Footpaths and cyclepaths aren’t a great mix

From: Bea Rogers, Wellington Square, Hastings

Friday, 18th June 2021, 9:29 am

You report last week that David Taylor and others are objecting to the cycle route through Alexandra Park. I agree, and I think the county council is now in no hurry to implement this because of all the problems.

It’s not a question of making the existing unlawful cycling safer. The proposal would seriously damage the nature of the park and could also lead to more accidents, some of them potentially serious.

There has ben a safety audit of the proposals which recommends removing large areas of shrubs and trees, altering the paths to make them wider, and even widening the bridges over the stream. This would really damage the appearance and atmosphere of our lovely park, and of course intimidate walkers, especially those with small children and dogs either loose or on long leads, from sharing these routes with cyclists– there would be no lanes marked to suggest separation from park users. All of this work would be very expensive, which is one reason the councils are now hesitating about this at a time of drastic economies to services.

Will the county council push this through without the recommended safety changes? If so, the courts would probably take a dim view of their liability in the event of damages claims from pedestrians.

There is a particularly dangerous part of the proposed route at the north end of the park. First of all, from the top there is a narrow enclosed path which cannot be widened, goes downhill to encourage speeding, and ends in an area of ill-defined rights of way. The official route then climbs quite steeply up then down, round blind bends, so the potential for accidents is obvious especially since it could be skateboarders and wheelie bikers taking advantage of this. It ends in a car park where speeding bikes could easily collide with moving cars.

In practice, many cyclists would avoid that bit and simply cycle along the broader and flatter path which is heavily used by walkers and runners. Dogs can be off the lead in this part of the park, incidentally, and they tend not to be trained to avoid cyclists.

There is an alternative and better proposal for the park which is a safe walking route with cameras and lighting, because of the attacks on walkers which have taken place there. You can’t have a safe walking route and a cycling route, they cancel each other out.

Incidentally, the cycle route was supposed to link up with North/ South extensions into and out of the town centre, and these are not happening for basic reasons of geography (you can’t move the roads and the hills). To promote cycling in Hastings, you would have to do something to improve safety on the roads so that cyclists are not using pavements and parks. We have a right to ride on the road and we should insist on that. For children (or adults) learning to ride a bike, the park could perhaps offer a training area for safe cycling.

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