It is four years since Portsmouth Cycle Forum rallied cyclists in Guildhall Square to mourn the tragic death of Tim Atkins and to demand action from Portsmouth City Council. Tim was involved in a head-on collision with another cyclist on the narrow path and fell into the traffic. His grieving family joined us in calling for urgent action on the Eastern road to avoid the needless loss of any more lives.
The rally in Guildhall Square attracted over 200 cyclists as well as a number of local politicians - both councillors and MPs. In the rally and its aftermath enthusiastic support was received from politicians of all parties. Unfortunately that support has not translated into any significant changes.
The plans for significant improvements to the length of the Eastern Road path developed after this incident have not been not been built, excepting some trivial changes around the immediate area of the incident. The Eastern Road Shared Use Path (SUP) is one of the busiest pieces of cycle infrastructure in the area and yet it falls woefully below acceptable design standards. There are still many narrow sections where cyclists have no separation at all from the traffic risking a repeat of the type of accident that took Tim Atkins’ life. This is most notable on the bridge where the issue is further exacerbated by the lamp columns.
Last year the opportunity to significantly improve the quality of cycling provision on the Eastern Road was lost by council prevarication. This seems to send a clear message that PCC is far more concerned with avoiding the ire of people who drive than it is with preserving the lives of people who cycle. This message was reinforced this year with the wholly unsatisfactory diversion put in place when the SUP was closed for maintenance of the water main that runs beneath it.
In December 2020, the council announced a new three year scheme to upgrade the Eastern Road route from the A27 in the north to Eastern Ave in the south. Phase one was to be the section past the caravan park and was to be part funded with tranche 2 Active Travel fund money from central government
Now, halfway through 2021 there are still no public plan as to how they intend to achieve this, and with the caveat that Government funding involves consultation it will be the autumn before any work can start, which then places further uncertainty on the likelihood of finishing the full route before 2024.
We are renewing our call on Portsmouth City Council to take urgent action to bring the Eastern Road SUP up to standard, before another life is needlessly lost.
Our coverage of the events of four years ago can be accessed from these links: