2021 was not a good year for our town, or for the journey towards easier, safer transport.
A year ago today, West Sussex County Council, against the advice of their own officers, and that of the Department of Transport, removed a temporary cycle lane which, though incomplete, had already seen a doubling of cycling numbers along Upper Shoreham Road.
Later in the year, West Sussex County Council was admonished by the Department of Transport, and told that, as a result of its failure to monitor, test, and improve the temporary scheme, it would be the only local authority in the country to be barred from applying for a significant round of muti-million-pound transport funding.
In 2021, WSCC conducted two major rounds of consultation around the task of installing high-quality well-planned cycle infrastructure on Upper Shoreham Road. Each time, we were assured that DfT guidance would be followed, that objections would be judged on merit and that consultations would not be reduced to mere referendums. On all three counts, we were repeatedly disappointed.
In 2021, bold positive-sounding statements were made by government at district, county and national levels around environment and the need to enable active travel. But action remained scarce, despite 25 years of plans and strategies for cycling and walking that are periodically published but never implemented by WSCC or Adur District Council.
At the end of the year, we were told that, despite DfT’s insistence that the most recent consultation should not be judged on numbers, a statistically debatable 50/50 ‘vote’ was to be the headline result of the consultation, and was not enough to assure progress.
In December, a decision was taken to add an additional round of consultation and delay, bringing Shoreham to a total of five consultations on this one topic, just for one road: a two-mile road which independent traffic engineers have described as “possibly the easiest place anywhere to install a well-designed cycle lane” and “an open goal”; a road where separated cycle lanes would have space to co-exist beside ample spaces for car parking, creating tangible, attractive improvements for all users.
So what will 2022 bring, aside from more consultations? We hope it will bring more action, more conviction, and more evidence that when our political leaders issue warm words on environment and transport, they are ready to follow through and show leadership. Shoreham is growing – by many thousands of people. With a road network that is already clogged and saturated, the urgency of enabling truly sustainable transport along important routes has never been more acute. Will our councillors and MP continue to delay the inevitable and fail to properly represent and champion the opportunity to improve our town? Who knows?
As the challenge grows bigger, so must Shoreham-By-Cycle. This determined community group is growing. We will soon be opening membership widely to anyone who wants to be part of the harder-than-it-should-be struggle to make cycling a normal, easy, stress-free sustainable way to make short journeys in and around the fabulous town of Shoreham-by-Sea.
Join us. We’ll share more information soon.