Police in Southend-on-Sea have admitted that a ban on cyclists riding their bikes on a section of the town’s pedestrianised High Street is not being enforced because there are not enough signs warning people that they cannot do so.
While some cyclists may be asked by officers to dismount, a senior policeman admitted that it was “rare” for anyone to be fined.
As well as the absence of signs, confusion is also caused by the area concerned being included in the local council’s guide to cycle routes, reports the Southend Standard.
The newspaper says that the Highways Act 1835 makes cycling in pedestrian areas illegal except where deemed a “shared-use” area by the local authority concerned.
That’s not quite correct according to the highly informative Cycling and the Law page of the industry-funded BikeHub website, which says that section 72 of the 1835 Act, as amended by Section 85(1) of the Local Government Act 1888, applies only to footways, that is paths running alongside roads (or ‘carriageways’ in the correct parlance.
That doesn’t apply in the case of the pedestrianised zones such as the High Street in Southend, however.
Instead, if the council erects signs banning cycling, then it is indeed banned, says BikeHub; should there be no signs, then it is up to the council’s discretion whether or not to permit cycling in a pedestrian zone.
In the case of Southend’s High Street, there is indeed a bye-law in force that prohibits cycling, with transgressors facing a £30 fine, but as Chief Inspector David Colwell of Essex Police told the Southend Standard, “There are no signs, which makes it difficult to enforce.
“We do stop them and ask them to get off, but it is rare that they would be penalised and given a ticket.”
In theory, cyclists are meant to get off their bikes at one end of the High Street then walk to their destination, or to the other end of the pedestrian zone.
*the picture at the top of this article isn't Southend btw
My officers are told to stop them and make them walk the rest of the way,” admitted Chief Inspector Colwell, “But it does not happen all the time.”
One cyclist, 23-year-old Henry Thomas who cycles through the High Street every day as part of his commute, told the newspaper: “I didn’t even realise you couldn’t ride in the High Street. There’s nothing to tell you.
“I don’t see why it’s a problem. I don’t ride on pavements because they’re narrow, but the High Street is wide enough for everyone.
“There’s no need to ban it,” he added.
Two years ago, we reported how cyclists caught riding their bikes in pedestrian-only areas within Southend town centre were being offered Bikeaility training instead of being fined.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.