The improving of improvements is an improvement for all of us. Right?

My former residence of Brighton is coming up on two years under the leadership of the Green Party, and it serves as quite a nice frame for this piece, which has been developing internally for a week or two.

As the name suggests, this party are very much orientated towards protecting the environment, through renewable energy and sustainable transport amongst other means. It’s then no surprise that they are pioneering the redevelopment of a main arterial route into the city over which they rule. Redeveloping it to make it more bus and bicycle friendly, and to discourage car use on it. A continuous bus lane, reduced speed limits and redesigning of several key points on the route is how they intend to do this. All well and good you may think, however, as far as I can see, they’ve overlooked critical aspects of the layout of the town.

The main problem with this whole idea is that, far from reducing the number of cars using said route by giving less space to them, it will merely give the same volume of traffic less space. The reason – the majority of the city’s car parks are in its centre. The premise that making it more difficult for cars to function and thus reduce their use is totally false and will ultimately lead to one of two things – either less visitors, not just by car but in general (I’ll come to this later), or more congestion. Neither of which are desirable outcomes for the environmentally friendly leaders of a tourist town’s council.

The solution? Relocation of car parking so a majority of it is on the outskirts of the city. Drastic but necessary to avoid an hilarious white elephant and drying up of revenue. It’ll never happen of course. NCP have a nice little income generator set up with their assorted car parks, and Churchill Square is making a tidy sum from motorists too, I bet.

So why do I say less visitors in general? Why don’t all these congested and displaced motorists leave their cars at home and use public transport? Brighton and Hove buses run an excellent network, yes, however they run a grand total of two, four if you differentiate between the 28 and 29, and the 12 and 13X, routes out of the city, neither of which are particularly enjoyable, especially if you have a family and supplies for a day out in tow, nor particularly useful unless you happen to be coming from Lewes, Eastbourne, Seaford (all of which have faster train services to the city), Ringmer or Tunbridge Wells. Not exactly a wide selection of starting points.

As for the train, yes it’s there and yes it’s comfortable and fast, but the timetable and frequency of the service necessitates planning your day out in the style of a Wing Commander, and congestion on peak time services are something to be winced at, along with the prices.

There are further problems, ironically demonstrated by the council’s very own artist’s impression of the redesigned road (available here: http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/imageLibrary/bus-lane-with-cycle-lane.gif)

Firstly, the dedicated bus lane will mean that the buses aren’t snarled up in the general traffic, and as anyone who has been on a bus late at night, when similarly there is less traffic to become snarled up in, will testify, the drivers will more than likely use the opportunity to catch up to their timetable through use of speed. Cyclists using the cycle lane will therefore be subjected to the air displacement the buses cause every time they pass. Even if, lo and behold, the buses comply by the new 30 m.p.h. limit, the effect on cyclists will not be insignificant, thanks to the proximity of the bus and cycle lanes. The solution here? Average speed cameras for both lanes of traffic, enforcing the speed limit for the safety of the cyclists.

Secondly, again demonstrated by that image, is the positioning of the cyclist. It therefore seems that the ‘artist’ in question has no clue of safe cycling practice, and believes a cyclist’s rightful position is as far left as possible. This is wrong. What if, as described above, the turbulent air caused by a passing bus caused the cyclist to wobble – they would wobble into the kerb and fall off. What if the cyclist encountered a drain, pothole or debris that had been pushed to the side of the carriageway – they would swerve towards traffic. Any competent cyclist should know not to hug the edge of the road like this, however the width of that cycle lane, combined with the presence of fast moving buses immediately next to it, makes it difficult to do anything else. The solution in this instance? Physically separate by way of a median the cycle and bus lane, giving the cyclists something to encounter before they swerve into the path of buses.

Lastly, from this image, the cycle lane seems barely wide enough for two cyclists side by side when digitally inserted into the picture, never mind when wind, wobbles and other external influences are factored in. This will force faster cyclists out of the cycle lane and potentially in to the path of the considerably faster and less patient buses. Again any competent cyclist would know to perform a ‘life saver’ shoulder check before pulling out, but again that’s presuming a lot about the competence of cyclists in Brighton.

 

Jack out.

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About Jack
A small-time traveller in a big-time world

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