Pop-up cycle lane experiment proves short-lived

The cycle lane on Saturday reigate.uk

 

It was a county and Government-funded experiment that was supposed to last three months, or at least three weeks, but in the end a pop-up cycle lane in Reigate town centre lasted just three days.

Surrey County Council removed the facility with its red and white water-filled barriers from the High Street, Church Street and Bell Street on Monday night (6 July), having only installed it on the previous Friday night.

The decision to take down the cycle lane followed criticism from resident groups, the business community and Crispin Blunt MP.

During its short life the project attracted much debate on social media, chiefly around the loss of one traffic lane to make way for the scheme.

People posted comments, pictures and videos on social media highlighting the scheme’s perceived merits and drawbacks.

Fears about gridlock on the final day, Monday, appeared not to have come to pass: Saturday may have in fact been the busiest day for traffic merging into the single lanes of Bell Street and Church Street.

Some elements of the scheme will remain in place for the time being, including cycle racks in Church Street, an “advisory” 20mph speed limit, and double-yellow lines on the A25 near Reigate Grammar School.

The project is part of Surrey County Council’s active travel plans to support walking and cycling during the pandemic, bearing in mind the lower take-up of public transport. The Government’s emergency active travel fund contributed 50% of the cost.

Shortly before the lane was removed, Cllr Matt Furniss, Surrey’s cabinet member for transport, said: “I would like to thank everyone who has got in touch on the trial we are conducting in Reigate.

“We have certainly started the conversation on how to tackle the issues of traveling around the town.

“We need to work together to make these small and potentially larger changes to tackle congestion and promote walking and cycling.

“We have been clear from the start that this is a trial and we will be making adjustments as we go through to find a balance for all users of the highway.

“While many people supported the trial of a cycle lane and wider pavements in Reigate, it became clear over the weekend that these measures were not right for this location. We have listened and the barriers will now be taken away.

“We have learned some valuable lessons this weekend, and will use this experience as we design new and innovative schemes to support social distancing and greener travel both in Reigate and across the county.

“We continue to trial having improved signage and additional parking for cyclists in Reigate, alongside an advisory 20mph speed limit.

“If residents and businesses in Reigate have ideas on where to improve walking and cycling please email highways@surreycc.gov.uk and title your email ‘Active Travel’.”

A frequent complaint of those who criticised the scheme was the lack of public consultation beforehand.

Zully Grant-Duff, county councillor for Reigate and a member of Surrey’s cabinet, said last week that the need to meet government funding deadlines had limited consultation, and that full consultation would have taken place for any permanent changes

Cycle Redhill & Reigate, a local cycle campaign forum, wrote to the leader of Surrey County Council on Monday, asking questions about future sustainable travel plans for the High Street, saying that removal of the scheme “was very predictable”.

They said in their letter: “We raised questions and concerns when first seeing the plans, we never received answers.”

“This was poorly thought through and we didn’t understand exactly what problems the plans seeked to solve.”

“The way it was implemented was inept. If you had planned wanting it to fail, I’m not sure whether much would have been done differently.”

The forum said on Wednesday evening that they are awaiting a response.

 

Church Street on Tuesday 8 July after the lane’s removal reigate.uk