Monday, 14 February 2011

Brighton Festival and Hove Bike Lanes: From The Sublime To The Ridiculous

Last week’s sublime news was that human rights advocate, leader and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has been announced as AASKWEBSITE_000 Guest Director of Brighton Festival 2011. It’s this kind of thing that makes you proud to live in Brighton & Hove – it underlines the city’s status as left-field, open, cutting edge, tolerant, innovative, inclusive, creative, progressive and global: truly, a bold move by the Festival. So much for the sublime. What about the ridiculous? Bring on another of last week’s announcements, this time from Brighton and Hove City Council (BHCC).

Buried in BHCC’s proposed budget (what the Brighton Politics Blogger describes as the Mears Master Plan), is a decision to spend £1.1 million to rip out the cycle lanes in Grand Avenue. These cycle lanes have been controversial from the start, criticised for being installed where it was easy to do so, rather than where there was a clear need. But the work was done, the bike lanes are there, and they seem not to be a problem, except for some of our Conservative councillors, for whom a proper segregated bike lane appears to be an assault on the rights of the motorist. The relevant paragraph, buried in section 3.11 on page 210 of the budget document refers to the need to “improve the visual impact and traffic flow along this important north – south corridor including access to the A27 / A23 from the A259/210 Shoreham Harbour it is proposed to remove the cycle lane along both sides of Grand Avenue and The Drive. An indicative cost of removing the lanes including changes to the signalling is £1.1m to be funded by a further topslice from LTP grant…..(although) detailed costings have yet to be undertaken and any residual funds would be given back to the LTP. There is a low risk that up to £0.3m grant funding may need to be repaid.”
Talk about spurious justification! Whilst the cycle lane is under-used, I have never noticed any problems with traffic flow in Grand Avenue. As Green Transport spokesperson Cllr Ian Davey said“It is only 3 years since this same Conservative administration spent over half a million pounds of public money on installing the cycle lanes. Now they plan to spend more than twice as much taking it out. To make matters worse, they may well have to give back the £0.3million that they were given by the government to pay for the lane in the first place. How mad is that?” Mad indeed. As if that wasn’t mad enough, the council also plans to spend £4.5 million on doing up car parks. So thumbs up to Brighton Festival. And thumbs down to Brighton and Hove’s Conservative politicians for proposing something that looks set to achieve a rare combination of outcomes: expensive, money-wasting, pettifogging, and doctrinaire. In other words, the opposite of the Brighton Festival - perhaps it’s time to put the Festival team in charge of the city’s transport policy?

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