Derbyshire County Council’s decision to close Snake Pass to cyclists and walkers – just two weeks after its closure to motor traffic due to landslides saw the Peak District climb become a car-free ‘cycling utopia’ – has been criticised as an anti-cyclist move “dressed up cheaply as health and safety”.
The scenic climb, which lies within the Peak District National Park and carries the A57 between Sheffield and Manchester, was closed to motor vehicles at the end of February for at least four weeks due to landslides caused by storms Eunice and Franklin, which affected three locations on a mile-long section of the road between Glossop and Ladybower Reservoir.
News of the closure led cycling writer Simon Warren, author of 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, to proclaim on Twitter that the climb “now belongs to cyclists”, with riders from across the country duly flocking to Snake Pass to take in the scenery, winding hairpins and, most importantly, the serendipity of a car-free road on what was described as the “best LTN ever”.
However, after a week of cycling utopia, on Monday evening EF Education-TIBCO-SVB pro Lizzy Banks tweeted that she had been informed by traffic management on the pass that the climb was also set to be closed full-time to cyclists.
This news was confirmed both by Derbyshire’s Roads Policing Unit and Derbyshire County Council, which tweeted that the climb would now be closed to all road users, except for local access, “because of concerns over safety”. The council also said that the road would be monitored 24 hours a day to prevent people using it.
A council spokesperson said: “There is still traffic on the road, as people live there and we have vehicles going up to monitor the landslip and carry out other work on other parts of the road.
“We are very concerned that there will be an accident involving a vehicle and a cyclist because of the large numbers of cyclists that have taken the opportunity to go out and ride the road.”
Oh, but it’s actually the safest it’s EVER BEEN! 🤬🤬🤬🤬 https://t.co/gPLc2HQlor
— Simon Warren (@100Climbs) March 8, 2022
The council’s decision has been roundly condemned by local cyclists such as Warren, who says that the pass is “safer than it has ever been”.
“The car lobby got a bit upset, that cyclists were getting all the fun when they couldn't use it,” the author told Cycling Weekly. “Someone in the council said it was too dangerous for cyclists to use, because there could be an accident. It's safer than it has ever been!
“Yesterday Derbyshire County Council put their message up saying it was closed 24 hours a day until they fix it. It is ludicrous. It does seem like they're just being spoilsports. We're all grownups here, let people take the chance.
“It has become a tourist attraction... people were dropping everything just to ride this one road. Glossop should capitalise on this, get some money in, not just shut it off. They've shot themselves in the foot there.”
Other Twitter users were unimpressed by the council’s claim that the decision was based on concerns over safety, with one writing that the council doesn’t “care about the safety of cyclists on the A57 the rest of the time, anywhere near as much as they do about stopping us riding on the closed, perfectly safe section now”.
Derbyshire will need a ‘Temporary Traffic Regulation Order’ for more than just a few hundred metres of the #SnakePass to be able to enact their ludicrous plan to close a perfectly good road just because lots of people are cycling on it, in safety, just for once. Quick thread! https://t.co/rSHMAUDYgW
— Family ByCycle (@FamilyByCycle) March 8, 2022
So motor vehicles damage Snake Pass, and the council puts a 24/7 guard on it to stop cyclists and walkers using it. Figures
— Chris Sidwells (@ChrisSidwells) March 9, 2022
If you've ever wanted to cycle up Snake with your kids, according to @Derbyshirecc its *much* safer to wait until the road is reopened to all traffic. I'm not sure who did the risk assessment, but im not entirely sure they've ever been on the Snake as a vulnerable toad user. https://t.co/paCTqDxrjM
— Snake Pass, Glossopside (@snakepasswest) March 9, 2022
Trying hard to understand this decision. Especially from a safety perspective. The road is as safe as it’s ever been for cyclists & walkers now it’s closed to traffic. @Derbyshirecc how does this link to your green & activity travel strategy? You’ve missed a good opportunity here https://t.co/YY32kO3HTE
— Rob Copeland (@DrRobCopeland) March 9, 2022
Having cycled up Snake Pass over 150 times in the past 3 years, I can verify than being passed by motorcycles at c.100mph and supercar rallies doing the same is fine. But navigating a coned off section of road and watching out for occasional local vehicles is just too dangerous.
— Duncan Ramsay (@Duncan_Ramsay) March 8, 2022
A local resident wrote directly to Derbyshire County Council to complain about the decision, arguing that “cycling only becomes dangerous when the infrastructure is such that car drivers become the danger”.
Others have pointed out that despite the staffed closure at the bottom of the pass, which appears to have shut the entire climb, the temporary closures only apply to the sections of the road affected by the landslip and that cyclists can legally ride their bikes up to those points.
@ElizzyBanks @100Climbs @GKVCC #snakepass. See the Temp Road Closure notice below. It is specific to the landslip section. Can legally ride from Glossop to the landslip or Sheffield to landslip. Can't ride thru it. I'm local so gonna escalate this pic.twitter.com/pjsZWBY3zn
— Nicholas Lyth (@nicklyth) March 9, 2022
1/2 Rode to foot of Snake this am. Told "can't pass, road closed". Explained that closure is only 200m stretch and I just wanted to ride to summit and back. "Just doing what I'm told, do what you like". Turned round, didn't want to be confrontational.
— Nicholas Lyth (@nicklyth) March 9, 2022
To protest the council’s decision, a mass trespass by cyclists and walkers on the road (reminiscent of the mass trespass at nearby Kinder Scout in 1932) has been organised for 2pm on Saturday.
One of the protesters, Harry Gray, said in a statement: “Snake Pass has been closed because of a landslip, we agree that this section should remain closed to cyclists and walkers for safety reasons.
“However, closing the entire road is unfair and potentially not legal. The claim that it is dangerous because of works vehicles is laughable, since the road is one of the most dangerous when open to motor vehicles.
“All that is needed is a sign to let people know there is still traffic using the road. Derbyshire Council have taken no previous steps to make the road safer for cyclists, like an average speed check, in the past - so why do they care so much now?”
Snake Pass is closed to traffic, but Derbyshire Council say it's too dangerous to cycle and walk due to works traffic.
To protest, we've organised a mass ride to the top
Saturday 2pm pic.twitter.com/qlGygcaEVE
— Harry Gray (@HarryHamishGray) March 9, 2022
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.