Top paramedic warns bike lanes are holding up ambulances in traffic
Top paramedic warns bike lanes are holding up ambulances in traffic jams – as Grant Shapps hands councils ANOTHER £175m to build more of the barely used routes paralysing Britain
- Experts say lives are being put in danger because of traffic caused by cycle lanes
- One of Britain’s leading paramedics warned emergency vehicles being delayed
- Bollards installed across towns and cities to keep cyclists separate from cars
Lives are being put in danger because ambulances are stuck in traffic caused by controversial new cycle lanes, experts say.
One of Britain’s leading paramedics warned that emergency vehicles are being delayed after councils were handed millions of pounds to turn busy car lanes into cycle-only routes. They are being rushed out to try to encourage more people to cycle to work rather than use public transport or their cars during the pandemic.
Bollards have been hastily installed across towns and cities to keep cyclists separate from cars. But critics say this has prevented vehicles from moving out of the way of ambulances when they are responding to 999 calls.
Although official figures reveal that the number of people cycling has actually fallen by 25 per cent since the first lockdown in the spring, the rollout of cycle routes continues.
Which bright spark put a cycle lane here? A worried family watch warily as a cyclist passes close to a child in Surbiton, South-West London
Despite fierce opposition, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced a further £175 million for the Active Travel Fund last week, quadrupling the £42 million already handed to councils since July.
With calls for a Government U-turn mounting, Richard Webber, the national spokesman for the College of Paramedics, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘If you are having a cardiac arrest, your chance of survival decreases by ten per cent for every minute’s delay. If ambulances are stuck waiting for someone to open a barrier or taking a long route around to your house, then you’ve got a big problem.’
He added: ‘Lots of areas have segregated roads now in such a way that you physically can’t get down the road and therefore we’ve had to do long detours.
‘In some areas where they once had two lanes, they have now gone down to one lane of traffic and a cycle lane and the problem with that is there is nowhere to go.
A cyclist in the City of London illegally crosses into a yellow junction box despite a red traffic light
‘People can’t get out of the way and ambulances get stuck in traffic. It has been the same in various city centres.’
Mr Webber urged all councils to consult with ambulance services before any changes, adding: ‘They need to think that if someone was having a heart attack, could the ambulance get to them as quickly as it could now?
‘But I don’t think the councils are thinking like that.’
Social media is awash with eye-witness accounts of emergency vehicles caught up in the congestion. Last week, a video showed an ambulance with flashing blue lights unable to pass a long queue of cars on the busy Euston Road in Central London. Vehicles constricted to a single lane were unable to move out of the way because of the new cycle lane bollards.
Another ambulance on an emergency call was pictured stuck in traffic in the same area close to Euston Station while the new cycle lane remained empty. One furious paramedic was pictured shoving road blocks out of the way during an emergency call in Harrow, North-West London, last month.
Some residential roads in the area had been blocked off with barriers to create ‘low traffic’ zones, but it meant the ambulance could not get through. In Hove, East Sussex, an ambulance was pictured stuck in traffic with its blue lights on. The cars in front of it could not get out of the way because of the new cycle lane barriers along the seafront.
Last week, the MoS revealed that 20 areas across the country had already removed the new cycle lanes – at an additional cost to taxpayers – because of the congestion carnage they caused.
One cycle lane in Greater Manchester was ripped out after just 48 hours.
The Conservative-led council in Wandsworth, South-West London, scrapped its new cycle lane after protests and footage of ambulances struggling to get down Tooting High Street.
A paramedic pulls road blocks out of the way in North London. One of Britain’s leading paramedics warned that emergency vehicles are being delayed after councils were handed millions of pounds to turn busy car lanes into cycle-only routes
Tory backbencher Craig Mackinlay, who fought to have the new cycle lanes removed in his South Thanet constituency in Kent, said: ‘These non-consulted-upon cycle lanes are a huge problem, and local people should oppose them where they need to and have them removed through local pressure.
‘Not only are we interfering with emergency vehicles which save lives, but we are also interfering with economic vehicles, taxis, deliveries and people just trying to get to work, perhaps sensibly avoiding public transport for this period.
‘It’s actually having a negative environmental impact because of slow traffic, rat-runs and longer distances being driven.’
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, said: ‘The Government confirmed on Friday that when councils implement any highway scheme, including cycle lanes, they must consult with emergency services.
‘Cycling UK fully supports this and is available to address the concerns and any evidence the College of Paramedics or any health trust might have. To date no one has contacted us.’
DO WE REALLY NEED ONE LANE NEXT TO ANOTHER?
Two councils have sparked anger by creating ‘pointless’ cycle lanes next to ones already in use, causing more traffic mayhem.
Brighton and Hove Council has built a new cycle path along the seafront, taking away a lane for vehicles and dozens of parking bays, including for the disabled.
But angry residents have pointed out that there is already a cycle lane on the wide pavement of the promenade. This is still favoured by most riders.
Philip Keating, 75, a local resident and a retired civil servant, said: ‘It makes me irritated that they have done this with taxpayers’ money. There was already a cycle lane in place, so why did they build another one, and squeeze in traffic?’
A new cycle lane has been built next to an existing one along the Brighton to Hove seafront
Brighton and Hove Council received more than £663,000 to build the cycle lanes, and is earmarked to receive £2.3 million more from the Department for Transport. Last night, a council spokesman said: ‘Since carrying out the works, we have listened to residents, community groups and stakeholders, and based on their feedback we have made changes.’
In Merseyside, Wirral Council is building a two-mile cycle lane between New Brighton and Birkenhead, cutting through residential areas and bringing gridlock. But angry local politicians and residents say there is already a cycle lane for the same route along the Mersey promenade.
It has also emerged that local officials spent £334,000 on consultants to design the new cycle routes. The council did not respond to the MoS’s request to comment.
MOST CYCLISTS DON’T KNOW HIGHWAY CODE
The majority of cyclists do not know the Highway Code – and an astonishing 59 per cent believe they do not need to obey traffic lights, a survey has found.
The research, by the National Accident Helpline, also found that almost 50 per cent of cyclists have been involved in road accidents, but more than a third still refuse to wear helmets.
The findings come a week after The Mail on Sunday reported that the Highway Code is being rewritten, with sweeping changes to make roads safer for cyclists. But experts warned that the roads will remain dangerous for cyclists if they do not know and follow the guidelines.
The majority of cyclists do not know the Highway Code – and an astonishing 59 per cent believe they do not need to obey traffic lights, a survey has found (stock image)
Researchers quizzed 1,000 cyclists across Britain about the Highway Code and found that 51 per cent could not identify the rules on cycling. Those aged between 25 and 34 scored the worst, with 56 per cent getting the answers wrong. Cyclists in Edinburgh were the most ignorant of the Highway Code. Sheffield cyclists knew the most.
The survey also found that 46 per cent of cyclists admitting to being involved in at least one accident, with more than three-quarters on rural roads. Despite this, 38 per cent of cyclists said they refuse to wear helmets.
Last night, Duncan Dollimore, of Cycling UK, said: ‘There are multiple reports showing people don’t know or understand what the Highway Code means or says – no matter what form of transport they choose to use.
‘This demonstrates the need for more road-safety education and awareness.’
FEWER THAN 13 CYCLISTS AN HOUR – BUT ROADS ARE JAMMED
A new cycle lane blamed for causing huge traffic queues in Essex is being used by fewer than 13 cyclists per hour, a former MP claims.
Sir Bob Russell spent 12 hours monitoring how many cyclists used the lane which was once open to bikes, buses and taxis near Colchester railway station.
The stretch of road was built five years ago to ease congestion as part of a park-and-ride scheme. But it has now been turned into a cycle-only route.
Sir Bob’s survey last month found that only 153 cyclists used the route between 7am and 7pm. Meanwhile, 348 buses and 385 taxis were forced to join the main traffic, causing tailbacks.
Sir Bob said: ‘The best way to reduce congestion and reduce pollution – to reinforce the policy of promoting public transport – is for the bus lane to be restored. Cyclists can still use it, as they had for the past five years.’
The news came as a new cycle lane causing gridlock in Ashford, Kent, was ripped out after one week by the council following a backlash from drivers.
Jeannette Meyers, 66, a retired teacher, said: ‘For a week, I could not take my car anywhere because of the traffic. I did not see many cyclists use the cycle lane at all, as they themselves did not like it. It was a waste of money.’
A Kent County Council spokesman said: ‘We stand by our original aim of promoting cycling in Ashford, but post-lockdown traffic levels have shown to be too much for this location.’
Meanwhile, businesses in a North London street have warned they will go under after the council approved plans to replace parking bays with a cycle lane in Haverstock Hill.
Dr Mervyn Druian, who has had a dental practice in the road for more than 20 years, said: ‘The council are determined to wreck the local businesses.’
WHICH BRIGHT SPARK PUT A CYCLE LANE HERE?
This was the frightening scene last week after a cycle lane was installed right in front of a bus shelter
This was the frightening scene last week after a cycle lane was installed right in front of a bus shelter.
Officials say it is a ‘shared space’. But locals in Surbiton, South-West London, fear a bad accident.
Tiffany Hughes said: ‘It’s ridiculous. You have to look both ways and be really careful when you’re getting on and coming off your bus.’
Arthur Jones added: ‘You’re always worried that cyclists will hit someone. It can feel risky, especially for people getting off. It’s madness.’
A council spokesman said the cycle lane, which was installed earlier this year, was designed as a ‘shared space for pedestrians and cyclists at the bus stop’ to allow bikes to safely pass the bus on its near left side
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