Labour councillors are calling for bold action to make a lasting difference to local roads, cycling and walking.
Labour members of Adur, Crawley, Worthing and West Sussex County Councils are pressing for improvements to roads and a network of new, safer, cycle lanes, taking advantage of funding for this announced by the government.
The government has said it will make funding available to councils to make safe walking and cycling easier. This is set to be discussed by West Sussex County Council cabinet on 26 May.
New cycle lanes, wider pavements, reduced speed limits and more pedestrianised roads are being discussed by many councils. A range of London’s city centre streets are being closed off to all but buses, pedestrians and cyclists. In some areas, pavements are being widened so that social distancing can continue as necessary.
Labour says there are clear priorities locally, those identified already within the Local Cycling Walking Infrastructure Plan. These include cycle routes to schools and car free zones near school entrances.
Crawley Borough Cabinet member for Planning and Economic Development, Councillor Peter Smith said: “In Crawley we have a significant investment in sustainable Walking and Cycling schemes being delivered as part of our Crawley Growth programme partnership with WSCC and the C2CLEP. But the Covid-19 pandemic emergency has seen a large increase in the number of people wishing to walk and cycle in Crawley and we wish to take advantage of the Governments announcement of support for temporary improvements to our Walking and Cycling network and facilities. We already have an agreed Local Walking and Cycling Plan registered with WSCC and have submitted six scheme proposals to WSCC for consideration and implementation on a temporary basis, using the Covid-19 government grant to WSCC. We need to progress these schemes before Lockdown is ended and before we see large numbers of people returning to their cars causing congestion and pollution across our Town. Further details of these schemes will be published shortly.”
Worthing Borough Council’s Labour group leader Beccy Cooper (Marine) said: “There is an opportunity right now to make real improvements that will have a lasting effect on our air quality, road congestion and the health of our communities. We could have a win-win situation – more opportunities to cycle and get fit, reduced congestion, better air quality. We will be very supportive if the councils come up with ambitious plans. People must have the opportunity to cycle more and use their cars less.”
Adur Councillor Cat Arnold, (St Mary’s ward), said: “During the lockdown we’ve seen the number of people cycling on our roads and walking growing. Our air has been cleaner and our exercise safer. With bold decisions we can take these improvements into the future, offering residents a balanced transport choice. Car commuters should have the opportunity to switch to safe cycling; and people without a car, frontline workers, those who want to maintain social distancing, should have the choice of walking in clean air or cycling in safe lanes. We need joined up thinking – linked up cycle lanes, easy bike hire, secure and easy access bike storage, safety for pedestrians around school entrances in particular.”
Labour leader on West Sussex County Council, Michael Jones (Southgate and Gossops Green) said: “Any road users in West Sussex will know from first-hand experience that our roads have been neglected by the Tory-run council for years, with continual cuts and very visible consequences. Now the Tory Cabinet is dragging its feet and still dithering on this important issue, meanwhile Labour-run Brighton and Hove City Council has already got many of its pop-up lanes into operation. It’s time for action. It’s time to make our roads safe for cyclists so cycling can be a real choice for local people.
“Social distancing will be a challenge on public transport for some time. It’s about giving people choice in how they get about and get to work. There is a real danger that congestion and the air pollution that causes will be even worse than before the lockdown if more people have to take their cars to work.
“There are more people cycling in West Sussex than ever before, we need the county council to actually have some vision on this, for once, and capitalise on this increased popularity.”