We are fortunate in Southampton in having two MPs who support cycling: Alan Whitehead, who spearheaded a campaign to improve facilities for bicycles on trains, and John Denham, who campaigned for cycling facilities on one of the city’s busiest roads and organised, with Southampton Cycling Campaign, a protest ride along it.
The leader of the [Labour] council is pro cycling and would like to see an increase in the percentage of journeys made by cycle, but he has been in the post for a very short time.
Though some councillors are also keen there is often a gap between perception and reality. I received a letter from a councillor saying: “Whenever we do major road works we try to include facilities for cyclists”. During major road works at a notoriously dangerous junction, a freedom of information application was made [to the Highways Department]. The answer was one line: “We did not discuss facilities for cyclists.”
Unfortunately many councillors regard spending on cycling as something that benefits cyclists rather than all city residents via improved air quality, reduced congestion, reduced health costs etc; cycling is not yet seen as essential for a sustainable thriving city.
The real obstacle to improvements within the city would seem to lie with the Highways Department (now Balfour Beattie). They appear to be dominated by old-school highways engineers who see their raison d’etre as improving the flow of traffic and increasing highway capacity, with facilities for cyclists incorporated only when this will not inconvenience motorists.
However, this is beginning to change. The Eastern Corridor route has been planned with the input of local cyclists and we look forward to more constructive engagement with the Highways Department in the future.
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This article was first published in the October 31 issue of Cycling Weekly. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!