In November last year, a last-ditch message was sent from the West Midlands cycling campaign chair David Cox, endorsed by Living Streets (largely a pedestrian lobby group) and the Campaign for Better Transport, who focus on buses. In short, the message had been backed by a wide coalition of concerned groups and individuals, who did not want to see Coventry’s bus lanes removed, even on a trial basis.
The message was sent out late on the evening before the cabinet meeting, and Cllr Jayne Innes replied first thing the next day, stating as follows:
Dear Mr Cox,
Thank you for your message.
I think it is important to point out we are trailing the suspension of some of our Bus Lanes, not our Cycle Network.
In Coventry we have roughly 880KM of roads, 44KM of cycle network and 8KM of bus lanes. Of this 8KM out 6 month trial suspends just 2.5KM.
I note your comments, but we have Traffic Management duties to ensure effective traffic flow, and responsibilities on Air Quality; and if Liverpool’s experience is replicated in Coventry, withdrawing Bus Lanes will improve both without increasing bus journey times.
It’s also important to remember this is just a trial, and we are working with Coventry-serving bus companies National Express and Stagecoach, plus Travel for West Midlands (formerly CENTRO) on it.
I do think it’s important we continue to trial innovative policies in Coventry. One of my colleagues recently referred to Bus Lanes as a 20th Century Solution to a 21st Century Problem, and I do believe he is right.
And, of course, we continue to bid for new monies to further improve our cycle network.
Aside from the obvious rushed nature of this response, Cllr Innes has missed a number of very key points:
- The bus lane network is part of the cycle network. It isn’t perfect, and everyone knows this, but since cycling is permitted in bus lanes, removal of such can only be detrimental to cycling, never positive.
- In any city, there is going to be a network hierarchy – merely stating that bus or cycle lanes only form a small part of the overall network simply shows just how little we actually have, hence the need to protect it!
- This is not a trial that anyone can trust, as Cllr Jayne Innes now has the complete power to do as she wishes with the results. We know from her comments to date where this is most likely to end up.
- The assertion is then repeated that bus lanes cause traffic congestion and pollution, yet throughout this whole sorry process, not a single shred of supporting evidence has been provided to show this.
- The relentless obsession with Liverpool is somewhat bizarre. Liverpool is one of the most poorly perfoming cities in Europe in terms of providing a balanced transport mix – despite having a much more substantial urban rail network than Coventry. It is odd that Jayne Innes seems hell-bent on continuing this race to the bottom.
- Both Centro and National Express Coventry have made negative comments about the “trial” – even if neither has been very vocal so far.
- Innovative? If bus lane removal is worth doing because it’s genuinely counter-intuitive, then let’s see the figures behind this. For some reason, Liverpool won’t release them!
- As for bus lanes being “20th century”, that would be fine if the council had a smarter traffic management system, which enabled prioritisation according to an in-cab system. Of course there is no such scheme, and all we are really doing is rolling back to the 70s.
We’re told that there may be some cycle lane investment on the way. If and when this happens, it will be very welcome, but the real worry is that the bus lane removal being trumpeted by Jayne Innes could actually make it a great deal harder to build new cycle lanes. Who is going to want to see verges or other non-road space turned into cycle lanes if they think the council will then come back in a few years’ time and turn them into general road way? Why should any central government mandarins trust a council that is ripping out the £40m PrimeLines bus lane scheme after such little time?