WSCC gives approval to Cycling and Walking Strategy

Over the last year WSCC has been drafting a much-needed new cycling strategy. A lot of good work has been put into developing a system for listing potential cycle routes so the council can be ready to bid for any external sources of funding that become available.

However, the draft document leaves out hugely important issues such as how to improve our streets so that people of all ages and abilities can realistically choose to use a bike for everyday short trips and how to ensure that the thousands of new homes due to be built in the area will be cycle-friendly.

We were therefore encouraged that during the debate several councillors picked up on our key criticisms of the draft strategy.

Although the strategy was approved, we were pleased that a resolution was put forward by two Horsham councillors, Nigel Dennis and Jim Rae, stating that 'the Committee considers further work is required, specifically on sources of funding, on developing a coherent network of routes and on embedding walking and cycling in the county’s strategic priorities.

In the Committee Chair, Cllr John Rogers asked for progress on the strategy to be reviewed in a year’s time.   Crucially, it was also recognised that urban routes (where the biggest gains in encouraging people to cycle can be made) should be given similar importance as inter-community utility routes.

This is a positive step forward and WSCC can now focus on assessing which schemes to take forward to the next stage. Meanwhile there is an opportunity for the forums to continue arguing for a better strategy that will genuinely meet the challenges of the next decade.

It is worth bearing in mind that most of those who will benefit from a successful strategy are not “cyclists” but businesses, residents, children and the elderly: people of all kinds, however they choose to travel.

The key challenge for the cycle forums now is to get this message through and to win political support for cycling.

In the end, what will make the difference is not the words in the strategy, but the size of the cycling budget together with strong leadership to drive through real change, in spite of the inevitable obstacles.

What Councillors said


Nigel Dennis (Lib Dem, Horsham Hurst)

“This is more of a report than a strategy. There’s not much evidence of how funding will be delivered. It doesn’t really seem to be joined up in terms of a strategy or network. I’m not convinced we’ve got the level of officer support and expertise that’s really needed. We still seem to be going backwards in some areas at the moment with things like cycle lanes being taken out in Horsham and new developments going forward without best practice walking and cycling facilities.”

Philip Circus (Con, Storrington)

“I welcome anything that encourages more cycling and walking; the health of the nation demands it.”

Jim Rae (Ind, Roffey)

“This strategy first needs to be embedded in WSCC departments: Strategic Planning, Highways Planning. They need to work with our districts and boroughs…gain their acceptance that walking and cycling should form a central part of future developments. We’ve seen this ignored only too often.   Aspirations of a joined-up network will never ever, ever happen if we do not change the thought patterns of our districts and boroughs so that they are aligned.”

Simon Oakley (Con, Chichester East)

“I would say there that I wouldn’t want to put too much emphasis on behaviour change at the expense of capital works. You can do a lot of behavioural change work in the classroom, in the school playground, at work etc., but if they then launch themselves out onto the highway network and then find a completely unsuitable network then all that work is for nothing.”

Michael Jones (Lab, Southgate and Crawley Central)

Cllr Jones said that it was a shame that the cycle forum had not been permitted to speak during the debate and spoke of“repeated concerns about whether the council had got the vision right…that there was nothing for the town… concern that the council still doesn’t necessarily have the expertise….and adding all that together, was it really a strategy?”

He summarised by saying“If the cycling forum is not happy with it, how can I be as a member?”

John Rogers (Con, Cissbury)

Cllr Rogers asked officers to go through the list of schemes and“pick out the urban improvements that cycle forums think should be more of a priority and then, when you report back in, say, twelve months’ time, tell us what improvements have been made on those.”   He asked for assurance on design standards for new developments including“the huge numbers of housing that’s going to be put for example in the Horsham area.”    “Districts and boroughs, they do take quite big notice of our Highways officers’ comments and I don’t think that sometimes our highways officers are asking for enough.”


Derek Whittington (Con, Fontwell, County Cycling and Walking Champion)

Cllr Whittington said the strategy is“a stepping stone which is going to be subject to revision and more detailed investigation over the coming weeks and months.”

Chichester City Councillor, Sarah Sharp, was hit by a car last year as she cycled along the road in central Chichester and is still receiving treatment for her near-fatal neck injury. According to government figures, every time we prevent just one serious collision such as this, it saves society an average of £235,000.

In the public gallery for the meeting, she later said “My accident was not my fault and was not due to my lack of training. The road system needs to be improved to prevent someone else suffering in the way that I did.”