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“Do they ever tell drivers to get out and push?” Locals slam ‘Cyclists Dismount and Use Footway’ signs as cycle lane closed due to roadworks, leading to “horrifying” close passes – but council insists signs “comply to required legal standards”

“It’s so easy to sort out. But instead of telling drivers not to overtake cyclists because there isn’t room, they’ve told the cyclists to get out of the way and get on the pavement”

The use of ‘Cyclists Dismount’ signs at road works, forcing people with bikes to either walk them along the pavement or risk mingling with close passing traffic on the road, has long been a controversial one, with cycling activists describing the implementation of the signs as “discriminatory” towards cyclists and people who use cycles as mobility aids.

This week in Poole, where a cycle lane has been closed while works are carried out by a gas company, cyclists and active travel campaigners have again hit out at the decision to install signs advising people on bikes to “dismount and use footway”, instructions that have been branded “unacceptable” and which locals claim to have led to frequent “horrifying” close passes by motorists overtaking cyclists at the temporary traffic lights.

However, Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole (BCP) Council have claimed that – despite cyclists noting that the signs fail to adhere to the Department for Transport’s road works code of practice – the signage does in fact “comply to the required legal standards” because the cycle lane in question is not mandatory. The gas company behind the works, SGN, added that it had been "advised" to tell cyclists to dismount "due to the location of the gas main and width of the road".

Cycle lane closed sign, Ringwood Road, Poole (Susan Stockwell)

Last week, SGN began works on the Ringwood Road in Poole, where sustainable travel improvements are earmarked to begin some time this year as part of South East Dorset’s revised Transforming Cities Fund programme, but which locals say remains home to a narrow, painted cycle lane and a limited number of safe pedestrian crossings.

As part of the works, SGN installed temporary traffic lights and signage advising road users that the cycle lane is closed, while another reads: ‘Cyclists dismount and use footway’.

“They’ve closed off one lane out of the two, so you’ve then got traffic controlled by lights taking it in turns to use the remaining lane. And that means if you overtake someone cycling, you don’t have the room to overtake them by 1.5m,” local active travel campaigner Susan Stockwell told road.cc.

“But instead of telling drivers not to overtake cyclists because there isn’t room, they’ve told the cyclists to get out of the way and get on the pavement. It’s effectively an obstruction to the highway, telling cyclists to dismount.”

> “Cyclists are entitled to use the road as much as anyone else”: Councillors and locals blast “discriminatory” ‘Cyclists Dismount and Proceed with Caution’ signs at temporary traffic lights

In one local Facebook group, a number of residents have criticised the signage, branding it “disgraceful” and contrary to the Department for Transport’s Safety at Street Works and Road Words code of practice, which informs planners that “where access is permitted for motor vehicles, ‘Cyclists Dismount’ signs should not be used”.

“Cycle lane closed, Cyclists in road – That’s the signs required,” wrote Stewart Baynham. “They can do one with telling cyclists to dismount. Do they ever tell drivers to get out and push? Disgraceful.”

Meanwhile, Jason Ballet argued that the signs were “outdated and should be revised. Cyclists have a right to be there.”

Cyclists Dismount signs, Ringwood Road, Poole (Susan Stockwell)

“It’s so easy to sort out – just change the signage to say ‘Road narrowed – do not overtake cyclists’, and fine anyone who continues to close pass cyclists,” agreed Susan, who says the temporary road layout has resulted in a number of hairy moments between cyclists who continue to use the road and impatient motorists seeking to pass them at the lights.

“When I was standing at the roadworks I didn’t take any videos, because I was afraid of distracting people and causing an accident, but all the drivers I saw close passing cyclists who stayed on the road should all be fined for careless driving,” she tells road.cc.

“They always say narrow painted cycle lanes are more dangerous because they encourage close passes, and that was exactly what was happening.

“Because the motorists were driving past the cyclists – and there were a lot of cyclists – really close, and that’s why I didn’t video any of it, because I didn’t want anyone to wobble, as they’d have been straight under the wheels of one of the cars. I was just horrified by the amount of careless driving.”

Susan also criticised the lack of protection or priority afforded to pedestrians near the temporary traffic lights, which she says obstruct sight lines close to a busy junction and where drivers are currently “belting down the road as fast as they can in the gap between the two traffic flows”.

> "Not every person on a cycle can dismount": Questions asked of 'cyclists dismount' signs on national cycle route during works

However, after writing to the local authority to point out that the works and signage prioritised motorists over cyclists and pedestrians, and that they failed to adhere to the Equality Act due to a lack of safe and accessible crossings, BCP Council told the active travel campaigner that SGN’s approach to the project was legal and “correct”.

“SGN are a statutory undertaker and therefore have a legal right to work in the public highway and are also legally responsible for their traffic management so there is no order [required to set up the temporary lights],” the council said in correspondence seen by road.cc.

“The Council can challenge a statutory undertaker if they are not complying with the legal requirements set out in Safety at Street Works and Road Works A Code of Practice.  Despite being labelled ‘a code of practice’ in many cases, the document sets out mandatory legal requirements.

“We have reviewed their arrangement and it does comply to the required legal standards.  The cycle lane is not mandatory so the signs in use are correct. 

“The two fixed pedestrian access points with centre refuge are accessible. This has not altered the access which pedestrians would normally have by using the crossing points to gain access to the opposite footways. The footway closures are clearly signed in advance.”

> Motorists to launch legal challenge against “totally undemocratic” decision to close park rat-run to drivers to “appease the cycling brigade”

However, despite that response, Susan says she still isn’t impressed with the council and SGN’s approach to the safety of vulnerable road users on Ringwood Road.

“That route is on the verge of being improved, with all sorts of better road crossings, so I said to the council that closing off what is there isn’t good enough, because what is there at the moment isn’t good enough,” she said.

“The council told me that because it’s not a mandatory cycle lane because it has a broken line, they didn’t need a traffic order to close it. But I still think their policies and decision making process need to be in the public domain.

“To expect people who cycles as a mobility aid to not only walk instead of cycle, but also push a bike at the same time, is really cruel.”

When contacted by road.cc, BCP Council advised us to contact SGN, a spokesperson for the gas company saying: "We're currently working in Ringwood Road, Poole to upgrade the local gas network. For everyone's safety around our work area, we've installed temporary traffic lights while we complete our work.

"Our traffic management provider has advised that due to the location of the gas main and width of the road, we are required to advise cyclists to dismount and use the footway instead."

Ryan joined road.cc 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 road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’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.

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12 comments

Avatar
Steve K | 1 week ago
2 likes

The road looks plenty wide enough for a bicycle to me.  It sounds like cars are the problem and they should be diverted.

Avatar
danhopgood | 1 week ago
4 likes

Codes of practice are there to help protect those at risk of prosecution when things go wrong.  I quote from the forward of the code of practice referred to:

Warning: Failure to comply with this Code is evidence of failing to fulfil the legal requirements to sign, light and guard works. Compliance with the Code will be taken as compliance with the legal requirements to which it relates.

If I were responsible for those roadworks, I'd comply with the Code...

Avatar
Velophaart_95 | 1 week ago
4 likes

And there's a supposed 'war on motorists'.......Give me strength.

Avatar
Săndel | 1 week ago
1 like

So... when is UK banning cycling?  24

Avatar
yellowjack | 1 week ago
8 likes

BCP Council can't help themselves. Last night, on Barrack Road, I came upon a contraflow on the 4-lane dual carriageway section. I got a long horn blast and a "Get on the f@(!ing bike path!!!" as I approached the roundabout for the shopping park. Trouble is, the cycle part of the Shared Use Path was full of temporary signage explaining the contraflow to drivers. And I seldom use it anyway, as that Shared Use Path is mere yards from a blue 'End Of Route' sign which would leave me, or anyone else for that matter, needing to Give Way in order to rejoin the carriageway. An inconvenience I can avoid by riding on the carriageway beforehand.

Avatar
ktache replied to yellowjack | 1 week ago
8 likes

It's part of the motornormality built into everything.
Why not block a cycle route, shared path or pavement for roadworks signs that only really concern motorists?

Avatar
slc | 1 week ago
5 likes

The 'cyclists dismount and use footway' sign always annoys me, not least because it seems to be never used in the intended context: where the whole carriageway is closed. There are quite a few contractors in Bristol that seem to think that any works at all require passing cyclists to dismount.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/safety-at-street-works-and-ro... (page 36)

Avatar
bensynnock | 1 week ago
18 likes

I just don't do it. If the cycle lane is closed and it's too dangerous to overtake then I'll ensure nobody can by riding in the centre of the lane.

Avatar
Andrewbanshee replied to bensynnock | 1 week ago
10 likes

This is what I do. Solves the problem.

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Homebaker replied to bensynnock | 1 week ago
13 likes

Trouble is that sign Encourages punishment passes. Drivers think cyclist shouldn't be in the highway lane because they've been told to dismount and walk. They're then angry for being held up for 5 seconds. Then take that out on the cyclist by close passing them. Direct cause and effect.

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shaunyboytellem replied to Homebaker | 1 week ago
11 likes

That's why, when I'm walking or riding, I accidentally kick over cyclists dismount signs.

Avatar
Smoggysteve replied to bensynnock | 1 week ago
3 likes

2 bits of kit that help me enormously, Garmin Varia Radar and Go-Pro. 
 

If I know the road ahead is tight I will move over into the centre to prevent cars attempting to squeeze past. And the go-pro is very obvious and I know it's stopped at least 2 idiots trying to punishment pass when I've pointed it out. Generally 99% of my rides go without any issues but there is always the 1% of entities arseholes who drive bad and they don't care if you're a cyclist , pedestrian or other driver. It's all about them. 

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