Cycling UK has confirmed it will be taking legal action against West Sussex County Council’s decision to remove a “popular” cycle lane introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The charity says the removal of the cycle lane along Upper Shoreham Road in Shoreham-by-Sea is “irrational and unlawful”, and on 24 February submitted an application for the council’s decision to be judicially reviewed.
Cycling UK says at the heart of its challenge is the council’s “failure to consider the equalities impacts of its irrational decision to remove the cycle lane, ignoring the statutory guidance on the management of its highways network”.
A spokesperson for West Sussex County Council (WSCC) said: “WSCC has just been served with legal proceedings in relation to the temporary cycle scheme that was in situ on the Upper Shoreham Road during the autumn/winter 2020/21.
“We are unable to comment further at this time.”
The cycle lane on Upper Shoreham Road was funded by the Government as part of its Emergency Active Travel Fund (EATF) – designed to support local transport authorities with creating cycling and walking facilities in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Works to implement the cycle lane commenced in early September 2020 and were largely completed later that month.
However in November 2020, cllr Roger Elkins, WSCC’s cabinet member for highways and infrastructure, took the decision to remove all schemes introduced with EATF funding, including the Upper Shoreham Road cycle lane.
Work to remove the cycle lane, which was undertaken over a period of several days, took place in January 2021.
Cycling UK says following its introduction, the cycle lane “proved its popularity for parents and children attending the three nurseries, three primary and two secondary schools in close vicinity to the lane”.
It adds that such was the success, “more than 30,000 cycle trips were made during its short lifetime, and it even featured in a Government publicity video highlighting the community benefits of the new cycle lanes introduced during the pandemic”.
Cycling UK claims WSCC “did not consider the impact on young people when it decided to remove the cycle lane”, noting that under the Equality Act, age is a protected characteristic, which in this case “the council should have considered before making their decision”.
The charity also points out evidence gathered by the council shows there had been no negative impact on journey times or increase in air pollution during the period of the cycle lane’s installation.
It describes the decision by cllr Roger Elkins to remove the cycle lane as “arbitrary” and points to the findings of an FOI investigation which reveals cllr Elkins never visited the bike route.
The charity says “justification for his decision appears to have been based on a small number of complaints about increased congestion. However these complaints are not borne out by the data gathered by the council”.
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, said: “When the council introduced this cycle lane, people soon changed how they travelled locally. Children began cycling to school, pensioners felt safe to ride into town and commuters started swapping cars and public transport for their bikes. It was a complete success story.
“Cllr Elkins’ decision to remove the lane a few weeks later without considering the evidence showing the lane’s benefits is contrary to statutory guidance. It demonstrates a fundamentally flawed process, which Cycling UK would argue, is both irrational and unlawful.”