Thursday, October 19, 2006

Is cycling allowed in Darlington Pedestrian Heart?

Below is an email I have just sent to various people at the Council:

At about 5 o'clock today I was prevented from entering the Pedestrian
Heart at the blooard where Duke Street meets Skinnergate by a Community Support Officer. I was told that cyclng was not allowed in the pedestrian area and that I should walk my bike, or ride another way. When I questioned this, stating that there was a trial six month period during which cycling was allowed I was told that the council issued instructions that £30 tickets were given to anyone cycling in the pedestrian area, but that the officer would rather just ask people to dismount.

Could you confirm whether cycling is allowed in the pedestrianised town centre? If it is, perhaps the police need informing of this fact?

I have ridden through the pedestrian zone seven times this week without being stopped.

Update (11:58 20/10/2006)

I have just recieved the following reply from the council (my emphasis):

Cyclists have to obey whatever road traffic signs are in place. I have
double checked with traffic management and currently access from Duke Street
to Skinnergate is limited for motor vehicles during the day. However
cyclists can access Skinnergate from Duke Street at all times.

Proposed changes to the town centre, providing greater access for cyclists,
are now with the Department for Transport for approval. They have raised
some issues, which Traffic Management colleagues have responded to this
week. Until new infrastructure and signs are in place, please continue to
cycle in line with existing signs and traffic orders.

This email was also sent to everyone I had emailed.

So, it seems that I was incorrectly stopped yesterday, since I was accessing Skinnergate from Duke Street. I have printed the email and will carry it with me on my way home tonight. I hope I am stopped.

I will be replying to the email requesting that all police and SCOs are made aware of the rules regarding cycling in the town centre.


richardgrassick said...

The crunch issue rears its head. Another classic case of the head of a large organisation not knowing what is going on at the grass roots, perhaps?

Can well meaning intentions re sustainable transport, as publicised by funders Cycling England with a slick video (watch online to see their take on the Pedestrian Heart and cycling at, overcome stiff resistance to change from within? Or are two departments within the local authority moving in opposite directions? Cockup or cockup?

Given the high profile the Pedestrian Heart has gained in the "sustainable transport town" vision, this one really needs to be sorted out pronto, or there could be a lot of red faces..

Phil Twist said...

I can't believe this. I've cycled through the centre several times over the last month as has my wife. If this is the policy why are there no signs. I feel a critical mass coming on!!!

Mike said...

I ride from Duke Street to Bondgate via Skinnergate every day on the way home from work (dodging all the cars illegally turning right onto Skinnergate out of the car park). Every Wednesday afternoon I ride down Blackwellgate, past the town clock and down Tubwell Row, returning by the same route later that afternoon. Every other Tuesday morning I ride up Tubwell Row and past the twon clock to Blackwellgate. This week I have also ridden along High Row and up Bondgate. I've done this since September and have never been stopped until today.

If we can't ride through the town centre, we'll have to use the ring road. Perhaps all at the same time?

Mike said...

Thanks to Phil for these links:

These council minutes
say a six months trial but does not say when this starts. This document makes interesting reading. Given government advice and the statistics, I can't see how a ban would ever go ahead.

The Darlington Cycling Demonstration Town page ay Cycling England suggests that cycling in the centre is all part of their strategy.

Mike said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mike said...

Update (11:58 20/10/2006)

Main post updated with reply from Council. Short version: I was incorrectly stopped last night.

richardgrassick said...

Clarification useful, but the incident surely illustrates the uncertainty in so many minds, official and unofficial, about cycling's status. Seems the CSO regarded cyclists as vehicular traffic (is the £30 fine for all vehicles or just bikes?), a road-only device, so to speak.

But the point about obeying signs shows why this can happen. Whilst Brits love their signs telling them how to behave, there are precious few cycling-specific signs in the town centre. Witness the lack of signs for cyclists around the Pedestrian Heart Building Sites. (See next post).

As for the 6 month trial, I assume this starts once the works are complete and signs are in place.

Steve said...

From a risk perspective, there is no real sense in imposing this restriction (although I wouldn't cycle through the ginnels between Skinnergate & High Row).

If they are going to impose restrictions like these then the TPTB should put some signs up (as in Middlesbrough) so that cyclists know which town to avoid.

hmmm, it was only a few months ago they had some kind of cycling demo outside the town hall itself.

Critical mass sounds fun :)

Mike said...

The CSO told me that the council told them to ticket "people riding bikes in the pedestrianised area", so it wasn't a mix-up over a bike being a vehicle. It's more likely to be a mix up over what constitutes the pedestrianised area.

About the signs: the only signs at the bottom of Duke Street is for no motor vehicles, there is no No Entry sign.

Not riding past the No Entry signs does make sense, since there are some sections of the Pedestrian heart which are still operating as one-way roads for busses, such as heading up Tubwell Row towards High Row. At these points, it looks like there are going to be contra-flow cycle lanes to allow access, but these aren't completed yet.

I'm about to ride home, through the Pedestrian Heart. I have a print out of the email I got from the council in my pocket.

Beatrix said...

Well, it is very confusing. Buses are allowed in the pedestrian heart, cyclists live in uncertainty. There is no hint to when the try-out-six-months start. And the council speaks with two tongues. I guess we shall have to be brave and cycle on.
Was not there a hint that Darlo wants to be a Cycling Demo Town? Maybe we should start demonstrating in the streets for a new thinking. Let us be the critical mass!

Steve said...

I cycled through the town centre today, through Skinnergate, back on High Row then down past the market across the marketplace & out by the bus depot, was fine but a bit busy dropping off High Row. I kept below normal cruising speed.

I've received a set of local motion booklets in the post today. the 2 cycling ones have photos of cyclists with bikes & parked bikes in the marketplace & outside the Dolphin Centre. The cycling map marks the whole town centre as an advisory cycle route but has 'walk your bike' instructions for Horsemarket (street between the market hall & pizza hut).

Mike said...

I've just 'ridden' through the town centre again today.

I entered Northgate from the North road roundabout (signposted as one way on the way in, with a cycle lane coming the other way).

When I got to the pedestrianised part of Northgate, there was a no cycling sign on a post on the right-hand side (but none on the left), so I dismounted and pushed my bike.

There was a big section closed off with work goping on inside which would have been silly to ride through due to lack of width and how busy it was. in fact, it was difficuly to push the bike through.

From the end of High Row up Bondgate it was unclear as to whether I could ride or not, so I carried on pushing. (I can't afford a £30 fine and I'm a good boy.)

When I got to the end of the pedestrianised zone, there were no signs to say someone coming the other way could not cycle. To where does the no cycling zone indicated by the sign near Boots extend?