Cycling UK says that cyclists and pedestrians are “still being kept in the dark” about how the owners and operators of the Humber Bridge took the decision to close the structures footways earlier this month, as well as when access to the route is likely to be restored for commuting and leisure.
The Humber Bridge Board closed the footways on 3 April following a number of recent suicides, and earlier this month Cycling UK last week wrote to ask how the decision had been reached, and what alternative arrangements were being made for people on foot or on bike.
Currently, cyclists and pedestrians looking to cross the Humber Estuary, including to get to and from work, have to use a car, assuming they have one, or get a lift from someone else or take a bus, with the alternative being a 60-mile detour via bridges over the Trent and Ouse.
Cycling UK received a reply dated 13 April to its letter from Sean Chaytor, the chair of the Humber Bridge Board.
He said that the closure had been “made under the emergency powers the Humber Bridge Board has under the Humber Bridge Act 1959 and therefore, does not involve any form of Traffic Regulation Order.”
“We are currently working on plans to reopen the footways so the general public can enjoy the bridge again.
“However, as you can imagine, we have to be satisfied that if we do reopen, we do not see more tragic incidents, which affect all users of the bridge.
“This plan will be in conjunction with our multi-agency partners and local authorities with responsibility for mental health.”
He added: “We have now allowed commuters to cross the bridge in a safe and controlled manner and we are monitoring the situation. We see this as the first step back to enable everyone to use the bridge again.”
However, Cycling UK notes that it is not clear how that system works, nor is there any mention of it on the bridge’s website, and a local MP has asked for clarification on whether people need to register to use such a service.
“If such a system is in place, it is not being communicated clearly to those who might wish to use it," commented Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns at Cycling UK.
“The letter we have received from the Humber Bridge Board is little more than a boilerplate response which fails to address many of the questions we asked, and the same is true of its response to a Freedom of Information request about provision for disabled pedestrians or cyclists under the Board's public-sector equality duty,” he added.
Replying to the Humber Bridge Board’s letter, Dollimore, wrote: “Each and every suicide is a horrific and appalling tragedy for the individual and their family and friends. Yet I am not aware of any other authority or body responsible for the management of highways across major bridges that has decided to close the bridge to pedestrians and cyclists in response.
He cited the case of the Erskine Bridge, which spans the River Clyde between West Dunbartonshire and Renfrewshire.
He wrote: “Following increased suicides from the Erskine Bridge, for example, steps were taken to install new safety barriers; yet, for the Humber Bridge, the Board’s response to a serious and chronic problem that has been raised repeatedly over many years seems to be to restrict access rather than invest in structural and other intervention measures to try and manage and mitigate the risk.”
The Samaritans website contains advice to people who are struggling with their mental health on how they can obtain help.
The charity’s advisors can be contacted at any time on the free telephone number 116 123, or via email tojo [at] samaritans.org "> jo [at] samaritans.org with a response time of 24 hours.
It has also developed a self-help app that enables users to “Keep track of how you're feeling, and get recommendations for things you can do to help yourself cope, feel better and stay safe in a crisis.”
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.