More than 50 cyclists in Oxford were last week fined for riding on two pedestrianised city-centre shopping streets from which bicycles are banned between 10am and 6pm, apparently due to “safety reasons” – although one of those streets is also used by dozens of buses every hour throughout the day.
According to the Oxford Mail, 51 cyclists were issued with £30 fixed penalty notices during last Wednesday’s three-hour operation on Cornmarket and Queen Street. Police Constable Dawn Evans told the newspaper: “We love the fact that people cycle in Oxford.”
However, she added: “We want people to be cycling around the city but they’re going to have to stick to the areas where they can do so. The restriction is there for safety reasons.”
Cyclists are banned from both streets between 10am and 6pm, although in the case of Queen Street, pictured above, many of the city’s buses travel along it heading eastwards each day, although bus stops that used to be located on the street were removed in July 2009.
Originally, it had been planned that the street would be fully pedestrianised by 2011 under the Transform Oxford initiative but that deadline has passed with buses continuing to share the busy street, pictured above, with pedestrians.
Speaking to the Oxford Mail, Sushila Dhall, of the Oxford Pedestrians’ Association, said she believed cyclists ignoring the ban on both streets were a danger to pedestrians.
“I’ve certainly seen quite a few people cycle down Cornmarket and Queen Street,” she explained. “It makes pedestrians feel unsafe because it only takes a moment for a toddler to run out or for a pedestrian to change direction.
“There’s a small number of cyclists who persistently ignore the rules. What we lack in Oxford is common courtesy between road users.”
Local cycle campaign group Cyclox echoes that sentiment – one of its key campaigns is called ‘Bike Polite’ – but it has also long called for cyclists to be allowed to use Queen Street during the day.
It points out that as the situation currently stands they have to make a lengthy detour, deterring many from using bikes for journeys crossing the city centre.
Cyclox took Oxfordshire County Council’s cycling champion, Councillor Arash Fatemian, and its cabinet member for transport, Councillor Rodney Rose, on a rickshaw tour of the city centre in February 2010.
During that trip they observed cyclists illegally – but safely – using Queen Street, although any hopes that might lead to an eventual rethink of the ban on cyclists, as seemed to be a possibility at the time, have turned out to be premature.
Speaking of the latest police operation, James Styring, chairman of Cyclox, said: “People shouldn’t cycle down Cornmarket and Queen Street but they need to change the regulations.
“I don’t think it’s a big deal when you think about people who drive while on their mobile phones.
“On Cornmarket there are probably too many pedestrians for any sensible person to want to cycle," he added.
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.