Police ticket Oxford cyclists riding in pedestrian zones

Officer cites "safety reasons" - although one of the streets concerned is used by buses all day long

by Simon_MacMichael   January 30, 2012  

Pedestrian zone cyclist.JPG

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.

18 user comments

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Similar silly ban in Cambridge was why the Cambridge Cycling Campaign was founded. We got our bike ban lifted a few years ago. Still some silly one-way only streets in the centre though, which impedes some routes which would otherwise be very convenient.

The safety argument is bogus. One of our councillors predicted "carnage" if the bike ban was lifted. I haven't heard of any problems.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1385 posts]
30th January 2012 - 23:40

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Once, some 15 years ago, I was fined for cycling down Cornmarket street. I was only doing so to tell a policeman that a bus had crashed at the top of the street. He didn't care, just wanted his £30 of flesh.

These are key strategic routes for crossing the city, as well as shopping/tourist streets. Surely there's room for both.

Patrick.

posted by Littlehuan [46 posts]
31st January 2012 - 0:13

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Come on guys, a bus is much easier to see than a bike. If you break the law (no matter how stupid it may seem) then MTFU and accept the penalty when caught.

Angelfishsolo's picture

posted by Angelfishsolo [116 posts]
31st January 2012 - 8:03

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So let's look at the data. How many pedestrians have been injured by cyclists in Oxford in the last 12 months? If it is so dangerous, well see statistics proving this to be the case. Otherwise, it's just a pointless exercise in handing out fines for low risk activity. Perhaps the police in Oxford would find a better use for their time in targeting motorists using cellphones while driving for instance? I'm not a gambler by any means but I'd put money on Oxford having a far higher incidence of pedestrian injuries caused by vehicle drivers using mobile phones than by cyclists. Let's face it, enforcement such as this is a bit pathetic when there are far more serious threats to road users being ignored.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2361 posts]
31st January 2012 - 8:49

1 Like

Angelfishsolo wrote:
Come on guys, a bus is much easier to see than a bike. If you break the law (no matter how stupid it may seem) then MTFU and accept the penalty when caught.

That depends which direction you're walking in. The buses would be approaching the pedestrians facing the camera in the pic above from behind, so unless they have eyes in the back of their heads, they won't see it.

As the spokeswoman says in the article, pedestrians are unpredictable - iPod/mobile distraction plus a bus approaching from behind is not a good combination.

We're not saying people should ride where they are banned from doing so, nor that they should not pay fines, and the issue isn't so much Cornmarket, which any cyclist who knows Oxford will avoid.

Queen Street is a different matter though; banning cyclists from a street, apparently to protect pedestrians, which hundreds of buses a day are allowed to use is ludicrous, and can't be justified by 'pedesrian safety' (which both the WPC and the pedestrian campaigner emphasise).

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8706 posts]
31st January 2012 - 8:54

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Report TRL 592 looked at cycle carriage on buses, and one factor which was seen tio be important was the risk to pedestrians of a bus with a bike rack on hitting them - tests to the car (ENCAP) safety standard were carried out (the only such tests on a bus or commercial truck so far to date?) This seems rather naieve or even negligently stupid given that buses have the worst safety record for hitting pedestrians on a per vehicle per year basis from the statistics 10 years ago and from those same figures today.

So someone might marshall the crash facts and ask why Oxford's Council permits such dangerous vehicles to share a pedestrian zone, whilst banning cyclists who have been shown by another TRL study from the 1980's (Cycling in Pedestrian Areas) to have practically no collisions with pedestrians when the two are mixed in an appropriate way. In the study it was actually found that the risk of a collision was greater when the cyclists were walking with the bike!

Oxford should follow the example of Cambridge, when a large number of people are doing something that conflicts with a rule and brings about confrontation those enforcing the rule then there is clearly something wrong. Like Canute they are faced with a flood of demand which a blunt enforcement tool does not work against demand = a need or market for doing something which will not, like the incoming tide, go away. In place of a seriously unpopular enforcement regime the solution is one of exemplary management. There are risks when wheeled vehicles mix with pedestrian traffic due to the potential on massive disparities in speed, and abilities to turn, stop and accelerate (Clue the pedestrian has the fastest acceleration to 3 mph, and can stop and turn through 360 degrees on the spot, a performance better than any bike or bus). So design for low vehicle speeds, and keep vehicle flows clear of doorways, and 'blind' corners.

It might be worth looking at how the buses are permitted to use the street as they are, for the purposes of the Highways Act 1835 a carriage, just like a bicycle, so if carriages are permitted to use the street ... There is also a very relevant question here, in terms of disability as I know of at least one unipedal Oxford cyclist who uses their bike as a mobility aid. Sitting astride the bike and scooting or pedalling provides a great relief to the strain of using crutches, which has in the past given them serious shoulder problems, and the potential for serious injury and infection of their stump, through over use of their prosthesis.

There is yet a further and highly commercial opportunity that Oxford is losing out on, for both foot-sore tourists and shoppers faced with a long trek back to a car, bus or train. That is to have pedicabs, not charging any fee, but sponsored by local businesses to patrol the pedestrian zone and city centre, on a hail and ride basis to bridge the gap between journeys that are comfortably walked and journeys made by motorised transport, that cannot viably fit in to the ore area of the city.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [510 posts]
31st January 2012 - 8:54

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Angelfishsolo wrote:
Come on guys, a bus is much easier to see than a bike. If you break the law (no matter how stupid it may seem) then MTFU and accept the penalty when caught.

Rubbish. This is a completely unjustifiable ban, considering the council see fit to allow buses to use the same route. A bus is much harder to stop than a bike and much more likely to cause death or serious injury if you are hit by one.

I know its easy to give advice from a distance, but this is one case where I think all the cyclists concerned should challenge these penalties in court.

posted by don_don [149 posts]
31st January 2012 - 9:05

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don_don wrote:
Angelfishsolo wrote:
Come on guys, a bus is much easier to see than a bike. If you break the law (no matter how stupid it may seem) then MTFU and accept the penalty when caught.

Rubbish. This is a completely unjustifiable ban, considering the council see fit to allow buses to use the same route. A bus is much harder to stop than a bike and much more likely to cause death or serious injury if you are hit by one.

I know its easy to give advice from a distance, but this is one case where I think all the cyclists concerned should challenge these penalties in court.

You're right, it's easy to chime in without knowing the area, and I don't know it well. Are the prohibitions well signed? Were the cyclists effectively riding on a pavement/footway? It's difficult to challenge the fine in court if the offence was clearly being committed, and the courts are unlikely to have much sympathy with people taking up their time to challenge a £30 fine which was technically correctly handed out. Likelihood is that all the cyclists would end up with a bigger fine and some costs to pay.

On the other hand, challenging whether or not it *should* be an offence is a political matter, not one for the courts. Time to get on to political representatives and make a noise about it. The way to get stupid rules changed is through political means, not by ignoring them and then complaining when caught. The latter just reduces the credibility of the political challenge.

posted by step-hent [707 posts]
31st January 2012 - 9:54

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step-hent wrote:
You're right, it's easy to chime in without knowing the area, and I don't know it well. Are the prohibitions well signed? Were the cyclists effectively riding on a pavement/footway? It's difficult to challenge the fine in court if the offence was clearly being committed, and the courts are unlikely to have much sympathy with people taking up their time to challenge a £30 fine which was technically correctly handed out. Likelihood is that all the cyclists would end up with a bigger fine and some costs to pay.

On the other hand, challenging whether or not it *should* be an offence is a political matter, not one for the courts. Time to get on to political representatives and make a noise about it. The way to get stupid rules changed is through political means, not by ignoring them and then complaining when caught. The latter just reduces the credibility of the political challenge.

I've lived in or near Oxford for six years and used to commute across the city by bike when I worked there.

Yes, the restrictions are well signed, so challenging the fines, as you say, is a non-starter.

The picture above was taken looking down Queen Street from Carfax on a Saturday lunchtime - so one of the busiest shopping times of the week. You are looking right down the middle of the street, which is where any cyclists are, not on the pavements. There are no buses in shot, but believe me, they are there.

Before 10am or after 6pm, when cyclists are allowed to use Queen Street and Cornmarket, there are clearly fewer pedestrians, and everyone seems to get on fine (during those hours, particularly on Cornmarket, delivery lorries are the greatest danger in my opinion).

At the busiest times of day, the very volume of pedestrians (not to mention the crowds caused by people watching licensed street entertainers on Cornmarket, for example) mean it's impossible to cycle at any speed anyway.

It's ludicrous that the council apparently believes that buses and pedestrians can mix safely on Queen Street, but cyclists and pedestrians can't.

I'd say that the greater risk of cyclist/pedestrian collisions is on other streets in the city centre that are nominally open to motor traffic but effectively for access only - Turl Street, parallel to Cornmarket (and therefore used as an alternative by cyclists, is treated as a de facto pedestrianised street, but some cyclists hammer along it at a fair old speed; one came very close to hitting me, the wife and the dog last year.

The situation in Oxford, as with any major tourist city, is also worsened by the fact that many visitors are unfamiliar with road layouts or look the wrong way when crossing, or simply block pavements for everyone else, forcing people into the street (yes, foreign language students, I'm looking at you).

One thing I'll add, as someone who regularly goes into the city by bus - I certainly wouldn't fancy driving one in Oxford, there are an awful lot of pedestrians there who seem to feel they have an invincibility shield (or who simply have no awareness that there may be buses in the vicinity). I imagine it's pretty stressful being required to drive one down Queen Street, and the sooner that's ended, the better.

Sadly, I fear it might take someone suffering serious injury or worse for the council to finally stop dragging its heels and reroute them. With no bus stops on Queen Street now, there is absolutely no reason for them to be there, it might add a couple of minutes to a journey to reroute them, but it would be to everyone's benefit.

After moving to the city, I was amazed when I watched an old episode of Inspector Morse to see footage of Cornmarket choked with cars, lorries and buses, nowadays you wouldn't know they'd ever been there, so it can be done.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8706 posts]
31st January 2012 - 11:18

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Simon_MacMichael wrote:
[...] the issue isn't so much Cornmarket, which any cyclist who knows Oxford will avoid.

Queen Street is a different matter though [...]

I've not been in Oxford recently, but I do know it and the cycle route maps show regional route 1 and NCN 51 crossing Cornmarket at different points, while both those and also RR 7 and NCN 5 cross Queen Street. Why should cyclists have to avoid the official cycle routes?

A quick look on Street View suggests that RR 1 actually has a "No Vehicles" sign onto Cornmarket from one side (always a fun thing to see on a cycle route - surely it should be no motor vehicles?), but only a turn right from Ship Street and I couldn't see any signs saying you can't turn onto Queen Street from NCN 5 / RR 7.

Now Street View can be a bit old, but are they sure the signs are giving correct, positive instruction, before penalising cyclists? I'm sure the signs on the main road entrances like from Carfax are probably up-to-date but based on my experiences elsewhere, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the signs when the cycle routes meet those streets were wrong or missing.

Totally agree that Queen Street should be rideable. If it's safe enough for buses then it's safe enough for bikes.

posted by a.jumper [739 posts]
31st January 2012 - 11:44

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@ a.jumper

You're right, I was talking about the signs at either end of the streets. Not sure about the situation on the cross streets (one on each of Cornmarket and Queen Street) but if they were stopping cyclists who were just crossing those two streets (rather than riding along them), that would seem particularly excessive, not to mention questionable if there are no signs.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8706 posts]
31st January 2012 - 13:00

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I'm not intending to be provocative but when it says cyclists have to take a 'lengthy detour' does it mean they can't walk their bikes through the area? If they can, why over-dramatise the situation?

posted by mrsminx411 [86 posts]
31st January 2012 - 13:11

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It's not a case of being over-dramatic, it's a point consistently made by Cyclox - it does put some people off riding through the city centre. Yes, you could get off and walk, but that will take you as long as it would taking the detour.

There's another consideration - if you're going north to south, that detour means you have to take a right-turn onto the High Street, which is a major route with bus and other traffic - not an ideal situation.

And the point remains about the absurd situation on Queen Street - if it's deemed safe enough for buses and pedestrians to mix, why not cyclists?

Perhaps the bus drivers should be asked to get out and push, too? Wink

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8706 posts]
31st January 2012 - 13:38

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I agree wtih Don-Don, better to challenge the ban on cycling and try to get it lifted, or a cycle route put in.
If cyclists want to be accepted by other road users, then they need to follow the rules. If you're not allowed to ride down a road, and it's well signed to say that, then you shouldn't ride down it.
There are lots of cyclists who follow the highway code and are courteous to other road users (and lots of drivers too), but the ones who don't make the rest of the cyclists look bad (and the same goes for the drivers who drive where they shouldn't).
There are people out there who don't follow the rules when they think no-one's looking, such as speeding, going the wrong way down one way streets, cycling in no-cycling areas. These people know they shouldn't be doing these things, so shouldn't complain if/when they get caught.

posted by Flippa [36 posts]
31st January 2012 - 14:26

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Simon_MacMichael wrote:
@ a.jumper

You're right, I was talking about the signs at either end of the streets. Not sure about the situation on the cross streets (one on each of Cornmarket and Queen Street) but if they were stopping cyclists who were just crossing...

Yeah, but I suspect there's no signs telling you that you cannot turn onto Queen Street.

In fact, both Open Street Map and the journey planner linked from http://www.cyclox.org/oxford-journey-planner/ show Queen Street as two-way for bicycles... and I think the county council map suggests part of Queen Street is unrestricted, although the mess of colour-coding on that map is a bit awkward. Maybe they should make sure more of the maps used by local cyclists are correct before issuing fines?

posted by a.jumper [739 posts]
31st January 2012 - 15:22

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Flippa wrote:
There are people out there who don't follow the rules when they think no-one's looking, such as speeding, going the wrong way down one way streets, cycling in no-cycling areas. These people know they shouldn't be doing these things, so shouldn't complain if/when they get caught.

I usually follow even the silliest rules, if they are really rules and I've no excuse (like missing signs), but I don't really agree.

Often someone wants to cycle the wrong way down one way streets or through a no-cycling area because it's part of a cycle route, or it's an access that has been made no-entry despite clear government guidance that it should be no-motor-vehicles, or there's cycle parking inside the no-cycling area. Councils should have to pay fines for building attractive nuisances like that, not cyclists who do the perfectly forseeable action... but who was the last local politician booted out for presiding over the creation of "facility of the month" contenders?

posted by a.jumper [739 posts]
31st January 2012 - 15:29

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I can't help thinking the police have made a knee-jerk reaction to target cyclists. Giving cyclists fines is easy work and bumps up the figures for positive spin on tackling 'crime'. However it does next to zero to actually reduce the level of road accidents around Oxford or any other city for that matter. Is the person in charge of the police force in Oxford a Daily Mail reader? I'm curious what any of the serving officers who post on here would say. The UK has major issues with road safety, but it isn't cyclists who cause the fatalities in all but a handful of incidents (and that's a handful over a few years, not just one). I see a lot of data on traffic accidents in my line of work. The more I think about it, the more pathetic this police initiative sounds.

I can't believe that the police in Oxford don't have some real crime to deal with rather than wasting their scarce time over something as feeble as this.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2361 posts]
31st January 2012 - 23:14

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The solution in Cambridge was to put up signs saying "Cyclists give way to pedestrians". The large number of pedestrians at the weekend means that cyclists have to slow down. It seems to work well.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1385 posts]
1st February 2012 - 10:58

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