Published: 15:25, 12 January 2021
| Updated: 14:36, 13 January 2021
A much-criticised town centre cycle lane is to be removed after less than a year.
Kent County Council (KCC) installed the cycle lane in King Street, Maidstone after the government announced an Emergency Travel Fund back in May to fund schemes that would keep people healthy during lockdown.
KCC was awarded £8 million, but had to spend the first tranche of £1.6m within six weeks.
In Maidstone, the county introduced two schemes at short notice and without consultation - the "pop-up" cycle lane in King Street and also an extension of the pedestrian area in Earl Street and the introduction of "parklets" there, built out into the carriageway
Both have since come in for severe criticism.
KCC admitted "public consultation was not at the level usually given to projects of this nature," but said the projects were "always of a temporary nature."
Now councillors will be told at a meeting of the Maidstone Joint Transportation Board tomorrow (Wednesday) that the cycle lane will be removed because Maidstone Borough Council was due to carry out its rejuvenation of the bus hub early in the New Year.
However, the Earl Street scheme will remain "with minor adjustments."
Critics of the pop-up cycle lane said that the reduced road width had added greatly to congestion, while passengers getting off buses had found themselves stepping immediately into the path of the cyclists - though others said that the cycle lane was in fact very seldom used.
However, KCC has not given up on the cycle lane altogether. It said it would seek funding from developers' Section 106 contributions to fund a permanent scheme in future - but this time with all the normal consultation and public engagement procedures.
An online petition started by Michael Donnelly opposed to the cycle lane quickly attracted almost 500 signatures.
Transport campaigner James Willis is a member of the Maidstone Cycle Campaign Forum. He said: "Let's be clear. Even cyclists said there were difficulties with this cycle lane from the start.
"The problem was that it was rushed through without consultation - that's not the officers' fault, they were caught between a bus-stop and a bollard, if you like. It was the Government insisting the money be spent so quickly. The result is that around £70,000 of taxpayers' money has been wasted."
But Mr Willis said: "There is a need for an active travel cycle route between Maidstone East and Mote Park and given time and proper consultation, it should be possible to find a solution."
Pop-up cycle lanes were installed in other towns across Kent at the same time - and caused a similar hullabaloo. The lanes in Ashford and in Dover were removed in September after a public outcry.