Brighton goes against the flow
Brighton's North Laine neighbourhood is a vibrant shopping area, tucked in between the railway station, the main road north to London and the historic town centre. Narrow terraced streets were long ago made one-way to reduce through motor traffic. But, as with nearly every one-way restriction over the decades, no concession was made for cyclists.
Over the last few years, however, a few contra-flow lanes were installed and the high profile New Road 'shared space' street was made two-way for cycling with minimal signs and road markings. Recent changes to Government guidance have made simple changes like this easier to implement.
But now, the council, run by a minority Green administration, has committed to several high profile cycling schemes and, for its next trick, will make many more of the narrow North Laine streets two-way for cycling.
This is designed to make the area easier for people to move around. It will address issues raised by local residents and businesses about cyclists who use pavements and twittens, by permitting people to cycle legally on the street."
Cllr Ian Davey
In a report to the Council, officers revealed that there had been no safety disadvantages in locations such as Strasbourg and Brussels, where large scale contra-flow projects had been implemented. They also pointed to the City of London, where dozens of narrow one-way streets have also been converted to contra-flow cycling over the last few years, mainly to legitimise existing safe behaviour.
Traders and the community representatives in North Laine had previously complained about illegal cycling on footways and in 'twittens' (Sussex term for alleyways). Putting cyclists back on the carriageway was therefore welcomed by nearly all the respondents.
Another reason given was that contra-flow would reduce cyclists' journey times and reduce their exposure to danger. The report found that "all journeys were quicker on average by 96 seconds, using the contra-flow route rather than the legal route. But there was also less traffic on the contra-flow routes, vehicles were slower and visibility was above average, all these factors meant that not only was contra-flow quicker but it was also more comfortable than the traditional routes."
This is an excellent and simple step to take which CTC hopes other towns and cities will take note of. However, Brighton's path to implementation has been made easier by the fact that contra-flow cycling already exists on some streets in the area, while all of them are subject to 20 mph speed limits. Both UK guidance and international experience relate that unmarked contra-flow is more suitable where speeds are already very low.
For CTC's views, see our briefing on Contra-flow Cycling (cycling two-way in one-way streets)