Shapps ad­mits new cy­cle lanes are leav­ing roads ‘backed up’ with traf­fic

The Sunday Telegraph - - Front Page - By Steve Bird

‘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.

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