There have been repeated attempts to open a car-free part of National Route 1 / EuroVelo Route 12 / the North Sea Coast Cycle Route to cars, following previous attacks on Harding's Way under the guise of improving air quality in 2015 (yes, the reasoning really is that bizarre), trying to use it as a "temporary" London Road bypass in 2012, and widening the route for buses between 2009 and 2011. This is the only section of the National Cycle Network we know to be converted into a busway, after a proposal in Bristol was abandoned on safety grounds.
If the busway is opened to all cars, it will rob South Lynn of its only car-free route to town, increase pollution and noise next to Whitefriars School and increase the number of cars driving around the historic old town looking for parking instead of using the multi-storeys next to the A148. It would trash the millions spent on the South Quay and St James St heritage regeneration areas, the Hillington Square refurbishment and the forthcoming Nelson Quay project by dumping traffic sewers through them.
The idea seems like a throwback to 1960s/70s plans for a brutal multi-storey car park next to the Customs House (which you can see in Clifton House on Open Days) - it's completely unsuitable for the new millenium where we need to make a healthy, liveable town and the council and developers should hang their heads in shame.
Harding's Way was opened as a tarmac cycle track in 2003 (Google Streetview), part-funded by a Sustrans "Safe Routes to School" grant, connecting Whitefriars School to South Lynn without using busy roads. The route is named after William Derisley Harding and runs past the Harding's Pits Doorstep Green. It will eventually continue through the Nar Ouse central park to the innovation centre, once construction by Wisbech Road is finished, and it could easily continue under the bypass to create a new car-free route from the new West Winch / North Runcton housing developments avoiding the congested and polluted nine-lane Hardwick Road, busy Hardwick Interchange and many stop-start crossings there and at Southgates Roundabout.
It was widened about 2010 to allow buses through (as part of a project which pledged five other cycling measures as compensation but built only one) and widened again after buses crashed into the sides (Daily Mail report).
The Verbal Contract With South Lynn
Local residents, walkers and cyclists have always been told that "an all-vehicle through route from Wisbech Road to Stonegate Street would not be supported" (County Council comments on the Nar Ouse Regeneration Area, 1999). Even when the northern end of the route was opened to buses, we were repeatedly told things like "the road would never be a through traffic route, with the exception of buses" (Borough Council Minutes for Tuesday 24 November 2009).
The town centre streets can't be made any bigger (unless you want to demolish several historic buildings), so making more roads in from outside cannot solve the congestion - but getting more short-distance drivers cycling can! Ten years ago, we were promised "a step change in the quality of walking and cycling paths, completing missing links in the network" (Urban Development Strategy, 2006) which still hasn't happened. One easy missing link was completed (between Kettlewell Lane and Highgate) but many others are still missing.
Come on councils! Please try to harness the economic benefits of cycling rather than keep trying to gridlock the town with more and more unnecessary cars and economically-inefficient surface car parks.
We have the beginnings of a good cycle route network and it just needs some of those projects "completing missing links" to unlock its potential. Sadly, councils and private developers have also attacked other car-free sections of Route 1 in West Norfolk recently, such as unsuccessfully bidding for a grant to turn part of the Sandringham Railway Path into a road in 2013. (We feared another attempt would be displayed at a consultation at South Wootton Village Hall between 2pm and 6.30pm on Wednesday 30 November 2016 and asked all available cyclists to attend and demand the improved cycle crossing of the A1078 that the councils said should be included in that development.)