A councillor in Dorset has called for an end to laws banning cycling at certain hours along Weymouth’s seafront, which he claimed placed people riding their bikes in the same category as substance misusers, aggressive beggars, street drinkers, and prostitutes.
Councillor Roland Tarr, a local Cycling UK Right to Ride representative, was discussing the future of provisions related to cycling on the promenade in Weymouth, as part of a broader debate on public spaces protection orders (PSPOs) designed to tackle anti-social behaviour in the county.
An existing byelaw, which has been in place since 2018, bans cycling on the esplanade between 10am and 5.30pm, from 1 May to 30 September. The current rules, which aim to allow people to ride their bikes to and from work, replaced a complete ban on cycling along the seafront, introduced in 2009.
However, the council claims that the byelaw had proven difficult to enforce, hence the need for the new PSPO provision. The restriction, however, has been modified so it does not apply to children under 12, while specific exemption can be sought in some circumstances.
A recent public consultation on the proposals was decidedly mixed, with one councillor saying that the responses ranged from demands to install bike lanes on the promenade to banning cycling completely.
At Monday’s meeting of the Place and Resources Overview committee, Councillor Tarr criticised the restrictions, which he claimed placed cycling in the same category as other more serious forms of anti-social behaviour.
“Including cycling under the same label as drug dealing, substance misuse, discarded paraphernalia, street drinking, aggressive begging, prostitution, and sexually related activity is wrong,” he said.
“I think we should be trying to look at it positively, and try to come up with a positive solution rather than just placing a ban.”
Tarr instead called for a new cycle lane to be installed along Weymouth’s sea front, which he claimed would benefit local families, mental health, and tourism in the area, as well as help the fight against climate change.
“Weymouth has one of the best cycling systems in the country… but suddenly you come to the seafront and there is a complete gap,” he said.
“The road is nasty… and really unpleasant to cycle down there. If you were a young family out for a cycle ride for the day, cycling around Weymouth, it would be illegal to go down that way.”
The councillor added: “We should be looking at how we can make a continuous cycleway, with a speed limit, which would allow people with their families to cycle through there.
“From a tourism point of view, this county must be identified as a good place to come for an ecological, ‘green’ holiday.”
Councillor Maria Roe echoed Tarr’s call for seafront active travel infrastructure to be introduced in Weymouth, while Andrew Starr recommended that the council should simply target those riding their bikes too fast or too aggressively in the area, rather than banning all cyclists.
However, Weymouth councillor Ryan Hope defended the restrictions and said that the problem lay with cyclists “training for the Tour de France”.
“The issue is that Weymouth seafront in the summer becomes a heavily populated location and the issue is not with families and young children who cycle on the prom,” he said, “but the issue is with people who are training for the Tour de France that use the Esplanade, and we have a similar situation on the Rodwell Trail.”
He added: “I would guess the fines and exclusions issued in the last five years are countable on a single hand, if any at all, because like the begging policy this is only used as a toolkit, when we do have aggressive cyclist, or those who are a danger to people, as a way to prevent this.”
Hope suggested that cyclists could use the bus lane for at least part of the route, which he claimed was safer than riding on the esplanade.
Dorchester councillor Les Ryan was also adamant that the existing regulations should be kept in place.
“I see no reason why people can’t cycle along the road,” he said. “That’s what the roads are there for.
“It’s also an offence to cycle on the pavement in any other town, so why should Weymouth be any different to that?
“People will speed, there will be anti-social cycling… it’s a recipe for disaster.”
While the committee agreed to support a recommendation to keep the cycling laws as they are, it also heard that a detailed study of the Weymouth area will take place, as part of a Local Transport Plan review, which will in part look at potential sustainable cycling and walking routes in the town.
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.