A charity that works with visually impaired people has teamed up with the Mayor of Cheltenham to fight proposals by Gloucestershire Highways to allow cyclists to ride in pedestrianised zones in the town. National cyclists’ organisation CTC however insists that banning bikes from such areas encourages car use and points out that collisions between cyclists and pedestrians in those zones are “very rare.”
According to the Macular Disease Society, some 250,000 people in the UK, mainly aged over 60, are registered as having the condition, which causes loss of central vision as a result of damage to the macula, a small part of the retina. It says that a similar number suffer from the condition to a lesser degree.
The charity, supported by Barbara Driver, the Conservative Mayor of Cheltenham, insists that removing a ban on cyclists from pedestrianised areas of Cheltenham will force disabled people to avoid the town centre, reports the news website, This is Gloucestershire.
Currently, cyclists are banned from a pedestrianised zone stretching between Pitville Street and Winchcombe Street on the High Street, and between Crescent Terrace and Imperial Circus in the Promenade. Gloucestershire Highways is currently considering proposals to allow cyclists to ride in those areas.
Mrs Driver told This is Gloucestershire: "If changes go ahead, those with a disability will feel like second class citizens who no one from the council will listen to. They will be driven out of the town centre because of safety concerns. If you cannot see or hear cyclists and you have a mobility problem, you cannot move out of the way fast enough, or at all."
Genevieve Matley, leader of the Macular Disease Society’s Cheltenham group, insisted that it was not anti-cyclist ahead of a protest to be held outside the town’s municipal offices at lunchtime today.
"People should be able to walk in the area feeling safe and not worried about traffic of any kind," she explained.
Peter Godwin of Gloucestershire Highways said that it was reviewing whether to permit cyclists to ride in the affected areas after receiving requests from the police, Cheltenham Borough Council and local residents.
Owen Parry, head of integrated transport and sustainability for Cheltenham Borough Council, added: "As part of the ongoing consultations, the council is continuing to feed back the concerns of residents and community interest groups to Gloucestershire Highways."
In 1993, the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) published a report called ‘Cycling in Pedestrian Areas,’ the key findings of which were set out in a Traffic Advisory Leaflet published by the Department for Transport the same year.
That leaflet highlighted in bold type the finding that “Segregating cyclists from pedestrians is not always necessary or desirable.”
It also summarised the report’s main conclusions.
The first was that “Observation revealed no real factors to justify excluding cyclists from pedestrianised areas, suggesting that cycling could be more widely permitted without detriment to pedestrians.”
Also, the report found that “A wide variety of regulatory and design solutions existed to enable space to be used safely and effectively in pedestrianised areas. These varied considerably in response to local circumstances.”
According to the report, as summarised in the leaflet:
Pedestrians change their behaviour in the presence of motor vehicles, but not in response to cyclists.
Cyclists respond to pedestrian density, modifying their speed, dismounting and taking other avoiding action where necessary.
Accidents between pedestrians and cyclists were very rarely generated in pedestrianised areas (only one pedestrian/cyclist accident in 15 site years) in the sites studied.
Where there are appreciable flows of pedestrians or cyclists, encouragement to cyclists to follow a defined path aids orientation and assists effective movements in the area. At lower flows, both users mingle readily.
Referring to the proposed lifting of the ban in Cheltenham, CTC told road.cc: “Research and evidence show that there is no good reason to exclude cyclists from a pedestrianised area.
“This just forces cyclists to use busy roads, it also puts off many people who would otherwise cycle to the town centre and encourages them to travel by car.
“Accidents between pedestrians and cyclists in areas closed to motor vehicles are very rare.”
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.