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Campaigners seek funding for legal challenge to removal of Poole active travel scheme

Keyhole Bridge underpass which provided safe link between two parks in Dorset town was reopened to motor vehicles in March

Campaigners seeking to challenge a council’s decision to remove an active travel scheme in Poole, Dorset are appealing for donations to fund their application for a judicial review, with Cycling UK describing Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole Council’s reopening of the route to motor vehicles as “transport planning from the last century.”

The case, due to be heard in the High Court on 6 October, is the first of several across the country that are seeking to reverse the removal of emergency schemes introduced over the past year or so aimed at getting more people walking and cycling during the coronavirus pandemic.

It relates to the Keyhole Bridge on Whitecliff Road where in March this year, the council reopened the narrow 2.7 metre-wide road that runs beneath the railway it carries to motor traffic, with Cycling UK saying that at peak times, as many as 500 vehicles an hour use the route.

The charity has highlighted that when motor traffic was removed in August last year, the underpass provided a safe link for pedestrians, cyclists, wheelchair users and other people with disabilities to cross the railway while travelling between Poole Park and Whitecliff Harbourside Park.

The decision to reopen the road to motorists is being opposed by local campaigners who formed the Keyhole Bridge Group, but they were unsuccessful in persuading the council to reconsider, and while they have raised almost £11,500 to fund their legal costs, they are still around £1,000 short of the anticipated £12,500 they need.

Sue Smith, a member of the Keyhole Bridge Group, told Cycling UK: “The problems with congestion at Keyhole Bridge have been building for years so it was a huge relief when the council took the positive move to close it to traffic.

“It’s used by everyone from students to commuters, local hospital staff, young children cycling and others building up their confidence on the bike, and having it closed made a huge difference to people with sight impairment, hearing impairment, and wheelchair users, who could use the bridge safely without worrying about the traffic.

“But of course, we lost all of that when the bridge reopened. Having enjoyed the peace of moving from one park to the next without having to fight with traffic, many local people are rightly puzzled as to why the sensible closure of the road has been reversed.

“We explained to the Council how unsafe it now felt, but they simply erected a couple of ‘shared space’ signs which had no impact – with people once again back to waiting for a break in traffic then making a dash for it, all to save car drivers less than 0.25 miles. Sadly, our legal challenge is now our last hope.”

Duncan Dollimore, Head of Campaigns at Cycling UK, commented: “Squeezing cars through the Keyhole Bridge is transport planning from the last century.

“Rather than prioritising pedestrians, park users, and people wanting to cycle safely in Poole, the council caved in at the first sign of political pressure, but the Keyhole Bridge Group never backed down and the battle of the bollard will be fought out in court next month, provided the group secures the extra funding needed.

“If ripping out a bollard to create a rat run that stops people walking, in wheelchairs, or cycling, passing safely under a bridge sounds bonkers to you, and you’ve always favoured David to Goliath, this is campaign worth chipping in for.”

Donations can be made to the Keyhold Bridge Group here.

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.

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