£1m St. Annes cycle lane extension ‘a waste of money because so few use the existing stretch', resident claims
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Damian Calderwood says that the planned addition to the facility – on Clifton Drive North in St. Annes – is unnecessary and has been justified by misleading data about how popular the existing stretch of shared cycleway and footpath has proven since it opened 18 months ago.
The estimated £1m plans, which are the subject of an ongoing public consultation, would see the route extended from its current southernmost point at the junction with Highbury Road West through to Todmorden Road. It would be a 270-metre lengthening of the original one-and-a-quarter-mile cycleway, which starts in the north at the Squires Gate junction.
Lancashire County Council says that the number of bike-users on the route increased by an average of 212 percent between corresponding days in August 2021 and August 2022, after the cycle lane opened. The authority says that the highest one-day cycle count was 1,084.
However, Damian says that not only has County Hall artificially inflated the numbers by choosing the bustling Blackpool Air Show weekends on which to conduct the counts, but it is also failing to compare like-with-like – because the August 2021 event was cancelled as a result of the pandemic.
“They did the 2022 count on the busiest day of the year, at the busiest points, where the crowds gather to see the Red Arrows take off and land – and then compared it against a Covid year. How stupid do they think we are?” he asked.
The county council says that by extending the cycleway to Todmorden Road it will allow riders to join up with National Cycle Route 62, which then continues down North Promenade.
However, Damian carried out his own cycle count on Todmorden Road itself – which would be made a one-way street under the plans – and, over the course of a week, found an average of just six cyclists per hour using it.
“The county council have done no counts to show how many of those people [further north] are then cycling down to join route 62 and [for whom the extension] would make it easier. And most cyclists don’t do that – they go straight on into St. Annes and beyond, so they’re not even turning down here.
“The whole thing is a huge waste of money,” Damian said, adding that he had suggested an alternative route – round the back of the North Beach Car Park to get to the prom – but that this had been dismissed as “too difficult and expensive” by highways chiefs.
He also claimed that several potential respondents to the public consultation – which ends on 23rd November – had a “conflict of interest”, because some of them would be entitled to payments for the acquisition of land that would be needed for the extension and others would benefit from broader highway upgrades that had been rolled into the same single scheme.
Responding to the issued raised by Damian, a spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said: “”The Fylde coast is a popular place for people to ride their bikes thanks to the existing routes being largely free of traffic and our proposals to extend the route on Clifton Drive North further towards St Annes aims to make it safer for people to negotiate a number of busy junctions.
“We’re grateful to people for responding to the consultation. If we receive any objections, all responses will be reflected in a report to our cabinet for a decision after the consultation closes on Thursday 23 November.”
The proposed Clifton Drive North scheme is one of several being funded across Lancashire – mainly in the east – from a £5.5m grant that the county council received earlier this year from the government agency Active Travel England. County Hall received a 29 percent greater share of the nationwide pot as a result of the strength of its bid, cabinet members were told.