CYCLING campaigners have called for the reinstatement of a dedicated bike lane in George Street as transport bosses end a year-long trial aimed at reducing traffic flow and nurturing European-style “cafe culture”.
The thoroughfare will return to its former layout this weekend following a pilot scheme designed to make it more attractive to pedestrians and cyclists.
Both sides of the street will be reopened to traffic on a block-by-block basis, with an “advisory” cycle lane also created.
The lane – which will replace a dedicated two-way route introduced as part of the pilot – will not be mandatory and can be used by motor vehicles if necessary.
Cycling campaigners and environmental leaders said an obligatory lane should be brought in as a priority and warned that an advisory route could become “clogged” with cars. Ian Maxwell, of cycling group Spokes, said: “The dedicated cycle lane was good and worked better than expected – it was on one of the key routes through the centre of town and it looks as though this would be a good place to have it.
“It certainly did seem to be well-used and didn’t create particular problems for cyclists. What we’re trying to do is get nervous cyclists on to the roads [and] it’s very disappointing that we’re going to have a gap with a reduced level of facility.”
Green councillor Nigel Bagshaw added: “While there are some procedural reasons for what is happening, I want real clarity that the end goal is a proper dedicated cycleway on George Street. Cyclists are weary of advisory lanes which quickly get clogged up with cars.
“More broadly, it’s now some years since the council commissioned Danish architect Jan Gehl to come up with a vision for a much more people-focused city centre. Progress towards that has been fragmented at best and it’s time to renew that commitment.”
Initial designs for the George Street trial were aimed at reducing traffic, improving the pedestrian experience and encouraging an outdoor dining culture similar to those in continental capitals such as Paris and Amsterdam.
Among piloted changes were external seating areas for cafes and restaurants, and the introduction of “parklets”.
City bosses stressed that feedback on the scheme would feed into long-term plans for George Street.
Councillor Lesley Hinds, transport leader, said: “The George Street trial has been a real experiment for the city, and has allowed us to truly listen and respond to the public throughout.
“Now we are focusing on the future of the street, and a long-term solution that will benefit everyone. I look forward to seeing the outcome of our design team’s research.”