Leicester City Council rejects calls to let cyclists use 18th Century pedestrian route into city centre

Data analysis by law firm reveals nearly 50 cycling casualties in surrounding streets from 2005-10

by Simon_MacMichael   April 16, 2012  

Lower New Walk, Leicester (Steve Cadman, Wikimedia Commons)

Leicester City Council has rejected calls from cyclists to allow them to use an 18th Century pedestrian-only street in the centre of the East Midlands city. Bicycles are banned from New Walk, as all traffic has been since it was laid out more than 200 years ago, but local cycle campaigners insist that it would provide a safer alternative to using major roads to access the city centre for those on two wheels.

The alternative to using the kilometre-long New Walk to ride to and from the city centre is to use the busy London Road, or a little further west, Welford Road, reports the Leicester Mercury.

According to Department for Transport road casualty data analysed by law firm Levenes Cycle Injury, there were 47 reported road traffic incidents that have resulted in cyclists suffering injuries on those two main roads and other neighbouring streets between 2005 and 2010.

Local cycle campaigners insist that those casualty figures justify reconsidering the ban on cyclists riding on New Walk, with Roger Lovell, co-founder of not-for-profit community cycling group Cyclemagic, telling the newspaper: "I get a bit fed-up of people making the case that New Walk has been traffic free since 1790.

"In 1790, there was no traffic other than horses and carts. The volume of traffic on busy roads like London Road and Welford Road is huge and it's no surprise there are a lot of injuries.

"New Walk offers the perfect solution for cyclists trying to get into the city centre from the south.

"All over the world there are areas shared successfully between pedestrians and cyclists. Even in Leicester city centre you can cycle in the pedestrian areas. I don't see why New Walk is any different."

Christopher Hanlon from Levenes Cycle Injury maintained: "New Walk is wide enough to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians.

"If both sides – pedestrians and cyclists – are sensible, things would be fine.

"Obviously, it wouldn't work with bikes tearing down there at 20mph weaving between pedestrians," he added.

A spokesman for Leicester City Council, which says on its website that its “aim is to get more people cycling, safely and more often,” said that there were no plans on its part to amend the status of New Walk.

"The council does recognise that cyclists need safer and traffic-free routes to and from the city centre, and this is part of a new stream of work to improve and provide more routes for cycling while ensuring safe and effective pedestrian routes, as well," he explained.

One pedestrian, Bella Watson, who spoke to the newspaper said that she believed there was justification for cyclists to use New Walk, but only if all cyclists using it were considerate towards those on foot.

Permitting cyclists to use New Walk “could work,” she stated, “but it would depend on how the cyclists chose to behave.

"Perhaps 90 per cent of them would ride responsibly but the others would cause chaos," she continued. "It happens most days anyway – people flout the rules and ride down here."

Christopher Chandhu, a student and cylist, said: "I hate riding down Welford Road and mixing it with the cars and buses. I try to be careful but a lot of drivers don't. It's much better to mix pedestrians and cyclists than cyclists and cars."

According to the Leicester Mercury, police regularly stage clampdowns on cyclists riding illegally through New Walk to remind them that it is an offence to do so.

Last month, the newspaper reported that 16 cyclists had been issued with £30 fixed penalty notices there in an operation that lasted three hours, with one handcuffed and arrested after initially refusing to provide police with his details.

Sergeant Andy Cox of Leicestershire Constabulary told the newspaper that police had launched the operation following a rise in complaints from people living nearby.

"We've had a lot of residents complaining about cyclists in New Walk and a couple of people who have been bumped,” he explained. “There have been disagreements between cyclists and pedestrians.

"We're just trying to raise awareness that this is one part of the city that you can't cycle through.

"Everyone we've stopped said they ride along here all the time and didn't know you're not supposed to."

The bylaw prohibiting cyclists from using New Walk, laid out in 1785 and a pedestrian-only throughfare ever since, has been challenged in the past, albeit unsuccessfully, and Sergeant Cox said it was not down to the police to decide whether or not the law should be altered.

"This is a conservation area and people living here don't want it to change," he commented. "You can't please everyone."

As reported here on road.cc earlier this year, Gloucestershire County Council’s Highways Department is currently planning a trial to allow cyclists to ride in pedestrianised areas of the city centre, with cycle campaigners pointing out that the alternative is for cyclists to risk injury by riding along the busy ring road.

6 user comments

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If this was on the continent this wouldnt even be an issue. There would be a clearly delineated cyclepath that was respected by cyclists and pedestrians alike.
In this country however, instead of encouraging cyclists in city centres they are criminalised, fined and ultimately marginalised - forced out on to busy roads to dice with death. Pathetic.

posted by Some Fella [824 posts]
16th April 2012 - 22:34

4 Likes

Two people have been bumped! No wonder they're happy to let ten people a year be knocked over by cars and buses.

nowasps's picture

posted by nowasps [263 posts]
17th April 2012 - 8:32

5 Likes

I spotted this gem the other day...
"Cycling on footpath STRICTLY prohibited"
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/d1z0xubm0yvsvxu/2yzCS62RiT/Photo%2024-03-2012...

posted by ribena [147 posts]
17th April 2012 - 9:05

3 Likes

@ some fella - if this was the continent there would be a safe, well planned cycling infrastructure throughout the town and no need for cyclists to attempt to use New Walk.

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1068 posts]
17th April 2012 - 10:37

5 Likes

Dont know the area, no idea about what its like but the comment about a 'conservation area'! Rubbish....planning allowed that 1970 looking office block on the right of the picture didnt they.

Elitest at best.

posted by Farky [183 posts]
17th April 2012 - 14:15

6 Likes

The point everyone seems to miss is that some will always ride inconsiderately.

New Walk is a precious symbol to some an obvious safe choice to others interestingly the pavement on one side of London Road throuighpout that stretch is 15' feet wide and v.little used by pedestrians ie theres an obvious laternative there.

Alternatively there are two adjacent streets linked by the sacred NW which could be used to create a cycle way

posted by Quist [1 posts]
19th April 2012 - 14:02

6 Likes