Grant Shapps blamed for ‘daft schemes’ like Hunters Bridge cycle way by Herts county councillor

The cycle lane on Bridge Road, Welwyn Garden City. Picture: David Harrison

The cycle lane on Bridge Road, Welwyn Garden City. Picture: David Harrison - Credit: David Harrison

A Herts county councillor has said Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps is blaming everyone but himself over new cycle lanes.

Cllr Nigel Quinton says that the transport secretary’s department is to blame for “daft schemes” such as Hunters Bridge, but Mr Shapps suggested the councillor shouldn’t have approved it if he thought it was a bad idea.

The Handside and Peartree councillor said: “Our MP, now transport secretary thanks to hitching himself to Johnson’s mast last year, has had the gall to write to local councils criticising them for ‘ill-conceived road closures due to cycle lanes’.

“Yet it was he as transport secretary who set councils impossible to meet goals with no time to consult widely. As county councillor I was approached by Highways officers in the summer about the suggestion to put a cycle lane across Hunters Bridge. ‘But it won’t lead anywhere, will not solve anything on its own, and why can’t we do x, y and z instead?’ Well, I was told, because the Dept of Transport say we have to favour schemes that involve closing roads to cars in favour of cycles and pedestrians, we have almost no time to act, and there really isn’t that much money to go round. This is the best we can come up with.

“So I reluctantly gave my approval. The cost was minimal, and it could be seen as a step in the right direction – after all, the recently consulted upon [HCC} South and Central Growth and Transport Plan did propose that this bridge became single lane for cars and was prioritised for cycles and buses etc. Of course this would need the council to explain that to the public. So far I have seen nothing.”

Nigel Quinton.

Nigel Quinton. - Credit: Archant

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Mr Shapps responded: “So Cllr Quinton essentially signed off a bad scheme in the knowledge that it was a poor idea and then seeks to blame the government for his own actions! Welwyn Hatfield Times readers are a bright bunch and I am sure they will reach their own conclusions.”

Cllr Quinton added: “Meanwhile, working with Welhat Cycling, I have sent in a large file of suggested improvements with the goal of transforming the cycling and walking environment so that there is a proper network of safe routes. If we are to really achieve ‘modal shift’ as the council and government say they want then we have to make it easy and safe for people to take up cycling rather than jumping in a car.

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“That includes new cycle priorities, clear signposting of what is and isn’t a shared use cycle way, 20mph zones in all residential streets, and segregated cycle lanes wherever practical. If Mr Shapps is serious about wanting to encourage Active Travel, then this is what he should be funding, not chasing quick headlines which change from one month to the next.

“But, true to form, his letter criticises councils for ‘too many instances where temporary cycle lanes were unused due to their location and design’, and goes on to say ‘We are not prepared to tolerate hastily introduced schemes’. He should perhaps consider who was responsible for the demands to do exactly that – I’m sure I have a mirror somewhere I could lend him.”

Welwyn Hatfield MP and Transport Minister Grant Shapps introduced funding to improve cycleways and r

Welwyn Hatfield MP and Transport Minister Grant Shapps introduced funding to improve cycleways and roads earlier this year. Picture: BBC - Credit: Archant

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