Liverpool’s “experimental” cycle routes have had a varied impact on improving attitudes towards cycling in the city, according to the region’s cycling and walking commissioner, Simon O’Brien.
Speaking at the City Region’s Active Travel Summit earlier this week, when asked by ECHO whether the temporary nature of the schemes served to widen the gap between drivers and cyclists, Mr O’ Brien said there was evidence they were having a positive impact on certain areas.
He told ECHO: “Some worked and some didn’t. They were very experimental. But some have worked very well. For others, road engineers have certainly learned a lot more than anything else.
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This follows a report from Liverpool City Council in March which said the city’s pop-up cycle lanes had become a ‘maintenance nightmare’. The temporary routes were installed through the city in the summer of 2020 with the aim of encouraging further active travel .
The schemes were funded by the Liverpool City Combined Authority and the Department for Transport and were intended to support the process of easing travel restrictions in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Seven schemes across the city have been set out with the first round of funding earmarked for pop-up cycleways on West Derby Road, Sefton Park and Commercial/Vauxhall Road.
In January, the city council received an additional £1.9million to go to three other routes, but the council has now said it is taking a different approach to those installed in the summer of 2020. Rather than include bolt-on cylinders that have been painted with additional signage, the cost of the maintenance of temporary channels forced a reflection.
Instead, the council said it would now seek to “fill the gaps” between existing infrastructure and projects. This is partly because the funding pot was not enough to provide three more full routes.
As part of the initial scheme, an issue arose on West Derby Road, where the implementation of the temporary lane proved controversial among drivers and cyclists. A consultation on a new design was carried out after the dismantling of the system last year.
Asked whether all future active travel infrastructure should always be permanent and carried out to the highest standards or not at all, Mr. O’Brien replied: “We have to get it right.
“No more just putting on a painted line and then making it disappear when we go to a junction. If the infrastructure isn’t done right, we won’t get the money to do it.
Chris Boardman, a Wirral-born Olympian and now director of Active Travel England, also spoke at the region’s active travel summit. Asked by ECHO if he thought the temporary lanes had a negative impact on the campaign to get more people out of cars and bikes, he said temporary infrastructure could lead to lasting change.
He added: ” I’m a fan of trials like it helps with the fear of change. It’s about saying, let’s try it and if you don’t like it, we can take it down in a year.
“The key is that he has to be somewhere where he’s going to make a difference. Change is a real challenge, it always is.