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Cyclists to be allowed to ride on popular shopping street pedestrianised for 30 years as police say it will "split opinion"... and Conservative councillor concerned about "abuse by vehicles"

A cycling campaign group believes "many of the concerns raised will prove unfounded", with the current cycling ban ignored by those likely to cause pedestrians danger anyway and the layout allowing "space for all users to circulate in safety"...

A shopping street that has banned cycling for three decades will be opened up to those riding bicycles, a cycling campaign group arguing that the move could be a "great boost to the struggling high street" with "space for all users to circulate in safety". However, the decision concerning Bicester's Sheep Street, in Oxfordshire, expected to be approved tomorrow, has not been universally popular, Thames Valley Police weighing in with the comment that the proposal will "split public opinion" and Conservative councillors expressing concerns.

The Oxford Mail reported that Oxfordshire County Council's transport chief Andrew Gant has been recommended to approve an Experimental Traffic Order (ETO) to allow cyclists to ride in the pedestrianised street, the order lasting six months before a decision on whether to make the scheme permanent is made.

Earlier this month, the Chair of Bicester Bike Users Group, Catherine Hickman, told road.cc that throughout the week footfall can be "very light" and there is "ample" room for cyclists and pedestrians to co-exist safely. Furthermore, the current situation, with enforcement of the cycling ban largely absent, means "the least responsible cyclists" cycle along Sheep Street regardless, the ban only serving to deter people who would otherwise access the route safely.

Sheep Street, Bicester, Oxfordshire (Google Maps)

Hickman argued allowing cyclists access could be a "great boost to the struggling high street" and questioned the pedestrian safety argument considering some critics "seem almost completely unconcerned" by heavy goods vehicles, vans and car drivers regularly using the route for deliveries.

Commenting on the likely introduction of cyclist access, a spokesperson for the Bicester Bike Users Group said it is "hard to know how well it will work" unless the town "give it a go" and added that they believe "many of the concerns raised will prove unfounded".

"This is probably one of those proposals that will split public opinion"

Another organisation to comment on the situation was Thames Valley Police, the force calling the decision a "tricky one" but that it appears the council is "only trying to formalise what is the norm".

"Allowing this could set a precedent for other similar locations. Dare I suggest Queen Street in Oxford. This location has been the source of misuse by cyclists for many decades despite the restriction and also a burden on use," a spokesperson said. "This is probably one of those proposals that will split public opinion."

A Conservative councillor has been outspoken against the lifting of the cycling ban, saying she is "disappointed but not surprised" by the expected decision of the Liberal Democrat-led council but which no party has had outright control over since 2013. Donna Ward also claimed the decision is being made "despite 65 per cent of those who have responded being against the ETO".

Sheep Street, Bicester (Google Maps)

"I have concerns that many issues need addressing before this can be considered sufficiently. None of the concerns raised have been answered," she said.

"These included Bicester Friday market and events, the current abuse of Sheep Street by vehicles which is not being enforced by the county council, how will cyclists safely enter and exit Sheep Street given the market square is one way and could require a turn in the middle to enter. There are also concerns raised by Unlimited Oxfordshire who represent our most vulnerable residents."

HGV on Sheep Street in Bicester (Catherine Hickman, Bicester Bike Users Group)

The fact HGVs, vans and other drivers regularly access the pedestrianised street to make deliveries was raised during the past weeks, Bicester Bike Users Group pointing out that some who oppose the scheme have not raised the issue of delivery vehicles risking safety.

HGV on Sheep Street in Bicester (Catherine Hickman, Bicester Bike Users Group)

Ford's fellow Tory councillor Michael Waine had claimed that allowing cyclists to use the route would mean being unable to "safeguard pedestrians and other users, especially on busy days when the street is full of people".

"I am totally opposed to the proposal to allow two-way cycling in Sheep Street 24 hours a day, seven days a week," he said. "Sheep Street has been a pedestrianised area for 30 years or more and has become an area used for markets, street cafes, exhibitions, and other events."

However, Hickman suggested those opposed to the scheme had their "priorities all wrong".

"Cycling responsibly along the street would be relatively low risk, particularly as there is space, and it would provide a safe route given that there are no alternative routes that actually have safe cycle provision. It's also worth mentioning that Sheep Street is part of NCN route 51," she said, before pointing out those who are more likely to cycle dangerously currently ignore the ban anyway due to a lack of enforcement.

The move to open up more town centre areas to cyclists goes against the growing number of councils that we have reported on introducing bans on cycling in recent times, often using a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO).

> "They have all the resources in the world to pick on cyclists": Council slammed for stopping and fining cyclists on pedestrianised city centre street

Perhaps the most prominent example is that of North Lincolnshire Council, who stated it had "escalated" and "intensified" its "war on cycling menaces" by implementing a complete ban on riding a bike in pedestrianised zones, as part of a wider crackdown on anti-social behaviour.

In Grimsby, cyclists have been fined £100 for doing so, one rider ordered to pay £1,100 after refusing the fixed-penalty notice.

Coventry has introduced a city centre e-bike ban in a bid to tackle "reckless" and anti-social behaviour, West Midlands Walking and Cycling Commissioner Adam Tranter saying it will only "discourage cycling and penalise responsible cyclists".

Southend Council has launched a consultation to impose stricter 'no cycling' rules in the town centre that could see cyclists being ordered to pay £100 for riding on its high street, the local authority's deputy leader saying that "fining is one of the few options left".

Police issuing FPN to cyclist in Southend (Essex Police)

However, Worcester City Council this month opted against extending a controversial PSPO brought in with the stated aim of tackling dangerous cycling in the city centre, but which drew criticism from campaigners who said it acted as a "psychological barrier" to more people using bicycles.

"I was never convinced people feeding gulls, aggressive begging and dangerous cyclists were the big issues facing Worcester," Cllr Matt Lamb, a Labour Party representative, said of the decision. "I thought it was more a bit of political theatre."

Green Party councillor Tom Piotrowski suggested the PSPO had been "more about culture wars than what we want for the city".

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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12 comments

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BigDoodyBoy | 1 month ago
0 likes

The argument in the beginning seems to be that cyclists will be a benefit to the high street. I guess that means that they are going there to shop rather than cycle through. Which curiously seems to be the other benefit touted at the end: Safe through route and part of a cycle route. Now, I don't really care whether cyclists use the street or not but if I was in any kind of decision making capacity, the contrary arguments would turn me into a stubborn old git and reject the proposal on the grounds of shit evidence and benefit statements.

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chrisonabike replied to BigDoodyBoy | 1 month ago
4 likes

Indeed - but it's no more inconsistent than our current road design - very often UK high streets are "for shopping" and also a busy through route.

Mary Portas should have been pushing pedalling!

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HoarseMann | 1 month ago
6 likes

It does seem a bit ridiculous having an outright ban on cycles at all times, yet permit holders can drive down there whenever they like and disabled/loading via HGV permitted before 9am and after 4pm.

Not to mention it being part of the National Cycle Network route 51.

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David9694 replied to HoarseMann | 1 month ago
3 likes

That sign "confuses drivers" - therefore doesn't count. 

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Hirsute replied to HoarseMann | 1 month ago
0 likes

I'm confused by the signage. One sign is no motor vehicles and the other says no cycling, so why isn't it a red circle with all white - No vehicles except bicycles being pushed ?

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HoarseMann replied to Hirsute | 1 month ago
2 likes

If it was a 'no vehicles' sign (all white circle centre), it would mean cyclists could ride in the hours that HGVs and disabled drivers are allowed access. It would be really risky to have cyclists mixing with that sort of traffic! 

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qwerty360 | 1 month ago
4 likes

IIRC  Dutch researchers found that generally banning bikes or removing bans on bikes from pedestrianised streets usually either made no difference to accident stats or increased risk! (combination of new riders copying existing riders they see, so copying riders illegally ignoring bans, rather than well behaved riders who follow bans and aggression from some pedestrians against people riding illegally resulting in collisions)

Safety improvements only came from providing high quality alternative routes; And anywhere claiming cyclists ignored the alternative routes without bans was actually that alternative routes were substandard (including bad signage as part of substandard infra - most common case in NL)...

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pockstone | 1 month ago
8 likes

Since when was 'split public opinion' any concern of the police? 

Unless it is the public's opinion of the police themselves.

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Nobski replied to pockstone | 1 month ago
1 like

100% agree, it's nothing to do with them, how public opinion is split.

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hawkinspeter | 1 month ago
15 likes

Can someone explain to me why cyclists in pedestrianised areas are apparently incredibly dangerous and yet shared use infrastructure considers it fine to mix cyclists and pedestrians?

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brooksby replied to hawkinspeter | 1 month ago
5 likes

hawkinspeter wrote:

Can someone explain to me why cyclists in pedestrianised areas are apparently incredibly dangerous and yet shared use infrastructure considers it fine to mix cyclists and pedestrians?

Apparently there's nothing wrong with cyclists sharing a road with cars and SUVs and HGVs and yet shared use infrastructure (pedestrians/cyclists) is a death trap…?

But cyclists 

(edited for clarity after I reread it and realised that it didn't say what I'd meant it to say)

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don simon fbpe | 1 month ago
3 likes

Quote:

Conservative councillors expressing concerns.

I'm genuinely shocked by their reaction.

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