A controversial segregated cycle lane in Reading that was formed during the pandemic has been made permanent.

In the summer of 2020, Reading Borough Council took the decision to close the southbound lane of Sidmouth Street to motorists and turned it into a two-way cycle lane.

However, the closure of the lane to drivers -which meant they could no longer get between Queen’s Road and London Road- was only temporary.

Now, that closure has been made permanent thanks to a decision by councillors.

Tony Page (Labour, Abbey) lead councillor for transport argued that, while the cycle lane is not currently linked to other cycle routes, the council has wider plans to incorporate it into a wider network.

However, opponents argued that the cycle lane is isolated and poorly used, with the University College of Estate Management (UCEM) even conducting a survey on its low use.

READ MORE: Pictures expose Sidmouth Street cycle lane being shunned by cyclists

Only cllr Rob White, the leader of the opposition, explicitly spoke out against the scheme.

Cllr White (Green, Park) said: “I’m a cyclist, I cycled here tonight, and I want a decent joined up cycle network in Reading.

“If Greens were running the council, we wouldn’t have put the Sidmouth Street scheme in.

“We would’ve spent the money joining up and improving the cycle network elsewhere.

“It isn’t joined up, it’s a cycle lane to nowhere. It is duplicating Watlington Street, which is nearby, parallel. It’s a quiet road, you can cycle down there, it’s lovely, and it’s already joined up to the Kennet Side.

“Even when Sidmouth Street is joined up, if it ever is, I think Watlington Street will still be preferred by the majority.

“One of the objectives of the scheme was to support social distancing, and with such low numbers of cyclists, at least it has met this objective.”

READ MORE: Reading measures to boost cycling since pandemic made permanent 

His comments were heavily criticised by cllr Adele Barnet-Ward (Labour, Thames), who argued the council’s ambitions for cycling infrastructure are limited by what funding it can obtain from government grants.

Cllr Barnet-Ward said: “I cannot believe that I have just heard a Green councillor argue that we should ration cycle schemes in East Reading, that because cyclists can cycle on the road in between parked cars on Watlington Street that they therefore don’t deserve a proper segregated cycle lane.”

On active travel funding, she added: “We are at the mercy of the Government, and we have to do the best we can with what they give us.

“We have small pieces of funding that we have to knit together based on our bigger local cycling and walking infrastructure plan.”

Reading Chronicle: The barrier which prevents drivers from turning into the southbound lane of Sidmouth Street, Reading. Credit: James Aldridge, Local Democracy Reporting ServiceThe barrier which prevents drivers from turning into the southbound lane of Sidmouth Street, Reading. Credit: James Aldridge, Local Democracy Reporting Service

Meanwhile, the Conservatives supported it.

Cllr Paul Carnell said: “Cllr White is indeed right, it does have low usage and it’s currently a cycle path to nowhere.

“But as cllr Page has said this is just a small part of a larger vision, so hopefully that would improve usage.”

He also supported a suggestion that the cycle lane could be made narrower so there could be two traffic lanes heading northbound to ease congestion. 

Cllr Carnell said: “If that were ever to happen I would be truly delighted.”

In a vote, only cllr White chose to abstain, with 12 councillors voting for it.

The decision was made at a traffic management sub-committee meeting this week (Wednesday, September 14).