It is very generous of Network Rail and West Sussex County Council to club together to give our youngsters an elaborate, £2m skateboard ramp; complete with skills-testing twists, turns and landings. It should challenge the Avenue de Chartres car park as an early-evening venue.
However, on the site that they are suggesting, over the Fishbourne railway crossing, it would cut right across what is perhaps the most useful cycle route in and out of the city.
Should the necessary route closure go ahead, I’m afraid that the Fishbourne Palace café, Barreg Cycles, the Crown and Anchor at Dell Quay, and Mariners of Bosham will see rather less of my family’s money. Tesco will either lose all my custom or else will see me adding to the congestion on the roads, as I arrive by car instead of doing my shopping by bike and trailer.
And cycling my son to football with the excellent Fishbourne Romans on a Saturday morning would not be such an attractive prospect either.
Perhaps I’m a delicate sort, alone in finding this giant skateboarding facility masquerading as a bridge quite so off-putting. Off-putting, that is, both psychologically as it cages you in, and because of the detour off-route and the decided step-up in physical effort that it demands of both cyclists and pedestrians.
There again, perhaps I’m not alone and we need to take seriously the unintended consequences of many like me being put off this route: the increased car use and the quiet throttling of social and economic links.
This is not to downplay the valid railway safety concerns presented by the present level crossing, but if CDC grants planning permission for this specific design of bridge-cum-skate ramp, it will be because it is judged to be “good enough” for the rest of us by councillors who don’t have to use it as a regular route.
In reality the bridge design falls short of even ‘good enough’. In the words of one Fishbourne councillor recently, it is a ‘monster bridge’.
It is actually rather ingenious, but it is still unnecessarily large (except where it matters, i.e. the width of the walkway) and unnecessarily challenging for cyclists and pedestrians alike. And, bizarrely, it requires a lengthy detour off route up a narrow stretch of Centurion Way just to get onto it.
Try going ‘against the stream’ there as the whole of Bishop Luffa comes towards you the other way at school leaving time!
Before Network Rail and WSCC casually spend one million pounds each on this “solution”, I’d say that the designers could and should go back to the drawing board and do better than that.