PLANS to open up Commercial Road to cyclists have sparked outcry.
The controversial proposal is part of the City Centre Masterplan, a document which if adopted will shape regeneration in Portsmouth for the next 15 years.
The council wants to allow cyclists access to Commercial Road outside core shopping hours and following a public consultation last year, which saw strong support from cycling campaigners, the move is now being considered in other parts of the city centre.
These are Arundel Street, Landport, and Edinburgh Road once a precinct is built there.
Cyclists could also use precincts that could be set up once the Northern Quarter development begins. It is part of the council’s aim to promote more sustainable forms of travel in the city.
As previously reported in The News, the council has drawn up a masterplan with developers to transform the city centre and resurrect proposals for the Northern Quarter.
Tory group transport spokesman Cllr Luke Stubbs branded the plans ‘half-baked and dangerous’; saying that cycling on pavements is the most common gripe raised at neighbourhood forums. He added that a small minority of pavement cyclists travel fast and fears legalising cycling in Commercial Road and elsewhere will only make things worse. ‘While the council should make reasonable provision for cyclists, a free-for-all in the city centre is going too far,’ Cllr Stubbs said.
‘Commercial Road is busy with shoppers and office workers; adding cyclists would lead to chaos. Older people in particular worry about being hit by bikes. Why should they have to? There are lots of bus lanes in the city centre cyclists can use to get around. That should be enough. These proposals are half-baked and dangerous.’ Under the masterplan there are plans for improved cycle storage at Portsmouth and Southsea railway station and The Hard Interchange at Portsea.
Hilary Reed, secretary for Portsmouth Cycle Forum, said: ‘Shared use of pedestrian areas is common right across Europe. It doesn’t cause a problem in any other town or city I’ve been to. The record of accidents and harm caused to pedestrians by cyclists is minute.
‘Cyclists need to have their needs treated fairly. This will be beneficial because it will tackle problems in the city like obesity.’
Councillors will consider adopting the masterplan at a full cabinet meeting at midday today.
MP SAYS MEASURE COULD BE ROLLED OUT IN OTHER CITY AREAS
PORTSMOUTH South MP Mike Hancock fears the council could consider opening up pedestrian zones to cyclists in other parts of the city.
He said: ‘In theory if this proposal is accepted in one of the most congested parts of the city then it could be put in place elsewhere. I don’t like to see pedestrians and cycling mixing at all. It’s a recipe for many accidents to take place.
‘Many people who think this is a good idea are saying it’s going to happen anyway.’
The council says no major issues have arisen from letting cyclists use High Street, Cosham, out of hours. Vince Faithfull, chairman of Southsea Association, said he would welcome the move in Palmerston Road if there was a clearly marked cycle lane. ‘Cycling in a city is a good thing, but there is a misunderstanding between pedestrians, cyclists and car users,’ he said.