The long-awaited cycle path through Alexandra Park could be completed and open for next summer.
First muted back in 2014 when Hastings Borough Council, along with East Sussex County Council, launched a walking and cycling strategy, plans to actually build the cycle path have been slow to come to fruition.
An East Sussex County Council spokesman told Hastings In Focus: “A design scheme for the cycle route was presented at a meeting of the lead member for transport and environment in March 2017 with a view to constructing the scheme during 2017-18.
“However, at the meeting, concerns were raised about potential conflict between cyclists and pedestrians in busy areas of the park – particularly around the cafe and bandstand – and officers were asked to investigate an alternative route running along St Helens Road.
“A study into this option found it was not feasible as it would require significant widening of the pavement resulting in the loss of a considerable number of parking spaces.
“At his meeting in June this year, the lead member approved an alternative route which still runs through the lower section of the park but avoids the area around the cafe and bandstand.
“We are now working on detailed designs for this scheme and hope to be in a position to construct the new cycle route in spring or early summer next year.”
The idea of putting the cycle path down the side of St Helens Road was deemed a non-started because there simply wasn’t enough space and creating that space would have required the loss of 20 tress and up to 36 ‘heavily-used’ on-street parking spaces. Council officials identified that two bus stops along the southern footway on St Helens Road would increase the potential conflict between passengers, cyclists and pedestrians.
In the 2014 strategy document the councils explained why they were developing a culture of walking and cycling and the new document was part of the county council’s local transport plan running through until 2026.
“Walking and cycling has the opportunity to make a significant contribution to supporting the local economy in Hastings alongside the larger infrastructure projects that are being developed, by tackling congestion on the local road network and unlocking development sites by supporting access by active travel,” the strategy document said.
It supported the plans to encourage cycling in general and to develop the Alexandra Park cycle way in particular by pointing out that attitudes to walking and cycling among the public were generally positive and it had found that more people would like to, “engage in more active travel, but there are a number of factors that often inhibit this.”
People, the document said, were concerned about it whether it was safe to walk or cycle and found difficulty fitting walking and cycling into their lives.
“The health and wellbeing of the local community will also be significantly improved, if active travel becomes part of people’s everyday lives, for travelling to work and school, going to the shops or for leisure purposes. The creation of safer routes for walking and cycling and other measures to reduce the risk of accidents is an important aim,” the document said.
But early in the process county councillor Godfrey Daniel, whose ward includes part of the park, raised his concerns about mixing cycling and walking. He was particularly concerned that the initial route would have taken cyclists down the western side of the park where the paths and narrower and more undulating and it was Mr Daniel who asked council officials to take another look and suggested that it might be possible to put the cycle path on St Helens Road where it borders the park, “No one uses the pavement down that side of St Helens Road, they are either walking though the park or walking down the pavement on the same side as the houses<‘ he says.
While Mr Daniel has accepted that the idea of running the cycle pat down St Helens Road is not possible he cautiously accepts the compromise route through the park which avoids the area around the cafe but he remains concerned that encouraging cycling through Alexandra Park will present safety issues for both cyclists and pedestrians.
A spokesman for Hastings Borough Council says of the cycle path: “…it is mainly an ESCC project. Any proposals will involve planners, landscape architects and Heritage England. The idea is to introduce a design which complements the park, integrated into the existing natural environment, rather than through ‘hard’ engineering measures.