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Greens Challenge Council on Cycling Infrastructure

Stephen Jordan is one of the Green Party candidates for Westborough.

This evening, our branch coordinator James Vessey-Miller attended the meeting of Southend City Council.

Asking the council two written questions, James challenged the council over its dire track record on supporting cycling in Southend-on-Sea. 

He said;

The results of a survey conducted by the Green Party in Southend in 2021 found that only 10% of respondents thought that the council sufficiently priorities cycling. 

86% of respondents felt that bike theft is an issue of concern in Southend, and that the Police and Council are not doing enough to tackle bike theft across the town. 63% of people we asked said that they would not feel comfortable locking up their bicycle in town or at train stations, and said they would be concerned that their bike would not be safe if left unattended. A further 19% of people said they had previously been a victim of bike theft in Southend.

A staggering 95.7% of respondents said the cycling infrastructure across Southend was inadequate, with 84.95% saying they would not feel comfortable with cycling with their children or younger members of their family across Southend. Only 7.5% of responders said they regularly cycle to school with their children. This demonstrates that the council are not doing enough at present to safeguard and prioritise cycling. 

The benefits of cycling are vast; mental and physical wellbeing benefits are well-documented, and the average cyclist isn’t just better on Carbon emissions, but far better on our streets in terms of public space, congestion, air pollution, and road traffic accidents. If Southend is to meet its imperative climate goals, encouraging cycling amongst residents should be very high on that agenda. 

In the Full Council meeting of 10th March, the Portfolio Holder announced that of the £741,600 Active Travel Fund, just £241,000 is to be spent on cycling infrastructure across the city, with a large proportion of that to be spent on yet another expensive and needless public consultation on an A13 ‘painted bike lane’ scheme.

Contrast that to the council’s commitment to spending £10million per annum for another 18 years on Highways investments, and the town’s cyclists are again wondering which road users the council is prioritising in its investments. Given the unprecedented urgency of the climate emergency, Cycling receiving a figure 41 times lower than that of car users would be scandalous. It continues to signal a now outdated assumption that car use should be the default transit method for every resident in Southend. This is not at all compatible with your stated climate and Active Travel goals. 

Can the Portfolio Holder outline how much of the £10million Highways Budget is ring-fenced for improvements to the city’s cycling infrastructure, and what new safe and segregated cycle routes and infrastructure are currently being implemented by the authority? 

The Cabinet Member for Transport, Asset Management, and Inward Investment, Cllr Wakefield responded by saying:

“The authority receives money from a number of sources; For active travel interventions, it has received two main funds from central government. 

The Secretary of State for Transport awarded £309k for Tranche 1 of the Active Travel Fund. This fund supported producing cycling and walking facilities. In particular, Southend Council created four pilot Schools Streets and one pilot CCTV School Keep Clear enforcement scheme. 

Tranche 2 of the same fund awarded £741.6k and will support the creation of:

  • Holistic Network Wide Cycle Audit & Master Planning of A13 Active Travel Corridor;
  • Prittlewell Brook Greenway Lighting and Connectivity Improvements;
  • A further rollout of the School Streets initiative;
  • Cycling Improvements to the public realm – secure cycle parking, electric bike charging, and repair stations. 

In addition to this, the Local Transport Plan Grant supports sustainable transport projects and has been used to co-fund the London Road works that included the installation of secure cycle parking.

You’ll notice the council gave no firm answer on anything.

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