World News

Councils used Covid crisis to block off roads to create bike lanes

End the cycle lane madness: Councils have used the Covid crisis to spend millions blocking off roads to create often empty bike lanes. The result? Traffic jams, pollution, road-rage… and peril for EVERYONE on the streets

  • Many routes take up existing traffic lanes causing severe congestion in towns 
  • Being rushed out as part of a £2 billion initiative to encourage people to cycle 
  • Government figures show the number using bicycles has fallen by 25 per cent 

Drivers across Britain are facing traffic chaos as councils block off miles of roads to hastily install cycle lanes – which are hardly being used.

Many of the routes, most marked simply by bollards and cones, take up existing traffic lanes, narrowing busy trunk roads and causing severe congestion in towns and cities.

They are being rushed out as part of a £2 billion initiative to try to encourage more people to cycle to work rather than use public transport or their cars during the pandemic.

But they have left drivers fuming as they queue next to the empty routes – with official Government figures showing the number using bicycles has actually fallen by 25 per cent since the first national lockdown was imposed in March.

The new lanes are even holding up emergency vehicles. An ambulance crew in Sheffield on a blue light call had to remove bollards and cones to get past stationary traffic. 

Many of the routes, most marked simply by bollards and cones, take up existing traffic lanes, narrowing busy trunk roads and causing severe congestion in cities (stock image used)

There has also been a furious reaction from residents who have seen roads closed in their neighbourhoods to facilitate the schemes.

As objections mount, and in a complete U-turn of the multi-million-pound project, many of the cycle routes are now being ripped up, at more cost to the taxpayer.

Today, The Mail on Sunday is asking readers to tell us your stories about the chaos caused as the new cycle lanes crop up across Britain. 

And in a special investigation, we have found that:

  •  One cycle route in Greater Manchester was removed after just 48 hours because it created traffic mayhem;
  •  Another route in Gloucestershire was scrapped after five days, and West Sussex County Council last week ordered the removal of 12 miles of cycle lanes that had cost £780,000 because barely anyone was using them;
  •  In London, a £250,000 cycle lane on the Euston Road to Marylebone Road is to be removed due to the crippling congestion created;
  •  Thousands have backed a court challenge to overturn road closures brought in to boost cycling in the London suburb of Ealing;
  •  Other areas where cycle lanes have been scrapped include Lancashire, Tyne and Wear, Derby, Kent and Brighton.

Tory MP Craig Mackinlay led a campaign to scrap pop-up cycle lanes in his Kent constituency and said: ‘I am up for dedicated cycle lanes that have been well thought out, but to take away existing vehicular road space and cause more congestion is not a good idea. 

‘I speak to many MP colleagues and they are saying there are campaigns against these cycle lanes all across the country. I think the scheme should be scrapped.’

At the heart of the £2 billion scheme is a £250 million Emergency Active Travel Fund (EATF), which gives councils special powers to install new cycle routes without public consultation.

The 20 councils where routes have been scrapped or pared back have received more than £20million from the fund. 

RAC Head of Roads Policy, Nicholas Lyes, said: ‘The fact that the Government gave local authorities just weeks to introduce schemes is a reason why some aren’t working.

Drivers across Britain are facing traffic chaos as councils block off miles of roads to hastily install cycle lanes – which are hardly being used (stock image used)

‘Councils were told they did not need to consult, yet if they didn’t take the cash on offer, they risked missing out on it altogether.’

Pro-cycling groups and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps say opposition to the cycle lanes comes from a ‘vocal minority’. 

But Mr Shapps wrote to councils last month to warn that too many temporary cycle lanes were being left ‘unused’ and causing ‘traffic to back up.’

A Department for Transport spokesman said: ‘This Government is investing £27 billion to upgrade our roads in our largest road improvement programme. 

We are at the same time promoting cycling and walking as they are beneficial to people’s health and wellbeing, but we have been clear we expect local authorities to engage constructively with residents to make sure any changes are right for everyone, including motorists.’

By Abul Taher

Car and lorry drivers will automatically face the blame for accidents with cyclists due to sweeping changes planned for the Highway Code, campaigners have claimed.

The Government is rewriting the official guide to give cyclists more protection on the road.

However, motoring groups are worried about the ‘hierarchy of users’ guideline which says pedestrians and cyclists will have the right of way and that those in cars, vans and lorries will bear greater responsibility to keep them safe.

Critics believe it means drivers will face the blame even if a cyclist was really at fault – and that the amendments may push up motor insurance premiums.

The proposed change states: ‘Those in charge of vehicles that can cause the greatest harm in the event of a collision bear the responsibility to care and reduce the danger posed to others. 

‘This principle applies most strongly to drivers of large goods and passenger vehicles.’

Another change would grant cyclists the right of way to ‘undertake’ vehicles, even if the driver is already indicating to turn left.

The new code is set to say: ‘You [the vehicle driver] should stop and wait for a safe gap in the flow of cyclists if necessary.’ 

The Road Haulage Association, which represents 7,200 truck companies, has written to the Department for Transport raising concerns about the changes, which are due to be published next year.

Its letter says: ‘The ‘hierarchy’ lessens the responsibility of some road users and increases liability and responsibility of others.

‘The proposal seems to make some road users partially responsible for the behaviour of other road users based solely on the size of vehicle or device used on the roads. This is inappropriate.’

However, Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns at Cycling UK, said: ‘The Highway Code clarifies the position of all road users.

‘The ‘hierarchy’ does not say people have no responsibility for their own safety, or of others. 

It simply indicates that if you have a vehicle that can cause more harm, you have a greater responsibility.’

By Nigel Farage

Cycling used to be an innocent childhood pastime – a chance to see the world and enjoy a first taste of freedom.

Many of us wish it had stayed that way.

Today, cycling is an exploding craze, a macho, high-speed hobby bringing town-centre traffic to a stop and turning the roads near my home into a velodrome.

It is creating frustration and anger in millions of people simply trying to go about their business.

Country lanes are commandeered by self-righteous platoons of middle-aged men in tight-fitting costumes. 

In town, a journey to the Westminster office seems like a trip through the streets of Peking or Amsterdam. 

When I stop at traffic lights, cyclists surround me like a strange swarm of insects.

Many completely ignore the rules of the road – that much is well established – yet cyclists are the new kings of the highway, accountable to nobody. 

Of course, the rest of us are told to shut up because cycling is the green alternative, better for the environment and healthy living. And so on.

But it is high time bike riders were regulated, registered and taxed – and subject to the same rules as the drivers of other vehicles. 

When they break the law, they should be prosecuted like the rest of us.

Things were quite bad enough even in pre-Covid Britain. Now, thanks to the virus, things have got many times worse.

A frenzy of high-minded moral purpose – allied to a lockdown culture of big government deciding how we should live our lives – has been the perfect excuse for town and city councils to impose a range of drastic ‘cycle-friendly’ measures with appalling consequences.

In May, the Department for Transport earmarked £225 million to be spent across the country – notably in London, Oxford, Manchester, Birmingham and York – for ’emergency active travel schemes for local authorities due to the pandemic’.

The department says the money will allow local authorities to produce ‘new cycling and walking facilities’ while the altered road and parking schemes will help promote a safe economic recovery.

This is why, at great cost, major two-lane roads have been cut in half to make way for cycle lanes – with predictable results.

In September, a street in Poole was blocked off so it could be turned into a Covid-safe bike path. 

Residents were forced to take long detours to get to their own homes and put up signs in protest, but these were removed by council workers who feared they could injure cyclists.

Is this not utter madness?

Last month, Portsmouth City Council announced that it would remove all parking along two main roads in Southsea to accommodate fully segregated bike lanes in both directions as part of a three-week trial which may become permanent. Guess what? Shop owners, already struggling, believe it will kill business dead.

For much of the day these new bike lanes with their endless lines of shiny white posts lie empty while traffic jams block what is left of the roads. 

Who can doubt that these nose-to-tail queues are pumping out more pollution than ever? 

In London they have – bizarrely – driven bike lanes straight through bus stops and dumped bus stops in the middle of the carriageway, supposedly to keep cyclists and the traffic apart. What about the pedestrians?

The whole thing is a nail-biting nightmare for drivers and pretty dangerous for cyclists too. 

It was no surprise when, on Friday, it emerged that installing new cycling lanes in Glasgow had actually led to more cyclists crashing.

Navigating left-hand turns across these fenced-off bike lanes is now a nerve-racking experience for motorists and any conflicts usually result in a stream of abuse from the riders.

What about those who drive for a living? How are van drivers supposed to deliver or taxi drivers do their job? What about those who, like the disabled, depend on vehicles to get about?

It must be no joke getting a wheelchair across one of these new cycling free-for-alls.

These ill-judged measures are damaging business at a terrible time for the economy. 

Cyclists, meanwhile, pay no road charges, despite the huge costs of putting in the new cycle lanes – and despite the revolting piety so many of them love to express.

Chaotic, ill-planned, poorly executed, at times comical, this war on motorists is an affront to democracy, introduced without consultation or clarity for purposes which organisations like Transport for London are yet to disclose.

There used to be very few adult cyclists and they tended to be older, kindly types who had never learned to drive a car. 

These days they have assumed the role of helmeted law enforcers.

Increasingly, these pedalling policemen wear helmet cameras to film their journeys, spying on cars in case their drivers dare to touch a mobile phone while sitting at a red light.

They, in contrast, are free – without the inconvenience of number plates – to ride on pavements, go through lights and ignore ‘one-way’ signs at will. This is not a level playing field.

So you’ll understand my dismay when a friend who lives in London told me he’d just taken up cycling and now visits the area in the North Downs where I live.

We’ve long been used to weekend visitors because the area is beautiful. But since lockdown began in March, familiar groups of walkers have been joined by thousands of cyclists tearing through the lanes – and not just at weekends. 

During the summer, they are seen and heard from 5.30am onwards. They seem to go as fast as they possibly can for as long as possible. 

Not for cyclists the restrictions of lockdown, such as the suggested limit of one-hour exercise per day in place for the early months. Rules simply don’t apply.

Few are women. Most seem to be middle-aged men with paunches and beards. And I can tell from their looks of shock when they see me walking along the lane that the vast majority are Remainers. 

Perhaps this helps to explain my prejudice: I simply don’t like them and wish they weren’t here.

We all have the right to use the Queen’s highway, but there has to be a set of rules for every road user and consideration for each other. 

There are plenty of horse riders on the roads round here, yet I have never heard a single complaint about them.

There is something about cyclists’ aggression, their sheer number, and the impact they are having on people’s lives that is very different and deeply unpleasant.

I am not normally one to argue for more Government regulation, but there is a palpable unfairness in our cities, suburbs and rural England and it needs to be addressed.

The time has come for cyclists to be licensed – and to be forced to obey the Highway Code like the rest of us.

In the meantime, I am hoping for gales, heavy rain, and many leaves to fall.

Source: Read Full Article