Category Archives: City Council

Watershed moment as Portsmouth Council back Space for Cycling

UPDATE on Portsmouth City Council motion to support City to Share:  (from Cycling UK)

On Tuesday 17 October 2017, Portsmouth Council passed a motion to support the Space for Cycling campaign which commits the council to plan a comprehensive network of high quality cycleways and allocates a minimum of 10% of the local transport budget to ensure cycle routes are built.

For more info, please follow this link.

 

URGENT: Support Safer Cycling in Portsmouth

Portsmouth City Council motion to support City to Share: Tuesday 17 October.

Portsmouth City Council will be considering a motion to support City to Share on Tuesday at their full council meeting.  City to Share is the Portsmouth Cycle Forum document inspired by Leader of the Council Donna Jones’ challenge for us to produce a cycle strategy for the city.

We hope you also support this campaign so we can make Portsmouth a safer place for cycling for all of us now, and for future generations. We need to show how important this is an issue within the city. A properly designed and funded network of cycle routes throughout the city will help to cut congestion and pollution, improve journey times and personal health as it encourages those who believe the city is too unsafe for cycling to switch their preferred method of transport.

We’re calling for Portsmouth City Council to commit to a small percentage of the transport budget devoted to cycling infrastructure, increasing over the years to £20 per head.

The simplest way to do this is to show your councillors how much support there is. Cycling UK has produced a simple online webpage to allow you to send an email to your local councillors. This just needs some basic details about you to find your councillors.

Please follow this link.

We helped Cycling UK with the wording of the email so it has our support.  You can of course add your own words.

Pedal Portsmouth Glow Ride 2017

You can register here.

Bring your hi-vis, glow-in-the-dark accessorise and lights, and take part in our bigger and brighter Pedal Portsmouth Glow Ride on Southsea seafront on Saturday 14 October from 6.30pm – 7.30pm – registration from 5.30pm.

It’s a fun, free family event, celebrating safe night-time cycling, on a 3km traffic free route along the seafront. If you are one of the best-lit cyclists, you could win a prize.

The ride starts on Eastney Esplanade near Canoe Lake and will be open for an hour from 6.30pm – 7.30pm, allowing cyclists of all ages and abilities to enjoy cycling round the course at their own pace while lighting up the night. Make sure you sign up to be part of the spectacle!

The registration desk will be open from 5.30pm. Sign-in will be quicker if you’ve already given us your details online so register now. There will be free glow drawstring bags and goodies for participants. Bike Doctor will be there from 5.30pm so if you need your brakes tightened, saddle adjusted or a quick check over get there early.

Please remember that it is illegal to cycle on a public road after dark without lights and reflectors. Anyone without lights could be issued with a £30 fine. You can get good-quality lights and cycle gear from the council at almost cost price. Just ask at reception at the Civic Offices, Guildhall Square.

[courtesy of Portsmouth City Council]

Open Meeting – 21 September

We have our next open meeting on Thursday 21 September at the Richmond Building, University of Portsmouth.

At our last meeting in June we mourned and paid tribute to Tim Atkins. He was killed after being knocked off his bike on the Eastern Road cycle path. We have been pressing Portsmouth City Council to do something about the blind spots and pinch points for years and now our – and your – voices are being heard.

At the meeting we will hear from Cllr Simon Bosher, the city transport portfolio holder.  He will be presenting the plans for the changes to the Eastern Road.  These will be going out to consultation around the same time with a number of ‘roadshows’ taking place at the end of the month.

At our last meeting before the general election we were expecting the then MP for Portsmouth South, Flick Drummond to speak about her work in Parliament.  Now she has some free time and will be with us to talk about the work of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling, of which she was a member. There will be time for questions after her talk.

We start at 7pm, so please arrive 10-15 minutes earlier.

The meeting will take place on Thursday 21 September at 7.00pm in Lecture Theatre 2 of the Richmond Building of the University of Portsmouth.  We start at 7.00pm, so please arrive 10-15 minutes earlier.

PCC Cycle Surgery

As discussed at our June meeting, we have arranged a ‘surgery’ with one of the active travel and road safety team at the city council.  There is the opportunity to discuss particular issues you have with cycling in the city.  There is time for 4 slots before this meeting, and we hope to have some more in November. To make sure of your slot please find more information and booking form here.

Open Meeting Report June 2017

Following the remembrance event in Guildhall Square, approximately 70 attendees cycled to the previously arranged regular open meeting at the University of Portsmouth Richmond Building as a show of support for their fellow cyclists in the city, led by PCF ride leaders.

Just as we were about to start, the late arrival of Portsmouth South’s new MP meant a swift re-arranging of the agenda, with Stephen Morgan addressing the room in what was his first visit back to the city since taking up his seat at Westminster at the start of the week.  He had rushed back south after his swearing in earlier that day, and we were happy to be his first appointment back.

He described how as a non-driver, he cycles around the city, is only too aware of the issues that confront those on two wheels on a daily basis.  At the start of the General Election campaign he announced his support for The City to Share strategy: https://stephenjmorgan.org/2017/04/27/citys-cycling-plan-backed/

Although it is only early days of his term, he took several questions that were mostly about local issues that highlight the dangers of cycling in Portsmouth, announced his intention to join the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group and will join our open meetings as often as he is able to.

We are very grateful to him for making the effort to get back for the evening and we look forward to working with him to improve the infrastructure, safety and perception of cycling in Portsmouth.

The first of our speakers for the evening was Darren Ord, the Traffic Inspector for the Eastern region of the Hampshire and Thames Valley Joint roads operation.  He is also leading the ‘Close Pass Initiative’ which made the headlines of the Portsmouth News in April:

http://www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/crime/watch-undercover-police-cyclists-capture-portsmouth-drivers-overtaking-too-close-1-7906436

Darren, who is a keen cyclist himself, explained they picked up on the Close Pass initiative following the success and publicity around operations carried out in the West Midlands. It targets vehicles that passed too close to cyclists – actually policemen in a number of cyclist attires.  It was felt that car drivers who do not cycle don’t usually look out for cyclists so may not see them.

So far 4 deployments across the Eastern region since April with 36 motorists have been spoken to and educated as to how and why they need to give space for cycling.  They are keen to encourage the education aspect of the initiative, but those not wishing to take advice will be asked to attend a driver awareness course or be issued with a fine, much like those drivers caught speeding.

Asked whether the next step of this approach would be to accept videos from the public that show potential transgressions as a number of forces now do, Darren said that there were future plans to improve ‘third party reporting’ from helmet-cams which is not perfect at the moment. We hope to see this be rolled out in due course though.

Twitter users can follow @HantsPolRoads for more information and to find out what future operations are being carried out.

We then received an update from Portsmouth City Council Active Travel officers on the current and new projects that are taking place.

The new network of Quieter routes has recently been launched and these consist of 10 routes (five north / south & five east /west) across the city that aims to target those less confident cyclists to navigate their way around the city, mainly using the 20mph residential road network.

It’s not a finished product, not every 20mph road is safer than 30mph roads, but the selected routes have been casualty-checked to ensure they run along the statistically safer roads. PCC are aware that there are issues, however some of these could not be addressed with the initial funding package. The scheme has now attracted further funding that can be used to make actual infrastructure improvements.

The current year of the Local Transport Plan has funding for the following projects:

  •      A2047 – Fratton / Kingston / London Rd improvements: 12 junctions get lines and surfacing, or raised tables and surfacing
  •      Bypassing gyratory at the north end of London Rd, to route cyclists across the foot/cycle bridge over the motorway at Peronne Road
  •      Stubbington Ave and London Rd Roundabout: slow traffic down, improve sight lines by increasing carriageway deflection

As part of the question and answer session at the end of the presentations, inevitably there were questions about the recent events that highlighted the dangers of cycling in the city.  It was explained the specific incidents could not be discussed as they were currently under investigation. However as a general rule, after every fatality, there is a meeting to discuss possible improvements to the location, and once the ongoing investigation is finished, there will be a requirement to explain how and what is going to happen to ensure the situation does not happen again.

We would like to thank all our speakers for attending, especially at an emotional time for many cyclists in the city.

The PCF open meetings in the autumn take place on Thursday 21st September and Thursday 16th November at 7.00pm.  Full details will be circulated once we have them confirmed.  To ensure you receive these please sign up to our email bulletins here: http://www.pompeybug.co.uk/newsletters/

Ian Saunders

Chair, Portsmouth Cycle Forum

The Darkest Hour is Just Before the Dawn

On Thursday 15th June 2017, over 200 cyclists gathered in the Guildhall Square in Portsmouth to remember one of our own, Tim Atkins who was killed on his way home from work on a sunny, bright and dry Friday evening when he collided with another cyclist on the Eastern Road cycle path and fell into the road in front of a moving vehicle.  It was a tragic accident for which none of the parties involved were to blame.

Tim’s sister Joanna wrote some moving words, read out on her behalf describing Tim’s “larger than life personality, his huge heart and infectious laugh” asking for immediate action to be taken to make the junction safe for all.

The incident took place on one of the busiest cycle routes in the city, the main cycle path onto and out of the city on the eastern side of the island.  It has proved to be inadequate and unfit for purpose, and so as well as remembering Tim, and also Andy Reeve who was seriously injured in an accident on the Fratton Bridge Roundabout 24 hours before Tim’s accident, also on his way home in similar weather conditions, the Portsmouth Cycle Forum also called for action to be taken by Portsmouth City Council to do better to protect cyclists across the city.  To act to reduce the persistently high cycle casualties that embarrass a city in which cycling is not only highly suitable, but a necessity given congestion and pollution levels.

We know cycling can be made safe, attractive and accessible to all even in crowded cities like Portsmouth. We know that if this is done then more people will choose to get around by bike, reducing the strain on our roads and benefiting us all. This incident has to be seen as the trigger point to do much better.  It’s a line in the sand, a point of no return.

It needs political, cross-party will to commit to long-term thinking, planning and funding to embed a culture where cycling is seen as just another method to travel around a densely populated city.  To create space for cycling, a city to share and to reduce the needless casualties that occur too frequently and scare those that might be encouraged to take it up to put their bikes back into storage.

However we need the everyday cyclists of this city not to let this go as well. To hold your elected representatives and the council officers to account to make sure they deliver. To report problems. To expect and demand better. To help us to improve the city.

You can see the whole of the 17 minute event via the Portsmouth News Facebook live video on their Facebook page here.

You can sign up to receive our email bulletins here.

Ian Saunders
Chair
Portsmouth Cycle Forum

Death in the Afternoon

It is with the greatest sadness that we have to report the death of one cyclist and injuries to two more in the last two days. On Thursday evening a cyclist was hit by a driver on Fratton bridge roundabout and had to be airlifted to hospital in Southampton, where his condition is reported as ‘critical but stable’. Worse was to come on Friday, as two cyclists collided on the Eastern Road cycle path, apparently causing one to fall into the busy traffic where he lost his life and the other to fall into the hedge that narrows the path.

We have long campaigned for improvements to cycle safety in Portsmouth, but sadly our worst fears have come true. The sites of both accidents are well known problem sites and both have been discussed with officers at Portsmouth City Council, but sadly no meaningful action had been taken at either site to prevent the tragic events of the last two days.

The Eastern Road cycle path is one of the most important cycle routes in the city but it has a number of serious safety problems. In some stretches – including the area of Friday’s accident – it is too narrow for two cyclists to pass each other safely. This is compounded by a blind bend next to the entrance to the Harvester pub. This section of the route is shared use meaning it is intended to take both cyclists and pedestrians in both directions, yet it is too narrow in places even for pedestrians to pass each other comfortably. The high hedge on one side and fast traffic on the other mean there is no room for error at all.

There are parallels here with another important route in and out of the city, on Hope Street in the city centre. It is surely only a matter of time before a similar incident takes place there. As with the Eastern Road, the Hope Street path is narrow, carries two way cyclists and pedestrians, has an impenetrable barrier (the dockyard wall in this case) on one side, has fast traffic a kerb-width away on the other side, has a dangerous blind bend and is frequently obstructed by lamp columns and sign-posts.

We have been warning Portsmouth City Council about the state of the Eastern Rd and Hope Street paths since our Strategic Cycle Routes report of 2009. The part of the Eastern Road path where Friday’s tragic accident took place has been discussed with council officers this year, after members of the forum reported head on collisions and near misses with other cyclists there. The site is at the junction of two of the council’s recently launched ‘Quieter Routes’ which are supposed to offer safe routes to less confident cyclists.

The accident on Thursday took place on Fratton bridge roundabout, where the cyclist was hit by a car entering the roundabout. This roundabout has four two-lane entry points, the design creates a high traffic density, with vans and lorries creating multiple blind spots. In such situations drivers looking right for gaps in fast-moving motor traffic then accelerating onto the roundabout find it easy to miss cyclists ahead, the cyclist remaining unseen until impact. On a roundabout like this serious collisions are a certainty, it’s just a question of when and how often.

PCC has worked on Fratton bridge roundabout recently but no change was made to the dangerous layout, which was highlighted by us in 2014. The roundabout lacks safe, attractive alternative routes for cyclists in all directions, meaning that in some cases cyclists are forced to use the main carriageway. This roundabout is also on one of the new ‘Quieter Routes’, although that route uses the toucan crossing that exists on the northern leg of the roundabout.

These two incidents indicate the hazards cyclists can face on the roads of Portsmouth. The weather on both evenings was perfect and all three cyclists caught up in the horrible events should have been able to expect a pleasant and safe journey.

Portsmouth remains the most dangerous place to cycle in England, excepting a few parts of London. This has been the case for the last five years at least but there has been little meaningful action from Portsmouth City Council, in spite of our efforts. There has been almost no investment in safe cycle infrastructure, with the budget the council had being spent on ‘soft measures’ (meaning activities and events to encourage people to cycle) and signage. It is time for that to change. Urgently.

A welcome to 2017

A happy new year to our members and subscribers. So what will 2017 bring the cyclists of Portsmouth?

As a result of winning some Government funding, the new Quiet Routes that PCC have been working on since last summer should soon be released.  PCC hope that by identifying 20mph roads, a network of routes can be created that are quieter and safer for those less confident cyclists to travel around the city.  This is a welcome initiative assuming that the routes are advertised and easy to follow once on your bike.

In conjunction with this work, an audit of all the cycling infrastructure routes and facilities has been undertaken by PCC, identifying the existing lanes, paths and parking that exist in the city.  This information – together with the quiet routes initiative – will form the basis for a new Cycling map for Portsmouth.  We will be studying this in great detail to identify the gaps in provision and work to improve areas that we believe do not serve cyclists to the extent that they should.

To that end, three of our committee members are attending the Cycling UK workshop day in London in late January to learn more about the computerized cycling tools that were demonstrated to us by Roger Geffen at our open meeting in November.  Our intention is to ask our paid-up members at our AGM in March to then identify areas in Portsmouth that can be targeted for future development.

However, most of the traffic congestion is down to the sheer numbers of vehicles on the road. To make a real improvement in congestion, pollution and journey times for everyone, the city needs to get people out of their cars, and reduce the barriers that stop people using a bike to travel around.

We need to identify and push to develop the routes that commuters might like to use.  Ideally, these should be fast, consistent, road-quality cycle lanes that are segregated from both road traffic and pedestrians with priority boxes at junctions and specific phasing on the traffic light system to aid safe resumption of one’s journey. The new lane is Goldsmiths Avenue appears to already have made a difference to traffic flows in the area for both vehicles and bikes.  There’s no reason why having set a precedent there that other roads that have double yellow lining should not also be similarly marked with cycle lanes.

Copnor Road has space at the northern end to install segregated cycle lanes similar to those created recently in Brighton.  With some extra shared path they could link up to the pedestrian bridge across the A27 into the Highbury estate and onto Cosham, encouraging those to the north of the city to cycle to work in the way that the Southampton Road and Langstone Harbour paths do from the west and east.

The perception of cycling in Portsmouth is that it is dangerous, and the official figures only back this up this impression.  For the fourth year in the last five, Portsmouth ranks as the most dangerous city in the UK for cycling casualties. Ours is twice the rate of the London Borough of Waltham Forest, which has a similar population density to Portsmouth. Islington has a population density three times that of Portsmouth, and yet the cycle casualty rate is slightly lower.

The improvements in London with the installation of cycle lanes and mini-Holland schemes, the latest of which recently opened just the other end of the A3 in Portsmouth Road, Kingston-Upon Thames, proves that if the infrastructure is invested in, it is used and improves participation.  A year on from its opening, and Waltham Forest’s much opposed mini-Holland scheme has seen traffic levels in 12 key roads in the “village” area of Walthamstow fall by 56 per cent, or 10,000 fewer vehicles a day.  The most vocal business owner opponent of the scheme, has now opened up a coffee shop in his building.

These improvements are within the scope of Portsmouth City Council.  However, as the cycling community, we need to build the pressure to improve things in our favour.  Imagine Mini-Holland schemes during business hours around Cosham High Street, Albert Road or Palmerston Road – the latterly is effectively already installed – making the areas more pleasant to negotiate whether on foot, public transport or bike.

The re-development of the island’s flood defences over the next decade gives us the opportunity to create a true coastline leisure cycle trail to allow exploration of areas visitors may never discover.

Work on the western side next to Hilsea Lake from the Mounbatten Centre to Portsbridge Roundabout will start this spring, necessitating the closure of the much-used shared coastal path.  Work is due to take three years, and there are plans to install a temporary cycle lane along Northern Parade.  We are asking the council whether they are aware just how well used that path is.  Not everyone will be confident enough to rode on a busy road, and so this appears to be an ideal opportunity to trial a segregated route on what is one of the wider roads on the island. And if it proves to be popular, why should it not remain installed after the work adding to the cycle infrastructure in the city?

With no local elections in the city due in 2017, the pull of the ballot box to appeal to voters has disappeared and some experimental schemes could be trialed, monitored and evaluated to see whether they work. Who knows, perhaps they may even lead to a reduction in the casualty figures?

But we can only do so much as a committee of volunteers.  As much as we lobby, badger, cajole and complain at councilors and officers, we need help to keep the issues at the forefront of their minds in every transport and planning decision they take.

And it is with the creation of that bigger voice where you, the regular cyclist comes in.  We need your support.  We’d like you engaged in the process.

Bring to the attention of the council officers poor road surfaces or junctions that endanger cyclists.  Enlist the support and lobby your ward councilors directly to improve our facilities and infrastructure.

In the event of an accident, ensure it is reported to the police, as official casualty figures are an important way to maintain the pressure on the local politicians to develop space for cycling.

Encourage the next generation getting on their bikes wanting to emulate Mark Cavendish or Lizzie Armitstead to use the roads safely and confidently, to be seen, and to respect other road users and pedestrians.

And please consider supporting or becoming a member of Portsmouth Cycle Forum.

I look forward to seeing you at one, or more, of our 2017 events or out on the road enjoying the freedom cycling can give you.

Tailwinds to all….

 

Ian Saunders

Acting Chair, PCF

January 2017

Cycle Casualties 2015

The Department for Transport has recently released road safety statistics for 2015 and once again Portsmouth is shamed by the rate at which cyclists are hurt on our roads. We have the worst rate of cycle casualties of any city in England. A few London boroughs do have a worse casualty rate but taken as a whole London is safer than Portsmouth. Portsmouth also topped this unenviable league in 2014, 2012 and 2011.

Portsmouth’s cycle casualty rate for 2015 was 888 per million of population. This is very slightly better that the 2014 figure, but this is likely to be no more than a statistical blip. The city’s leaders have taken no concerted action to address road safety, despite our exhortations, preferring to wring their hands and claim there is little they can do because Portsmouth is such a crowded city.

This excuse does not stand up to close examination. England’s most densely populated area, Islington, is nearly three times as crowded as Portsmouth. Islington has a population density of 14,517 people per square kilometre compared to 5,141 in Portsmouth and yet the cyclist casualty rate is slightly lower in Islington with a rate of 882 compared to 888 in Portsmouth.

Waltham Forest, which has recently implemented a ‘mini-Holland’ scheme of cycle infrastructure improvements has a population density of 6,849 people per square kilometre. This is a third more than Portsmouth and yet the cyclist casualty rate is only 409, less than half the rate in Portsmouth. This goes to show what can be achieved with good infrastructure, even in densely populated areas.

It’s time our leaders recognised that this is happening on their watch and it is their problem to solve. It is not a dry statistic to be regretted and ignored, these are the residents of our city being hurt (or worse). Each of these casualties represents a day, week, month or even lifetime ruined or lost. Even minor accidents can have a huge effect on the victims, as the case studies at the end of this piece show.

It is past time to start taking cycle safety seriously. The city is gridlocked and desperately needs people to get out of their cars, but people are understandably put off by the danger on our streets.

For too long Portsmouth City Council has been putting in a token effort at cycle safety. That has to change. We are calling on councillors to commit to halving the cycle casualty rate by 2020. Their first step has to be proper funding for road safety and to recruit a world-class traffic engineer with expertise in cycling infrastructure to lead on it.

It is the first responsibility of government in a democratic society to protect and safeguard the lives of its citizens. Cyclists are citizens and the government of our city is currently failing us. Now is the time to act. It’s time to lift the city from it’s humiliating position as the most dangerous city for cyclists in the UK.

Read Simon’s story
Read John’s story

Sources

ONS Population Density Map
DfT Accident Statistics for 2015 (Table RAS 30045)

Gridlocked Again

Just over two years, in response to the city being plunged into gridlock by a lorry fire, we wrote an open letter to all councillors asking them to take action to prevent this from happening again. This is the event that triggered the leader of PCC, Cllr Donna Jones, to challenge us to come up with an alternative transport plan for the city. Our response was A City to Share, a strategy prioritising Active Travel to reduce the level of traffic on our roads.

This weekend, with the partial closure of the Eastern Rd bridge for maintenance, we were gridlocked once again and more of the same is scheduled for next weekend. Portsmouth’s road system operates at the limit of its capacity. It only takes a small event to tip the system into gridlock – that is what happened two years ago, that’s what happened this weekend and that is what is likely to happen next weekend.

So what has been done in those two years, and why are we still facing this same problem? We’ve certainly had no shortage of words of support – politicians of all hues put their names behind A City to Share when it came out. But what action have we had? Well there have been some positive changes, but too few to make a significant difference so far, and we’ve had some backward steps too.

On the plus side parking is being removed from Goldsmith Avenue and a new cycle lane added on the north side. This is an important step – using busy routes like goldsmith avenue for the storage of stationary vehicles narrows the road and causes conflict. This makes a dangerous and intimidating environment for cyclists. It would be great to see similar changes on other narrow A and B roads in the city, it would enable the creation of safe, direct and attractive cycle lanes that could really tempt people out of their cars.

We’ve also had a series of Sky Rides as well as some major cycle events. Great as these events are, though, they are unlikely to get more people to choose cycling as a way of getting around until we make the streets more pleasant to cycle on.

However, we’ve also had some backward steps, like the removal of the Mile End Rd bus lane and Portsmouth is still congested. Portsmouth still has an obesity problem. Portsmouth still has dangerously polluted air. The way to tackle all these issues is to reduce people’s dependence on private cars yet our politicians are still doing too little to achieve this.

We can only repeat our plea of 2014: “We are calling on you to act now. Plans need to be made now to fix our transport system. Portsmouth needs a plan to put sustainable transport at the heart of these plans and to come up with a joined-up strategy for sustainable transport. Portsmouth Cycle Forum is eager to work with councillors to improve travel in Portsmouth and support sustainable growth.”

We came good on our promise to work hard, delivering a sustainable transport strategy for free. Now it’s time for our politicians to really start delivering on their side of the deal.

A bad day for cycling at the T&T committee

Today two of our committee members – Joe McGannan and Jon Spencer – attended the Portsmouth City Council Traffic & Transportation Decision meeting at the Guildhall. Joe was to make a deputation against proposals to narrow the pavements in North End to squeeze in more parking. I was to make a deputation to keep two way cycling in Portchester and Wymering roads in North End. The latter decision was made in accordance with our wishes but the former raised serious concerns.

The meeting was chaired by Cllr Linda Symes, deputising for Cllr Ken Ellcome.

North End Parking

Cllr Symes approved the plans to narrow the pavements in North End to create more on street parking. This was despite three deputations objecting to the parking proposals made by members of the public. This was despite objections were raised by a bus company and the Cycle Forum. This was despite the fact that nobody felt it worth coming to the meeting to support the proposals.

Sustainable transport used to be a thing in North End, back when there were sustainable businesses

Sustainable transport used to be a thing in North End, back when there were sustainable businesses

London Road is the most dangerous road in Portsmouth for cyclists. We know that outside of a few London boroughs Portsmouth is the most dangerous city in the country for cyclists. That makes London Road amongst the most dangerous roads for cyclists in the entire country.

Our view is that introducing more parking can only make things more dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians. More cars reversing. More cars pulling out. More doors opening in the path of cyclists. Worse sight lines. Less space. Since 2005 there has been one fatality, six serious injuries and over 40 slight injuries in road traffic incidents on the 200 metre stretch between Chichester Road and Laburnum Grove alone (source: crashmap.co.uk).

We would argue that any scheme that might make this dire situation worse should be subject to the sternest scrutiny. That has not been the case here. We’d like councillors to commit to halving the rate of cycling casualties in Portsmouth by 2020. This decision will not help with that goal; in fact it will quite conceivably make things worse.

This bad decision has been worsened by the complete lack of transparency in the decision making. When summing up the evidence prior to announcing her decision Cllr Symes stated that the council had figures showing the benefit to business and that this outweighed any safety concern. After the meeting I asked Cllr Symes for these figures and it transpired that there were no figures. She was, however, confident that the benefits were ‘massive’. It appears that the public meeting was misled into thinking there were figures backing the decision when there were not.

A subsequent discussion with the senior officer in charge of Traffic and Transportation revealed that the sole basis for the decision was a discussion with a self-selecting group of traders. Despite the fact that the substance of all the objecting views is a matter of public record in the meeting reports pack the record of that discussion with traders will never be published and subject to public scrutiny. This is neither transparent nor equitable.

In February 2015 the Portsmouth City Council Economic Development, Culture & Leisure Scrutiny Panel released a report entitled “Revitalising Local High Streets And Secondary Shopping Areas In The City“. This report was based on extensive evidence gathering from traders and community stakeholders and was put together by a team of councillors from all parties. Today’s decision ignored that work altogether.

It seems that this decision to introduce parking has been made on a hunch. No assessment of the impact on an already serious safety problem. No quantifiable assessment of the potential economic benefit. No equality impact assessment.

A bad day for cycling. A bad day for democratic accountability too.

Call for funding for A City to Share

At the meeting of the  Full Council meeting today, 9 February,  Portsmouth Cycle Forum made a deputation calling for some of the £3.5M transport budget to spent on cycling.

The proposed budget for of  2016-2020 includes major repairs to the Eastern Road  bridge and to upgrades to traffic lights throughout the city yet nothing to implement the aims of PCF’s strategy document “A City to Share”

The deputation was written by PCF Chairman Jon Spencer and delivered by Vice-chairman John Holland,  The text is as follows.

“I am here to ask you to commit some of your transport budget to implement A City to Share, the cycling strategy developed by Portsmouth Cycle Forum at the leader’s behest.”

“The city has become woefully congested and there are rightful concerns that this will put off visitors, residents, events and investors. This problem has been widely discussed and the proposed budget includes a £3.5M investment to attempt to relieve the problem.”

“We are asking councillors to remember that transport is about moving people, not vehicles – connecting customers to business and keeping the lifeblood of our economy flowing. Portsmouth’s roads are at capacity and there is just no space for the increased movements of people that will be required to grow our economy. Spending £1M on smarter phasing of traffic lights can’t address this fundamental problem.”

“£1.8M of your £3.5M investment will be on remedial works to the Eastern Rd bridge. This in itself will offer no new transport capacity unless widening of the narrow, obstructed pedestrian & cycle path is included. This is the major cycle route into the city and this section falls woefully short of DfT standards. It is not accessible to disabled cyclists and at times can be frightening to use. It is common practice in The Netherlands to add cycle capacity to older bridges by adding new cantilevered paths at each edge. This is comparatively cheap and will create a gateway for cyclists worthy of our city.”

“What is needed is a smarter, cleaner, cheaper and more space efficient way to move people. People on bikes take up far less space than people in cars and so many more people can be moved. If more journeys can be made by bike, and less by car, then everyone wins. We reduce the congestion and get a healthier, happier and more productive city into the bargain.”

“This won’t happen by itself though. Throughout the city roads need to become more attractive and forgiving to cyclists. This is not hard to do – many, many cities have gone down this path before us and achieved transformational results. The plan to do this exists in A City to Share, a document that has been praised and supported by politicians of all parties. So we’re asking you to turn those words into action and used some of your proposed transport investment to fund the implementation of A City to Share.”

“There is more to cycling than big ticket events. The city needs to be made fit for purpose for everyday cycling and we ask for PCC to commit to that. We need the bread and butter of safe and easy everyday cycling before we can enjoy the cake of the Tour de France.”

“The MP for Portsmouth South, Flick Drummond, has been pushing central government to support A City to Share. We’d like you to support her. We are asking you all to build cycling into your plans, allocate funding to implement the goals of A City to Share, prioritise improvements for cyclists (for example to the Eastern rd bridge) and to crucially to formally adopt the targets presented in A City to Share, including halving cycling casualties by 2020.”

A City to Share may be downloaded from acitytoshare.org.

New ALDI store to narrow Southampton Road Cycle Route

Aldi's new Paulsgrove store

 

Low-cost suopermarket chain, ALDI, received has permission from Portsmouth City Council for a new shop on Southampton Road, Paulsgrove next to Racecourse Lane.

At the planning committee meeting on 3 February, councillors agreed to the construction of an 1800sqm store with 113 car parking spaces.

Both Portsmouth Cycle Forum and Sustrans representatives made deputations to the meeting since the store will affect the cycle paths on both sides of Southampton Road. The north side path will be interrupted by a 15 metre wide vehicle entry and exit whilst that on the southern side, which is part of NCN route 236, will be narrowed to accommodate road widening for a new traffic light controlled junction.

The Cycle Forum has been critical of the access for pedestrians and cyclists onto the site and for the minimal amount of cycle parking. We were unhappy that the plans show little encouragement for staff to cycle to work since there was no evidence of secure cycle parking, showers or changing rooms.

Portsmouth Cycle Forum’s vice-chairman, John Holland said, “We have no problem with Aldi bringing a new store to this location but we do expect the well-designed facilities to encourage people to travel by sustainable means. Shoving a handful of cycle stands in an out the way location and degrading existing cycle paths is not the answer.”

Following the meeting, John Holland and Roger Inkpen met the applicant’s planning consultant, Dan Templeton of Planning Potential and Aldi property director Phillip Warner to discuss the plans. There is room for negotiation on many issues and the final provision for pedestrians, cyclists and others will be agreed with Portsmouth City Council under Section 278 and 106 agreements.

Parking on our High Streets

High Streets are trending on the Twitter feeds of Portsmouth’s Conservative leadership at the moment, with the leader of the city council Donna Jones and Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt both championing the plight of shopkeepers in North End. And let’s make no mistake, those businesses need a champion – times are tough and our high streets are shadows of their former selves.

The latest high-profile casualty in North End is the Co-op store. This large convenience store, which had its own dedicated car park, raises some awkward questions about the story our politicians are telling us about the problem though. They tell us the problem is about the availability of parking and trumpet their efforts to squeeze more spaces on to the street. If that is the case then what has gone wrong for the Co-op, a shop with it’s own car park?

The declining fortunes of our high streets were studied by councillors on the Economic Development, Culture and Leisure Scrutiny Panel earlier this year. Portsmouth Cycle Forum gave evidence to that panel and a report was approved on the 18 March. The report is available here and we wish that Cllr Jones and Penny Mordaunt MP would read it before they act further.

The problem on our high streets, especially Fratton / Kingston / London Road, is that they are trying to be too many things:

  • They are trying to be major distributor roads, carrying people and goods in and out of the city – Fratton / Kingston / London Road is also the A2047 and one of the major North-South roads on the island.
  • They are trying to be shopping streets, where people get out of their cars to buy things.
  • They are trying to be streets where people live, eat and relax.
  • They are trying to be car parks with on-street parking right outside every business.

They cannot be all these things and the consequence is that they have become the most people-unfriendly places imaginable. They are highly polluted. The traffic is hellish. Parking is impossible. The A2047 has more casualties along it than any other road in the city and is amongst the most dangerous stretches of road in Britain.

The result is that people don’t want to spend any more time than they have to in these places. People may stop outside a particular business, run-in for what they came for and get out as fast as possible but that’s hardly a model for economic growth. These streets need to be turned into places people want to visit.

The politician’s rhetoric, that squashing in more parking will make everything better, is positively dangerous. Squashing in more parking will just make things worse. Traffic a bit more squeezed, roads a bit narrower, the air a bit dirtier. A few more pedestrians and cyclists will be injured (or worse), a few more local children will develop asthma and the benefit to businesses will be negligible or nonexistent. Businesses will still close down and politicians will wring their hands and say “we did our best”.

Our politicians are currently presiding over a policy of danger and decay on London Road and our other high streets. It’s time they took some real positive action to address it. It’s time to transform our high streets into places people want to visit. It’s time for A City to Share.

Southsea Seafront Cycle Lane Safety

The seafront cycle lane in Southsea that runs from South Parade along to Henderson Road  has come in for some criticism recently after a pedestrian fell over a kerb which separates the parked cars from the cycle lane.  

Portsmouth Cycle Forum regret this incident and wish Roger Homer a speedy recovery from his injuries. We do feel, however, that his request for the islands to be removed would be an ineffective use of public money that would not utilise the best return for the taxpayer.

We would like to see improvements made in other areas of the city where cycling collisions are much more frequent, these need to be urgently addressed before a fatality occurs. The recent publication of the DfT statistics, showing that the accident rate in Portsmouth has worsened since last year, proves that the city has roads which need drastic improvement.

Crashmap shows that the junction at Albert Road, B2154 and Victoria Road,  B2151, had two serious crashes involving people who cycle last year. Albert Road had 6 bicycle-vehicle collisions with 3 serious and 3 slight injuries last year. St George’s Road at the entrance to Gunwharf Quays had 4 bicycle-vehicle collisions, 2 serious and 2 slight injuries last year.

These, along with other cycle crash hot spots, being altered would be of far more benefit to Portsmouth than of using the money to remove the seafront islands. The cost to the taxpayer of the injuries sustained in these crashes are on average £235,791 for serious injuries and £24,887 for slight injuries (ref). The costs of the incidents described above can be estimated at just over £1.3 million pounds. This would likely have covered the costs of the required junction improvements several times over. 

The function of the “islands” on the seafront cycle route is to protect the people using the cycle lane from opening car doors.  If the islands were removed then it’s likely we would see an increase in cars parking closer to the cycle lane as there would be no physical barrier. Motor vehicle doors opening into the cycle path would cause a huge hazard and lead to increased, not a reduction, in injuries, which nobody wants.

In the Ministerial Spotlight

Robert Goodwill MP and Conservative Candidate Flick Drummond pose with a copy of A City to Share
Robert Goodwill MP and Conservative Candidate Flick Drummond pose with a copy of A City to Share

Last Thursday Robert Goodwill MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, visited Portsmouth. The visit was prompted by a letter from Cllr Donna Jones, the leader of PCC, which was in turn prompted by engagement from Portsmouth Cycle Forum in a meeting following the launch of our cycling strategy, A City to Share.

The purpose of the Minister’s visit was to find out about the cycling initiatives taking places in Portsmouth and to discuss the measures needed to increase cycling levels. The Minister said that the momentum in the cities enjoying Cycle Ambition grant funding was such that fund could be diverted now to others, such as Portsmouth.

Cllr Jones mentioned the possibility of a Sky-Ride in 2016 but Sky’s sponsorship ends in that year.

Portsmouth Cycle Forum Vice-Chair John Holland was able to give a brief overview of A City to Share and the minister took a copy with him. He nodded in the right places and he mentioned the Government’s aim to increase cycle spending to £10 a head (with no date for achieving that though). Feedback is that the Minister is impressed with the strategy.

Following the meeting John Holland was joined by more members of the Forum to accompany the ministerial throng to The Hub in Winston Churchill Avenue. The Minister then took a “photo opportunity” bike ride along the seafront cycle route which was joined by Flick Drummond, Conservative parliamentary candidate for Portsmouth South. An ITV cameraman was in attendance.

Mile End Road bus lane removal – An alternative solution

Mile End Road approach to Church Street roundaboutAt the Special Traffic and Transportation Decision Meeting on 13 March the Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Councillor Donna Jones, decided that the section of the southbound bus lane on Mile End Road between Haversham Road and Church Street should be removed and the space given to general traffic.

Cllr Jones proposed this as a solution to the problem of peak hour queuing traffic on the M275 which has increased at the location since the opening of the Park and Ride in 2014.

Portsmouth Cycle Forum would like to propose an alternative solution which would ease the problems of merging traffic and which would see the retention of the bus lane.

History

The Mile End Road southbound bus lane extends southwards from Rudmore roundabout and it has been in existence for many years. Archive satellite images from Google Earth show the bus lane to be in place in 1999.

In 2014, extensive changes were made to the road markings on southbound carriageway of the Mile End Road to coincide with the opening of the Park and Ride at Tipner. One of the measures was to force all traffic travelling from Rudmore Roundabout to merge with the inside lane of traffic arriving from the M275. It is this location which is the root of the traffic queues as a traffic lane had been removed. Previously the Rudmore traffic could proceed to the Church Street roundabout without merging.

The reason for the change was the conversion of the inside southbound lane of Commercial Road to a bus lane reducing the number of traffic lanes there from 3 to 2. PCC traffic engineers concluded that the number of traffic lanes for traffic travelling straight ahead at Church Street roundabout should be reduced accordingly on safety grounds.

Current arrangement

The Mile End Road approach to before Church Street roundabout has 4 traffic lanes.

  • Lane 1: (the inside lane) is for traffic turning left onto Church Street
  • Lane 2: is for traffic proceeding to Commercial Road
  • Lane 3: is for traffic proceeding to Commercial Road
  • Lane 4: is for traffic performing a right turn to travel north along Mile End Road.

Note that lane 1 is a continuation of the bus lane which stops short of the roundabout.

Alternative Proposal

The alternative proposal would once again permit traffic from Rudmore Roundabout to reach Church Street roundabout without needed in merge into the lanes arriving from the M275 and would retain the bus lane. It would be achieved as follows:

  • Lane 1: extend the bus and cycle lane right up to traffic lights, with solid white line.
  • Amend the traffic lights so that there is separate phase for lane 1 (the bus lane). When at green the lights on the other lanes would show red thus giving buses priority yet preventing conflict traffic turning left onto Church Street and buses proceeding straight ahead. The bus lane lights would be activated by approaching buses.
  • Lane 2: designate for other traffic turning left into Church Street.
  • Lane 3: designate for straight ahead traffic.
  • Lane 4: designate for straight ahead and right turning traffic

We accept that this solution will be more expensive than the simple but destructive removal of a section of the bus lane as it involves changes to the traffic lights but the advantages are clear. We ask that it or similar arrangement should be implemented.

Mile End Bus Lane Decision

Mile End Bus Lane
Mile End Bus Lane

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.

Mile End Bus Lane – An Open Letter

Mile End Road bus lane southbound-cyclist   8sep14@1530-2Dear Councillors,

This Thursday Portsmouth City Council will make a decision about the future of the Mile End Road bus lane. The clamour from frustrated motorists has forced a re-evaluation of the road layout. Can we really afford the space for that bus lane?

The aim of removing the bus lane would be simple: to increase the number of vehicles that can get into our city. So the first question we have to ask ourselves is whether that is something we want.

Increasing vehicle capacity at the entrance to the city will have a knock-on effect on every street. The price will be more vehicles using each small residential street. More queuing traffic in the city. More competition for parking. More danger. Figures from the road safety charity Brake show that road casualties are increasing for the first time in 20 years.

Even if we do decide that the price is worth paying we also have to ask: will it actually work? Will removing the bus lane really help? The sober analysis suggests not. The queue on Mile End Rd will simply be replaced by several smaller queues elsewhere in the city with the net effect that journeys take the same amount of time. The bottleneck is not removed, it’s just in a different place. Bus passengers, including those using the successful Park and Ride, will be delayed and cyclists will be placed at greater risk.

The only way to realistically reduce congestion is to reduce the number of vehicles using the road. In order to do that we have to offer people alternative ways of getting into the city. The bus lane is such an alternative. The city council should be looking to increase its effectiveness, not to take it away. To do this will not make car journeys better but it will make the alternatives worse.

Please do not compromise the long-term wellbeing of the city for short term populism.

Jon Spencer
Chair
Portsmouth Cycle Forum

Open Meeting Thursday 12 February 7pm – Making Space for Cycling

Making Space for CyclingThe next meeting of Portsmouth Cycle Forum will be at 7pm on Thursday 12th February 2015 in Park Building, University of Portsmouth on King Henry I Street – just behind the Guildhall (map). The meeting will take the form of a debate, discussing we make the main routes in Portsmouth safe and welcoming for cyclists? Portsmouth has an exceptionally high rate of cycle casualties and most of these casualties occur on major roads which have 30mph speed limits.

Our recently launched cycle strategy, A City to Share, proposes that road space be reallocated from motor vehicles to bicycles to enable a step-change improvement in cycle casualty rates and the number of people getting around by bike. Exactly what changes need to be made to find and repurpose that road space were not specified.

For this meeting we have invited our members to propose ideas for how these 30mph roads can be changed to make them safer and more attractive for cyclists, whilst still offering good motor vehicle access to the city. We will pick out 3 or 4 ideas for short presentations on how to eliminate conflict between cyclists and motor vehicles on Portsmouth’s 30mph routes – each idea will then be opened to debate.

We hope that you will be able to come along and contribute.