A TRAVEL group has hit back at criticism of a new cycle lane for being “unsightly” and “too big”, instead describing it as “what a cycle lane should look like”.

Motorists have criticised the two-way cycle lanes in Wallisdown Road which are 9.5ft wide and means cyclists and walkers have a combined 33ft of room, while the carriageway for vehicles has been narrowed to just over 10ft per lane.

One nearby office worker said he rarely saw the cycle lanes along the A3049 being used.

He said: “For something so wide there is far less bike traffic than you would expect. You just don't see the volume of cyclists it was designed for.

Bournemouth Echo: A cyclist travelling on the pavement next to the new cycle lane in Wallisdown Road. Picture: BNPSA cyclist travelling on the pavement next to the new cycle lane in Wallisdown Road. Picture: BNPS

“The whole thing looks unsightly and a mess.”

However, community group BH Active Travel has defended the £1million improvement scheme and believe the lane will be used more over time.

BH Active Travel spokesperson Marc Lohez said: “There’s been a great deal of chatter about this one. Yes they may look wide, but the lanes are built to the new guidelines from the Department for Transport. It’s 100 per cent true that they are not being used to capacity – much like our roads 30 years ago.

“This is what a cycle lane should look like, not some token bit of paint and is designed to new guidelines in order to keep people safe – the number one reason why most don’t cycle more often.

“Correct width lanes can accommodate higher levels of users and also things like tricycles and adapted wheelchairs, more often than not consigned to riding the gutter line.

“The lane itself may appear empty because of several reasons. It takes time for people to change their habits being one, but the main being our network simply isn’t finished. Once connected at either end and beyond (such as Wallisdown) expect to see numbers greatly increase.

“Also with the new cycle to work limits being raised to include e-bikes this should help, as people see cycling as not only healthier and greener, but also a much cheaper way of getting about without having to be super fit.

“We’re not cyclists. We’re residents that walk, wheelchair and cycle. Our group is for active travel in any form, which includes cycling. Stating the former makes us sound like a solely pro-bike group, which instantly creates a divide.”

Opinion is mixed. 41-year-old Martin Hiscock from Christchurch said: “I don't know why there needs to be two on both sides of the road.

“I've never known a cycle lane to be this big. I think it's far too much. Normally they're the width of a pathway.”

It’s also reported that drivers have to pull over onto the cycle lanes to make way for emergency vehicles, running the risk of colliding with a bike.

Bournemouth Echo: Traffic has to drive onto the cycle lane to allow ambulance to pass. Picture: BNPSTraffic has to drive onto the cycle lane to allow ambulance to pass. Picture: BNPS

A BCP Council spokesperson claimed there had been a 40 per cent increase in bike usage since the new paths were opened. 

They said: “We are pleased to see the improvements are supported by our local walking and cycling forum. Our most recent monitoring on this section of Wallisdown Road has already recorded an increase in cycling of almost 40 per cent on weekdays between September and October with a weekday average of 337 cyclists using the cycle lanes.

 “The Wallisdown corridor improvements aim to improve safety and encourage more people to walk or cycle in the area.

Bournemouth Echo: New cycle lane in Wallisdown Road, A3049. Picture: BNPSNew cycle lane in Wallisdown Road, A3049. Picture: BNPS

“The carriageway will be between 6.4m and 6.6m wide, adhering to current national standards set by the Department for Transport for the provision of safer roads for walking and cycling whilst maintaining enough space for larger vehicles such as HGVs and buses.

“It will continue to be able to be used safely by all vehicles, including fire engines and will continue to undergo a number of independent road safety audits.

“The cycle tracks are defined with sloping kerbs which will allow general vehicles to occasionally drive onto the cycle track and offer safe and quick passage of emergency vehicles.”