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Council approves 12-month trial; one councillor hails "a brave decision," another says it's "absolute madness"...

A Bournemouth councillor says that a council decision to permit cycling in The Square and at Pier Approach can help overcome the seaside town’s “anti-cyclist attitude” – but the move has been condemned as “madness” by a fellow councillor, who has warned that it will cause conflict between cyclists and pedestrians.

In an article earlier last month outlining the plans, the Bournemouth Echo pointed out that police statistics revealed nine pedestrians in Bournemouth had been injured as a result of collisions with cyclists between 2008 and 2012. None of those incidents took place in a pedestrian zone.

During the same period, some 638 cyclists were injured in road traffic incidents, which led to the newspaper asserting last year that the town was the “the second most dangerous place for cyclists in England outside London,” although as we pointed out at the time it is impossible to verify that claim.

The council pledged that it would seek to improve the safety of bike riders, and allowing them to ride at The Square and Pier Approach forms part of that initiative.

Cyclists will be allowed to ride at the two locations in a trial lasting 12 months – no date has yet been set for it to start – but they have been told that should problems arise with regard to sharing the space safely with pedestrians, the initiative may end early.

Labour councillor Dennis Gritt told the Bournemouth Echo: “It’s a brave decision and it’s an attempt to get away from this us-and-them attitude towards cyclists which strangely seems to ferment in this town.

“It’s an anti-cycling attitude which seems to have always been around and I cannot understand it. I remember the first cycle route I campaigned on was in Glenferness Avenue and people said then we couldn’t have that there.

“I also supported cycling on the promenade which I think is an unqualified success.

“We’ve got to support this trial and remind cyclists to be aware of pedestrians and of the speed limits and then I am sure it will be a success too.”

But independent councillor Ron Whittaker, warned that allowing cyclists to ride in the locations concerned could result in pedestrians being injured, and described the decision as "madness."

He said: “One only has to look at the speed of some cyclists when they come down Richmond Hill and hit The Square to see that this will cause a problem.

“The Square is extremely busy with children and elderly folk often enjoying music and other entertainment during the summer, as is the Pier Approach. These cyclists can dismount for the few extra minutes it will take them.”

Unveiling the trial, Councillor Michael Filer, who is in charge of transport in the town, said: “In order to show that we’re really serious we’ve been persuaded that for a trial period we’re going to give cyclists the opportunity to go across the Pier Approach and Square.

“We are urging cyclists to take this very easy and to realise that shared space means shared space – we don’t want any accidents.

“The number of accidents that there has been between cyclists and pedestrians is very low and we want this to continue. If there should be any major problems or large numbers of accidents then the permission will be withdrawn well before the 12-month trial is up.”

He added: “We’re putting a lot of effort into trying to make this a good town for cyclists. If we don’t do anything at all about cycling then traffic is going to snarl up over the next 10 to 20 years.”

Another opponent of lifting the bans is former Liberal Democrat council leader Douglas Eyre, under whom The Square, formerly a roundabout, was pedestrianised in 1996. He described the decision to allow cyclists to ride bikes at the two locations as “disastrous.”

Noting that many had opposed the move at the time, but told the Bournemouth Echo last week: “Having got it through, I think it’s commonly agreed it was a good decision. Bournemouth would seem to be walking backwards by allowing bikes in the Square.

“I think it’s absolutely disastrous [to permit cycling]. Anybody coming down Richmond Hill on a bike, on the pavement approaching the Square, is either going to do one heck of a skid or is going to be doing something fairly dangerous.”

A report from the council’s cycling officer, Lucy Marstrand, said that ‘no cycling’ signs in the town gave riders and “unwelcoming message.”

But Mr Eyre said that cyclists should be required to dismount at The Square and Pier Approach.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

14 comments

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vbvb [564 posts] 1 year ago
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Great news! Works well in Bordeaux, this space sharing. How brilliant that they're giving it a go in Bournemouth.

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levermonkey [658 posts] 1 year ago
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The rules are simple.

1. Get your speed down - It's a shared space!
2. Don't be a cock!
3. Give all due consideration to VRN's even more vulnerable than you.

Remember we are an 'out-group' so the bad behaviour of one reflects on us all. Don't be afraid to challenge bad behaviour, even if it's only a disappointed look and a shake of the head. [No I'm not jumping on the Chris Hoy Bandwagon, I've said this many times before in many posts.]

If we can prove the doomsayers wrong then we'll get more areas opened up. The more 'permeability', the more safe routes, the more 'in' we appear then the greater the number of cyclists there will be. Critical Mass IS possible!

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teaboy [311 posts] 1 year ago
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I find it weird that the councillor is against the scheme because it could cause conflict between vulnerable users and faster-moving vehicles and injury to the more vulnerable party, but I assume he's happy for cyclists to have to ride on the road where conflict is caused between vulnerable users and faster-moving vehicles and injury to the more vulnerable party is commonplace...

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northstar [1108 posts] 1 year ago
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I can see what will happen, silly idea.

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barbarus [233 posts] 1 year ago
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It should work. Exeter high Street is like this; not pedestrianised but originally only buses. People walk all over the road. Until a few years ago bikes were banned, a ban that was routinely flaunted. The council lifted the ban and it mainly works. You have to be careful because its narrow and the busses often assume right of way. And as mentioned above as a cyclist you have to remember not to be inconsiderate to death wish pedestrians!

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benclark88 [11 posts] 1 year ago
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Although its great to get people sharing space, I do think this is a bit daft. That town centre gets seriously busy at times - walking through there can be hard enough, I'm not really sure why you would want to ride through it. Not that that has stopped people in the past anyway - I've seen plenty on bikes in the town centre.

If you need to go in a shop, just lock it up and walk, or if you are trying to get somewhere, just go around it. It's hardly a long distance.

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djb123 [86 posts] 1 year ago
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barbarus wrote:

It should work. Exeter high Street is like this

Exeter high street is a road (restricted access, but still a proper road with pavements and everything), cyclists can be on the road, pedestrians can't mill about on it. From photos in the article it seems that there is no such road in Bournemouth, so cyclists will be in amongst the pedestrians (equivalent to cycling through Princesshay). I'm all for space sharing, but completely unrestricted cycling will just mean that pedestrians will need to be on high-alert all the time. I think that this is a step backwards and will not benefit anybody, it will just increase any existing tension between cyclists and pedestrians.

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sooper6 [25 posts] 1 year ago
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Cyclists will always try to avoid a collision if possible as it is painful. There are lots of studies that show there are very rarely any issues of cyclists using shared space, but there are lots of concerns usually most vocal from disability groups like Guide dogs for the blind. Its more the fear of what might happen rather than what actually happens.
I think education is key to try and make cyclists aware that what they see as a safe pass may be very frightening for someone with limited sight or hearing. While the cyclist feels they navigated an area safely without a collision they may well leave a pedestrian feeling like they had a close escape.
As a cyclist I feel threatened by cars making close passes so I always give pedestrians plenty of space.
There is also benefit in improving sight lines so that any potential conflicts are reduced, as corners can be a real problem.

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congokid [261 posts] 1 year ago
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I'm surprised there appears to be so much support here for shared space when it has been well documented that it is far from ideal and doesn't really work even in places where it is probably done much better than it ever is in the UK and most pedestrians hate it.

The Bournemouth proposals sound like an ill-considered bodge that will fail to satisfy anyone. The council really needs to look at better examples of allocating space for vulnerable road users that encourage mass cycling, and implement those instead.

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Joeinpoole [439 posts] 1 year ago
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'The Square' in Bournemouth is a huge area with several interconnecting roads coming off it. Most of the time, certainly at commuting times, it is relatively empty and no problem whatsoever for cyclists to cross whilst navigating clear of pedestrians.

Obviously it's not suitable for "arse up, head down" cycling or Strava segment attempts ... but that's not what cycling, as a means of transport, is all about anyway.

It would be no different to the way cyclists and pedestrians intermingle on the streets of Amsterdam for example.

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sooper6 [25 posts] 1 year ago
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Bournemouth is allowing cycling in pedestrian zones, the article you link to relates to road shared spaces. So not quite the same thing really.

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congokid [261 posts] 1 year ago
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sooper6 wrote:

Bournemouth is allowing cycling in pedestrian zones, the article you link to relates to road shared spaces. So not quite the same thing really.

True, though Hembrow does also refer to a pedestrianized zone which allows bicycles, which is apparently quite common in the Netherlands.

It seems that once the correct infrastructure is installed - lots of bike parking, no through route even for cyclists and really low speed limits for any motor vehicles (and where there is a high degree of cycling), everyone on foot and wheels adapts to it.

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northstar [1108 posts] 1 year ago
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*sighs*

Not really a pedestrian zone if motor vehicle drivers are allowed access is it...

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vbvb [564 posts] 1 year ago
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congokid wrote:

once the correct infrastructure is installed - lots of bike parking, no through route even for cyclists and really low speed limits for any motor vehicles (and where there is a high degree of cycling), everyone on foot and wheels adapts to it.

No Through Route for bikes is "correct infrastructure"? Your links don't show that either.

Any thoughts of rescinding your previous criticism now some kind soul has drawn your attention to your misunderstanding of the terminology?