A CONTROVERSIAL £780,000 cycle path which is being used just once every half an hour has been labelled a “grotesque waste of public money”.

Between 7am and 7pm just 24 cyclists were recorded using the lane, in Mile End Road, Colchester, less than a third of those seen cycling in the road.

There was a four-and-a-half hour period when not a single cyclist was spotted using the path, between 10am and 2.30pm, and another blank hour between 8am and 9am.

The three quarters of a mile cycle path was installed in 2016 at a cost of about £780,000, despite objections raised by residents and Colchester Cycling Campaign.

Colchester High Steward Sir Bob Russell, who conducted the survey, described the cycle path as a “grotesque waste of public money”.

“Even the majority of cyclists are shunning it,” he said.

“My survey has shown that the cycle path is not needed, so questions have to be asked why the decision was made to construct it.

“Where was the statistical evidence to support spending such a huge sum of public money on something which was not needed?”

“Who actually agreed to this scheme? Whose idea was it? Have these experts ever gone back to see their masterpiece in operation?”

Last month, Sir Bob conducted a similar survey on the cycle lane near North Station, installed as part of Essex County Council’s Safer, Greener, Healthier scheme. He says the lane is increasing congestion by pushing buses into the lanes of traffic.

Sir Bob said: “Essex County Council is planning to spend in excess of £1 million on creating a cycle path the entire length of North Station Road from the Albert Roundabout to Middleborough with, it is feared, the loss of all the on-street parking on which local businesses rely on.

“The so-called Safer, Greener, Healthier agenda needs to be looked at again before this fad wastes even more public money which to date has added to congestion.”

Kevin Bentley, Essex County Council’s infrastructure boss, said: “I’m sure Sir Bob agrees with me that Colchester suffers from terrible traffic congestion, there is only one cause for this and that is vehicles.

“While I perfectly understand some people absolutely have to use cars, others don’t, including me, and we need to think more carefully how we travel around for the benefit of all.

“Because previous councillors have failed to act on this and allowed car growth to happen we now have terrible congestion.

“This we are seeking to change and provide better, cheaper alternatives for people to us and I really hope Sir Bob helps with this to unclog Colchester.”

An Essex Highways spokesperson added: “We thank Sir Bob for taking the time to study cycle lane use in Colchester.

“The purpose of all cycle lanes is to make Colchester a Safer, Greener, Healthier place by increasing scope for social distancing while Covid is a threat and making it easier to walk and cycle more.”

“This cycle lane will encourage more people to move out of cars and use active travel, which is better for our towns and cities as it leads to less congestion, better for the NHS as people get fitter through active travel and better for the environment as less pollution is released on their daily journey.

“More and safer, segregated cycle lanes are there to encourage, over time, more people to try cycling for shorter journeys.

"We know that many people who would like to ride their bike in town don’t do so now because they fear for their or their children’s safety mixing with motor vehicles on the road.”