Fringe Box



Letter: £4.2m for the London Road Cycle Lane is Absurd

Published on: 21 Jul, 2023
Updated on: 21 Jul, 2023

From: A retired SCC Highway Engineer and Burpham Resident (name and address supplied)

See: Better Cycling and Walking Around Schools

With about 19,000 vehicle movements a day, the cycle lane cost of £4.2 million to enable a “hoped-for increase of 50 per cent” over the existing 260 average cyclists (SCC figures) using London Road, Burpham each day is absurd. That’s £4.2 million to enable a hoped-for 130 extra cyclists to use London Road or £32,307 per cyclist!

The roadworks to install these cycle lanes will cause chaos in themselves. They will also cause pollution with road construction materials having to be dug and ground up not to mention all the fumes from the JCBs and pneumatic drills etc.

London Road is a main road access into Guildford from the A3. SCC as the highway authority seem to think nothing of the congestion that will be caused by narrowing this major “A” road by eliminating right turn lanes and so on.

The claim that cycling is widely used in Holland is irrelevant. The Dutch have a different outlook, different landscape and different roads. The government aim, to get walking and cycling increased to 50 per cent for all short journeys, is a nonsense. What study has been done to establish how many of the public are willing or even able, given their needs, to transfer to these modes of transport?

The vulnerability of cyclists will not be eliminated, there will always be conflict with motor vehicles. The lack of training and realisation of dangers seems not to be apparent to many cyclists with large number of them wearing black or dark clothing and having no lights. Observation of the Highway Code is also seriously lacking in many cases.

Cycling is also not the answer to some environmental claims with one cyclist on a normal single carriageway road able to slow down to crawling pace up 20 to 30 vehicles producing additional pollutants. In addition, this leads to dangerous overtakes by frustrated drivers – although admittedly, frustration should not be an excuse.

Mention is made of school children happily being able to reach school by cycling. Where are the facilities at schools to safely and securely park bicycles with numerous bike thefts taking place? Are parents or children going to be able maintain their machines and mend the inevitable punctures?

What will be the attraction of cycling in winter months with rain, snow and ice?

Money would be much better spent on subsidising buses, providing stations at Merrow and Park Barn/The Royal Surrey, funding reinstatement of the railway to Cranleigh and subsidising the purchase of electric cars.

By all means cycle if you want to but seeing cycling as the answer to all the environmental problems is rubbish.

The consultation by Surrey County Council has been appalling. There also seems to be a dictatorial band of officers and councillors hell-bent on seeing these cycle lanes instigated come hell or high water. I believe some are fervent environmentalists and have no recognition that normal life must go on, people and businesses cannot be dismissed by their philosophies.

I have to ask, with the council leader Tim Oliver admitting at the meeting at George Abbott School that it would be “madness” to carry on with it if there were “huge opposition” to the plans from the public, why the scheme is not just scrapped?

Why not improve the cycle tracks through Riverside Park from Bowers Lane to Stoke Lock and Stoke Park? Also, form a cycleway along the footpath from Burpham Lane along the back of the Weylea Farm and Abbotswood estates to the northern side of Stoke Park?

See also: New Walking and Cycle Routes Might Not Be the Hoped For Panacea

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Responses to Letter: £4.2m for the London Road Cycle Lane is Absurd

  1. Roger Carnegie Reply

    July 21, 2023 at 3:57 pm

    Our “retired SCC Highway Engineer and Burpham Resident” appears to be one of the reasons we are in this mess. If they have been responsible for the design and implementation in the past for the current mess of road infrastructure in Surrey they should be ashamed.

    I must query the validity of the quoted numbers as the last Department of Transport traffic count shows only 14,000 vehicles using London Road not the exaggerated 19,000. The retiree has also chosen to understate the cycle count numbers, I presume to try and add weight to his argument.

    Anyone who was a “highway engineer” – whatever that role actually involved – would be aware of these DoT traffic counts. For example, readers may be interested to note only eight articulated HGVs are recorded as using the Aldi – Boxgrove roundabout section per day.

    Our anonymous engineer may not be familiar with current construction costs, for example, the £2.5 million recently spent on the Stoke Interchange Southbound slip road, which appeared to add nothing more than more queueing capacity.

    I cannot support the agenda and campaign to increase the use of the already over capacity London Road by more HGVs and to make Burpham a rat run by drivers when the Stoke junction is more appropriate for drivers wishing to enter Guildford.

    As I’ve said before, valid criticism is welcomed but an attack like this is not credible with the lazy stereotypical arguments and language used.

    • Jeremy Holt Reply

      July 21, 2023 at 4:57 pm

      I was not surprised that the letter writer chose to be anonymous.

      Perhaps Roger Carnegie could be more specific on the source of his data and his credentials for passing comment.

      Also, I do not understand how it more sensible for drivers on the A3 coming to Guildford from London to use Stoke Interchange rather than London Road.

    • Jim Allen Reply

      July 21, 2023 at 9:23 pm

      I tire of fantastically traffic figure fighting! The Reality

      The last guaranteed accurate figures were taken by a resident of and in New Inn Lane in September 1983. The next accurate figures (manipulated to meet a need of ‘1’ in the arcady data modelling) were in the Aldi submission 2015. I have both! There are no other accurate figures since then. The covid period over 2 years are not ‘natural reliable figures’: Because of the work from home phenomena and the mild winters! Nothing stabilised in this respect.
      The MoT figures are extrapolated across years and junctions! And no traffic figures are available when A3 grinds to a halt southbound diverting onto the London Road, save 1 car every 2-3 seconds event.

      No resident is documented or disclosed to have requested a cycle lane other than what already exists alone the London Road! Prior to public disclosure in December 2022. No one has officually asked the opinion of the statutory planning body in Burpham; the Burpham Neighbourhood Forum (who wrote the Neighbouhood plan). Courtesy if nothing else pre-finished plan could have saved time and money!

      The A3 south Guildford exit traffic levels in broad terms are split between the A3100 and the A320 thus obstruction of traffic in Burpham will place a greater load on the A320 already at capacity!

      Levels of traffic on London Road is very roughly 60% from and to the M25. Thus all calculations of transfer to cycles is devide by 3 so for every 90 claimed due to road use numbers is in reality 30 being more realistic!

      As for pollution. initial tests show Particles are virtually non existent below PM2.5 50pg/m3, CO2 is below 450ppm in Burpham and sound levels rarely go over 75dB. Noting all cars have emmission testing! So there in reality is nothing to ‘reduce’ save the NO2s

      So who decided to spend the money in Burpham? not the residents, not the statutory planning body, not Guildford as SMC6 is their plan not just a cycle path but bus lanes car lanes bike lanes and foot paths in the time line of Gosden Hill!(dimensions are of concern!)

      So who decided this project, who made a major decision without community consultation? Who raised the government loan/ grant it looks to me like a local ULEZ/ Road charging, situation gone to far by the high ups, while the majority are asking on a common sense level very simply why? We don’t actually need this money spent in this way!

      Spend it on pot holes and foot path and hedge trimming.

  2. Wayne Smith Reply

    July 21, 2023 at 4:14 pm

    The £4.2 million cost is absurd but from the meeting at George Abbot school, it was quite apparent that SCC doesn’t consider it its money (but showed no recognition that it still comes from taxpayers). They made it quite plain that if they don’t proceed they will have to pay back the government grant and may never receive another grant because of their failure.

    It’s quite predictable what the outcome of any further consultation will be.

  3. Ben Paton Reply

    July 21, 2023 at 7:24 pm

    A breath of fresh air. That dose of common sense needed to be said.

    Carving cycle lanes out of an existing A road is just counterproductive. Build cycle lanes. But build them where cyclists don’t have to compete with cars and lorries.

  4. Retired Highways Engineer Reply

    July 22, 2023 at 12:10 pm

    The c.19,000 vehicle figure is taken from the 18,793 for ALL vehicles as quoted from the DfT Census 2017 (follow link below).

    The cycle number count was taken from figures quoted by SCC at the January meeting at George Abbot School. In the 2017 count there were only 68 cyclists.

    Mr Carnegie says he cannot support an “agenda and campaign to increase the use of the already over capacity London Road by more HGVs”. Nobody is advocating that, what is being said is the narrowing will cause congestion to the existing traffic use. London Road is an existing access road into north-east Guildford from the A3.


    (Name and address supplied)

    • Roger Carnegie Reply

      July 22, 2023 at 4:38 pm

      It is curious that 2017 data has been chosen, and from an obscure website. More recent traffic counts are available directly from the Dept of Transport ( The year of 2017 is the highest traffic volume, and lowest bicycle count for 20 years, and is also an estimate.

      All of this would be known to even the most junior traffic engineer, which is why I raised the objection.

      Readers may be familiar with these traffic counts when they see people in camping chairs sitting at the roadside with clipboards noting the vehicles passing.

      In my day an engineer was a man of precision and facts and sadly these standards do appear to be slipping.

      • Retired Highways Engineer Reply

        July 23, 2023 at 4:38 pm

        The source quoted by Mr Carnegie in his reply is from the same source as quoted by myself. The 269-cyclist figure from 2018 was the last manual count carried out, (with more recent counts being estimated), but near the figure quoted at the meeting by SCC.

        The 2017 vehicle count of 18,739 was pre-Covid and represents a realistic maximum level which might be expected and planned for. The maximum vehicle figures for the years 2014/15/16/17 were all over 18,000. Planning isn’t carried out using the minimum figure. The trend shown in the statistics is for increasing numbers of vehicles using London Road.

  5. Jeremy Holt Reply

    July 22, 2023 at 7:19 pm

    I wrote an earlier comment about Roger Carnegie’s first comment saying “I was not surprised that the letter writer chose to be anonymous when I read the bile and innuendo in this comment”.

    The editor chose to omit the second half of the sentence.

    Roger Carnegie’s second comment again contains bile and innuendo.

    It is a pity that the editor has allowed this to continue.

    Editor’s response: Several comments in this trail have been moderated with parts removed. I considered “bile and innuendo” to be and exaggeration and inaccurate. My judgement was that those that remained were milder and tolerable. Others can make their own judgements but it is an opportunity to remind all those submitting comments of our policy which can be seen here.

  6. Frank Emery Reply

    July 24, 2023 at 6:29 pm

    There are currently cycle lanes on London Road, wide enough for individual cyclists, if they are widened then that will just encourage cyclists to ride two or even three abreast which will slow traffic, generating more fumes and toxicities!
    If you give cyclists an inch they take a mile!!!

  7. Sam Peters Reply

    July 25, 2023 at 10:36 am

    Author asked to reduce length by 50%

    It is no wonder that cycling infrastructure in the UK is in such a state when this is the apparent views of some of the engineers who oversee it.

    There are plenty of valid criticisms of the way this proposal has been handled – but on environmental impacts of cycling, nebulous claims of ‘pollution’, and plain whataboutism, most of the arguments presented in this letter are nonsense.

    – Pollution caused by diggers to build a cycle lane is not only an irrelevance in terms of impact vs benefit, but occur whenever and wherever roads are built too – on a vastly increased scale. Every person enabled to get out of a car and onto bikes or their feet is another multi-tonne vehicle not out destroying the road surface and requiring more repairs, which are not only costly environmentally but also economically.

    – Why is the very idea of attempting to increase walking and cycling ‘a nonsense’? 40% of journeys under 2miles in the UK are made by car. The average car journey in the UK could be completed in 30mins by bike even assuming there is no more direct route. Studies have repeatedly shown that the majority of people would rather walk, cycle or take public transport if given the option, as backed up by the evidence when they are enabled to do so. This is hardly a secret – if our unnamed engineer had bothered to do a simple search they could have found ample examples, such as a 2022 Ipsos survey which found 71% support action to encourage more people to walk or cycle instead of driving, 44% would like to cycle more than they currently do, but 67% feel it is too dangerous to cycle on the roads. Other studies have found a fifth of commuters would choose to cycle to work if they had the option, while a government study from 2020 found government survey found 65% of people in England support reallocating road space to cycling and walking in their local area. The fact that they claimed widespread public opposition while assuming no studies had been done, without even bothering to check, speaks volumes to the ongoing failures to enable cycling in this country.

    – The Netherlands has not always been a cycling country – even 40 years ago the streets of now-quiet, pollution-free towns and cities were choked with cars. In the early 1970s the Dutch had some of the worst cycling casualty rates in the world, and yet there was still ample opposition to improvements to cycle and walking infrastructure. Demand cannot lead supply when it comes to making cycling and walking safer – nobody can be expected to put their or their children’s lives on the line just to prove a point about local transport to those unwilling to look at the evidence.

    – That some cyclists don’t wear reflective clothing is utterly irrelevant. Many drivers don’t follow road laws either – causing thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries a year, unlike cyclists. If the Highway Code is of such concern, why not the minimum overtaking distances from bikes of 1.5m when under 30mph and 2m when over 30mph? Any cyclist in Guildford could likely count on one hand the number of times this is actually obeyed in a day. If the concern is over ‘conflict’ between cyclists and drivers, then quite simply, one should support segregated cycle lanes – proven over and over again to be the safest solution for shared roads.

    – The idea that cycling causes more emissions due to drivers being held up is also utterly false. The production cost of a bike is around 5g CO2e per km cycled, compared to a production and fuel cost of over 270g CO2e per km driven in even an average car (emissions from production and driving of increasingly common SUVs are significantly larger still). Countless studies have found almost no impact on average road speeds where roads are shared by cyclists and drivers even without cycle lanes (average difference in driver speed being less than 1mph). Indeed, anyone who cycles regularly in Guildford will know that for the majority of the day, it is in fact cars slowing bikes down – it is almost invariably quicker to get anywhere on a bike, despite the efforts of the cars racing dangerously to beat cyclists to the next red light mere metres ahead (this phenomenon is so well-studied transport experts have even given it a name – the ‘MGIF’ or ‘must get in front’ manoeuvre).

    – Far from slowing traffic and causing more pollution, cycle lanes have been shown to actually reduce traffic and congestion, plus associated pollution. Analysis of London cycle lanes shows over 20% reductions in roadside concentrations of NO2. Evidence from cycle lane installation around the globe shows that in fact, cycle infrastructure causes overall reductions in traffic volumes and congestion levels – hardly surprising given what we know about the induced demand effect. Cycle lanes in London move on average 5-7x the number of people that car lanes do, a figure which increases still further during rush hours. To take Blackfriars Bridge as an example, cycle lanes representing just 20% of the total road area move 4x the total number of people moved by the road lanes taking up 80% of the area. Guildford isn’t London of course, but the idea that cycle lanes increase traffic, pollutions or emissions is plainly false.

    – Presumably it is within the realms of our collective intelligence to facilitate bike parking once the demand for bike parking is there. If a school needs bike parking, it can install bike racks. If bikes get punctures, they can be repaired. A few thousand students learning new life skills – in addition to the many other benefits of cycling – is surely a good thing. This is serious bottom-of-the-barrel stuff if this is the supposedly among the best arguments against a bike lane.

    – Perhaps fewer people will choose to cycle in inclement weather. So what? If anything, cycle lanes enable more people to do so should they choose to, with the knowledge that drivers are less likely to soak or plough into them.

    Decades of this kind of thinking – or lack of it – has left us dependent on cars for the shortest journeys, with cyclists and pedestrians abandoned while congestion is worse than ever and our air is choked with fumes, causing health problems for millions (indeed, air pollution is the single biggest environmental threat to health in the UK and responsible for tens of thousands of early deaths a year).

    As mentioned, there are many aspects of this cycle lane plan which do deserve criticism, and others which could certainly be improved. This letter unfortunately misses almost all of them. The final jab against ‘environmentalists’ with ‘no recognition that normal life must go on’ summarises it well – again suggesting not only a total lack of awareness about the environmental arguments for reducing car dependency, but also again perhaps demonstrating why cycling in the UK is in the absolute state it currently finds itself.

  8. Valerie Thompson Reply

    July 25, 2023 at 3:50 pm

    With the many problems affecting local authority budgets in Surrey at the moment, the idea of spending this ridiculous amount of money on cycleways, which will inconvenience the public for months during construction, and forever after when attempting to access Guildford on this essential road, is total madness.

  9. Sara Tokunaga Reply

    July 26, 2023 at 6:54 am

    I was surprised to see that Mr Carnegie’s comments were not moderated by the editor as they appeared to be a blatant attack on the unknown writer’s integrity. When Mr Holt responded his comments were moderated. It would seem the editor is practising double standards on this occasion.

    I totally agree with the unknown writer’s comments and consider Mr Carnegie’s comments to be rude. Is he, perhaps, hoping to become a GBC councillor as this kind of sniping seems to be required for such a position?

    Editor’s response: Mr Carnegie’s comments were also moderated.

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