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Cycling charity brings judicial review over decision by council to remove lockdown cycle lane

A cycling charity has applied to take West Sussex County Council to judicial review over the removal of a cycle lane introduced during lockdown.

Cycling UK claimed the council did not consider the impact of the lane's removal on young people and argued that age, a protected characteristic under the Equality Act, was not properly considered in the decision.

The charity also claimed that West Sussex's own evidence showed there had been no negative impact on journey times or increase in air pollution during the period of the cycle lane's installation.

The cycle lane ran along Upper Shoreham Road in Shoreham-by-Sea and was implemented using Temporary Traffic Regulation Orders (TTROs). Accident and traffic flow data were used, along with automatic counting equipment, to help determine whether the schemes should be adjusted, removed or made permanent, the council said.

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Parents made use of the route to commute by bike with their children to three nurseries, three primary schools and two secondary schools in close vicinity to the lane, according to Cycle UK.

Karen Murphy, a Shoreham resident and mother of two children, said: "We used to frequently ride along the cycle lane, often joining another safe route travelling from Shoreham to Steyning, but we haven't since it was removed.

"I'm nervous about travelling along the Upper Shoreham Road without it. I'm not the only one. Parents are still taking their kids to school by bike but sometimes the children have to ride on the pavement as it is no longer safe without visible markings. I don't understand why the council removed what had swiftly become a valuable community asset and hope they rethink their position."

More than 30,000 bike trips were made during the two months that the cycle lane was in place (from 24 November 2020 to 25 September 2020), according to Cycling UK.

Cycling UK claimed Cllr Roger Elkins, Cabinet Member for Highways and Infrastructure, made an "arbitrary" decision to remove the lane.

The charity made an FOI request, which it said showed Cllr Elkins never visited the bike route. Cllr Elkins drew on complaints about increased congestion to justify his decision to remove the cycle lane.

Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns at Cycling UK, said: "When the council introduced this cycle lane, people soon changed how they travelled locally. Children began cycling to school, pensioners felt safe to ride into town and commuters started swapping cars and public transport for their bikes. It was a complete success story.

"Cllr Elkins' decision to remove the lane five weeks later without considering the evidence showing the lane's benefits is contrary to statutory guidance. It demonstrates a fundamentally flawed process, which Cycling UK would argue, is both irrational and unlawful."

Four temporary cycle schemes across the county were removed in November, following Cllr Elkins' decision.

Announcing the move on 3 November 2020, Cllr Elkins said: "The schemes fulfilled their main objectives of offering people dedicated space to cycle rather than using public transport, or to leave the car at home and use their bike instead. This was in response to the unique set of circumstances during the first national lockdown, including schools and colleges having been closed for months and vastly-reduced public transport capacity.

"The extraordinary environment that led to their installation no longer exists even though we are about to enter into a new national lockdown: schools and colleges are open, traffic volumes have increased and, although public transport capacity is not back to pre-March levels, it is significantly improved."

A spokesperson for West Sussex County Council said: "WSCC has just been served with legal proceedings in relation to the temporary cycle scheme that was in situ on the Upper Shoreham Road during the autumn / winter 2020/21. We are unable to comment further at this time."

Adam Carey

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