Thursday, January 25, 2007

Can I ride my bike in the Pedestrian Heart? - Part 3

The front page article on The Advertiser this week came about, in part, because of this 'series' of posts related to the Pedestrian Heart. While there are a few inaccuracies in the article (the 6 month trial on bike access, for example, was established in November 2004, not after recent campaigning from the cycle campaign), the points raised in favour of cyclists having access were all valid. However, the article didn't really address the main concern we have at present; the unclear signposting, and the ambiguity of where we can and can't ride (and in what direction).

We appreciate that there will be disruption during the works, but the signposting has been non-existent and there has been no clear notification for cyclists. There also appears to be some confusion on behalf of the Community Support Officers in the town about where we can ride, which has led to two members of the campaign almost receiving £30 fines; one for riding on a road which was closed to vehicular traffic, the other for riding on a pedestrianised former one way street in the wrong direction.

The council have, once asked by us, been good at answering most of these questions and we've published their responses in previous posts on this topic. The rule of thumb appears to be to obey any signs currently in place. This leads to some odd routes through the centre, as I've detailed previously, or doing odd things like stopping and dismounting at 'No Entry' signs, pushing the bike past the sign and then remounting, which is just silly.

According to the published timescale, work began in February 2005 and is not expected be completed until summer of this year. That's two years and 5 months of disrupted routes through a key part of this Cycling Demonstration Town's cycle network, with poor or no signposting and limited communication with cyclists. Imagine the same happening to motorists using the ring road.

This is what this recent series of posts (and emails to council officers) have been about, rather than the issue of whether we will receive any access once the work is completed which we hope is an accepted fact, although that remains to be seen, given the reaction of DAD presented in the Advertiser article.

The continued confusion suggests that there is a deeper problem - getting traffic engineers, the disability lobby, council officers, politicians, the police, not to mention motorists and pedestrians, to come to terms with the fact a bicycle is neither a motor vehicle nor a pedestrian, and new rules need to be developed to encourage its use. This is a complex issue, one that surely merits the consideration of a feature article rather than a simple "conflict" news story. Will the Northern Echo please take "Cycling Demonstration Town" seriously? Please - give us a call.

(Update: A slightly different version of the article appears in today's Northern Echo: Cyclists can use pedestrian area of town. This is closer to what we were expecting. Thankyou Northern Echo. We'd still like a feature article though.)

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