‘Imperative need’ for better cycling routes in West Sussex

Delegates outside County Hall before the West Sussex Cycle Summit starts SUS-160710-130055001
Delegates outside County Hall before the West Sussex Cycle Summit starts SUS-160710-130055001

Improved routes for cyclists are ‘imperative’ for the county, attendees of the West Sussex Cycle Summit were told.

The event, which took place at Chichester’s County Hall on Friday September 30, was organised by the West Sussex Cycle Forum in association with West Sussex County Council and was sponsored by Rolls-Royce Motor Cars and the Goodwood Estate.

Representatives from planning, engineering, health, road safety, as well as councillors and officers from across the county, heard presentations from an array of prominent experts on cycling improvements.

John O’Brien, WSCC cabinet member for highways and transport, said they could all see there were ‘too many cars’ on West Sussex roads, but it was ‘not easy’ to retrofit cycling infrastructure, especially in the county’s smaller roads.

He added: “If we are going to do this we have got to get everybody on board because the motorists and businesses might be against this.”

Mr O’Brien suggested that other countries such as Spain had ‘totally different’ relationships between cyclists and motorists, and extra education to boost tolerance to other road users might be needed.

Rosemary French, until recently executive director at the Gatwick Diamond Initiative, introduced the event and described a need to make cycling infrastructure an ‘integral part of highways planning and new developments’, not an ‘optional add-on’.

First speaker Rachel Aldred, a senior lecturer in transport at Westminster University, explained that delegates had to think about cycling rather than cyclists as they move to a situation where ‘cycling is normal across the age range’.

When it came to cycling the distinction for improvements was between what is safe and what is subjectively safe, and the challenge was to introduce spaces for cycling either away from traffic, where there is very light traffic, or spaces that are physically protected from traffic.

Phil Jones, a managing director of a leading transport planning and urban design consultancy, explained that the Government was set to encourage areas to produce cycling and walking infrastructure plans.

These would look to developing a planned network linking key origins and destinations for cyclists.

Meanwhile transport consultant Mark Strong, who has worked on a number of cycling routes and audits in West Sussex, talked to the summit about the steps needed to plan for new cycle networks.

The first step was a review of existing conditions, followed by mapping out an ideal route density, classifying cycle accessibility, and then using an area propensity tool to look at gateways to link routes and which areas are cut off.

The fifth step involves looking at the cycling level of service, which uses objective criteria to measure route quality, followed by as assessment of options for network delivery.

He explained that most accidents involving cyclists happen at junctions, with a large number occurring because of left hooks, where large vehicles turn into cyclists.

Mr Strong added: “Network development is a process and should be comprehensive and methodical.”

After the summit, Peter Smith, cabinet member for planning and economic development at Crawley Borough Council, said: “The speakers presented a compelling business case for more structural investment in walking and cycling infrastructure as it would bring real benefits in terms of growth, increases in economic activity, reductions in congestion and pollution as well as helping with parking shortages.

“They presented a case for an ‘imperative need to invest in cycling infrastructure’ which was a must-do rather than a nice-to-have.”

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