A NEW cycle lane is only being used by 18 cyclists an hour and is forcing hundreds of other vehicles into one of Colchester most congested roads, it has been claimed.

Colchester High Steward Sir Bob Russell says the installation of the cycle lane in place of the £1 million bus lane, in North Station Road, has added to traffic in the area.

During a 12 hour traffic survey Sir Bob found an average of 18 cyclists were using the lane per hour whilst over the 12 hours almost 1,100 buses, taxis and motorcycles were forced into the main flow of traffic. This is approximately 90 per hour. 

He also recorded more than 100 cyclists choosing to cycle in the road rather than using the new cycle lane, whilst 16 even cycled on the pavement.

There was a 25 minutes period where Sir Bob said no cyclists used the cycle lane.

Sir Bob said: “Essex County Council built the bus lane because it said it wanted to promote public transport, to give buses priority in travelling from north to south as part of the Park and Ride project but also to help all other public transport – including taxis – to avoid as much as possible the congestion around North Station.

“For the past 16 months the bus lane has been barred to buses and taxis, with the result that this has added to congestion rather than reduce it which was the purpose of spending the best part of £1 million on the bus lane not that many years ago.”

The cycle lane, introduced in response to the pandemic as part of Essex Highways’ Safer, Greener, Healthier scheme, is set to be made permanent.

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Sir Bob added: “Cyclists have always shared the bus lanes in Colchester.

“I think it would be better if Essex Highways reverted to what had proved to be a successful arrangement north-to-south, from the railway bridge to the Essex Hall roundabout, prior to the pandemic and once again allow buses to use the bus lane which was built for this very purpose.”

The survey was conducted over 12 hours between 7am and 7pm across weekdays and a Saturday.

An Essex Highways spokesman thanked Sir Bob for his efforts and said his survey showed cyclist numbers had risen since the lane was installed.

He added: "We thank Sir Bob for taking the time to study cycle lane use in Colchester, we are pleased cyclist numbers have already grown to the levels he reports and a significant per cent of these cyclists feel confident enough to use the carriageway in addition to those using the cycleway.

"The purpose of all cycle lanes is to make Colchester a safer, greener and healthier place by increasing scope for social distancing while Covid-19 is a threat and making it more attractive to walk and cycle more in future as congestion due to motor vehicles is increasing.

“We have worked with public transport companies and Colchester councillors on these measures.

"Essex County Council views the entirety of the transport package in Colchester to be about providing choice so that sustainable travel is often a better option than the car.

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

“Currently there are proposals in our Active Travel public consultation which will create an even more joined-up network, resulting in more use of town cycle lanes.

“As this is a phased approach to changing the offer for resident’s transport choices, it will be some time before people do change.

"Current cycle lane volumes are not indicative of what the demand will be in five years’ time.

"Studies have shown a slight increase in motor vehicle congestion is typical until people realise and embrace alternative active travel.

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

"We will be working with Bikeability to increase cycling confidence in adults and children and to embed this in the town.”