In recent weeks there have been a number of articles about cycling lanes. Did you see them ?

The Society maintains its position in supporting pedestrianisation and the introduction of shared spaces, but not giving preference to cyclists over pedestrians and motorists. We are, however, open to ideas provided they do not compromise safety and the wellbeing of all living, working and visiting Farnham

Fortunately, Farnham currently does not have any dedicated cycle lanes on its roads. There are numerous shared cycle lane pavements / footpaths but we will return to those. What would happen if cycle lanes were introduced to the roads in Farnham ? The Covid safe distancing measures introduced in June give us an idea.

We, like many residents, were appalled at the measures put in place by Surrey County Council, against the wishes of Farnham Town Council. Surrey strong-armed our local representatives and spent money that could have been used more effectively. But, surprise, surprise, Surrey weren’t the only local authority with responsibility for roads to introduce such schemes or cycle lanes, although maybe took longer in accepting that they were inappropriate and ugly.

The government rushed out £2 billion to encourage the public to cycle to work rather than use public transport or their cars during the pandemic.

The consequences of the measures were traffic chaos, disenchanted shop owners and managers and, to add insult to injury, government figures show the number using bicycles has fallen 25% since the first lockdown. That will be a national figure and it could be different in Farnham, however the consequences of the introduction of cycle lanes would have been very similar, if not probably worse, here in Farnham.

Reports from many towns across England record drivers left fuming as they queue next to empty routes coned off for cyclists. U turns have been made by councils with many of the cycle routes being ripped up at further expense.

The papers record that one cycle route in Greater Manchester was removed after just 28 hours because of the mayhem. Another route in Gloucestershire was scrapped after five days, and in West Sussex 12 miles of cycle lanes that reputedly cost £780,000 were removed because barely anyone was using them. In London a cycle lane between Euston Road and Marylebone Road costing £250,000 was removed because it created crippling traffic congestion, and thousands have backed a court challenge to overturn road closures brought in to boost cycling in Ealing.

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.”

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.”

It is reported that 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. Shop owners are already struggling it is claimed, and believe it will kill business dead.

Many people have suggested that the time has come for cyclists to be licensed – and to be forced to obey the Highway Code like the rest of us.

I am noticing increased disrespect for pedestrians by cyclists. Cyclists give way, or give a wide margin, for other cyclists but do not give way or leave an appropriate margin for pedestrians. Cyclists have become the ‘white van men’ of the pavement or footpath.

Although suggesting cyclists should be forced to obey the Highway Code there is in fact little in the Highway Code relating to cycling. The government is reportedly revising it, which may lead to drivers of cars, vans and lorries being assumed to be automatically responsible for accidents with cyclists.

Motoring groups are reportedly 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 Society remains concerned at the possible repercussions of the cycling lobby’s impact on Farnham. The cycling campaign group have suggested a new phase on the Hickley’s Corner traffic lights. This would further increase congestion, already bad enough, on this major highway in Farnham. The consequence would be more congestion in the town centre, something that it is impossible to even consider.

Of course, cycling is an important activity and needs to be taken account of in the planning of our roads. We need to take care however that pedestrian safety is not compromised and that the overall wellbeing of our town is considered when making important changes, rather than just accepting the views of one sector of our community.

The current Local Liaison Forum consultations being run as part of the Farnham infrastructure Programme provides an opportunity for us all to get involved. There are further Local Liaison Forum Meetings taking place to discuss and allow residents to express their views later this week, and in December, and early January. Follow this link and register to take part, listen or voice your opinion

Dates for your diary

Wednesday November 25 at 6.30pm, Community (active travel, air quality, biodiversity)

Wednesday December 9 at 6.30pm, Town Centre (East Street, pedestrianisation, bypass)

Wednesday January 6 at 3pm, A31 and Hickley’s Corner (north-south connectivity)

Wednesday January 6 at 6.30pm, Upper Hale (effects of town centre changes, bypass)

Thursday January 7 at 6.30pm, Wrecclesham (bypass)

Thursday January 14 at 6.30pm, Young people (travel to school, youth needs)