Concerns have been raised over the structural safety of a cycle bridge in Cambridge after it was heard to creak and crack when a motorist took a wrong turning and drove onto it in his Jaguar last Friday morning.
The Tony Carter Bridge, known informally as the railway cycle bridge, links Rustat Road to Devonshire Road and crosses the railway line at the northern end of Cambridge station. It was opened in 1989 and once held the Guinness World Record as the longest covered cycle bridge anywhere.
Cambridge News says that the motorist was able to drive onto the bridge from Rustat Road at its eastern end due to a missing bollard. Once the driver, a man believed to be aged in his 50s, realised his mistake, he reversed slowly back down the way he came.
The entire episode believed to have taken between 20 minutes and half an hour by one cyclist who witnessed it, Ruth Platt, who supplied pictures of the stranded car to Cambridge News.
“There were a lot of cyclists getting off and giving him a hard time,” she said. "He didn't hurt anybody, it was a genuine mistake – how somebody makes a mistake like that I don't know."
Initially Mrs Platt rode past the car before returning to ask the motorist, who acknowledged that he had made a “terrible mistake,” whether he needed any assistance.
Recalling what happened when the driver started revering his car slowly down the bridge, she added: "I could hear a bit of creaking and cracking. I hope the engineers made the bridge structurally strong enough for a car. A car is much heavier than any amount of bikes at any one time."
She said that the motorist drove his car so slowly that no-one else using the bridge was put at risk as he made his way back off it.
"I just felt really bad for him. He was not being arrogant. He was not thinking he could just take a shortcut. He really had made a big mistake."
Cambridge City Councillor Gail Marchant-Daisley, whose Petersfield ward is at the western end of the bridge, called for structural checks to be carried out and said: “The potential there for a fatal accident was clear.”
Meanwhile, Cambridge Cycling Campaign is calling for signs telling cyclists to dismount before using a footbridge elsewhere in the city to be removed, saying that they are advisory only.
The landlord of the Green Dragon pub, after which the bridge over the River Cam, connecting Stourbridge Common to Water Street, East Chesterton, is named, is opposing their removal, reports Cambridge News.
Writing in Cambridge Cycling Campaign’s newsletter, Jim Chisholm said: “If you are considerate to those on foot at the ends, cycling over the bridge probably causes less congestion than walking with your bike.”
However, the Green Dragon’s landlord, Ronan McLister, told Cambridge News: “The cyclists do not slow down and you’ve got parents pushing prams along there. The cyclists rule the highways, they want to rule the pathways too.”
He added that he was also concerned about cyclists’ safety. “When it was icy, it was chaotic,” he explained. “One in three ended up on the floor in the middle of the road. That wouldn’t happen if they were walking their bikes. It’s only a matter of time before someone gets seriously injured.”
Bob Menzies, Cambridge County Council’s head of major infrastructure delivery, commented: “The footbridge is not a designated cycle path because of its narrow width and low parapets. Signs are there to advise cyclists to dismount before crossing the footbridge for their and other users’ safety.
“Working with the Cambridge Cycle Campaign we have identified that the main issue is in fact poor visibility on the approaches and we are now working with city council and local members to make the approaches better for all users.”
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.