The politics of cycle infrastructure

Why is building cycle paths so hard? Why does it take so long? Is it the councils? Money? Lack of will? Too much regulation?

After 9 years of Cycle Hayling, we’re finally building our own cycle path at Denhill Close (with council money), and we’re finding out the problems for ourselves.

So who is responsible for building cycle paths? Everyone, and no-one. And that’s the problem.
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Saltmarsh Lane cycle path update

The Saltmarsh Lane cycle path will link the West Lane and Saltmarsh Lane to the Billy Trail, by converting the existing footpath.

It’s the west-most leg of Havant Borough Council’s proposed East-West Cycle Route, as first published in 2017 in their Cycling Improvements Feasibility Report, and supported by Cycle Hayling. But the developer contributions from the Halyards (Goldring Close) estate were not enough to fund it.

So Cycle Hayling bid for a CIL grant to cover the council’s estimate of £16,000 for the council to complete it. And we won it!

But we had to overcome some early problems, which have taken us the last year:

  1. The council wasn’t able to take it on, as the price had only been a ballpark estimate, and turned out to be much too low.
    So we decided Cycle Hayling would hire contractors and manage it instead.
  2. We got estimates for different Hampshire County Council approved surfaces, but realised none of them would provide the smooth surfaces we need.
  3. With help from our County Councillor, and a great deal of flexibility from Hampshire Countryside Services, we’ve now found a way forward, using the same surface used on the Langstone section of the Billy Trail, known as Tar and Chip.

This will be the first Tar and Chip cycle path on Hayling, so people can see how it looks, and decide whether they want it on other cycle paths, such as the beach, the old cinder track, and perhaps even one day, a part-width of the Billy Trail itself.

But it’s not just for cyclists. It’s for pushchairs, buggies, wheelchairs, and anyone who’s not steady on their feet.

Unfortunately, the rest of the East-West cycle path will still be the old-style gravel that doesn’t please cyclists or parents or the disabled. For the moment!

We just have two more problems to overcome before we can start:

  1. Legal right of way for cycling. The existing right of way is a footpath only, and requires a legal agreement to upgrade it for cycling. Although the main landowner has always been happy to sign, we have to track down some other landholders, get them to sign legal agreements too. That will take some time.
  2. Money! The extra costs for legal fees and the improved surface mean we need more money, probably another £6,000 to £8,000. Our County Councillor has once again stepped up, and found us another £1,700, and we’re asking others to help, including Southern Water, who use part for a pumping station, and the Hayling Ride. If you have any more ideas, please shout!

We can then go back to our contractors for re-quotes, based on our upgraded specification. But anyway, we can’t do anything during the bird-nesting season, which extends to July/August.