Surrey residents have quizzed a panel of experts including representatives from Sustrans, the police and British Cycling on the county’s booming numbers of cyclists, but the debate was criticised for going off-topic.
Last night’s debate, hosted at Surrey University and broadcast by BBC Radio Surrey, stirred up feeling both for and against cycling, already highlighted by two rival e-petitions: ‘Stop Surrey being turned into a cycle track‘ and, ‘Interact and give knowledge to those you represent’. Both surveys already have more than 3,000 signatures.
The panel included Nick Ephgrave, Deputy Chief Constable at Surrey Police, Helyn Clack, a Surrey County Councillor, Jon Clay from British Cycling, and Simon Pratt from Sustrans.
Questions and anecdotes roved over issues such as closed roads for major professional events, sportives, antisocial cycling, dangerous driving, potholes and the activity’s health and economic benefits.
One member of the audience, who described herself as a car driver and a cyclist, criticised the debate for not getting to grips with the county council’s strategy.
“I thought I was coming to a debate on cycling strategy, not just a talk about sportives and the RideLondon-Surrey,” she said. “We won’t get enough cyclists here until we get a proper cycling infrastructure, until we have proper cycle lanes that are divided from traffic so people will cycle with their children.”
However the blogger, Surrey Hills MTBer, said: “It was a useful debate, conducted in a calm and adult manner, although focused somewhat rather too much on the RideLondon and closed roads to start with. Some outrageous claims and numbers (with no evidence) were bandied about by the anti-cycling brigade as well as the usual hearsay and second-hand stories about ‘lycra louts’ that cyclists have, sadly, become accustomed to in this type of discussion.”
In September, Surrey County Council launched a public consultation on how the county can safely and without conflict with other road users and residents to encourage more people to cycle. It closes on 1 November.
You can listen to the full debate here.