I’ve been made aware of a small number of complaints being made to the Council about the pop up cycle lane on Charter Avenue. I don’t want to give these complaints any more air time and it’s really only a handful of emails, but it’s concerning because, as you may have seen elsewhere in the country, cycle lanes have been removed because of disquiet from a noisy minority. I’d like to try and turn this into a positive conversation.
Charter Avenue was funded with the government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund to build using temporary materials, as quickly as possible, to support those who normally rely on public transport and to prevent a car-based recovery during a respiratory pandemic where air pollution has been shown to increase the COVID-19 death rate.
I’d be the first person to say that it is not a flawless piece of infrastructure but it does provide protection from general motor traffic and is the start of an important network link in Coventry between the city centre and the University. It has been poorly communicated, but the plan is to soon connect this cycleway with a new dedicated cycleway on Lynchgate Road providing an important connection to the University campus and the surrounding area.
The complaints about the cycle lane are based around the assumption that it “will cause” or “already causes” congestion. There is no evidence for this and it comes from the frequent misunderstanding that removing road space will result in the same number of cars being congested within a smaller space. Whereas in fact, if you reduce capacity for cars and make other options more attractive, you can reduce motor traffic overall through traffic evaporation. We’re in winter and there is a lockdown, but the lane remains to be fairly well used. Every time I’ve used it, I’ve shared the journey with 3-4 other cyclists. Furthermore, the Council have confirmed to me there are no issues with the road network load in the area – so the congestion suggestion is unfounded.
Needless to say, if complaints gain momentum and the temporary cycle lane is removed, then plans to extend through to the University become unstuck. The Council would like to make the Charter Avenue cycleway permanent in time using a more detailed and high-quality and integrated design (with things like bus stop bypasses). If the lane goes, for any reason, we lose the chance to make it permanent. Having any cycleways removed also sets a dangerous precedent in the city that could set back future cycleway plans, just as we’re starting to get momentum.
So, I need your help. Councillors only ever really receive correspondence about complaints and I would be very appreciative if you could share your support for the Charter Avenue pop up lane so we can make sure they know the community appreciates it, and would like even more.
If you live or work in Coventry, please email Cllr Patricia Hetherton, Cabinet Member for City Services (including the Highways brief): firstname.lastname@example.org. Cllr Hetherton, compared with previous incumbents in the role, has shown real passion and commitment so far in wanting to build more cycling infrastructure and your support will help her continue to be bold.
If you also live or work in the direct vicinity of the lane, please also email your local Ward councillor. You can find them here.
It is always more powerful if the emails come in your own words, but here are some points which might be helpful:
– Coventry is starting to build new protected cycle lanes and this is welcomed. You’d love to see more and see a genuine cycle network form.
– Your (hopefully positive) experience of using the lane.
– The Charter Avenue pop up bike lane is an important link and it should be extended to the university and made permanent and future proofed.
– You have seen a huge increase in people cycling during the pandemic and the only way to lock this behaviour change in is to give people safe places to cycle.
– The lane will, in time, help the thousands of students who travel by bike in and around Warwick University – it’s unlikely these students will write to the council but are appreciative all the same.
– Friends and family tell you that to start cycling, they’d need to feel safe. We only stand a chance of reducing congestion and improving air quality if we give people choice.
Please feel free to forward this to those who are benefitting or will benefit from the pop up cycleways.
Thanks for your support.
Bicycle Mayor for Coventry, BYCS.org