CYCLE SUPERHIGHWAY: Labour councillors have called for a rethink after anger from business owners
Calls for leaders to “u-turn” on plans to bring a cycling superhighway to a major shopping stretch have been rebuffed by a regeneration chief.
Angry business owners on Linthorpe Road have erected protest signs against a new cycleway on the busy stretch which was backed in January.
And concerns about lost parking spaces, a lost bus stop, and the quality of the consultation have seen town centre Labour councillors call for a rethink of the vision.
But Cllr Ashley Waters, executive member for regeneration, says he will “stand firm” and backed the changes to help tackle the town’s health problems.
Segregated cycleways and the removal of 50 parking spaces are part of the project funded by the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA).
Bus stops on the stretch will be reduced from three to one – with motorists urged to use parking on Amber Street and surrounding roads.
However, the vision has sparked outcry from firms on the road who say the loss of spaces will hit them hard in the pocket on top of pandemic pressures.
Seven town centre Labour councillors have called for a rethink on the back of the frustrations.
They’ve raised worries about the loss of a bus stop near the One Life Centre as well as doubts about the consultation.
Central ward members Cllr Matt Storey, Cllr Zafar Uddin, Cllr Linda Lewis have joined Newport councillors Alma Hellaoui and Chris Cooke in sounding the calls, alongside Cllr Theo Furness and Cllr Julia Rostron.
In a joint statement, they backed spending on cycle routes but wanted to see wider focus on areas such as Marton Road, Acklam Road, and off-road bike lanes in the town.
They added: “Targeting Linthorpe Road in isolation doesn’t make sense as the alternative possibilities would be as effective in encouraging more people to cycle while not being disruptive to local businesses.”
The group also revealed how many Linthorpe Road firms had contacted them with worries about the consultation – before calling for a u-turn on the cycleway.
The statement added: “The covid-19 pandemic has done incredible damage to the economy and, at a time when independent businesses are fighting for their survival, we should be listening to them not riding roughshod over their concerns.”
“We have to start addressing the problem”
The aim of the half mile cycle highway from Ayresome Street to Borough Road is to make the route safer for cyclists and cut congestion.
Money will come from the TVCA – with cost estimates of between £941,000 and £1.5m for the scheme.
Cllr Waters has been outspoken in criticising business owners for “abusing” parking spaces outside their stores on Linthorpe Road.
And he defended his stance once again in response to Labour’s u-turn calls.
Cllr Waters added: “Yes we could look at Marton Road but we have enough problems there as it is.
“Part of the rationale behind this is to get people out of cars, onto bikes.
“It may alleviate some of the problems we’ve got on Marton Road – and take pressure off other parts in the town.
“At the end of the day, we’re signed into a green new deal, reducing our carbon emissions and looking after the environment.
“That has to start in Middlesbrough. If you look across the rest of the country and the rest of Europe, cycling is a major part of daily life.
“We haven’t adopted that in Middlesbrough.
“When we have the health issues we have in the town and we’re wanting to encourage a better way of life, we have to start addressing this problem.”
Council papers show the authority is only getting 33% of the “maximum income” it could receive from spaces with parking charges on Linthorpe Road.
Cllr Waters said Amber Street and other car parks were “under utilised”.
He added: “Middlesbrough does not have a shortage of parking – what we need is a change of attitude.
“If you have to walk 200 yards to work, then you have to walk 200 yards to work.
“Yes that’s a sacrifice and it might be an inconvenience – but in the long run, it’s improving the health and infrastructure of our town.”
“It’s starting on a main link into the town where the majority of our population lives.”
A consultation on the plans closed on February 3.
Cllr Waters insisted the council was responding to concerns – with work to try and provide cycle parking outside firms on the stretch, as well as efforts to look at parking permits and grants.
He also added a number of responses to the cycleway plans had been positive.
“Yes the businesses are upset and understandably so – I get it,” said Cllr Waters.
“But we have to look at changing for the sake of the town and getting people active.”
The executive member said Conservative Cllr Luke Mason had contacted him with concerns from businesses to address some worries.
And he added his “door was open” to all councillors to talk concerns over.
Cllr Waters added: “If any Labour councillors want to come with issues, sit down and have a conversation then I’m more than willing to do so.
“They just need to contact me – my door will always be open.”
Words: Alex Metcalfe, Local Democracy Reporter
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