Link to Cycle Lewes & Lewes Living Streets newsFollowing East Sussex County Council’s decision not to change access on Lewes High Street to enable social distancing, we asked two local organisations what they think needs to be done to support pedestrian and cyclist-friendly streets in Lewes.

How would you like to see the street layout /permissions in Lewes revised – not just for social distancing during the pandemic but for the long-term benefit of the town?

As Cycle Lewes and Lewes Living Streets, we would like to see:

  • Two-way cycling through the length of the High Street including School Hill to enable this to be part of the National Cycle Route 90 and bring cyclists into the High Street
  • Measures to slow traffic around the town and particularly on the High Street so that drivers keep to the 20 mph speed limit – for instance, use of CCTV/speed cameras on the High Street.
  • Measures to discourage/reduce through traffic on the High Street and create attractive and safe areas for pedestrians and cyclists. This could be achieved with pavement build-outs next to cafés where space could be given over to tables and chairs to make the High Street look and feel welcoming.

How do you respond to criticisms that reducing parking spaces on the High Street will negatively affect traders and shop delivery?

We are happy to retain most of the parking space on the High Street for pick-ups and deliveries. We think few people park on the High Street for any length of time (particularly with the increased charges). We think most people coming to the High Street park in the off-street car parks (8,000 spaces) and walk around or walk from home, or cycle or take public transport.

But we would be keen to work with traders to do a survey to work out how people come into Lewes to shop. Numerous studies looking at the influence of parking on shopping have shown that shopkeepers consistently overestimate the share of their customers coming by car as well as the amount of money they spend. Walkers and cyclists spend more. You can read more here.

Traders in Cliffe rejected the initial plans for its redesign as a pedestrian priority and two-way cycle zone as they thought it would have a negative effect on trade – it didn’t. Cliffe is now one of the busiest and vibrant trading areas in the town. It’s also a desirable place for renting premises.

Lewes streets are very narrow – do they really lend themselves to dedicated cycle lanes?

There are a few streets in Lewes that could accommodate cycle lanes, but this may mean some allocation of road space. Some roads from outlying areas like Nevill and from Malling Street/Phoenix Bridge and certainly Little East Street could accommodate them. Encouraging people to cycle in from outlying areas is important to encouraging people to come into Lewes to shop and enjoy the town.

Overall, what we are focusing on is slowing down and reducing traffic on existing streets to make them (including the High Street) feel safer and more enjoyable for cyclists and pedestrians. There is also a need to redesign some of roads and junctions to make them safer for cyclists.

How do we safeguard access for those with mobility issues – bearing in mind that School Hill is pretty steep?

Our proposals would still enable those with blue badges to park on most of the kerbside if they need to. But we also need to accommodate mobility scooters on the (narrow) pavements along with pedestrians. Removing the many “A” boards on the pavements outside shops would help both groups share the pavement and would also help people with sight impairment. Also Brighton and Hove buses have said they would consider a cheap hop-on fare for people who want to catch the bus back up the hill.

A lot of traffic in Lewes is through traffic and delivery vehicles not residential – how do we tackle that?

We should discourage through traffic on the High Street by making it clear that this is a slow option. But we have to recognise that there is a danger of displacement to surrounding streets, at least initially. This already happens with so called “rat runs” such as Bradford Road, the Avenue or along Southover High Street, particularly when there are obstructions on the High Street.

So, we have to look at measures to slow or limit through traffic on these streets too. Or it may be that we need to create an alternative northern by-pass of sorts e.g. Phoenix Causeway, Little East Street (made two-way), West Street (made two-way) and onto the Offham Road.

We want traffic engineers/planners to carry out a study to look at all these options and we are trying to raise money to fund this study. Lewes District Council are looking at options for greater use of e-cargo bikes by businesses and how a ‘consolidation’ centre might work for deliveries in Lewes. We welcome these initiatives.

What else do you think needs to be done to encourage people to leave their cars at home?

Residents who use their cars around town need to recognise that they are contributing to congestion and pollution! Walking and cycling need to be seen as the healthy, attractive, sociable means of getting around the town. For healthy people there is rarely a need to drive from one part of the town to the other. That is one of the attractions of Lewes.

Possibly we need to make using your car less convenient with barriers on some streets which also enables them to become low-traffic neighbourhoods by cutting out “rat running”. But this needs to be done with the support of local residents and with lots of warning to residents so that people can adjust their behaviour. Learn more about creating low traffic neighbourhoods here.

But there also needs to be alternatives, particularly for people who can’t cycle or walk far. So an attractive, frequent electric bus service that brought people in from the outer lying areas is needed. But this needs to be financially viable – so people would need to use it!

More walking, cycling and use of public transport has to happen if we want a pleasanter and cleaner environment free of air pollution. It will also free up road space for those who really have to drive!