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"Human bollards" step in to enforce road closure after "child knocked off bike" by motorist and cyclist reversed into

With the signs at the bus gate vandalised, campaigners say drivers were accessing the restricted access road "with impunity", the situation outside a local school returning to "being terrible again"...

Campaigners in Exeter left fed up by bus gate violations from drivers have stepped in to enforce the closure as "human bollards", the community action coming after "people were just driving through with impunity" and two recent incidents reported involving cyclists being hit by motorists.

  The move was inspired by volunteers in Oxford who overcame a spate of vandalism to a low-traffic neighbourhood by acting as human bollards to enforce the road closure. Likewise, today, in the Devon city of Exeter, campaigners blocked a route reserved for cyclists, buses and taxi drivers, while holding banners calling for "safe streets now".

The bus gate in question was introduced as part of the wider Heavitree and Whipton Active Streets Trial, a series of measures introduced by Devon County Council to calm traffic and promote safe active travel journeys.

> Exeter LTNs: How to save a low-traffic neighbourhood — overcoming hecklers, "dodgy" data, and political intrigue as councillors prevent early scrapping of active streets trial

However, as Lorna Devenish, the spokesperson for the Heavitree and Whipton Liveable Neighbourhood Group, told road.cc as part of a wider discussion that will be available in full during an upcoming episode of our podcast, violations of the bus gates have become an "outstanding issue for the trial" with many drivers ignoring the closures and paint sprayed over the signs meaning "people were just driving through with impunity".

She said: "The situation outside Ladysmith School has just gone back to being terrible again now. And in fact a child was knocked off their bike and a woman on a cargo bike with a baby on the back was reversed into by a car doing a manoeuvre around the bus gate."

Those incidents fuelled the human bollard action, which was supported by Safe Streets Now, whose Exeter spokesperson told the BBC the event had been a success and the human bollards would "continue all week at the beginning and end of the school day".

"There was a lot of support; lots of supportive parents and even a supportive taxi driver who stopped to thank us," he said. "There were also some inevitable angry residents and parents as well. 

> ​MP calls out "criminal behaviour" after local councillors receive faeces in their mailbox for implementing LTNs

"But what was really lovely was watching kids on their scooters going to school. It needs to be safe for them to do that, and the best way to make it safe is to remove the drivers from the roads outside."

Ms Devenish told road.cc: "The bus gates violations are an outstanding issue for the trial. We have two bus gates, and people worked out within two or three months that they weren't really being policed. And one of them was sprayed with a thick black paint on Boxing Day. At the beginning of the trial, the county council had been absolutely brilliant about rapidly replacing bollards, but following this report the county council going cold on it, no one had been out to clean these signs. So people were just driving through with impunity.

> Masked youths rip out new LTN bollards in Exeter – then flee by bicycle

"So we really fear that the violations around the bus gate are skewing the figures [for the trial], but because people are being encouraged to cycle more and people are driving through the bus gates, there are people who may be cycling for the first time who are not as safe as they should be. We cleaned the signs, and amazingly enough that had an immediate effect. Fewer people drove through it, now that you could see the restrictions again.

"We've been inspired by campaigners in Oxford to take some direct action, to do some human bollarding, to really call on Devon and Cornwall Police to properly police it. They say they aren't resourced sufficiently, but I think with the power of social media, they really only need to issue letters to ten per cent of the people we reported, and that would go around like wildfire. It probably wouldn't take too much effort, a few random visits by a patrol car at key times, even just having the parking wardens there at school pick up and drop off.

"So all these things could be done, and I don't think it would be a huge use of resources, but there seems to be an impasse on that. So that's our next action, to get these bus gates properly policed."

The aforementioned interim report on the Active Streets Trial, which those in favour of the scheme say was "sprung" on the committee charged with implementing it "at the last minute", claimed that while motor traffic has been significantly reduced within Exeter's newly installed low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), and cycling numbers boosted, traffic and journey times on boundary roads have soared. 

Exeter LTN bollards (picture credit Devon County Council)

It also concluded that unless the trial delivered better results by the end of this month it may be abandoned prematurely, with the power to suspend the scheme transferred from the city and county councillors to an unelected official. The bus gates were introduced as part of an 18-month trial alongside a host of other traffic-calming measures, such as modal filters using bollards or planters to encourage walking and cycling, and reduce pollution on residential roads.

The bus gates were meant to provide easy access for buses, emergency vehicles and taxi drivers, access restrictions that campaigners say have not been policed properly and led to today's action.

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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12 comments

Avatar
Secret_squirrel | 1 month ago
4 likes

What kind of council rolls out a bus gate with no means of enforcement?

Avatar
wycombewheeler replied to Secret_squirrel | 1 month ago
10 likes
Secret_squirrel wrote:

What kind of council rolls out a bus gate with no means of enforcement?

No driver would ever break the law

  • They are trained
  • they are licensed
  • They are identifiable
  • They are Insured

Unlike certain other road users

Avatar
brooksby replied to wycombewheeler | 1 month ago
6 likes
wycombewheeler wrote:
Secret_squirrel wrote:

What kind of council rolls out a bus gate with no means of enforcement?

No driver would ever break the law

  • They are trained
  • they are licensed
  • They are identifiable
  • They are Insured

Unlike certain other road users

<<BOOOOMMMMMMMM!!!>>

Dammit, wycombe: now I have to buy a new sarcasm detector!  I think you overloaded it  4

Avatar
Boopop replied to Secret_squirrel | 1 month ago
2 likes

Central Bedfordshire Council, Leighton Buzzard High Street - for years and years and years.

Avatar
evilcherry replied to Secret_squirrel | 1 month ago
1 like
Secret_squirrel wrote:

What kind of council rolls out a bus gate with no means of enforcement?

When they have no intent to keep it after the trial.

Avatar
ROOTminus1 | 1 month ago
3 likes

Action like this is interesting to me. These people are clearly doing the right thing, standing up for their community to promote safer streets and stop people breaking the law.
But they're doing the job of criminal and civil enforcement. Whilst this is legal and vindicated action, it's still discouraged by police and civil enforcement in case it increases tensions instead of de-escalating.

At what point does community action become vigilantism, and when do I crack out the black mask, cloak and talk in a deep raspy voice?

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to ROOTminus1 | 1 month ago
8 likes
ROOTminus1 wrote:

At what point does community action become vigilantism, and when do I crack out the black mask, cloak and talk in a deep raspy voice?

I know!  I know this one!  When it involves busybodies grassing on hard-working people just trying to go about their daily business of breaking the law!  When it involves meddlers trying to be amateur policemen and stopping people exercising their rights as Free Citizens (Magna Carta!) to park and drive where they want.  When it's creepy cyclists (likely paedos) peering through windows and spying on people with cameras, seeking trouble so they can upload unnecessary confrontations for clicks...

Avatar
andystow replied to ROOTminus1 | 1 month ago
3 likes
ROOTminus1 wrote:

At what point does community action become vigilantism, and when do I crack out the black mask, cloak and talk in a deep raspy voice?

I for one feel like my 25+ year study of judo and jujitsu (and a smattering of karate) will have been fully wasted unless I become a masked vigilante at some point in my life. I haven't been in a real fight since before I started studying it.

I do a pretty good scary voice.

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to andystow | 1 month ago
4 likes
andystow wrote:

I for one feel like my 25+ year study of judo and jujitsu (and a smattering of karate) will have been fully wasted unless I become a masked vigilante at some point in my life. I haven't been in a real fight since before I started studying it.

I recall chuckling at overheard conversation, something like:

- "Well I don't think he's all that, I've never seen him get into a fight"
- "Training worked then, didn't it?"

Avatar
brooksby replied to andystow | 1 month ago
1 like
andystow wrote:

I do a pretty good scary voice.

Yeah, but do you own a cape?  3

Avatar
andystow replied to brooksby | 1 month ago
5 likes
brooksby wrote:

Yeah, but do you own a cape?  3

I own a Batman bathrobe, and a Cleverhood rain cape. It's a bit too nice for it today, though.

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to andystow | 1 month ago
1 like

Perfect apparel for Gandalf's Corner! You Shall Not Pass!

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