Like this site? Help us to make it better.

“Obstacle course” cycle junction a “ruse to drive motorists out of the town”, claim drivers – but cyclists praise long-awaited layout change

The council said it understood some concerns, but stressed the road markings have been designed to “help cyclists navigate the different routes” and were subject to a road safety audit before installation

A new cycle junction, which will enable cyclists to ride against the flow of traffic on a one-way city centre road and avoid a significant diversion, has been branded “confusing” and a “ruse to drive motorists out of the town centre” – but local cycling campaigners say they are “optimistic” that it will enable cyclists to travel more easily and safely across the city.

Work to improve the layout of the junction of Head Street and North Hill in Colchester is set to be completed by the end of the month, and will feature new road markings and cycling-specific traffic lights to enable people on bikes to ride against the flow of the one-way traffic on Head Street.

Once completed, the cycling-specific light will enable cyclists travelling down North Hill or along Head Street to navigate the junction seconds before other road users, which the Colchester Cycling Campaign says will “head off the risk to cyclists from right-turning motor traffic going into High Street”.

The new junction forms the first phase of what Essex Highways and the county council say will be the eventual completion of a segregated two-way cycle lane along Head Street, a development roundly welcomed by local cyclists who have long criticised the lack of “desire lines” and increased travel times in Colchester thanks to its plethora of one-way streets, often forcing locals to walk with their bikes.

Head Street, Colchester (Colchester Cycling Campaign(

“The big issue here is that the roads have been built for cars since 1960, and that’s the case in Colchester,” William Bramhill, Colchester Cycling Campaign’s vice-secretary, told about the new infrastructure currently being installed on Head Street.

“They’ve blocked off so many desire lines for cyclists with one-way streets in the city centre, such as Head Street.

“You could stand in the top left hand corner of the city, and think ‘how do I get to such and such?’ And you have to go round three sides of the oblong to get to it. Which people aren’t going to do.

“So, consequently you have a lot of cyclists going the wrong way down High Street and Head Street. But now Head Street is getting a two-way cycle lane, which is brilliant. It’s what we’ve pushing for for ages.”

> Unwanted £750,000 Colchester bike path is being (temporarily) dug up

However, other residents aren’t as enthusiastic about the project as Bramhill and his fellow cycling campaigners.

“It’s just confusing – it gives cyclists the right of way, which is fine, but one of the lanes cuts right out in front of people going down North Hill,” 63-year-old Mary Felgate told the Daily Gazette today.

“It’s just a ruse to drive motorists out of the town centre. Colchester town centre is an obstacle course that changes every single moment – you’ve got cycle lanes going backwards and forwards and a lane that cuts in front of motorists coming down Head Street. Where’s the joined-up thinking?”

Others, meanwhile, were somewhat more balanced in their appraisal of the soon-to-be-completed infrastructure.

“Personally, I think it’s too wide, it’s holding up all the traffic,” 87-year-old Terence Davis said.

“But I suppose the cycle lanes can be good in a way, because my two sons do a hell of a lot of cycling.”

“It will be great when it’s open, but it’s just taking so long to get to that stage,” added Deliveroo cyclist Ian.

“There’s a lot of cycling infrastructure, it’s generally in the places you want it to be, and it’s well marked up, so people seem to use it a lot.

“People will get used to them – they will adapt and we will all just get on with it.”

Local cyclist Bee Sawyer, who regularly cycles into the city centre, says she “loves” the new layout and prospective cycle lane.

“I don’t like the busy traffic, especially in Lexden Road,” she says. “Drivers are just in a hurry and don’t care about cycling, so yes [I’m happy with the cycle lane], though non-cyclists probably aren’t very happy.”

> New 'intelligent' cyclist-only traffic lights on trial in Richmond as part of TfL innovation drive

Colchester Cycling Campaign’s Bramhill, meanwhile, reckons that most of the confusion from these non-cyclists stems from the lack of familiarity with cycling-specific traffic lights across the UK.

“It’s no wonder that motorists in Colchester anticipate confusion. If they haven’t driven in London in the past few years they are unlikely to have seen cycle traffic lights,” he tells

“The Head Street/High Street/North Hill junction will have a special cycle phase to allow out northbound/eastbound riders before their light goes red and general traffic gets a green light.

“I’m hoping the timings will be such that cyclists don’t have long to wait. I understand that the Essex designers have received training from Active Travel England so I’m optimistic.”

Essex County Council addressed the noise around the development and said the markings had been “reviewed as part of a road safety audit completed for the scheme”.

A spokesperson said: “We understand there have been some concerns that the cycle lane is too wide, however when complete this will be two cycle lanes, one in each direction, which will allow a two-way cycle flow segregated from the main carriageway and footway.

“The barriers are an important safety feature, ensuring cyclists of all experience levels feel confident using the cycle lane. We are also nearing completion of the road markings to help cyclists navigate the different routes available, which have been reviewed as part of a road safety audit completed for the scheme.”

> “Why pick on a lone female cyclist?” Cyclist slapped with £100 fine – for riding on a cycle path

The latest cycling infrastructure development in Colchester comes just a few weeks after a cyclist in the city was left stunned after she was handed a £100 Fixed Penalty Notice by a council warden, ostensibly under a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) designed to prevent anti-social or nuisance behaviour, who claimed that the cyclist was “riding on the footpath” – despite the path in question being designated as a shared-use cycle route since 2011.

Helge Gillmeister was cycling home from work in March, along a path located next to the city’s busy Southway, when she was issued with the fine for breaching the PSPO. Describing her punishment as “ridiculous”, especially due to the presence of signs indicating the path’s shared-use status 30 yards from where she was stopped, Gillmeister quickly and successfully appealed the FPN, with the council agreeing to waive her fine.

Nevertheless, the debacle has inspired the Colchester Cycling Campaign to adopt a policy of “non-cooperation” with the council, while urging cyclists to refuse to give their names or addresses if stopped by wardens for riding their bikes in what campaigners such as Bramhill have described as a “city designed for cars”.

Ryan joined in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

Add new comment


Jim66 | 1 month ago

I live in Colchester and this new section of cycling infrastructure is most welcome. However, it is only a small piece of what was originally promised via Active Travel  (ATF) Funding. Another section along Crouch Street was planned, giving an east to west intersection. However, local shop keepers & residents objected in such large numbers that part of the plan was put on hold indefinately. This wasted a great deal of ATF money on redesigns and consultions. Still at least, some lesssons were learned and we do have this short (212m) route which gives bi-directional access across the city centre.

TwoHeadsTalking | 1 month ago
1 like

“I’m hoping the timings will be such that cyclists don’t have long to wait. I understand that the Essex designers have received training from Active Travel England so I’m optimistic.”

Have you tried waiting at the bike lights on Chiswick High St cycle lane? It would be quicker to walk....

marmotte27 | 1 month ago

But it's not a ruse: we absolutely need to get motorists out, out of their cars.

polainm | 1 month ago

"Noncooperation" by local cycle campaign? Don't they realise this is the MO of Colchester Council and Essex Highways since the 1960s, where any push bike things are involved?

Hirsute | 1 month ago

This about the 6th article the paper have done all with the aim of stirring up people.

Drivers park by the bollards all the time

and I don't think this will stop when the lanes are open.

The road behind the bollards is only closed to traffic 4 or 5 hours a day and not at all Sundays. But 'war on motorists'.

For the road and driveway here where the cycle lane will go past,

Drivers will now collide with cyclists coming the wrong way as the driver is only looking left. Obviously pedestrians only walk on the pavement in accordance with the one way system and never cross the road to the right of the driver.

mattw | 1 month ago


What's wrong with encouraging some motorists not to be in the town centre?

AnotherChrisOnA... replied to mattw | 1 month ago

End of civilisation innit

Latest Comments