A trial began yesterday in Leigh On Sea to allow cyclists to proceed through traffic lights when they are red, and local councillors believe that the scheme will revolutionise the flow of traffic through the town. According to a number of local road users, the first participants in the scheme were trying out the new rules on Thursday, and if the pilot project is successful it could be rolled out to the rest of Essex before the end of 2016. A Southend News Network reporter captured EXCLUSIVE footage of one of the first participants, and a number of local road campaigners have said that they are ‘incredibly concerned’ about the overall effect that it will have on safety.
Mervyn Runner is the local councillor who is responsible for the environment and sustainable forms of transport, and he spoke to our Chief Reporter to explain more about the scheme. He said: ‘While it can be incredibly dangerous for a car to proceed when traffic lights are red, a bicycle is far smaller and less destructive, and so it makes perfect sense to allow them to proceed with caution while cars are queueing behind them. As a keen cyclist myself, I have often sat at a set of traffic lights and thought ‘what on Earth am I waiting for?’, and so we are sending out a clear message that there has never been a better time to go around town on two wheels. In reality, we are hoping that motorists will see their velo-tastic counterparts in action and consider making a move to pedal power that will help them to really do their bit for the environment.’
Mr Runner added: ‘We should also point out that during the trial, all motorists have a responsibility to ensure the safety of cyclists. Therefore, vehicle drivers need to look out for any bicycle users who may be coming the other way at junctions – the majority of cyclists are already extending this courtesy the other way in any case.’
We spoke to experienced local cyclist Michael Clipp, 31, who has been commuting by bike to his organic chick pea and e-cigarette store ‘Organic Stuff and Puff’ on Leigh Broadway for five years. He said: ‘I am delighted that the local council is doing something amazing for local cyclists like myself, and from a personal point of view my journey time to work should be cut by around 25%. The council shouldn’t be too worried about motorists keeping an eye out for cyclists who are participating in the scheme as a lot of us wear GoPro cameras or similar devices to shame any offenders on YouTube.’
According to a leaked email that has been seen by Southend News Network, local transport planners also have a back-up plan if the trial isn’t a complete success. It has emerged that special ‘Yellow Zones’ will be painted on pavements around traffic lights and pedestrian crossings, and cyclists will be encouraged to mount the kerb in these areas to bypass traffic lights when queues are building up – these sections will be painted yellow so that pedestrians are aware of the need to watch out for bicycle users while waiting to cross.