Cycling UK has written to Derbyshire County Council to call for the publication of a risk assessment which justifies banning cyclists and walkers from Snake Pass, a decision the council said was “because of concerns over safety”. If no risk assessment exists, the charity says the road should be immediately reopened to active travel users.
The scenic climb, which lies within the Peak District National Park and carries the A57 between Sheffield and Manchester, became a car-free “cycling utopia” after it was closed to motor vehicles at the end of February while repairs were carried out on a small section of the road in the aftermath of landslides caused by storms Eunice and Franklin.
However, last week Derbyshire County Council confirmed that the pass, which runs for 12 miles from Ladybower Reservoir to Glossop, would also be closed to cyclists and walkers, except for local access.
The council claimed that the road was closed due to fears 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.”
The council also said that the road would be monitored 24 hours a day to prevent people using it.
The closure of the road to active travel users prompted accusations that it was an “anti-cyclist decision dressed up cheaply as health and safety”, with many cyclists pointing out that, without cars, Snake Pass was safer than it had ever been.
Last Saturday an estimated 60-strong group of cyclists protested the ban by taking part in a mass trespass – dubbed the ‘Snake Trespass’ – on the closed section of the A57. Another protest on the road is scheduled for 2pm tomorrow.
Earlier today, charity Cycling UK called on the council to re-allow cycling and walking on Snake Pass if it could not provide evidence of justifiable risk caused by the state of the road.
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns said: “In the absence of a risk assessment, the council’s banning of people cycling and walking along a motor traffic-free stretch of road is baffling.
“Cycling UK calls on the council to publish their risk assessment justifying the ban, and if there isn’t any, to open-up the road to these activities for the enjoyment of families and others once more.”
The charity also questioned the council’s apparent newfound concern for the safety of cyclists and walkers on the road, at a time when the danger to them is greatly reduced.
“The Snake Pass has always been popular with people cycling, and the lack of cars has only increased its popularity. Bringing in a cycling and walking ban when these activities’ greatest risk – motor vehicles – is significantly reduced does not make sense,” Dollimore said.
“The council should be looking to manage the greatest risk on the road and taking suitable precautions.
“An outright ban however is not the answer, and should only be considered if the whole 12 miles of the road’s substructure is unsafe, not one small stretch.”
Though the initial Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) is set to expire on 22 March, the repairs are yet to be fully completed, with the council therefore likely to extend the ban on road users on the A57.
Cycling UK believes that the ban’s extension offers the council an opportunity to rethink its stance on active travel on Snake Pass, benefitting the whole community.
“If the risk assessment shows there is no danger to walkers and cyclists in using the unaffected stretches of the Snake Pass, Cycling UK would urge Derbyshire County Council to rethink its position,” said Mr Dollimore.
“Opening up a wonderful, if temporary asset, can only benefit the whole community’s wellbeing.”
Cycling UK’s letter to Derbyshire County Council can be read in full here.
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.