot believe that was signed off. Use it everyday and feel very vulnerable without barriers.”
Linda Jacobs said: “Feels really unsafe using this ‘new’ crossing, as mentioned in previous comments it’s difficult to see the green man, unnerving without barriers,hence no visual barrier from cars, and no road markings to define it as a crossing.”
However others disagreed stating they had no problems with the new crossing.
In a letter to the County Times John O’Brien, West Sussex County Council (WSCC) cabinet member for highways and transport, said the crossing was one of two options submitted to Horsham District Council (HDC). He said WSCC had given its feedback on both and HDC had opted for the puffin crossing.
Mr O’Brien also said the green man boxes had been placed at eye level and others had been installed above to make them visible to everyone.
In response to the waiting times he said: “The change to a straight across crossing requires a longer red light to traffic.
“This gives pedestrians enough time to complete their crossing. The downside to this is that it causes traffic queues on the approaches.
“Therefore we need to run longer green times to clear these queues. This means that if a pedestrian just misses a chance to cross they may need to wait longer.”
He added extra works were completed last week and engineers would be working to ‘optimise’ the timing system to try and reduce waiting times for both road users and pedestrians. Full letter on page 34.