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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.