Last week Highways England announced that the villages between Emsworth in Hampshire and Chichester in West Sussex will be connected for all road users properly for the first time. This is because cyclists in West Sussex will soon benefit from a “new 7-mile route linking Chichester to Emsworth travelling along the A259 corridor.”(1)
The Chichester Observer reported that the route will link into the existing Centurion Way cycle path and also other local routes on the Selsey peninsula with Chichester. The design process is taking place this year with construction planned to start in January 2021.
There is cause for celebration along the Solent coastline as this Spring there were two organised rides by the group ChEmroute who have been actively campaigning for a safer cycle route from Emsworth to Chichester. A large group of locals have gathered at both events to rally the authorities to lead the implementation of this important transport connection. ChEmroute called for their local government representatives to allocate funding to build a really safe option for cyclists whilst offering residents and visitors an environmentally way to travel along the south coast. (2)
The existing A259 road was the old main road from Portsmouth to Chichester before the A27 motorway was built in the late 1980’s. The A259 (old) Main Road has bicycle lanes painted on the road that appear and then disappear all along the A259 which can be hazardous for all types of traffic and ChEmroute describes the pathway as “having gaps” and “needlessly meandering”. Currently cars and vans often park up to deliver to properties on each side of the road, which then causes frequent overtaking for all types of traffic.
Walking, running and cycling have become daily activities for more families and people of all ages than ever, during the lockdown in the UK to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In the last five years Highways England has spent “£85 million on 160 new and upgraded cycleways” nationwide. (1)
ChEmroute’s insistence on redesigning this busy thoroughfare is vital to prevent any further cyclist injuries and loss of life caused by accidents with motor vehicles. Just before Christmas a much loved mother and community member called Gina who worked at the Co-Op in Bosham was tragically knocked off her bike in Fishbourne at the junction with Salthill Road.
West Sussex County council have also applied for £784,000 in funding for an additional 21km of temporary cycle lanes with projects in Adur, Arun, central Chichester, Crawley, Horsham, Mid Sussex and Worthing as part of the central government ‘Safe space’ cycling scheme. (3)
In their latest report to coincide with National Bike Week, Highways England declared that they have now invested £675,000 into Dorset Council’s latest project to create improved cycle and footpaths plus also upgrading the crossings on both the A35 and Sea Road South.
Transport Secretary Grant Schapps is leading a “£250 million emergency active travel fund” which is the initial part of the £2 billion investment package that in turn is the first chunk of the £5 billion promise that Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his cabinet have promised to spend on better bus services and bike routes. (4)
As one biker put it on facebook “the devil will literally be in the detail” when evaluating safety during the detailed design process. (5) Chichester Cycle Forum has asked Highways England for Chichester and the District Cycle Forum to be involved in developing the scheme. Great Britain has a long way to go to rival countries on the continent like Holland or Denmark for becoming a really cycle friendly place to live and work.
It is great news for all adults and future generations that the long overdue financial budgets are now available to create more dedicated cycleways. It will take a lot of hard work, cooperation and dedication to complete these projects successfully. One of the silver linings of this very difficult year could be that the south coast and many other areas of England become safer and greener neighbourhoods. New bike and walking routes will allow everyone to both economically and conveniently commute and also enjoy some active leisure time.
Public transport and biking are the environmentally friendly way to travel in the future. Many thousands more people will opt to cycle in Hampshire and West Sussex if there are dedicated cycleways for them to choose, so we look forward to the completion of this project as soon as possible.
(1) ‘Highways England pumps £85 million into getting people back on bikes’ Gov.uk, 9 June 2020 ‘Highways England pumps £85 million_back on bikes’ Gov.uk
(2) ‘ChEmroute Vision, 28 June 2020, ChEmroute Vision
(3) ‘Safe space’ cycling scheme planned for West Sussex, Spirit FM, 18 June 2020 ‘Safe space cycling scheme’ Spirit FM
(4) ‘£2 billion package to create new era for cycling and walking’, 18 June 2020 ‘£2 billion package – for cycling and walking’ Gov.uk
(5) Chichester Cycle Forum facebook page, 18 June 2020 Chichester Cycle Forum facebook page
(6) ‘New cycle route to link Chichester and Emsworth’ Joe Stack Chicheser Observer, 12 June 2020 ‘New cycle route Chichester to Emsworth, Joe Stack, Chichester Observer
(7) ‘Cycling group meet to continue its campaign for a safe route for A259’, 28 February 2020, ‘Cycling group meet to campaign for safe route A259’ Chichester Post