Police in Woking, Surrey are giving ‘yellow cards’ to people who cycle through pedestrianised areas of the town centre in a move described as "utterly stupid," with the charity Cycling UK questioning the motives behind the initiative and calling for roads in the borough to be made safer for people on bikes.
The scheme, devised by Woking Borough Council and implemented from 8 May, applies to certain streets in the Surrey town where cycling is banned from 10am to 4pm.
The council says the campaign is aimed at "encouraging cyclists to think of others and walk their cycles through the busy, shopping streets of Woking town centre."
It adds that police officers will patrol the town centre “on the lookout for cyclists” and that “yellow cards will be issued to cyclists who are caught cycling through key town centre streets in a manner that compromises the safety of pedestrians.
“The yellow card is a positive and polite request for cyclists to think of others and dismount,” the council adds.
Councillor Beryl Hunwicks, Woking Borough Council’s portfolio holder for environmental services, commented: “Thanks to the investment we made in our borough-wide cycle network, cycling has become a popular way to commute to work, stay active and as a leisure activity.
“However, this has led to an increase in anti-social cycling such as cycling on footpaths and pedestrianised areas of Woking town centre.”
The chairman of a local cycling campaign group has said that it will force cyclists to ride on more dangerous roads, and branded the idea “utterly stupid.”
Norman Johns, from Woking Cycle Users' Group, told Get Surrey: "What a waste of money - it is over policing.
"There are a lot of cyclists who would cycle if they were allowed to and that would reduce the use of cars which the council want."
He continued: "It is putting people at risk because they will have to go on Victoria Way, which is a disaster area, a really high speed road.
"As a very senior cyclist, I will keep on cycling and just watch out for police, if I got a yellow card I would just say 'thank you very much, prosecute me if you like' – I'm sure the magistrates would not be interested."
He continued: "There are a group of youngsters who are a pain but they're youngsters! They're not going to be deterred from cycling because of a sign or a yellow card.
"More importantly, this will stop other young people from getting active – if you're going to Woking High School, you can cycle there but can't cycle back because of the timings so it is a disincentive for many people.”
Mr Johns added: "It is nonsense - we love cycling and the whole network leads to the railway station, but if it can't be used in the day, the heart of the network has been banned."
Sam Jones, senior campaign officer at Cycling UK, told road.cc that the council would be better off addressing issues that discourage people from cycling on the town’s roads, and highlighted a case study compiled by the charity which demonstrated that cyclists do adjust their riding behaviour in pedestrian zones according to how busy such areas are.
“Cycling UK would never condone illegal or irresponsible cycling, but we are intrigued to know what evidence Woking Borough Council has for their latest policy,” he said.
“If it's been inspired in response to concerns from a tiny number of people complaining about their comfort or, on the other hand, by serious incidents, then we need to know. We can then make an informed decision on how justified the policy really is.
"What we do know, though, is that research shows that cycling behaviour tends to adjust to amount of footfall, and isn't a problem for most pedestrians.
“It seems a waste of national funding for Woking to adopt an anti-cycling policy when they are meant to be improving cycling facilities.
“Cycling in and around Woking on the roads is a nightmare even for an experienced cyclist.
“The one way systems, road surfacing and traffic volumes are not cycle friendly.
“Councillor Beryl Hunwicks would be better to address these issues rather than looking to shame people scared off the road,” he added.
Cycling UK Case Study: London Borough of Croydon
In April 2016, Croydon councillors agreed to give cyclists permanent, all-day access to a busy pedestrianised shopping street in the borough. Having looked at the results of a CCTV-based survey during the 18-month trial, the council concluded that:
“Cyclist behaviour was very good. It became clear that cyclists modified their manner of riding depending on the density of pedestrians.
“Light pedestrian traffic - cyclists rode at a reasonable speed and always kept a sensible distance from pedestrians.
“Moderate – Cyclists rode at walking pace behind pedestrians, waiting patiently until there was a place to overtake.
“Heavy – Cyclists got off and pushed their bikes.
“It was clear that cyclists made all of the speed and directional changes. Pedestrians were not required to take any avoiding action.”
A follow-up camera survey also found that: “Pedestrian and cyclists have different movement patterns through the day and different peak periods. This reduces the overlap of the two transport modes and therefore any potential for conflict.” [ … ] “No conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists were observed.”
Measures to mitigate concerns from groups representing people with impaired vision and the elderly include creating an alternative two-way route that cyclists can opt to use at busy times; providing ‘comfort space’ for pedestrians; advisory signage saying: ‘Cyclists please keep towards the centre of the street’; ‘Cycle with care’; ‘Pedestrians have priority’; indicating a 10mph limit; and events to encourage considerate behaviour and promote cycling to people of all abilities.
Case study courtesy of Cycling UK.
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.