TRADERS fear they could be put out of business by the new cycle lane in Commercial Road.

They say a lack of space for deliveries will severely impact their business.

The criticism comes on the back of the new lanes being described as ‘s**t’ by a borough councillor.

Last week plastic barriers were placed along the centre of the two-lane one-way street running up from Milton Road to Regent Circus.

The left-hand lane, heading up the road is now designated a cycle lane, with the right lane for traffic.

But shopkeepers say this means there is no room for delivery lorries or vans, and this could be disastrous for trade.

Chris McKendrick runs The Pharmacy in the road. He said: “When I rode into work on Friday, these barriers had popped up. It was as if it had been a midnight raid.

“As a business owner in the street, I had not been advised of this or consulted. It would perhaps have been courteous to give us some notice as to what was going to happen.”

Mr McKendrick objects to the new set up both as a trader and as a cyclist.

He said: “The council doesn’t seem to have given any thought to the businesses in this road. There is nowhere for any deliveries to be made. Lorries can’t go in the cycle lane, and if they pull up in the other lane, they block it completely.

“Regular deliveries are essential – we have to get in the medication that people need.

"We have many elderly and vulnerable customers who need their medication to be delivered – if that doesn’t happen there can be serious consequences.”

And Mr McKendrick doesn’t think the simple separation of the lanes does much to serve cyclists.

He said: “Commercial Road has six or seven roads coming off it. And every time the cycle lane meets it, it stops, so the cars can get out.

"It means that people on bikes have to keep stopping and the priority is still the traffic.

“I was watching and there were a few people using the new cycle lane, one every five or 10 minutes or so, but there were still a lot of people riding on the pavement, or ignoring the new lane and riding in the road.

“If I was riding up the road, I’d probably use the road as well, because of all the junctions with the side roads in the cycle lane.”

Fellow trader Marcus Kittridge, who run the popular café Baristocats, says the new scheme could be the final nail in the coffin of a terrible year for his business.

“This year has seen the toughest trading conditions any of us has ever known with the pandemic and this cycle lane could just make it worse,” he said.

“We have about half our stock at the moment and about half our menu is not available because we haven’t been able to accept a delivery.

“The companies won’t send a delivery if there’s nowhere safe for them to stop, and they won’t stop in the main running lane, totally blocking it.

“We are desperate for a delivery soon. We spend all weekend going round supermarkets looking for things we can use in the café but that’s much more expensive and that was the entire weekend gone.”

Mr Kittridge said the Fantasia Polish deli and supermarket has two large delivery trucks a day, and the post-holding company Mailbox has multiple deliveries a day, sometimes up to 50 different vehicles.

He added: “I’ve been on to the leader of borough council and got very short shrift from him.

“He just said it was a two-month trial. But if we can’t get deliveries then we will be long out of business by the end of those two months.”

When the lanes appeared labour councillor for Mannington and Western and new chairman of the council’s scrutiny committee Jim Robbins was critical, describing the changes as “sh*t” and saying he couldn’t believe it took five months to bring about.

Council leader David Renard defended the move, saying: “What we saw across the country was authorities putting things in place very quickly and then having to take them out again. So we have spent some time consulting on a number of schemes, consulting with local businesses and local residents.

“We have taken longer than some other authorities but as we saw with the reopening of the recycling centre if you take a little bit longer you quite often see a better outcome.

“The emergency active travel fund didn’t become available until we started to come out of lockdown, so to suggest we should have done this in March is disingenuous.

“There were a number of schemes being considered but we looked at these two areas and thought these were the most beneficial.

“We are encouraging people to cycle and be more active which is what the money is for and that’s what we’re spending it on.”