Nice Cycle Lane No 1

Signage at each end of the Prom

The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club believes that it has become a bit maudlin as of  late. To brighten the mood a little, I strolled in to Worthing Town Centre last Saturday with The Wife and The Boy and I thought I’d take a few photos for you to show a traffic free shared use facility that works. This is thanks to  a surprisingly positive and progressive Worthing Council, the brilliant volunteers in the cycle campaign group and of course the considerate cyclists and pedestrians of Worthing. Alas, the weather was feeling very maudlin so please believe me when I say that Worthing does actually look very nice when you chuck a bit of sunshine on it.

Above is the prom toward the western end looking east. The lines you can see are the original cycle path which was removed after a pedestrian sustained brain damage after colliding with a cyclist in 1994. The council had to pay £100,000 in damages and cycling was banned. It was a regrettable incident, make no mistake, but could you imagine if cars were banned from stretches of road after a death or serious injury?

We’re getting closer to the town centre now. The Cycle Campaign Group I established 2 years ago successfully argued that shared use in this instance would be better than reinstating the cycle path. This is because it was felt that a marked path would be too narrow – certainly too narrow for leisurely family cycling. In the photo above, please note the fact that in some places the prom is wider than the road that runs alongside it so there was no reason why cyclists and pedestrians couldn’t mingle quite happily. We also felt that if there was a marked path here it would increase the scope for conflict – it wouldn’t stop pedestrians drifting into it, or toddlers toddling into it. Above all it was felt that it would push speeds up as cyclists of a more vehicular bent would see it as their territory and woe betide anyone that strolls into their path. The local paper (Worthing Herald) tried to stir things up (sorry, ‘promote active debate’) printing letters promising an apocolypse if cycling were ever reinstated. It was if they were secretly hoping to report on a 19 bike pile-up. As a campaign group, we remained calm, stated that the incident in 1994 was regrettable but not commonplace and thousands have been killed and injured on our roads since then. Above all, we did our best to promote considerate cycling (even getting bells made with our website address on to hand out to lucky cyclists).

A couple of these signs were put up on the backs of beach huts that face onto the prom. It is to cover all bases from a Local Authority Health & Safety point of view. Toward the bottom it says, ‘Consider wearing a helmet and wearing conspicuous clothing’. One of the gratifying things I’ve noticed since I moved to Worthing is that, not only is there an above average amount of cyclists in the town, but hardly any of them wear helmets or high-viz. Sheffield Cycle Chic came down to the seaside earlier on this year and this fantastic post of happy cyclists in Worthing is well worth a look.

I just like the fact that they put shared use signs on everything, historical or otherwise! As I write this, I can happily report that there have been no  incidences, serious or minor. Every time I take a stroll along the prom [in fairer weather] I only see happy cyclists mixing it up with pedestrians, wheelchair users and mobility scooters. A cycle hire firm has opened up at the eastern end and Councillors have reported that they are doing very good business indeed.

The Eastern end of the prom is being developed and will link the prom with the Worthing to Brighton stretch of National Cycle Network Route 2. Our campaign group was even consulted on the design! NCN 2 is a Sustrans route that is supposed to stretch right the way along the South Coast (Folkestone to Penzance I believe). And that is where we shall stop before we get maudlin again.

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Consultation

Concept Drawing by Craft:Pegg

The barriers have gone up along a section of Worthing seafront. Splash Point is being redeveloped to a design by Craft:Pegg Landscape Architects. It could have been a bone of contention for cyclists and pedestrians as it links the point where the Brighton – Worthing stretch of National Cycle Route 2 meets the promenade where the Borough Council recently voted to reinstate cycling.

However, the scheme that’s going ahead has a greater chance of succeeding than most for a simple reason.

The Landscape Architects directly consulted cyclists!

If that doesn’t make you reach for a paper bag to ease the hyperventilating then read on…

They listened and adjusted their design accordingly!

Craft:Pegg gave a presentation at a Worthing Cycle Forum (which is open to the cycling public) which was impressive enough and then they listened, in particular to the fact that a marked narrow cycle path would be undesirable as it would encourage people to cycle more quickly thereby increasing the scope for conflict.

I think one of the representatives said she was from Denmark, she cycled extensively around London where she now lives and works and wanted to make this scheme work for cyclists. I think it was that level of excitement that triggered my nosebleed.

This was of course just part of a range of consultation exercises being carried out but it just goes to show what happens when a bit of effort is made. In this instance, the end users feel as though they are part of the process, we learn what the designers aims and ambitions are and the designers pick up advice for free to guide their design. In this case [and in my humble opinion] it was already a great design that we merely helped make more robust.

Which begs the question as to why County Councils seem incapable in actively engaging cyclists in the same way, leading to this, or this, or this or all these. They do try in all fairness but there has to be a more clearly defined consultation route so cycling facilities can have proper input from cyclists as well as others that may come into contact with a piece of infrastructure such as pedestrian and disability groups.

 A lot of architects I know are cyclists, and it shows. Highways Departments aren’t cyclists, and it shows, often dangerously.