Local mum and cyclist Dani Ahrens thinks Brighton has more work to do to guarantee a reliable and safe network of bike paths in the city. She tells us why she would like you to sign a petition to review the Elm Grove and Lewes Road junction.
“I’ve always used a bike to get around, since I did my cycling proficiency test aged 11. It’s cheap, fast, healthy and non-polluting – pretty much perfect for urban transportation. Since I live in Central Brighton, I’ve never needed a car and we raised our two kids to travel confidently on public transport, on foot and by bike.
But becoming a parent transformed the experience of cycling for me. Suddenly, my youthful bravery seemed like recklessness when I contemplated transporting my precious little people on two wheels. When they learned to ride themselves, each practice session in Preston Park involved a tedious walk, pushing our bikes there and back, because there was no safe route for them to use. As they got older and we went out cycling together on the roads, my heart was in my mouth the whole time.
I started to think more about how the level of traffic restricts our kids’ freedom in so many ways. Something as simple and liberating as going for a bike ride surely shouldn’t have to be a major expedition, involving protective headgear, special clothes and the anxious attention of an adult at all times.
It doesn’t have to be like this, though. A couple of years ago, I spent a few days in the Netherlands, where the average age for children to start travelling independently to school is eight and a half. Over 90% of Dutch secondary school children cycle to school. Imagine how much easier it is for those kids – and their parents – to organise everyone getting to school, work and after-school activities!
My daughter is a student in London now, and she keeps her cost down by travelling around by bike. I’m grateful to the London Cycling Campaign and others who have pushed the debate around safe space for cycling so far over the last few years, that there are now some really excellent, safe, protected cycling routes in the heart of London. I cycled along Victoria Embankment recently and it was lovely – I sailed past about 11 nasty road junctions without even noticing them, because I was on the other side of the road on the new East-West Cycle Superhighway.
What a contrast with Brighton, where (a couple of pockets of excellence aside), our cycling network is fragmented, with many narrow painted lanes on roads or pavements, disappearing altogether at junctions, where people on bikes are in the most danger. On July 9th, a student was knocked off his bike and seriously injured at the bottom of Elm Grove, a junction where there have been five serious accidents in the last five years. The council has passed a motion in support of the Space for Cycling campaign, but those words need to be turned into action if they are to make any difference.
I’ve started a petition to have that junction reviewed, with the aim of making it safer and more convenient for people on bikes and on foot. It’s a small start, but I think something needs to be done before someone is killed at that spot. The petition is live on the council’s official e-petition site at http://bit.ly/ElmGroveSafer until 29th September, and will be presented to the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee on 11th October. You can also sign it on paper in several of the local shops near the Elm Grove junction.”
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