Mayor urged to intervene over ‘misuse’ of Peterborough cycling funds
Funding for new cycling infrastructure in Peterborough is being “misused,” an influential local group has claimed.
In a letter sent to the county’s metro mayor and the Government, Peterborough Cycle Forum has hit out at the city council for ignoring the recommendation of its own working group to use new funding to continue providing a dedicated lane at Crescent Bridge.
Instead, the council has decided to spend money from the Department for Transport to create a fully kerb-segregated cycle lane connecting Longthorpe to the Thorpe Wood Business Park and South Bretton.
The cycle forum claimed the new lane will be part of an upgrade of the A1260/A47 Soke Parkway junction which is being funded by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority - led by Mayor Nik Johnson - although this has been disputed by the council.
For now, the pop-up lane in Crescent Bridge has been removed, with the cycle forum claiming that the council is instead considering a new foot and cycle bridge to sit alongside Crescent, which it believes would cost at least £10 million and take many years to deliver.
Council leader Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald said the pop-up lane was not being utilised and was leading to a rise in traffic.
The DfT’s Emergency Active Travel Fund was set up during the coronavirus pandemic to encourage walking and cycling as part of social distancing measures.
Money was handed over to the combined authority which then channelled some of it towards the city council.
In its letter to Mayor Johnson, the cycle forum criticised the Conservative Cabinet’s decision on how to allocate its next set of £470,000 funding, writing: “We feel this decision is a misuse of the DfT’s funding and as such has very serious implications for the combined authority, especially with regards to accessing future funding for walking and cycling, and road schemes.
“Therefore, we urge you to call the decision in and allow your Transport and Infrastructure Committee to scrutinise the decision.”
The Nene Parkway works include creating a third lane northbound between Junction 33 (Longthorpe Parkway) and Junction 15 (Thorpe Wood/Soke Parkway), as well as an additional lane towards the Bretton Way exit on the roundabout and the replacement of a pedestrian bridge over the A1260.
In addition, the plans include a new pedestrian crossing over Thorpe Wood to the existing bus stops, reconstruction of the footpath between Thorpe Road Bridge and Longthorpe (possibly designating it as shared use for cycling) and enhanced cycling facilities along Thorpe Road.
In its letter to Mayor Johnson, the cycle forum said Crescent Bridge is “an important, strategic corridor” and that spending £470,000 on improving the pop-up lane would “ensure pedestrians, cyclists, wheelchair users and motor vehicles are all safe, and separated”.
It added: “We have significant concerns that the DfT will not allow Peterborough City Council to use their Tranche 2 of the Active Travel Fund on the Junction 15 (A1260
Nene Parkway/A47 Soke Parkway) scheme.”
This is because: “It is already a multi-million pound road scheme, being built to create more capacity for motor vehicles.”
It added: “Walking and cycling infrastructure should have been considered throughout scheme development and funded appropriately. There should not be a need to use Tranche 2 of the Active Travel Fund funding to bring the scheme up to standard.”
The cycle forum also accused the council of not carrying out a public consultation on its plans.
The local authority said only the road improvement element at the A1260/A47 is being funded by the combined authority.
Cllr Fitzgerald said: “With the national coronavirus restrictions coming to an end it is important that we continue to support the local economy and keep our city moving freely to aid its recovery.
“The Crescent Bridge temporary cycleway scheme was installed under the Government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund and has been kept it in place for a number of months whilst we have been monitoring its usage.
“On average, there have been only 60 cyclists per day (122 trips). The funding has come to an end for the temporary measures and, as a result of the low number of cyclists using it and the continued build-up of traffic, subsequently the cycle lane has been uninstalled.
“The council is continuing to develop plans to open up the western side of the rail station to passengers. This is another exciting development in the city centre which will contribute to less traffic over Crescent Bridge to access the rail station.
“This project will allow us to revisit the Crescent Bridge cycleway option; whether that means a lane reduction, or a new cycle bridge, these considerations will be investigated as the project develops.”
In May, on average 151 trips were made on the lane every day.
The first tranche of government funding for active transport of around £175,000 was spent by the council on measures including pop-up cycling lanes in Crescent Bridge, Priestgate, New Road, City Road and a small section of Lower Broadway, although all have now been removed.
The council’s Cycling and Walking Member Working Group was approved by the council last September.
Two of its three recommendations - that funding for school street closures should continue and the working group be made permanent - were adopted by the Cabinet earlier this month, although its backing to continue the Crescent Bridge scheme was rejected.
A spokesperson for the combined authority said: “The combined authority has passed the funding to Peterborough City Council and it is for them to take appropriate scheme investment decisions within the criteria of the funding award. We are assured that these decisions are within the funding agreement terms.
“Equally, it is for Peterborough City Council to receive and respond to any challenges of this nature within their own processes.”