Cycle Path Not Finished

The Rye Harbour Road cycle / footpath ends just yards from the spot where Graham Matthews, 22, was killed in August 2004 when his bicycle was hit by a car

His parents, Brian and Sue, are angry that now, almost eight years on, the path has not been completed

East Sussex County Council said issues of land ownership had held up plans but the whole path will be completed in due course.

Before the fatal accident, pressure had already been put on the council by the local cycling club for a path to be installed.

After Graham was killed, the Rye & District Wheelers joined Mr. & Mrs. Matthews in demanding that a cycle/footpath be built on this notorious stretch of road that had suffered eleven fatalities in the 40 years that passed since the first plan for a footpath was mooted.

Mr Matthews said: “The road is very narrow and there is very little room for cyclists and cars and lorries to pass and there should have been a cycle path or footpath installed years before my son was killed. A petition, signed by every person in Rye Harbour plus many from Rye and continued pressure from Brian Matthews and the Rye Wheelers eventually got promises from East Sussex Councillors that the project, costing half a million pounds, would go ahead.

Work was started in 2005 but only a small section was completed

Matthew Lock, the council’s member for transport, said they intended to put in a path along the whole section of Rye Harbour Road down to the harbour.

He said: “It is split into four sections because there are difficulties with each section”.

“Rather than doing nothing we have done phase one, which is an easy section as we own the road there so we are able to get on and get that bit completed.”

The other three phases were being held up because the land was owned by other people and there were issues of contamination which needed to be cleared by the Environment Agency, Mr Lock said.

Mr. Matthews and the Rye Wheelers stepped up their pressure and lobbying of councillors and in 2007 after three years of campaigning, they were told the path would now now be completed along the road where Graham killed. East Sussex County Council said finishing the path, which will be known as Graham’s Way, was a priority. Funds had been found to complete it.

Councillor Matthew Lock said a path would be put in along the whole section of Rye Harbour Road.

“I couldn’t get over how many people were actually cycling on this road, and so there was an obvious need that this needed to be brought forward and to be dealt with in a quick manner,” he said.

By the end of January 2008 the pathway was completed except for a four hundred yard strip round the dangerous corner after the long straight approaching Rye.

Then something strange happened. The materials designated for this final stretch were mysteriously used to build a cycle/footpath on the opposite side of the road, going back toward Rye Harbour!

There was no warning or discussion with Brian Matthews, the people of Rye Harbour or Rye Wheelers – it just materialised over the course of a few days.

The Leader of East Sussex County Council. Councillor Keith Glazier, told “Rye’s Own” that because of a problem gaining access to ‘The Padock’ where they needed to build a retaining wall, work could not be carried out on the final section until next year. It is more complex as land needs to be acquired.

“This is only a temporary safe crossing point, until the path can be completed. It has to be extended back toward the Harbour for safety reasons to improve visibility.”

These statements may have held water if the path had been completed in 2009 but there has been no movement.

Rye Wheelers carried out a survey of the cycling aspect of the path in November and discovered that a large number of people, including many children, use it regularly. They are very protective of it too. There are reports that lorry drivers who parked with their wheels on it were woken up in the middle of the night and politely told to get their vehicles back on the road. There were also numerous reports to the police that motorists were parking on it when it first opened. As a result of this public awareness, vehicle parking on the path is now a rarity.

It is now eight years since Graham was killed and it would be more than a tragedy if another cyclist or pedestrian was hit just a short distance away from the accident spot. This will almost certainly be the case if the path is not completed.

Come on County, don’t leave the job half done.

The End of the Road!
The End of the Road!

At the outset of construction, Rye & District Wheelers promised to ride in company with Brian Matthews, Councillors and everyone else involved in the creation or use “Graham’s Way” when it was completed.

Let us hope, that despite the critical state of council finances, County put lives over cash and by the autumn of this year that triumphant ride from Rye Harbour to Rye can take place.

Graham Matthews was a smashing young man, on the threshold of life. Those of us who knew him want to know that his death resulted in a safer ride for those that follow his path on the way to Rye from Rye Harbour.

From the January 2012 issue of “Rye’s Own”

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