CYCLISTS could soon benefit from an increased network of paths winding across Eastbourne after councillors voted to drastically improve the town’s infrastructure.
Campaigners from Bespoke, a locally-based collection of bike enthusiasts, have been working in tandem with Eastbourne Borough Council to develop a new town-wide two-wheel strategy.
And this week the local authority’s cabinet backed the plans, which will include not only improvements to existing cycle paths, but a host of new routes being put in place.
Speaking at Wednesday’s town hall meeting, Felicity Goodson told councillors how important Bespoke felt it was for the town to tap into pedal power.
Her group was formed by local parents keen to encourage youngsters to cycle to and from school.
In the last few months their campaign has moved up through the gears to lobby for better provisions for all the town’s cyclists – culminating in a 3,200 name petition being handed to the council demanding action.
And it seems those calls have been well received, with the local authority already pushing ahead with two new schemes and planning a whole host more.
A new route along Dukes Drive and King Edwards Parade, from the Downs at Holywell to the Wish Tower is due to get under way later this month while the first phase of the new Horsey Cycle Route, running from Eastbourne Park between the railway station and the eastern side of town, should be finished by March this year.
Other projects now on the agenda include cycle paths through Eastbourne Park, others leading to schools, colleges and industrial estates.
The only sticking points seems to be funding. A budget of £35,000 has already been earmarked for feasibility studies on proposed new routes but much of the long-term cash will have to come from outside grants or contributions from developers asked to stump up money for improvements as part of planning permission.
Enthusing about the plans, Felicity Goodson said, “The development of the cycle paths during the recession will help people struggling to maintain two or three cars and will benefit anyone who cycles to work.
“If you have more joined up routes it means more people will leave their car behind. This is something that can be great for the town.”
She also talked up the obvious health benefits of a more active population and said a better cycle network would help to “liberate” the town’s youngsters.
Currently in Eastbourne around 3.5 per cent of trips to work and school are by bike, which works out higher than both the national average (2.7 per cent) and the East Sussex score of just 1.7 per cent.
And with more than 80 per cent of Eastbourne’s working population estimated at living within five kilometres of their work place, the council is keen to increase commuter cycling.
Cllr Steve Wallis, portfolio holder for the environment, said: “The benefits of cycling over many other forms of transportation are clear, while anything that contributes to our objective of becoming a low carbon town, reducing congestion and improving air quality is a welcome boost.”