Worthing seafront cycle path ‘an accident waiting to happen’

An artist and a café-owner have called for changes to a stretch of cycle path along Worthing’s seafront where they say there are ‘near-misses almost every day’.

Tuesday, 24th August 2021, 8:52 am
An artist and cafe-owner have raised concerns about the path near Splash Point, Worthing.An artist and cafe-owner have raised concerns about the path near Splash Point, Worthing. Picture: Thomas Freer

Thomas Freer said that the cycle path and the pedestrian walkway that runs alongside it near Splash Point were ‘an accident waiting to happen’.

He first called for changes to the path – which runs directly opposite his studio – in 2017.

His concerns were shared by Coast owner Anthony Dickinson, who said ‘confrontations’ take place between cyclists and pedestrians opposite his café ‘on a daily basis’.

Although pedestrians and cyclists have their own separate paths on the stretch – which runs from the Splash Pad in Beach Parade to Lancing – pedestrians have to cross the cycle path to get to the beach and may also walk into it.

This, said Mr Freer, could lead to near misses between cyclists and beach-goers.

He said: “Almost every day there is something happening. Quite often it is because a child runs across the cycle path or it’s just people wandering aimlessly across the cycle path.

“Often cyclists get injured because they’re avoiding an accident and there have been several near misses and several actual incidents.”

Mr Freer added that cyclists travel fairly quickly along the stretch but are met by people in the way.

He said: “The cyclists have cycled all along the prom and they get to the cycle lane and open up the taps. The first thing they encounter is a café, art studios, the childrens’ Splash Pad, and paddle boarders – It’s just a ridiculous place to have a cycle lane with full-speed cyclists.”

Mr Freer has called for the path to become ‘shared use’ with no separation between cyclists and pedestrians. This could look much like the stretch of promenade near Worthing Pier where cyclists, pedestrians and dog walkers all share a space. Mr Freer says this could encourage those using the route to be ‘more aware’.

He added: “My opinion is that shared use just gives everyone equal rights.

“It seems to be the imbalance of rights which causes the aggression, if not the incidents, because cyclists believe that on cycle paths they have the right to travel safely as fast as they want to go. That’s just incompatible with a high pedestrian area.

“Shared use just calms everyone down a little bit and raises everyone’s awareness to the same level whereas having a motorway running through the middle of a play park is not so good.”

The path is part of Route 2 on the National Cycle Network and connects to Shoreham, Brighton and Saltdean where it continues towards Newhaven.

The stretch between Worthing and Brighton is described by Sustrans as ‘perfect for families’.

But Mr Dickinson described an incident where a young girl ‘became entangled in a bike’, which he said also led to injuries for a cyclist opposite Coast.

“You’re almost just sort of waiting for the crash, the scream and the sound of the ambulance,” he said.

“Nothing horrendous has happened yet but last week there was an incident with a cyclist who knocked a girl over. He thought he had broken his wrist and she got tangled in the bike.”

He added: “The speed some of these cyclists go mean that somebody’s going to get hurt.”

The café owner has called on cyclists using the route to ‘slow down’ and added they, rather than pedestrians, could be badly hurt.

“We notice the anger from cyclists on a daily basis who think it’s their right of way, that there shouldn’t be anyone on it at any point and therefore they should be able to go as fast as they like,” he said.

“It’s not necessarily the person who gets hit that could be injured, but it could be the cyclist.

“We want to tell cyclists they’re putting themselves at risk and it’s only a stretch of about 200 yards where we are asking them to go a bit slower.”

Highways authority West Sussex County Council acknowledged the area near the cycle path had ‘become busier’ but said it was not aware of any injuries there over the last five years.

A spokesperson said: “We are not aware of any specific incidents involving injury on this stretch of cycleway in the last five years.

“Cyclists are segregated from pedestrians by way of a white line, with tactile paving at crossing points.

“There are also signs asking both pedestrians and cyclists to be considerate and aware of one another and we would ask parents and cyclists to please be mindful of the potential for children to stray into the cycle lane.

“However, it’s clear this area has become busier in recent times, with more pedestrian movements going across the cycle lane to the beach.”

The spokesperson said that the Community Highway Scheme can be used to suggest improvements to cycle paths. Suggestions should be supported by the local community and a local county councillor in order to be considered.