Council promises a review of Preston's newest pop-up cycle lane after a "crescendo" of complaints

Chaos.

By Catherine Musgrove
Friday, 4th September 2020, 3:45 pm

Chaos.

That’s the word on the lips of commuters and residents in the Riversway area of Preston, suffering huge tailbacks since pop-up cycle lanes came into force.

The lanes have been introduced along the A583 Riversway and Watery Lane between Nelson Way and Strand Road, and see two lanes narrowed to one in each direction.

Tailbacks have been seen on the road since the introduction of the pop-up lanes

They have been put in place by Lancashire County Council as an emergency temporary measure, to encourage people to walk and cycle in recognition that capacity on public transport is much-reduced due to social distancing measures.

Funding of around £45m has been given to councils across the country for emergency work, as part of a £2bn government package to boost cycling and walking, part of the Department for Transport’s emergency active travel fund.

But in the first fortnight of use in Riversway, local councillors have reported a “crescendo” of complaints, with dozens of comments that the lanes are not being used by cyclists.

Now there are growing calls to have them removed, as school traffic recommences and more people return to offices.

A cyclist using the Riversway pop-up lane

Writing on the Ashton and Riversway Police and Communities Together (PACT) Facebook page, Sall Whitton wrote: “Absolutely terrible this afternoon they need to get rid ASAP”.

Ian Clement wrote: “What a joke these lanes are. Making the roads dangerous and causing more traffic. Someone getting paid a lot of our taxpayers money thought this up. Disgusting waste of resource that could have gone to helping the needy.”

Katie Louise Lawson said: “I wonder how emergency service vehicles get past in the traffic round there, there’s not much, if hardly any space to pull over to let them past!”

As well as residents, local businesses have also spoken out.

The managing director of the Porsche Centre Preston has also spoken out about the queues outside his garage

Tom Fox, managing director of the Porsche Centre Preston in Watery Lane, slammed the lanes as “dangerous”.

He told the Post: “I’m a keen cyclist myself. So, I applaud any initiatives to assist cycling safely. But this is dangerous and causing tailbacks on a main arterial road. I haven’t seen a single cyclist using it!”

County Councillor Gillian Oliver, who represents the area, said the scheme was “an opportunity missed”.

She said: “There has been a crescendo of concern about this, both from residents and people who pass through the division.

“Both myself and my colleague, Councillor Yousuf Motala, have been overwhelmed by the amount of concern, especially as it came slightly out of the blue.

“I think people are concerned that there has been no prior consultation and they feel frustrated and confused.

“I had one person saying to me that their usual commute of 50 minutes had now been extended by 30 minutes. Its upsetting to people.”

She added: “I think all of us would like to support an opportunity for cyclists, but it has to be done right the first time.

“I feel that this was an amazing opportunity and amazing moment to capture for good, but chaos has come out of it.

“There is a tendency to look at the main roads instead of looking at the alternatives and being creative.

“The County Council claim they are listening. They need to show they’re doing that. They need to talk to people in this area and give it some thought.

“We also need to know that the money coming from central Government for it is being spent well.”

Ashton-on-Ribble city Councillor Elizabeth Atkins said she can see both sides of the argument.

She said: “I have nothing but sympathy for the people who are fed-up of being stuck in traffic. But I also have some sympathy for LCC, because they need to give some alternative to using public transport.

“It’s a very busy road and while we’re being advised not to use public transport, you can’t just tell people to strap a helmet on and hope for the best.

“Having said that, it did seem to pop up very quickly, and that area does appear to be a bit of a bottleneck anyway.”

Lancashire County Council insists use of the lane, and that of other pop-up lanes across the county, is being kept under review and officers “will makes changes to any of them if necessary”.

A temporary traffic order for Watery Lane has been put into place until December 31. However, this doesn’t mean the scheme cannot be reviewed or extended if it’s felt measures are still needed.

In fact, a review of the Riversway lanes is expected to take place in the next few weeks, when enough information has been collected.

A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said: “The government has provided funding for emergency active travel measures such as pop-up cycle lanes to make it easier for people to cycle in recognition that capacity on public transport is much-reduced due to social distancing measures.

“These measures are temporary and part of our emergency response to help Lancashire control and recover from the coronavirus by creating safe spaces for active travel to help to prevent overcrowding on public transport while social distancing measures on public transport remain in place.

“We’re monitoring the situation on the roads particularly closely as schools go back and traffic levels return to near-normal levels, as we expect some issues may emerge due to people’s travel habits having changed in response to the virus, and we may need to make some changes to transport as a result.

“In some places the pop-up lanes do reduce the road space available for vehicles, and we recognise the need to balance the needs of all road users.

“We are monitoring their usage and keeping them under review in case we need to make any changes.”

Letters explaining the situation have been sent to local residents and to the PACT group.

Residents can pass on any comments or suggestions about these temporary measures to the County Council by using the ‘Have Your Say’ link online here:

Where are the other lanes?

The first pop-up cycle lanes in Lancashire were introduced in Preston and Lancaster.

In June, work started constructing lanes on either side of South Road in Lancaster, aiming to provide a better connection between the Pointer Roundabout and Penny Street.

At the same time, work took place to construct lanes on both sides of Fylde Road in Preston, improving journeys for cyclists from the west of Preston towards UCLan and the city centre.

A lane was also put in place along one side of Winckley Square in Preston, aimed at better linking the city centre and routes to the south, including off-road links through Avenham Park.

Drivers were also stopped from turning left from Fishergate onto Chapel Street, with a diversion signed via Mount Street, Garden Street and Winckley Square.

In early August, Lancashire County Council removed the Winckley Square pop-up lane as lockdown restrictions eased and traffic reduced in the area.

Point closures on Fishergate, including on Chapel Street, will remain in place.

Pop-up lanes have also been installed on both sides of Penwortham Hill, and to ease traffic to Edge Hill University, on the east side of St Helens Road from Moor Street to the junction with Ruff Lane, Ormskirk.

The scheme in Riversway was the latest to be unveiled on August 21.

What do the experts say?

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, called for councils to “think carefully”.

He said: “As public transport continues to be discouraged, a mixture of driving, cycling and walking has been the order of the day as people move around.

“Cyclists have enjoyed quieter roads during lockdown and many want to continue to enjoy this freedom. Regardless of how we use our roads, we all have a responsibility to one another to ensure we reach our destinations safely. Looking out for each other and allowing more space, especially when overtaking, is key.”

He added: “The £45 million (given to local councils as emergency travel grants) immediate investment is good news, but councils should think carefully about how to use the cash.

Improving junctions, allowing proper space for cyclists and joining up existing routes are a good start. However, there needs to be a balanced approach to ‘pop up cycle lanes’ or closures to ensure that key deliveries and services are not hindered. With the economy already in a fragile state, local and independent retailers need all the support they can get.”