Today at the Traffic & Transportation Cabinet Meeting Cllr Ken Ellcome decided to marginally shorten the Mile End bus lane. The recommendation from officers was to maintain the lane as is, but there was an alternative proposal to drastically shorten the lane.
Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats asked for the lane to be left as is, and three deputations – one by First Bus, one by Portsmouth Cycle Forum and one by a private citizen – also spoke against shortening the lane. Despite the recent clamour in the letters page of the local press nobody spoke in favour of shortening the lane.
Despite all of this Cllr Ellcome decided to shorten the bus lane by about 15 metres, as he felt that this would make it easier for traffic turning left from Mile End Rd into Church Street. In many ways this is a puzzling decision. It will make little pragmatic difference to traffic flow and will almost certainly not satisfy those who have been complaining about the road layout in so vociferously in the local news.
What it does do is symbolic. A cut is a cut and this reduces, even if only marginally, the sustainable transport infrastructure in the city. It will do nothing to encourage the modal shift away from the private car that the city so desperately needs. This will make matters marginally worse for cyclists by increasing the gap between the bus lane on Mile End Rd and that on the Church Street Roundabout. We predict it will have no net effect on the traffic congestion.
It is disappointing that Cllr Ellcome decided to over-rule the professional advice of his officers, the wishes of all three deputees and the opinions of the parties who between them represented a majority of councillors. The change is not positive, but perhaps it is significantly less negative than we’d feared.