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.

Havant Brough Council (HBC)

is the local lead player, because it has the local knowledge, the contacts, and the expertise, and has been delegated the task by Hampshire County Council (HCC).

Hampshire County Council (HCC)

retains project and financial control. Every project has to work through the HCC gateway process, which is incredibly time-consuming and expensive. Because that’s designed for big projects, HCC insists on batching smaller projects to get economies of scale, but that makes each project bigger and more cumbersome, so the inevitable delay to one project delays them all. So weeks become months, and months become years. HBC is as frustrated with this micromanagement as we are.

Highways authorities

need to approve anything near their roads. Highways England manage the trunk network, including the A27 and the Havant roundabout, and they want bikes as far away from their roads as possible.

Hampshire Highways manage the smaller roads, including Hayling’s A3023, and again, they’re flat out trying to keep traffic flowing, so bikes are low priority, and even lower in the queue for money.

Public Rights of Way

are where most of Hayling’s potential cycleways run, including our planned Denhill Close cycle path. Rights of Way are managed by HCC Countryside Services (HCS). The clue’s in the name, they promote ‘countryside’, so they insist on ‘natural’ (i.e. rough) surfaces, even when the landowner doesn’t. HCS policy is that any ‘sealed’ surfaces must be handed over to Hampshire Highways (HH), but HH is refusing to accept any new ones, on budget grounds.

At Denhill, we’ve finally convinced HCS to accept that rough surfaces don’t work for cyclists, or pushchairs, or for the disabled, and to allow tar and chip, like the Langstone Billy Trail, but it’s taken a year. That will set our standard for all new cycle paths,

The environment

is playing an ever bigger role (rightly so, with climate change, etc). That’s why the Hayling Park cycle path widening was delayed for two years, because the council tree officers wouldn’t permit hard surfaces over tree roots, and HCC don’t allow flexible surfaces. It’s finally scheduled for 2020.

And why the Northney road shore path is on permanent hold, putting people at serious risk walking on a dangerous road at night with no street lights. And even if Natural England do eventually permit it, it will only be wide enough for a footpath not a cycleway, and not high enough to stop the regular road flooding that will only increase with climate change and sea level rise. Considering the widespread environmental abuse elsewhere, it’s difficult to see that we’ve got the right balance yet.

Landowner permission

is needed for any new cycle path, of course, which is a big ask, with land so scarce and so valuable. Cycle Hayling has found some Hayling landowners to be brilliant, some less so.

It’s worse if the land has prospects for future development, as cycle paths might reduce the number of houses that could be built, and therefore the value. Planning permission gives councils some leverage to push for cycle paths, but it’s limited. If no other solution can be found, councils do have powers of compulsory purchase, but they’re almost never used.

Planning permission

is needed to create a cycle path, unless you can persuade the council that it falls under their very limited ‘permitted development’ powers. That’s what we’ve managed to do at Denhill Close.

Legal agreements

need to be signed for landowner permission, new rights of way, and for contractors to be allowed to work, which all take time and money.

Regulations around cycle paths

are set by the Department of Transport (DfT), but they were already out of date 20 years ago. Big cities like London and Manchester have rejected them, and developed their own, based on world class experience from Holland and Germany, but Havant are still obliged to follow them. For example, they force cyclists to stop at every minor entrance, instead of having the same priority as the road they’re next to.

And finally, it all comes down to money!

Cycle infrastructure is incredibly cheap beside every other form of transport, and provides a massive return on investment. But there is no transport budget to pay for it.

Just about the only funding available locally is CIL, or Community Infrastructure Levy, which is a levy on all new developments over about 10 houses. However, most of the nearly £half million from the Bellway ‘Halyards’ development will be consumed by two minor road improvements, with minimal benefit to cars or pedestrians, and none to cycling. That half million could have paid for Haylink, our proposed traffic-free cycle path from the Lidl roundabout to the bridge

This sounds like a ‘council of despair’

I find all this incredibly frustrating, as I’m sure you must do. But we can fix it.

The government needs to :
  • Backup their Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy with a mandatory percentage of the transport budget, and clear national and local responsibilities for delivering it.
  • Update and simplify the Highway Code, road traffic laws and cycle infrastructure regulations to promote cycling and make cyclists feel safer.
  • In most of Europe, cyclists have to be given minimum passing distances by law, vehicles in cycle accidents are assumed to be at fault unless they can show otherwise, and cycle paths get the same priority as cars at junctions and roundabouts.
And locally :
  • We need an ambitious plan for cycling across the whole region, and with Havant’s proposed LCWIP (Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan).
  • Hampshire needs to coordinate, not micro-manage, and let Havant get on with the job.
  • Havant must determine the cycle paths we need, and then use all its powers to build them. As a bare minimum, we need Haylink, a direct, traffic-free, all-weather route to the bridge.
  • Until the DfT updates it’s obsolete infrastructure guidance, Havant must demand to be allowed to follow the modern cycling design standards used in London and the big cities.

So I hope you can see that we’re not dealing with a single entity, “The Council”, that just blocks everything, but a complex set of fiefdoms and constraints, in permanent conflict with each other. Often, it’s a lot easier for any of them to say “No” than to get all parties to say “Yes”.

BUT! There is huge goodwill amongst councillors and council officers, in Havant and Hampshire. We need to keep lobbying them to ‘do the right thing’, and build Hayling a cycle infrastructure for the future, for active travel and for a greener planet.

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.


Cycle Hayling update – March 2019

Since 2016, we’ve been publishing a monthly Cycle Hayling column in the Hayling Islander to keep everyone up to date with what’s going on (which we now publish on our website for anyone who doesn’t get the Islander).

However, as that’s aimed at the general public, we can’t always speak as freely as we’d like, and so we haven’t kept our supporters or our web site updated as much as we should have.

So here’s a summary of what’s been going on, to save you reading the whole website (which you’ll see we’re gradually updating). A lot has happened, so you can click any heading below to see it in bite-sized chunks ….

Continue reading “Cycle Hayling update – March 2019”

Hayling Islander column February 2019

This is our Hayling Islander column for February (excluding any editing by the Islander, images may differ). 

Cycle Hayling launches our new website and ‘Smooth the Path’ campaign.

Smooth the Path

Does Hayling deserve smooth, all-weather paths that can be used safely by everyone? Not just by cyclists, but by parents walking with buggies, kids with scooters and balance bikes, wheelchairs, disabled buggies, and even people who struggle with balance? Like the ones on the mainland in Havant?

Because Hampshire County Council says we don’t.

And that’s why Cycle Hayling is launching our new 2019 website with our ‘Smooth the Path’ campaign.

Continue reading “Hayling Islander column February 2019”

Havant’s new Cycling and Walking Plan!

Havant Borough Council has announced that it will be starting work on a formal Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan shortly.

This is REALLY important because :

  • A formal plan unlocks much more future government funding
  • Implementing it becomes a formal policy of the whole council, not just the cycling team
  • It forces developers to show how their housing plans fit into OUR bigger plan
  • It forces all of us to plan for the best long term solution, rather than just for quick wins

Continue reading “Havant’s new Cycling and Walking Plan!”

Billy Trail repairs update

We’ve received the following from Steve Mountain, the project manager:

We are running a little late (we originally hoped to have had the work done by now) due to the bad weather over the past weekend. HCC has also asked us to do some additional defence work whilst we are on site.

The expectation is that the Trail should be open to the public by the early part of next week.

We’ll let you know when we hear more.

More on the Billy Trail repairs

We’ve received this from Steve Mountain, the project manager…

The Trail will be closed south of the Oysterbeds / Esso car park for up to 3 weeks to allow repairs to be undertaken to a section of the Trail damaged by storms in 2014.

P T Contractors from Southampton have been appointed to carry out the works which will see 110m of timber revetment built to protect eroding clay banks alongside the popular Trail. After the works are complete, temporary fencing which has been erected to prevent users for getting too close to the sheer drop into the Harbour can be removed. The works are funded by Hampshire County Council.

The closure is to allow heavy lorries and other plant to access the working site safely. Whilst recognising the temporary inconvenience the closure will cause, the public are asked to be patient and to respect the closure which is after all for their protection.

We understand from various sources that the work is due to start on Monday, 16 November.

Repairs on the Billy Trail

We understand that work on repairing the section of the trail that eroded away last year is due to start in early November.

This will seek to restore the trail to the state it was in before the storms. It’s not a permanent fix, however. We can expect erosion to continue until a longer-term solution can be implemented.

The work will involve some lorries on the trail and, therefore, some closures. We’ll let you know if we hear more.

Hayling Cycle Survey

Cycle Hayling is planning to run a number of cycle surveys, to gather information about cycle traffic on the island and usage of the Hayling Billy Trail.

We are seeking volunteers to take part in our initial survey, which will be purely a counting exercise, based at the south of the bridge. A later survey will involve a count and a short questionnaire and will take place on the Hayling Billy Trail.

We plan to run the initial counting survey on Sunday 17th May (8am to 8pm) and Monday 18th May (7am to 7pm). It will essentially involve working in pairs over two-hour slots.

If you can spare two hours on either or both of these days, and would enjoy counting bikes (!), please contact Sue Underwood at Please state your preferred times/days and the number of time slots you can manage. Sue will then contact you with a choice of slots before the end of April. 

If you’d like to help with the survey work but cannot make those dates, please get in touch anyway, as we hope to perform extra counts in May and the HB survey later in the year.

Hampshire County Council has run a number of surveys in the recent past:

Bridge traffic surveys in 2005 and 2011. Please see the recent post “Bridge traffic & cycling stats” with excellent summary from Wilf Forrow, at:

These surveys were based on electronically recorded data. A similar electronic count is currently in progress at the north end of the bridge, and has been running since completion of the west-side cycleway. Our count will help to verify this data but also provide more detailed information on cycle journeys once on the island.

Hayling Billy Trail survey in 2004. Implementing this detailed survey was organised by Paul Fisher (HIRA) on behalf of HCC.

The survey can be accessed here:   

With the associated appendices at:

The Hayling Billy Trail survey looked at all types of users of the trail: cyclists, walkers, dog-walkers, disabled users, joggers and horse-riders. It included a count survey and a questionnaire survey.

The results showed that the trail was “heavily used, and most popular with cyclists”. In fact 70% of users were cyclists! A telling statement from the questionnaire analysis was that “The majority of people said that they would use the path more if it provided a continuous and safe route to Havant”.