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‘It certainly isn’t helping business’ - music shop owner hits out at new cycle lane

PUBLISHED: 11:30 02 October 2020 | UPDATED: 15:14 02 October 2020

John Balaam (right), owner of Balaam's Music in Risbygate Street, Bury St Edmunds, with shop manager Alex Fiddes Picture: MARIAM GHAEMI

John Balaam (right), owner of Balaam's Music in Risbygate Street, Bury St Edmunds, with shop manager Alex Fiddes Picture: MARIAM GHAEMI

MARIAM GHAEMI

A business owner has claimed a Covid recovery cycle lane “hasn’t been properly planned” after it popped up outside his shop, taking away parking and impacting on deliveries.

Businesses are disgruntled over the new Covid recovery cycle lane in Risbygate Street Picture: MARIAM GHAEMIBusinesses are disgruntled over the new Covid recovery cycle lane in Risbygate Street Picture: MARIAM GHAEMI

John Balaam, of established music shop Balaam’s Music in Risbygate Street, Bury St Edmunds, has hit out at the scheme, which has been implemented by Suffolk County Council using emergency coronavirus recovery funding from the government.

Risbygate Street, which runs off the town centre, has restaurants and shops along both sides and there used to be on-street parking along one, which has been removed to make way for the cycle lane.

MORE: Cycle-friendly road plan in Bury St Edmunds delayed after backlash

The county council said the lane, which has wands between the traffic and cycle area, is in place for a minimum six-month trial period to help ensure people can bike and walk while maintaining social distancing – particularly those students travelling to and from schools, West Suffolk College and Abbeygate Sixth Form College.

Mr Balaam said the “most infuriating thing was there was no consultation and there was no notice”, but the county council said it sent letters to residents and businesses more than two weeks in advance, as well as information in the media and targeted social media posts. Councillors were also made aware of the work taking place.

A mobility scooter using the lane Picture: MARIAM GHAEMIA mobility scooter using the lane Picture: MARIAM GHAEMI

The businessman, who claims he received no letter, said: “I turned up one morning and it was just there. It certainly isn’t improving things from a business point of view. It seems to be very rarely used. I can count them on fingers on one hand.”

MORE: Temporary cycle lanes to be introduced in key Bury St Edmunds routes

He said a side effect of the new cycle lane was vans just stopping in the middle of the road for deliveries - as the wands and cycle lane prevented them getting any closer.

“It seems an unnecessary obstruction,” he said. “We have customers who bring in big instruments sometimes, double basses for instance, and they just have to stop there in the middle of the road. It will take a certain amount of boldness to do that.”

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He added: “It just hasn’t been properly planned.”

But a spokesperson for Suffolk County Council said they are keen to hear from residents and commuters before decisions are made on any permanent changes and are already removing some of the wands after it came to their attention they were obstructing access to some of the properties.

Lavinia Ferreira, of the Risbygate Showroom antiques centre (which is separate to Lacy Scott & Knight), on the opposite side of the road to Balaam’s Music, also said she had no notice about the work, adding: “It literally happened overnight.”

While less affected than some businesses, as she has parking for deliveries, she felt a much safer scheme would have been to include the cycle lane as part of a wider pavement than on the road right next to the traffic.

Lavinia Ferreira, of the Risbygate Showroom antiques centre in Risbygate Street, said she wouldn't feel safe cycling on the lane Picture: MARIAM GHAEMILavinia Ferreira, of the Risbygate Showroom antiques centre in Risbygate Street, said she wouldn't feel safe cycling on the lane Picture: MARIAM GHAEMI

“I wouldn’t feel safe cycling on there,” she said.

Lack of cycle storage in the town was also an issue, Mr Balaam said, a point echoed by business leader Mark Cordell.

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Mr Cordell, chief executive of the town’s Business Improvement District (BID) group, said: “We welcome different ways for people to get into town and we welcome cyclists. But if you expect people to come in on their expensive bikes you expect better cycle storage facilities.”

A Suffolk County Council spokesman, said: “If any of the schemes are not working as anticipated, Suffolk County Council can change their locations, add other measures or remove schemes at short notice. This can occur at anytime during the trial period.”

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