Suffolk: Council told to improve safety measures for cyclists as number of cycling commuters plummet
Council chiefs last night faced demands to improve safety measures for cyclists after new research revealed a sharp decline in cycling commuters in Suffolk.
Robert Lindsay, prospective Green Party parliamentary candidate for South Suffolk, said figures showing a 25% fall in people cycling to work between 2001 and 2011 in Babergh should act as a “wake-up call”.
The Office for National Statistics research also found a 19% drop in cycling commuters in Waveney and Mid Suffolk over the 10-year period, while it fell by 14% in Forest Heath, 6% in Suffolk Coastal, 4% in St Edmundsbury and 3% in Ipswich.
Until cycling is made safer, these figures will continue to fall while car dependency rises, leading to further traffic congestion, pollution and road accidents, Mr Lindsay argued.
Graham Newman, Suffolk County Council’s (SCC) cabinet member for roads and transport, accepted calls to improve the safety and popularity of cycling were justified, but said he will soon be unveiling a new policy aimed at addressing these concerns.
He also said the latest research found an increase in sport and recreational cycling in Suffolk following the London 2012 Olympics and a host of elite cycling events in the county.
It comes after the authority was snubbed last year in a bid to land £2.6million of Government funding to improve its cycling infrastructure. The Department for Transport awarded Norwich £3.7m and Cambridge £4.1m when handing out £160m.
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Mr Lindsay said: “These figures should act as a wake-up call to our politicians, especially if they are concerned about our health and quality of life. SCC is in charge of our roads and after a long campaign by the Green Party it has partly lifted its ban on 20mph limits but has imposed so many restrictions – such as disallowing them on A and B roads – which most villages will still be unable to introduce safe speed limits.
“We need a proper policy to lessen car dependency, including investment in safer roads and better bus services, which would reduce obesity and improve people’s health and quality of life. SCC should set up a car dependency panel, including outside experts, to find solutions.”
Barry Denny, chairman of West Suffolk Wheelers, echoed his concerns, adding: “Our so-called cycling lanes are a complete joke. They have just painted the gutter a different colour. They are too skinny. The council needs to take cycle lanes more seriously, and not pay lip service to it.”
Mr Newman said the authority is “constantly exploring innovative ways” of improving cycling, adding: “I realise that in order to change behaviours we need to provide the infrastructure to allow this, making it easier and safer for those choosing the bike over the car.
“I agree there is a need for a policy and we are applying the finishing touches to a SCC cycling strategy which will fully link up public health, sport inclusion and green travel to create a combined force which will ultimately encourage safer, healthier and greener travel and increase participation.”