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Let’s stop talking about ‘the motorist’ and ‘the cyclist’ and start talking about people

Cycling Central Park

Southampton is a growing, thriving city. By 2040 another 30,000 people will be living here. That’s the equivalent of adding a town the size of Windsor and could result in 74,000 more people making journeys across the city each day.

To make sure the city thrives, we must think differently about transport. We can do this by planning and making improvements that put people first. This includes changing the way we talk about travel. Instead of ‘the motorist’ and ‘the cyclist’ we will talk about people. People that walk. People that drive cars, vans and motorbikes. People that catch buses, trains and ferries. People that cycle to get to work or school, and for leisure. People that do all of the above. We all wear many hats and we all share the same limited space.

Our Connected Southampton 2040 transport strategy outlines how we are planning to make the most of that space for clean, green and sustainable growth.

Why investing in cycling infrastructure is a good idea

In this series of Connected Southampton blog posts we will address the biggest areas of transport and travel and our plans for the future. We’ll start with one area that probably gets the most attention in the media - cycling. Investment in cycling is a good idea for many reasons and it is important if we are to move forward in a sustainable and healthy way.

As part of our ambitious Green City Charter and Cycling Strategy we have made a long term commitment to promote and incentivise the use of public transport and invest in active travel (walking and cycling). There are a lot of misconceptions out there about cycle lanes so here we address a few of the most common myths.   

MYTH 1: Cycle lanes increase congestion

Every person that chooses to cycle or use sustainable transport means one less car on the road. That means more space on the road and less congestion for people that still need to drive. In a lot of cases, like with the new SCN1 (Southampton Cycle Network 1) Western Cycle Freeway from the City Centre to Totton, the lanes can be created completely separated from the main road. In other cases we need to design shared spaces for people cycling and walking that are easy and safe to use. Where we make these changes they are always carefully planned, reviewed and consulted upon with the community.

MYTH 2: Cyclists don’t use cycle lanes

It isn't compulsory for people cycling to use cycle lanes. Whether or not people choose to do so could depend on any number of factors, including personal levels of experience and confidence. However it's not just about continuing to support people who already cycle. It's also about looking ahead to the future and enabling people who aren't yet confident enough to cycle to do so.

We are already beginning to see the important role that safe, segregated cycleways can play in helping more people to travel sustainably. Taking the example of the SCN1, we have seen a 20% uplift in people cycling on it since it opened in the summer of 2019. This translates to almost 1,000 people a day using the route. As we work to improve the entire Southampton Cycle Network, and connect up the different routes so people can cycle safely and easily across the whole city, we aim for this to increase further. When we first developed our Cycling Strategy in 2017 people in Southampton told us that investing in better infrastructure was key to getting them to cycle more.

MYTH 3: People in Southampton won’t cycle

We would never suggest that every single person in the city should or could cycle. But with just under half of short journeys (under 3 miles) still being made by car, we know that change is not just possible but well within our reach. As well as investing in vital infrastructure, we are working with schools, employers and business to incentivise cycling through our popular sustainable travel brand, My Journey.

MYTH 4: Cycle lanes are a waste of money

Increasing the number of people choosing to cycle can play a key role not just in reducing road congestion but in improving air quality and tackling inactivity and obesity. It is estimated that cycling provides over £5.5m of health economic benefits each year in Southampton. When you consider the cost of other major infrastructure schemes - our essential reconstruction of Millbrook Roundabout alone cost over £8m for instance - investment in cycling makes absolute sense and represents value for money, especially over the longer term when accounting for wider environmental benefits. Research from CyclingUK found that on average, for every £1 invested in cycling and walking schemes, £13 is returned in economic benefits – better health, reduced pollution, better productivity and an active workforce.

Looking ahead – Transforming Cities Fund

There will be some challenges ahead as we invest more than ever before in our transport system. We await the outcome of our bid for a share of £1.3bn from the Department for Transport’s Transforming Cities Fund (TCF). This will help us to accelerate the transformation of public transport, cycling and walking across Southampton and into Hampshire. You can learn more about that on our TCF page.

We hope that with more understanding of the challenges and opportunities we face, the people of Southampton, and everyone that visits and works here, can look forward to a clean and green future together. You can get more details of our plans for cycling infrastructure in Southampton here.

Look out for further blog posts on transport in the future. If there is a topic you would like us to cover in our next post, please do get in touch via our Facebook page.