‘Dangerous’ safety rods along Croydon cycle path to be removed after emergency services alert

A controversial cycle lane revealed to be putting cyclists and motorists at risk is to be ‘fixed’ and made permanent after a ‘trial’ period which has drawn a mixed response from Croydon’s road users.

From spring 2023, Croydon’s Brighton Road featured a safety bar-separated cycle lane. This stretch from Bartlett Street to Purley High Street aimed to provide cyclists with a safe route along the busy traffic corridor.

The review found evidence that the widened cycle lane improved conditions for cyclists and pedestrians. The road also saw a general reduction in speed during the 12-hour period from 7am to 7pm.

But these benefits have been overshadowed by news that road safety audits have found this segregation to be dangerous for road users. Although the scheme is to become permanent, the Tory-led Council agreed that the safety rods must first be removed.

At last week’s Croydon Cabinet meeting, councilors heard how fallen poles have become a tripping hazard for cyclists and prevented cars from having safe spaces to stop on the road.

The wands had also been blamed for causing a number of injuries along the road and a total of 458 objections were received during the public consultation period.

Councilors also heard how all three emergency services revealed it had become difficult to carry out blue light responses on that stretch of road. There were also reports that some Brighton Road residents were unable to receive deliveries due to road segregation.

The consultation found that the wands made it difficult to sweep roads, leading to a dangerous build-up of leaves and debris on cycle paths.

Councilor Scott Roche, Cabinet Member for Streets and Environment, told the chamber how this build-up had led to blocked culverts and localized flooding along the road.

Nick Hibberd, corporate director of the Sustainable Communities Council, confirmed the scheme would become permanent ahead of schedule. This experimentation period was supposed to last until October 2024.

He added: “The light grading will be replaced by road markings alongside the mandatory and advisory parts of the lane. We will also install buffers in some areas in the form of hatch markings at least half a meter wide to separate motorized traffic from cyclists.

“This is intended to reduce speed profiles, particularly along the southern section of the cycleway to improve safety for all road users.”

The Brighton Road scheme, estimated to cost around £500,000, has faced much controversy since it was first mooted in 2021. The scheme has become a political lightning rod throughout the consultation period, with all parties weighing in on the issue .

During his successful campaign to become Croydon’s first Executive Mayor, Jason Perry published an e-petition calling on the Council to ‘Stop the Brighton Road Traffic Chaos’.

He criticized the Labor council’s plans at the time to segregate cycle lanes and said: “Labour candidates believe these measures are ‘extremely welcome’ but we are calling on the Labor council to drop these plans.”

During the meeting, Mr Perry confirmed his commitment to the scheme but insisted changes needed to be made to ensure “the safety of all road users”.

It has also been confirmed that TfL funding is likely to cover the costs of making the changes, estimated at around £45,000.

Given the prevalence of concern about Croydon’s financial situation, Hibberd was keen to point out that there would be a “low risk” of TfL recovering funds due to them making the scheme permanent.

He added that TfL had also confirmed the Council’s offer of £100,000 to further improve the scheme.

Labor opposition leader Stuart King has pushed for the mayor’s decision to act before the end of the trial period in October. He accused Perry of delivering “a political agenda at the expense of a road safety agenda”.

He went on to say: “Doesn’t refusing to take the time that is clearly available to engage properly with TfL unnecessarily increase the risk of recovery?

“Furthermore, are you aware, as a decision maker, that the financial risk could be higher? When Tower Hamlets dropped its active travel measures, TfL suspended its bid funding.”

Mr Perry hit back, saying: “Comparing what we do to Tower Hamlets is at least stretching the point. Tower Hamlets has removed many schemes without any justification.”

“It is not a rushed decision, there are ongoing conversations with TfL and the report is very open about the risks. This is a decision based on data and ensuring that this is a safe scheme for all road users.”

Despite this, public concerns about the safety of the scheme remain. In particular, cycling groups believe the decision to scale back the scheme and act prematurely will further endanger road users.

Croydon Cycling Campaign has been particularly vocal about the scheme throughout the consultation process.

The group’s co-ordinator, Angus Hewlett, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Safe road design – particularly on the borough’s busy 30km/h ‘A’ roads – is a matter of life and death and not must be addressed hastily or without due process and the involvement of expert stakeholders such as Transport for London.

“It is clear to us that the mayor is misusing executive powers in a hasty fashion to appease his political base. This is a decision that can cost life and limb.

“We call on the Mayor and his officers to cease any further action while TfL can be consulted and further funding is sought to remedy the apparent design flaws of the Brighton Road scheme, to build a future-proof scheme that meets the borough’s commitments in climate matter and provide comfort and safety for all road users.”

In a statement, Mr Perry said: “Thank you to everyone who shared their views in the public consultation on the Brighton Road cycle lane. We have listened and are now proposing changes that will address the concerns raised by residents, local businesses, partners and our own technical assessment.

“While we are removing the bars and guards, we are confident that these changes will benefit cyclists using the widened lanes, as well as supporting local businesses and helping to reduce congestion.”

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