This is the article we submitted for the November edition of the Hayling Islander. The published article was subject to editing by the Islander.
You may have seen the road works in Langstone alongside the main road. Havant and Hampshire councils are building a shared path to allow cyclists to ride safely between the Billy Trail at Mill Lane and the Langbrook Restaurant. The next phase will link all the way to Tesco and beyond.
And you’ll soon see the councils starting a weather-proof route across Hayling’s Legion Field to Mengham Junior School. No more muddy boots!
They’re both good progress, but I want to talk about one of Hayling’s biggest projects ever. The Hayling Billy railway was a major transport link onto Hayling for almost 100 years. Then it degenerated into pretty well a ploughed field, all but impassable in winter, even by walkers.
In 1984, the Havant and District Safe Cycling Campaign was formed, and asked the nascent Sustrans (the SUSTainable TRANSport charity) to design a continuous cycle route along it, all the way from Havant to the sea front at Hayling.
It was an impossibly ambitious, massive and controversial project at the time. It took years of hard work to complete. But the result was the fabulous Hayling Billy Trail – and where would we be without it? As the main road gets busier and busier, the Billy Trail is our only non-road link to Havant, and one of Hayling’s major leisure attractions.
It’s not perfect though. It’s at serious risk of being swept into the sea, and the cycling surface has deteriorated so badly since it was laid that it’s pretty well impassable for people who need to get to work, or to the shops, all year-round, in any weather, without getting filthy.
But more important, it only goes to the west end of the island. That’s not where most of our 17,500 people live. Or where the schools are, or the doctors, or the shops. For anyone to the east side of the island, it’s a huge detour. Cyclists don’t do detours.
The sad reality is that most of the south of the island is still cut off from the north, and from the bridge. Riding a bike from the Mill Rythe School roundabout to the bridge is a nightmare.
Only the bravest cyclists are happy to cycle down the main road, through the ‘S’ bends, or on West Lane. And motorists don’t want them on the road either.
So Cycle Hayling says it’s time for another Hayling Billy Trail moment. Time for Hayling to take the next ambitious leap:
Haylink: The Hayling North-South Cycle Link. A safe, child-friendly, all-weather cycle route from the Mill Rythe School roundabout to the bridge, without big detours, and avoiding the busy main road.
Imagine what a difference that would make! Two miles of safe, pleasant, flat cycling to the bridge – a single, joined-up route connecting south Hayling to the bridge and on to the easy, safe Langstone section of the Billy Trail into Havant. Just like they have all over Holland, Denmark, Germany and France.
Any islander, even children, could easily cycle to Havant. Workers, shoppers, train commuters, our kids to Havant College, or just for leisure. Even children. All getting healthy exercise and eliminating the traffic and pollution of cars. And with the Billy Trail, it would make a perfect leisure loop around the island, for anyone, of any cycling ability.
Hayling needs Haylink – but how can we get it? It’s catch-22. It’s unlikely we’d get all the money in one go, so we need a design that we can execute in stages, as money becomes available. And we can’t create a good route and a detailed design without investing some money.
So Cycle Hayling has applied for CIL funding for a professional Feasibility Study to design one, like the Sustrans design that led to the original Billy Trail. (CIL is the Community Infrastructure Levy, paid by new house builds). The bid includes surveying the public to find out what they would like, and what would persuade them to use it.
It might not be a short term project, but the sooner we start, the sooner we’ll finish. And a professional Feasibility Study is the right start. We haven’t specified a route – that’s for the professionals to help us with.
Councillors start voting on which CIL projects to support over the next few weeks. A North-South Cycle Link would make a massive and long term difference to Hayling, to traffic, pollution, and to our health.
Hayling needs Haylink – please lobby your councillors to support it!