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With the announcement of the 10-point green plan back in November 2020, the government has been promoting a greener future for the UK; promising advancements in offshore wind farms and the end of all sales of gas and diesel cars by 2030. Despite the majority of this plan being years in the making, greener public transport has already begun to take off with cycling increasing in popularity by 200% since the first lockdown. However, although this statistic has been predominantly welcomed as a positive of the pandemic, its success has been dwindled not only through a lack of provision but more upsettingly, the abuse of cyclist rights. Often facing complaints about holding up traffic and deliberately putting themselves in harm’s way, cyclists have faced a great deal of criticism despite having the same rights as car users. Likewise, when cycle lanes are proposed, instead of recognising their importance they’re dismissed by a growing minority on the basis that cyclists don’t pay “Road Tax” despite it having been abolished in 1937 and replaced by Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). So, why is “Road Tax” still being used to justify who lives and dies?
On Tuesday 4th December 2018 at approximately 6:30pm, Mark Bryan was hit by a HGV Flatbed Truck whilst cycling home along the Old Bay Gateway – a two-mile stretch of road between Heysham and the Morecambe McDonald’s. The driver absconded, leaving Bryan for dead at the side of the road. Thankfully Bryan’s life was saved but he sustained several severe trauma injuries including lacerations to his liver and kidneys, and multiple fractures to his arm, ribs, shoulder blade, spine, neck, pelvis and skull. This devastating accident could have easily been prevented through the presence of a cycle lane. Unlike the New Bay Gateway, developed in 2016, the Old Bay Gateway doesn’t have one despite Councillor Charlie Edwards confirming the road itself had “previously been identified as needing more measures put in place for cyclists”. If a cycle lane had been present, this accident may never have occurred.
Joshua Brandwood, son of Mark Bryan, having recovered from the shock of his father’s accident now wishes to help prevent any further accidents from occurring on this dangerous stretch of road. Brandwood hopes to encourage the Lancashire County Council to provide a protected cycle lane running alongside the Old Bay Gateway to allow cyclists to use the road safely. Having recently begun a petition to secure this protected cycle lane, Brandwood received a mass of support with over 2000 signatures making this petition one of the largest signed petitions presented to the Council. Not only has it been given the support of the community but also that of local councilors including Charlie Edwards as well as letters of support from both MP Kat Smith and MP David Morris. It is wonderful to see this support and despite some members of the community remaining adamant that cycle lanes shouldn’t be funded on the basis that cyclists don’t pay “Road Tax”, it clear the majority recognise cyclists as equally deserving of access to the road.
Not only have the dangers of the Old Bay Gateway been recognised by the public through Brandwood’s petition but our own Lancaster University Cycling Club have also shown support for a protected cycle lane with LUCC President, Iain Murray suggesting “the provisions in place are out of date and need to be revamped in a similar way to the newer section of the Bay Gateway” and that it is “often underestimated the need for a safe transport link for cycling as a commuter”. It’s certainly concerning that the New Bay Gateway has been provided with both a cycle lane and a protected pedestrian path yet the Old Bay Gateway has received no new provisions despite being recognised as “needing more measures”.
With the Old Bay Gateway used frequently by cyclists as well as those commuting to the Port, a protected cycle lane is essential for safe travel as well as crucial in continuing the popularity of greener public transport. With the Lancashire County Council recently introducing a new role of Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change for the first time in the Council’s history, it is clear they support the GoGreen initiative so to ignore the overwhelming support for Brandwood’s petition would be remiss. As expressed by Brandwood, himself, during an interview with Heart Radio, “now that it’s been brought to the council’s attention, they need to do something about it because if something does happen and they haven’t acted on this petition then the responsibility falls to them”.