Cyclists ‘pleased’ that work on Farlington Marshes cycle path diversion is halted following safety fears as councillor hopes for ‘a fair solution’
CYCLISTS across Portsmouth have welcomed news that work on a Farlington Marshes cycle path diversion has been halted.
Residents and community groups have been concerned about a planned month-long closure of the pedestrian and cycle path adjacent to the A27.
Portsmouth City Council challenged Kier Group construction company about its plans for a significant diversion around Highways England’s repair works to the wall at Farlington Marshes.
Concerns have been voiced about the safety of people cycling along the diversion and the length of the route on busy roads, and the council says that the diversion route would put cyclists at unnecessary risk.
Planned works have now been postponed for at least three weeks while a review of the safety of the alternate cycle route is carried out.
Contractors have agreed to give two weeks notice before any work commences and to put up adequate signage to warn of works taking place.
Councillors Graham Heaney and Charlotte Gerada wrote to the council leadership asking what can be done to address the issues raised, and also lobbied Highways England and the Environment Agency directly.
Cllr Graham Heaney, Labour spokesperson for traffic and transportation, said: ‘I have still to receive a clear answer as to why it is necessary to close the whole cycleway for a month but it appears to be about the scale of the work being undertaken.
‘The Environment Agency are undertaking their work on Farlington Marshes but they have told me they do not need to close the whole path round the reserve to do this and as no work will take place at weekends people can still use paths on the reserve.
‘I have asked to be kept informed about the progress on all this and will continue to press for any disruption to those who use this important active travel route to be minimised.’
Cllr Charlotte Gerada, Labour spokesperson for change and the green recovery, said: ‘We are very pleased to see further consideration being made about the closure of this key cycling route.
‘It’s vitally important both in response to the global pandemic and the climate emergency that the council does all it can to encourage forms of active travel.
‘We hope that a fair solution will be found to ensure a major cycle and walking path isn't cut off to our city over summer.’
Joy Forrow, chair of Cycle Hayling, said: ‘We in Cycle Hayling are pleased that the work has been halted and hope this will result in a better solution.
‘This is a very important route for cyclists and the proposed diversion was along busy roads with dangerous junctions and puts all cyclists including commuters, families and leisure cyclists at risk.
‘The company should look at other options including using the hard shoulder of the A27 protected by suitable barriers.’
Joy is also a ranger for Sustrans, who are custodians of the National Cycle Network.
She added: ‘As a Sustrans ranger I was very concerned about the proposed diversion route. Sustrans is working to get all routes away from traffic as is described in the 2018 Paths for Everyone report. This diversion would be totally against that aim.’
Ian Saunders, chair of Portsmouth Cycle Forum, said: ‘We are pleased that the works have been delayed at this point.
‘There was little in the way of clearly readable on-site signage to warn of the closure that would catch the attention of cyclists moving at speed.
‘Last weekend less than 10 per cent of those people using the route that we asked were aware it was about to close for a month.
‘One of our committee members road the proposed route and highlighted a number of problems for people who are walking and cycling, given it was swapping a traffic free path for a standard road, which would be unsuitable for many cyclists who would have happily used the existing path as a leisure or commuting route during the summer months.
‘A proper risk assessment is required in order to identify any mitigation necessary to ensure cyclists of all abilities are kept safe during the remedial works along the coastline.’
Tim Pickering, a member of Cycle Hampshire, said: ‘I'm glad to see that the safety of those who may normally walk and cycle between Havant and Portsmouth, on this essential traffic free route, from kids walking or cycling to college, people going to work, who may have no other way of getting there, or those who've taken up cycling as a form of exercise during lock-down and were enabled in this direct route, is being taken seriously.
‘The proposed official diversion via Drayton, like a possible alternative to southern Portsmouth via the Hayling Billy Line and Hayling Ferry are both long detours, and require cycling on segments of road where the behaviours of some drivers can be really unsafe, as can be seen in the police's official collision statistics for these routes.’