Published: 11:16, 16 September 2020
| Updated: 11:18, 16 September 2020
New pop up cycle lanes have been slammed as a "pain in the backside" and an accident waiting to happen by disgruntled business owners and residents.
The lanes were introduced earlier this month along Milton Road, Gravesend , as part of the government's push for "active travel" in the wake of the pandemic.
It forms part of a trial by Kent County Council which has been allocated a pot of more than £8 million to invest in walking and cycling.
But the lanes have faced criticism from disgruntled local business owners who say the scheme is ill-thought out and has been introduced without notice.
Abnash Sareen runs the Bollywood Beauty Salon on Milton Road but says trade has been hit hard by the cycle path which includes fixed bollards to prevent cars from entering them.
It means his business has been unable to collect deliveries from vans stopping outside and he has been forced to make longer trips.
"It is a pain in the backside," the 62-year-old said. "Whoever came up with this idea should be inside."
"So far all the cyclists I have seen have not used the lane."
He added: "We are struggling for business as it is and then this. All of it has come as a surprise – it is absolutely horrible."
The cycle lanes have restricted the width of the roads but are intended to allow for free flowing traffic in both directions.
However, Mr Sareen believes the new measures have made the road layout more dangerous near the busy clocktower turning.
This, he says, is because lots of articulated lorries and HGVs who use the road now swing into the opposite lane to avoid the new cycle lanes.
"It is dangerous for the traffic. They are going halfway across the other side.
"It is only a matter of time before there is an accident," he added.
Iris Smith, owner of TJ's pub on the corner of Milton Road, says her business has also been "significantly impacted" and that "there was no consultation whatsoever".
She can no longer access deliveries outside and said the nearest route is over a weight restricted bridge.
"I don't think the intention was to cause this much disruption," Iris said, but added without clear access and support businesses like hers would fold under the pressure.
The pub landlord hastened to add she was not against the idea of a cycle lane in principle, and even thought it might help prevent people cycling on the pavement if designed correctly.
But Iris criticised the posts as ill thought out, adding "at the very least people should have looked at Google maps".
"Traffic is already difficult enough without making the road narrower," she said.
"Hopefully they will have taken some time to review the system and then take some of these out".
The scheme is being introduced through an experimental traffic order and a consultation will run afterwards to decide whether to make them permanent.
The first round of funding amounts to £1.6 million with the remainder dependent on this first round being spent within eight weeks.
A second wave of schemes across Kent will be dependent on the government’s decision to award further funding and a submission has already been made with further schemes to be be announced once funding has been confirmed.
Meanwhile new cycle routes have been put in place through Albion Terrace and Norfolk Road.
Road closures will be put in place from Monday for 18 months to prevent through traffic "because of Covid-19 measures".
Residents were enraged to find wooden planters have already popped up overnight blocking access in and out of the area and on Monday the boxes were forcibly removed.
One neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said: "If the council did block the road again, I’m sure it will be removed by local residents again."
Local resident John Colfer hit out at the "sheer madness" of the scheme.
The 64-year-old helps manage the emergency service barrier on Prospect Grove at the junction of Norfolk Road and has raised concerns with local authorities over access for blue light vehicles and waste removal services.
"Al these cycle lanes appeared over night, nobody knew anything about them," he said.
"This will have a major effect on the traffic in the area, on top of the troubles we already have, and especially at peak times.
"We will no doubt have many vehicles using the width restrictions at the junction of Canal Road and Prospect Grove as a short cut to avoid the delays, even if it means driving through the number of no entry signs and width restrictions the wrong way."
John added neighbours had already been getting in touch with him as several had found themselves stuck at the barriers while attempting to navigate the new road layout.
It has come a huge frustration to Riverside ward residents who John says have worked tirelessly to resolve past obstructions.
Access for bin men was also identified as a potential stress factor with rubbish trucks likely to be forced to reverse up and down Norfolk Road and carry out manual collections.
Parents who would usually park to pick up children from the Chantry Community Academy will also have to stop elsewhere.
John added this could result in them obstructing other residents and vehicles trying to pass through.
Kent County Council were contacted for comment.