In 2008, and at a cost of around £800,000, Brighton & Hove council installed two whopping great cycle lanes on either side of Hove’s busiest, most prestigious roads, known as The Drive and Grand Avenue.
And at a stroke Hove pretty much ground to a halt.
The new cycle lanes were so wide and so magnificent that even lorries used them to park in while unloading. Traffic wardens were thrown in to a rare frenzy of chin scratching, not knowing whether they could or couldn’t pinch people for stopping in them. And the traffic jams along this main north-south trunk route got worse, seemingly as each hour passed.
Cars and lorries that had once shared two lanes in each direction were, overnight, reduced to just one lane. So depending what time of day it was and how much traffic there was, trying to fight its way into or out of the city, there was suddenly a lot more noise along Hove’s most beautiful of thoroughfares. Plus a lot more exhaust smoke and swearing and, ironically, less cyclists – it having become a fairly nasty place to hang around in without a gas mask.
Being a resident of Hove – and having had dust-ups with everything from a bus to a drunk pedestrian in this too-wide cycle lane over the last three years – I’ve long considered the whole idea of the lanes to be entirely rubbish. And do you know what the biggest irony is? Even the local cycling campaigners – of whom there are approximately 10.8 million in Brighton & Hove – never actually wanted the wretched things in the first place. Not on this particular road, at any rate.
Long before they were installed, local cycling group ‘Bicycle’ opposed plans for the new lanes on the grounds that they ‘didn’t meet acceptable standards’ and because they would ‘discourage some cyclists altogether by allowing vehicles to block the lane entirely.’
Actually that’s not the biggest irony of all. Because now that both the local non-cycling community (ie the drivers) and the cycling community have voiced such a strong and universal opinion against the lanes along Grand Avenue, the council is going to rip them up and take them away. At a cost of around £300,000 MORE than they spent installing them in the first place.
You couldn’t make it up, even if you tried.