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Motorists to launch legal challenge against “totally undemocratic” decision to close park rat-run to drivers to “appease the cycling brigade”

Councillors voted this week to close an entrance to the heritage-listed park, used by rat-running drivers as a cut-through near Sandbanks, one of the wealthiest neighbourhoods in the country

A group of motorists have threatened to launch a legal challenge against what they describe as the “totally undemocratic” decision to permanently close an entrance to a park used by rat-running motorists as a cut-through, which the local council says will “enable more people to enjoy relaxing, walking, wheeling, running, or cycling” – despite 63 per cent of respondents to a consultation on the highly controversial issue opposing the closure.

Earlier this week, Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole (BCP) Council’s cabinet voted to permanently shut the Whitecliff entrance to Poole Park, a 110-acre green space near the centre of the Dorset town, to through traffic. The road through the heritage-listed park and conservation area was used as a rat-run by motorists during rush hour to and from Sandbanks, one of the UK’s wealthiest neighbourhoods.

In January a trial closure of the Whitecliff entrance, in a bid to combat pollution and promote a safer environment for cyclists and walkers, was implemented by the council (though the park remained accessible for drivers), a trial period that was extended later that month thanks to the “much bigger than expected” response to the local authority’s consultation, which saw over 5,000 locals give their opinion on the closure.

The trial also prompted vocal opposition from a group of residents, branded by a local active travel group as a “vocal minority of car drivers who drive straight through the park”.

Protests were held at the road closure, with residents opposing the pro-cycling and walking measure seen holding signs repeating much of the rhetoric that has been heard elsewhere in the country in recent times during similar backlashes to plans to introduce low traffic neighbourhood schemes, 20mph speed limits, or ultra-low emission zones.

Poole Park protest (Facebook/Julie Allen)

Of the 5,400 respondents to BCP’s consultation, 63 per cent (3,402) said they were opposed to the closure. Nevertheless, the local authority’s cabinet approved making the measure permanent on Wednesday. Other vehicle access and exit points in the park, however, will not be affected.

“This closure is an improvement of a key green space – supporting residents from multiple wards, including some in more deprived areas, to access one of the most beautiful parts in the BCP area,” Andy Hadley, the Liberal Democrat-controlled council’s member for climate response, environment, and energy, said following the decision.

“These measures will make a positive contribution to the health and wellbeing of the local population and enable more people to enjoy relaxing, walking, wheeling, running, or cycling in Poole Park.”

Hadley also confirmed that work would be carried out to “better support disabled drivers parking and turning” near the closed gate.

“Arrogant council in thrall to the cycling lobby”

However, the decision has been fiercely criticised by campaign group Leave Poole Park Alone, who are considering taking legal action against BCP Council against what they claim was a “whitewash” that will increase congestion and pollution in the town.

“For the council to ignore the outcome of the consultation and the majority view is ludicrous and shows it is totally undemocratic,” Bob Lister, the campaign’s chair, told the Daily Mail.

“The council said it was the largest questionnaire they have ever had. They created it and now they have ignored it. What was the point? They had already made up their minds, the whole thing is a whitewash.

“We believe this has been done to appease the cycling brigade who have wanted cars banned from the park. We haven’t had the summer yet and it is already a nightmare trying to leave the park.

“There is now only one entrance and exit and there is not enough room for two cars to pass so you have queues of traffic either side and cars idling for long periods. The pollution has gotten worse, not better.”

Poole Park (Google Maps)

> Councillor defends closing park "rat-run" to drivers to promote cycling and address "challenge" of "dominance of the car"

Other locals interviewed by the Mail claimed that commuting times for drivers have increased by 20 minutes since the closure, while complaining that they are now unable to “unwind” at the end of the day by driving through the park.

“I cannot believe the sheer arrogance of the council and the thrall the cycling lobby has,” local Karen Leahy said. “It was always going to be the outcome but that doesn’t make it any less wrong.”

“The message that anybody in a car is a villain and shouldn’t be driving through the park very much came across throughout this process,” added former Poole mayor and independent councillor Judes Butt.

“But many people in cars are aged in their 80s and 90s and they enjoy the simple pleasure of driving through it.

“I have seen what has happened since the gates were closed, the road gets clogged up with people queuing to get out of the one exit. I believe the next step will be to ban cars altogether under the green umbrella.”

> Park rat-run to remain closed to drivers to promote cycling, following trial made controversial by "vocal minority who drive straight through the park"

In response to criticism of the council’s seemingly “undemocratic” decision, Hadley claimed that many of those who opposed the measure during the consultation process have since changed their minds after fully appreciating the benefits of the closure.

“We did an experimental closure so that people could experience it and what we found was that quite a few people who were spurred into objecting to the closure really found it rather pleasant to be able to hear the birdsong and changed their minds,” he said.

“A consultation is not a vote, it never was a vote, it was part of the decision-making process. There were a lot of other factors to consider.

“The park is there as a leisure facility, but it has gotten busier and busier because people expect to be able to drive though it. Strategically, we have to do what we can to preserve our green spaces so that they are a better place to spend time in.”

Meanwhile, independent councillor Andy Martin, who supported the closure, noted that if the park was being designed today, it would be deemed implausible to build a road through it.

“I don’t understand how reducing traffic in a public park is not a good thing,” Martin said. “The council is pro-environment and pro-safety.

“As a council we, in our corporate strategy, are here to create a sustainable urban environment and this is part of that. It fits entirely the council’s health and wellbeing agenda and it also fits in with our cleaner, greener, and safer agenda.”

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

The news was also welcomed by the local BH Active Travel group, who described it as a “no-brainer”.

“We firmly believe that parks should be safe, open green spaces for people to use,” spokesperson Lucie Allen said.

“It’s always amazed me that commuters are allowed to cut through the park, particularly during the end of the school day and rush hour, effectively using the park as a rat run to avoid congestion on the road network.”

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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58 comments

Avatar
David9694 | 2 weeks ago
1 like

Poole Park: Group to ‘forever challenge’ the council on gates closure

Sharon Hunt said her late father-in-law enjoyed the park in his frail final stages of his life.

"His last request was to be driven through the park."

https://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/24356680.poole-park-group-forever...

No doubt Sharon's exceptional example (which I would be glad to facilitate) will somehow translate into car access for all.  The council need to make the change permanent on the ground. 

Anyway, this seems to stop short of judicial review.  If these are the same people that say they can't possibly afford £4 to park for a couple of hours, my guess is that lawyers' fees (and possibly advice, if things have got that far) were off-putting. 

They will be the same ones as claim that we can't implement 20 mph because there's a cost of living crisis/ other spending priorities, but would be quite happy, if they could find anyone with the cash to splash, to take up time and resources with this nonsense.

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David9694 | 3 weeks ago
4 likes

Curious lack of a story in the Bournemouth Echo about this - so far. 

I'm a driver who has lost one argument (despite winning most of the argument since about 1954 - look around you).  So used to this privileged position am I that it this road closure / 20 mph limit  all be a dire plot (ref: Mrs Sign), corruption, Evil Cycling Lobby - it can't possibly be the result of an election just 13 months ago. 

I have recently discovered that I am worried about the following issues : the elderly and the disabled, air pollution, lone women (apparently), congestion, bus services pharmacy and other essential deliveries despite my creating a complete mess of all of these for the past 40 years.  The solution to all of these issues is me driving my car at a regular speed. 
 

 

.  

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mattw | 3 weeks ago
1 like

Is this not the same park with the Keyhole Bridge?

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old bod replied to mattw | 3 weeks ago
2 likes

yes

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jaymack | 3 weeks ago
4 likes

Perhaps I'm missing something, it is a park not a bypass isn't it?

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i-am-furious | 3 weeks ago
3 likes

Rather the cYcLinG LoBby than the pro-death motorist lobby. Also roadcc can we stop using the photo of that lady? I'm sick of having to look at a picture of a feral pig every time this story is covered.

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hawkinspeter replied to i-am-furious | 3 weeks ago
3 likes

i-am-furious wrote:

Rather the cYcLinG LoBby than the pro-death motorist lobby. Also roadcc can we stop using the photo of that lady? I'm sick of having to look at a picture of a feral pig every time this story is covered.

She might a few tools short of a puncture repair, but she's got a cute hat

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i-am-furious replied to hawkinspeter | 3 weeks ago
0 likes

No sorry, the hat's horrible

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David9694 replied to i-am-furious | 3 weeks ago
1 like

Please keep the mad lady with the mad signs! 

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ROOTminus1 | 3 weeks ago
0 likes

If this legal challenge is accepted, it will be a terrible loss for PBC council, but it will be an interesting precedent to challenge the removal of modal filters and LTNs across the rest of the country which followed even less rigorous procedures than this.

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Tony W. | 3 weeks ago
9 likes

Across the Country and the World, if vehicle drivers drove within the speed limits, abided by highway code, these changes wouldn't be taking place. It's because you continually think it's ok to drive at 37 in a 30 or 47 in a 40, it's not ok. It's because of speeding drivers that limits are being dropped to 20 and cut throughs closed, it's people like me that are paying the penalty, people who abide by speed limits etc and yet you're the ones now complaining, it's because of you speeders that speed limits are coming down, there is an army of absolute idiots out there that don't get this. Since the year 2000 this army of idiots have killed 3000 children, 50000 in total and yet moan about cyclists going through red lights or cycling on a pavement etc. Once you all drive within the speed limits and abide by the highway code then we can sort out the cyclists.

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chrisonabike replied to Tony W. | 3 weeks ago
3 likes

Agree that the issue is "humans".  But ... more than that - motor traffic is an issue because:

 - Motor vehicles are a massive "force multiplier"
 - It's extremely space inefficient
 - It tends to promote both sprawl and reduction of local amenities, because it makes sense to centralise where people can drive to them.
 - It's unpleasant to be around (noisy, polluting - even EVs)
 - It suppresses other transport modes (once you have a car you tend to drive)

Even if we replaced all the "average humans" currently driving with much better ones, or even people trained to commerical pilot standards, or saints ... they're still human.  And humans have fallibilities and sometimes make terrible mistakes.

OK - get rid of humans in favour of (much better than current) robots.  I bet far fewer people would be KSI on the roads - great!  But ... that number still wouldn't be zero of course.  Because pedestrians and cyclists are also human and make mistakes (and cars are massive force multipliers).  And the current level of motor traffic would still be problematic (places wouldn't be nicer).  And most people still wouldn't cycle anywhere, because most people just don't like to ride in traffic, even if the drivers promise to behave.

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wycombewheeler replied to chrisonabike | 3 weeks ago
0 likes

chrisonabike wrote:

Agree that the issue is "humans".  But ... more than that - motor traffic is an issue because:

 - Motor vehicles are a massive "force multiplier"
 - It's extremely space inefficient
 - It tends to promote both sprawl and reduction of local amenities, because it makes sense to centralise where people can drive to them.
 - It's unpleasant to be around (noisy, polluting - even EVs)
 - It suppresses other transport modes (once you have a car you tend to drive)

Even if we replaced all the "average humans" currently driving with much better ones, or even people trained to commerical pilot standards, or saints ... they're still human.  And humans have fallibilities and sometimes make terrible mistakes.

OK - get rid of humans in favour of (much better than current) robots.  I bet far fewer people would be KSI on the roads - great!  But ... that number still wouldn't be zero of course.  Because pedestrians and cyclists are also human and make mistakes (and cars are massive force multipliers).  And the current level of motor traffic would still be problematic (places wouldn't be nicer).  And most people still wouldn't cycle anywhere, because most people just don't like to ride in traffic, even if the drivers promise to behave.

even though the current AI is highly flawed it might still be better than some current drivers.

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marmotte27 replied to wycombewheeler | 3 weeks ago
3 likes

We don't need any blasting AI either if we just get rid of cars.
Remember Einstein's You can't solve a problem with the mindset that created it in the first place?

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Cycloid replied to wycombewheeler | 3 weeks ago
1 like

There may be fewer KSIs if autonomous are adopted, but they would be different ones, opening the door to all sorts of philosphical arguments.

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andystow replied to wycombewheeler | 3 weeks ago
1 like

wycombewheeler wrote:

even though the current AI is highly flawed it might still be better than some current drivers.

There'd be an outcry from the Teslarati, but I'd love it if some country passed a law that self-driving cars must obey the speed limits. Shouldn't that be an obvious, minimum standard?

You don't need any wiggle room, either. With all the sensors they have, AI cars "know" within better than 0.1 MPH / km/h how fast they're going. Maybe allow them up to 30.49 in a 30 zone just to be fair.

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brooksby replied to andystow | 3 weeks ago
1 like

andystow wrote:

There'd be an outcry from the Teslarati, but I'd love it if some country passed a law that self-driving cars must obey the speed limits. Shouldn't that be an obvious, minimum standard?

You don't need any wiggle room, either. With all the sensors they have, AI cars "know" within better than 0.1 MPH / km/h how fast they're going. Maybe allow them up to 30.49 in a 30 zone just to be fair.

You mean that isn't already the case? 

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chrisonabike replied to brooksby | 3 weeks ago
3 likes
brooksby wrote:

andystow wrote:

There'd be an outcry from the Teslarati, but I'd love it if some country passed a law that self-driving cars must obey the speed limits.

You mean that isn't already the case? 

Because "safety" innit? All those times you see Godzilla about to collapse on your car and have to accelerate to 90 in a 20mph zone to save your chihuahua.

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andystow replied to brooksby | 3 weeks ago
0 likes

brooksby wrote:

You mean that isn't already the case? 

Oh, my sweet summer child.

From the Model Y owner's manual...

The touchscreen displays the maximum speed in blue. When you engage Full Self-Driving (Supervised), the set cruising speed defaults to the speed limit, plus any offset you’ve specified. If Autopilot is unable to determine the speed limit, the cruising speed is your current speed, in addition to any specified offset.

Don't forget, also, the recall in 2022 because they were programmed to roll through stops signs at up to 5.6 MPH (9 km/h.)

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Samtheeagle replied to Tony W. | 3 weeks ago
1 like

The need for these changes are to redress the place design trajectory that has been motor vehicle centric since the later part of the 1960s.  This is about a rebalance - whoever thought it was a good idea to make routes through parks major thoroughfares in the first place. 

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John Chisholm | 3 weeks ago
15 likes

My personql fave was the line
"They cannot unwind by driving through the park"

Like...get out, walk, take it in, breath the cleaner air and unwind!!

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Rome73 replied to John Chisholm | 3 weeks ago
8 likes

I like this one 'But many people in cars are aged in their 80s and 90s and they enjoy the simple pleasure of driving through it'

something to look forward to in retirement- the simple pleasure of driving through a park, back and forth, back and forth. 

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Browsie replied to Rome73 | 3 weeks ago
4 likes

All these years that I've either done a spot of gardening , listened to some music and of course been out in a bike ride to help me unwind and now I've discovered that I've been doing it all wrong!

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polainm replied to Rome73 | 3 weeks ago
6 likes

Many - not all - car bound elderly are car bound primarily due to sedentary lifestyle. If they had walked more and driven less, they could walk in the park. 

This obeseogenic promotion by drivers for drivers is about as toxic as Doctors prescribing pregnant women cigarettes. 

Anyone using '15 minute cities' in this context should stick to flinging poo in their cage. 

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Blibb replied to Rome73 | 3 weeks ago
2 likes

I live in this area, you can still use it to drive though, just not as a shortcut to sandbanks road. If elderly people really want to go to the park it would add an extra 1.4miles to their trip.

As for using it as a shortcut, it saves 0.4miles going though the park, though the main perk was you skipped 4 or so traffic lights.

Not really end of the world like these people say it is. 0.4miles and avoiding 4 traffic lights isn't saving you 20mins

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bensynnock replied to Rome73 | 3 weeks ago
1 like

Are these the same people who are driving through the park after work to unwind?

You've got to admire their work ethic.

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Samtheeagle replied to John Chisholm | 3 weeks ago
2 likes

Meanwhile, social media is alive witht he concept that cyclists are only out there for recreational benefit and are less-legitimate users of the roads network.  

 

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brooksby replied to Samtheeagle | 3 weeks ago
3 likes

Samtheeagle wrote:

Meanwhile, social media is alive witht he concept that cyclists are only out there for recreational benefit and are less-legitimate users of the roads network.  

Exactly.

When cyclists are riding on the park roads 'just for fun' then they're just using toys and not being serious road users.

When elderly motorists are just driving around and around - in the f-ing park! - 'to unwind and enjoy the view' then they are Somehow serious road users and the council should bow down before them.

Hmm… 

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eburtthebike | 3 weeks ago
13 likes

Motorists to launch legal challenge against “totally undemocratic” decision to close park rat-run to drivers to “appease the cycling brigade”

English translation: it's democratic if the decision agrees with me; if it doesn't, it isn't.

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qwerty360 | 3 weeks ago
1 like

What is the alternative.

Closing keyhole bridge (which is the only route across the park and barely wide enough to let most cars through, let alone car + pedestrian) immediately beyond this point was blocked by judicial review.

 

Only way I could see to solve the issues for pedestrians (drivers not yielding shared space) while retaining vehicle access would be traffic lights.

Once every few minutes let a small amount of motor cars through the bridge in each direction; Dedicated bicycle and pedestrian phases the rest of the time.

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