Like a dog with a bone, it seems that still Peterborough City Council are again discussing plans to close off Bridge Street in Peterborough to cyclists. Thankfully Peterborough has a branch of the cycling charity Sustrans which is proactively fighting for rights of all bicycle users and is calling on the council to look at evidence rather than a knee-jerk emotional reaction.
…Sustrans does not believe that introducing a similar ban on Sundays to the other days is necessarily the best option.
This proposal for Bridge Street follows a similar attitude on nearby Long Causeway which I blogged about at the time.
All this flies in the face of attempts by the city’s own Travelchoice team who are doing their best to promote sustainable travel options as part of Travel Choice Month.
When Bridge Street was closed to motor vehicles back in the 80s, the plan was for pedestrians and cyclists to use Bridge Street to cross safely through the city centre. This was built into the design of Bridge Street. So for subsequent councils to introduce a cycling ban (and for the current administration to look at extending the ban) it goes against the very design of the city centre.
Peterborough City Council had the perfect opportunity to improve cycling as part of the recently-completed Bridge Street public realm works, but sadly instead they chose to make it worse by removing cycle parking and pushed it out of sight down a side street – ideal for bicycle thieves!
To me, the core problem appears to be consideration. Regardless of whether someone is on foot or riding a bicycle, they’re both people. If people were a bit more considerate to each other and shared space then there wouldn’t be any need for narrow-minded attempts at closing off Bridge Street to cycling.
Sustrans Peterborough have clearly put some effort into arguing the case for cycling on Bridge Street and have kindly allowed me to publish their statement here.
There are undoubtedly some anti-social cyclists who may enjoy flouting restrictions. They should be discouraged and can be prosecuted with or without restrictions. Changes on Sunday will make no difference to them.
One problem with extending the ban to Sundays is that those that currently cycle when they should will continue to do so. All this ban does is penalise responsible cyclists, not to mention put additional strain on any authority charged with carrying out enforcement.
It’s not just cyclists that are being penalised but also businesses. By diverting away potential customers, businesses like shops and cafes risk losing vital passing trade. It’s easy to point at forward-thinking cities elsewhere in the UK and in Europe where a cafe culture and cycling go hand in hand. Sadly it seems Peterborough’s “cafe culture” only works if you are able to park your car at the steps of the Town Hall.
Research has shown that shops significantly underestimate the value of business from cyclists and this also needs to be considered.
We can only hope that the powers that be see sense, look at evidence and work out how to bring cycling into the city centre and make it a key part of Peterborough’s culture.
Sustrans’ statement in full:
The suggestion that there should be changes to the City Centre Cycling orders has come as a big surprise. There was a Peterborough Cycling Forum meeting on 2nd July, attended by Cllr Casey and Cllr North and it was not mentioned, but on 24th July there was notification of a consultation.
Peterborough is taking positive steps to encourage cycling through the Travelchoice project, but we are worried that this could be undermined by not making adequate allowance for cyclists in and around the City Centre. Bridge Street is at the centre of the cycle network developed for the city and is an important link for hundreds of people who are cycling to work and school each day, or even just popping to the shops. When the Development Corporation designed the City Cycle Network and removed car traffic from Bridge Street they included Bridge Street as the main north-south cycle route in the city centre. They considered options for building a dedicated cycle route along Bridge Street, but felt that this was incompatible with the need to have a flexible public space. The Development Corporation did not make any alternative provision for cyclists to avoid Bridge Street and there is still no good alternative, because the Corporation allowed for cycling at all times and understood the evidence that this could work well as a shared space. A cycle ban was introduced about 20 years ago, by Cambridgeshire County Council, when they were Highway Authority and since then this has been a source of controversy. The ban was introduced before Sunday shopping and now that Sunday shopping is well established it makes sense for Sunday to be treated in similar ways to other days. However, Sustrans does not believe that introducing a similar ban on Sundays to the other days is necessarily the best option.
Sustrans has generally welcomed the City Centre enhancements over recent years and does believe that pedestrians should have priority in Bridge Street and the whole City Centre and cyclists should treat pedestrians with the courtesy and respect they deserve. At times the best approach may be for cyclists to dismount and walk, but evidence shows that cyclists judge for themselves. The present situation gives an excellent opportunity to review cycling and vehicular issues across the City Centre. There are big variations and the fact that Sunday restrictions are currently different to other days gives a good case study. When Cambridge had a similar situation they did an analysis of Sunday compared to other days and found that there were no particular issues with there being no restrictions on a Sunday and decided to lift restrictions on all days, firstly on a trial basis. In Cambridge’s case there was a strong involvement of the transport team who recognised the importance of cross-city centre cycling and were looking for good solutions. In Cambridge, as in Peterborough, the historic city centre does not lend itself to obvious alternatives, especially given that it is known that routes that involve significant diversions for cyclists will not work. Sustrans suggests that Peterborough does a similar trial and analysis. Cambridge found that lifting the restrictions was the best option and we expect that Peterborough will find that the evidence points the same way.
The justification for the proposal is that “It is not acceptable to cycle on a busy pedestrianised street. It is not safe for the pedestrian or the cyclist. Cyclists should therefore dismount and push their bikes along Bridge Street which only takes a couple of minutes” . This does seem to be entirely at odds with Council transport policies and guidance and has major issues for the whole city. The most successful part of the City Centre is surely Cathedral Square where cyclists and pedestrians generally mix well and there are no restrictions. The impressive Bourges Boulevard scheme is currently removing segregated cycling and walking facilities and replacing them with shared facilities, because this is considered good practice.
The timings of any restrictions are inconsistent and it is odd to introduce similar restrictions on a Sunday to other shopping days; when shopping hours are very different. Bridge Street has cycling restrictions currently from 9:00 am -6:00pm, much of the City Centre has loading restrictions from 10:30am – 4:30pm, but Westgate has restrictions from 11:00am – 2:30pm. Anyone who stands on Bridge Street early in the morning will see it busy with cycling commuters and with very few pedestrians – it is obviously an important route . At 9:00am Bridge Street is still generally quiet in terms of pedestrians. At 9:30am it is still generally very quiet (especially on Sundays) and it is understandable that cyclists do not want to walk when they could cycle and not come across anyone. By 9:00am at least many will already have completed their journeys to or from work or school, but for those cycling home from school or work the current 6:00pm restriction is far too late. This will be a particularly odd restriction on a Sunday with Sunday shopping finishing at 4:00pm, although this would be less relevant for school children. The restrictions on cycling have never been popular with cyclists and unpopular rules make for difficult policing. There has to be a serious question as to whether asking the Police to patrol Bridge Street is a good way to spend Police time, when all the evidence is that generally this sort of environment works well without restrictions and people find their own ways of sharing the space. Responsible cyclists will abide by rules that make sense, but even some of them may be tempted to cycle if they see Bridge Street empty. There are undoubtedly some anti-social cyclists who may enjoy flouting restrictions. They should be discouraged and can be prosecuted with or without restrictions. Changes on Sunday will make no difference to them. There is a strong argument that the best way to police irresponsible cycling is to have role models, but those who would cycling slowly and carefully in Bridge Street are currently banned and there are no good cycling role models in Bridge Street at present.
An important issue that seems not to have been considered in this debate is that cyclists can also be City Centre customers. Many cyclists will be using Bridge Street as a through route but others who want to enjoy the street can be valuable customers. Research has shown that shops significantly underestimate the value of business from cyclists and this also needs to be considered.
We are keen to emphasise that the research and the Council’s own Cycling Design Guidelines has shown that cyclists can mix harmoniously with pedestrians. Certainly cyclists deserve a convenient and high quality route though the city centre as is stated in the Council’s own Transport Plan and there is currently no alternative to Bridge Street and of course pedestrians deserve to be safe and treated with respect wherever they are. Any good alternative for cyclists will not be easy, but Sustrans and others would be happy to be involved in discussions. It is hard to see how an alternative could work well so this is a real challenge. If cycling is to be restricted we believe that this will continue to be a very difficult task for the police and will be unpopular with many , but the logic would be to change the restrictions to 10:30am to 3:30pm on all days to aid commuter and school cyclists.
We do not believe that any changes should be introduced without a review of the whole City Centre in line with the Council’s transport policies and an analysis of what the issues are currently on Sundays. We are surprised that the Council should consider promoting an order that seems to be completely contrary to their own policies and wonder how this can have happened. We believe that the best option would be to review the proposal and undertake a thorough review and consultation. We note that the Peterborough Local Transport Plan refers to Priorities for the City Centre Core as Reduction of cars and car parking in the core area with a strong emphasis on pedestrians and cycles, but also promoting and accommodating public transport. Some of the proposed measures to do this include:
- Expand pedestrian and shared cycle and walking areas;
- Improve cycle routes and increase the number of bike racks and other facilities to encourage people to cycle more;
- To seek to provide a north-south cycle route through the city.
The City Councils Cycle Design Guidance states:
”Studies have shown that there are no real reasons why cyclists should not be allowed to use vehicle restricted areas. In the presence of pedestrians, cyclists are observed to adapt their behaviour to take account of the level of pedestrian density. When there are proposals to introduce vehicle restricted areas, providing cyclists’ access should be the default position”.
David Harvey and right Tim Goodman. Around 1982<br />
Photo kindly used with permission of Chris Porsz – <a href=”http://www.chrisporsz.com”>www.chrisporsz.com</a>