LETTER: Cyclist safety is on the rise after improvements

I AM writing in response to the letter sent to you by Paul Wreyford about improvements the county council made to the Northgate Gyratory.

This scheme is part of a package of sustainable transport improvements that have been introduced over the past three years.

This package has been largely funded by the Department for Transport’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) rather than West Sussex County

Council and has been very wide-ranging.

For example we have seen increases in levels of cycling (and scootering) to local schools as a result of our Bike It! Project and we have worked with employers to reduce levels of single occupancy car journeys, by promoting car sharing, cycling, walking and public transport.

The LSTF project also includes a new cycle route around Chichester city centre which is currently being constructed.

The new route will link with improvements made at the railway station and to Southgate Gyratory. As part of this work, we have also sought to address the number of collisions which involve cyclists at Northgate Gyratory.

While it may be possible to promote large improvements for Northgate in the future, as Mr Wreyford explains, such schemes are expensive and the timing is currently unknown. Given that there have been eight collisions that have resulted in injuries to cyclists in the three years from November 2011 to November 2014, it is clear that action needed to be taken to improve safety in the short term. 

Last week, I had the pleasure of cycling around the gyratory and to see the new interactive signs in action.

The system creates a ‘Mexican Wave’ as the cyclist travels around the gyratory, informing motorists at the next junction that you are approaching.

This does not replace the need for motorists to look and to be aware, but it does help. I was cycling at 2pm, last Wednesday, and the traffic was busy.

It was noticeable the vast majority of motorists indicated when leaving the gyratory – suggesting they were more aware of the cyclists’ presence.

In addition to the cycle detection and warning system, the cycle lane has been resurfaced to make it more conspicuous. We have repositioned sections of the cycle lane to improve visibility at key points and introduced new hatched lines that narrow the road to provide a greater safety margin for cyclists as well as reducing traffic speeds.

The new detection equipment will provide us with data on the number of cyclists that use the different sections of the gyratory and we will monitor this to see whether there is a rising trend in cycling.

As Mr Wreyford pointed out, there are studies looking at options for changing the gyratory in the medium to long term. But this does not deal with the immediate road safety issue.

And if large-scale development happens sooner then we will be able to reuse the cycle detection and warning sign system in other locations around the county.

The LSTF programme is now substantially complete and will be evaluated over the coming weeks.

John O’Brien

West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport