Shapps admits new cycle lanes are leaving roads ‘backed up’ with traffic
‘Schemes must balance the needs of cyclists and pedestrians with the needs of other road users’
GRANT SHAPPS has admitted too many cycle lanes are being left “unused” with traffic “backed up” as a result of his green transport revolution, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.
In a strongly worded letter to councils, the Transport Secretary warned that he was “not prepared to tolerate” badly designed road closures and new cycle lanes that impose “sweeping changes” to entire communities. And in a move that will infuriate cycling and green campaigners, he has declared the Government is not anti-car, explaining: “No one should be in doubt about our support for motorists.”
Mr Shapps announced a £250million emergency active travel fund in May to promote walking and cycling as the country emerged from lockdown.
Councils were invited to apply for the cash by drawing up projects to entice people away from their cars and take more active forms of travel. However, critics have complained that badly designed road closures and new cycle lanes have increased traffic and pollution on main roads, as well as reduced the number of people visiting high streets at a time when small businesses are trying to recover from lockdown. Private residents have even launched legal action claiming that because the schemes were introduced under emergency Covid powers, disability groups, local residents and businesses were not consulted, which ignored normal local democratic procedures.
Meanwhile, so-called “low traffic neighbourhoods”, where bollards and planters close off residential streets to traffic, have resulted in delays to 999 emergency response times. The letter, sent on Friday to local authority transport bosses and local highways authorities and seen by The Sunday Telegraph, warns how a “notable number of councils used their funding poorly and were simply out of step with the needs of the local communities”.
Mr Shapps says: “I saw or heard from the public and parliamentary colleagues about far too many instances
where temporary cycle lanes were unused due to their location and design, while their creation left traffic backed up alongside them; of wide pavements causing unnecessary congestion in town centres; and other issues that many have, rightly, reacted angrily to.”
He explains how he had ordered his staff to “engage” with those councils. “Since then, numerous schemes have been scaled back and revised,” he says.
He warns the second round of funding could see some town halls receiving “considerably less” if they fail to embrace good design or consult.
He adds: “We all want to see the benefits that active travel brings to be realised, but poorly implemented schemes will make no friends for the policy or more broadly for active travel …
“Schemes must balance the needs of cyclists and pedestrians with the needs of other road users, including motorists and local businesses.
“I want to be absolutely clear: we are not prepared to tolerate hastily introduced schemes, which will create sweeping changes to communities, without consultation, and ones where the benefits to cycling and walking do not outweigh the dis-benefits for other road users.”
The letter comes after demonstrations and petitions forced some town hall bosses into a series of humiliating U-turns. Last week, The Telegraph revealed how some councils were making hundreds of thousands of pounds in fines from motorists driving on newly shut roads. Some projects in London have proven so divisive that bollards have been ripped from the concrete.
So far, £42,102,454 has been secured by 111 councils in England, including many London boroughs where opposition has been most vocal.