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

The road closure was introduced to prevent rat-running drivers using the heritage listed park in a conservation area as a cut-through near Sandbanks, one of the wealthiest neighbourhoods in the country

A council has admitted the response was "much bigger than expected" after it closed a rat-run through a heritage listed park to prevent drivers using the route as a cut-through, in a bid to promote cycling and walking and tackle air and noise pollution, but has committed to keeping the road closure in place now the trial period has ended and more than 5,000 consultation responses are being considered.

The local newspaper the Daily Echo reports the sheer scale of public opinion on the matter, the responses to BCP Council (Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole) more than double what was received for a survey on the 2024-25 budget that asked for views on service cutbacks.

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

And while the council has not shut the route through Poole Park, a 110-acre green space in the Dorset town, permanently — a period of analysis to "understand every piece of feedback and insight on either side of the debate" will follow, potentially with an "open public meeting" — the road, used as a rat-run near Sandbanks, one of the wealthiest neighbourhoods in the country, to remain closed to drivers in the meantime now the four-week trial period has ended.

The trial prompted vocal opposition from a group of residents that a local active travel group has branded a "vocal minority" consisting of "car drivers who drive straight through the park". Protests were held at the road closure, people 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 backlash to low-traffic neighbourhood schemes, 20mph speed limits and ULEZ.

Poole Park protest (Facebook/Julie Allen)

However, councillor Andy Hadley, the council's portfolio holder for climate response, environment and energy, told the community during the trial that "we don't have an anti-car agenda" just that there is "a challenge on our roads about the dominance of the car... [they're] getting bigger and there's more of them".

"We are now looking at analysing all these responses and understanding every piece of feedback and insight on either side of the debate that park users took the time to share with us," he said, commenting on the next steps in the process.

"It's clear that with such a high response rate, the decision-making process will take longer than we originally planned, and it now seems more appropriate for this decision to be debated and considered in an open public meeting.

"That is why the item is on the forward plan to be discussed at the cabinet meeting in May, but we are looking at how we can shorten the timeline and discuss it earlier than that. Whilst we are reviewing the timeline, the entrance and exit to the park will remain closed as originally advised."

"Benefit all park users"

The closure was welcomed by active travel groups, a spokesperson for BH Active Travel saying the park being a space closed to through-traffic will "benefit all park users".

The group also said the opposition to the proposals is a "vocal minority" and the closure is "only prejudiced to one specific group of people — car drivers who drive straight through the park".

During the trial BH Active Travel's Chair, Lucie Allen, argued the "parks should be safe, open green spaces for people to use, whether that be for recreation, leisure, or quiet contemplation".

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

"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," she added.

Opponents to the closure, who want to see the park remain as a through-route for drivers, have accused the council of being "anti-car".

Lead campaigner Bob Lister pointed to the 1,400 followers his campaign has on Facebook as evidence of the support for keeping the through-route open.

"And if you imagine they are households of two to three people, we could possibly have won the vote," he suggested.

Poole Park (Google Maps)

"But it's sad they are not going to make a decision soon. We don't know how long it will take to read through the results. It was also a very biased consultation, with a lot of closed questions. I don't understand why they don't keep it open now and then decide in May at their cabinet meeting."

One resident angered by the decision said: "Previously we have easily and safely used the park road to get to Sandbanks Road and Shore Road. Now we have to squeeze into the queue of traffic waiting to get to the Civic Centre and then have to join a long queue taking it in turns to go through the railway bridge along Sandbanks Road.

"So, more irritation, more delay, potentially more accidents, and more petrol being used up as we wait in stationary cars to navigate these blockages. So much for cutting the carbon footprint. In the meantime the park is nearly empty and a perfectly good road to avoid these pressure points has been blocked off.

> Richmond Park reopens to rat-running drivers after almost five months of car-free roads

"I can't imagine the chaos which will occur in the summer when festivals and other events which go on in the park try to contend with a system that only allows one exit point for all vehicles."

Cabinet members will consider "a report on the improvement of the environment in Poole Park through a trial closure" at a meeting on May 22.

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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15 comments

Avatar
M4rt1n74 | 2 months ago
0 likes

I'd say use the park route for public transport only but the kind of people using the route are probably Range Rover drivers that never set foot outside unless it's walking to the gym from the car.

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Must ride must ride replied to M4rt1n74 | 2 months ago
0 likes

The gate goes directly to an ancient railway bridge with a six foot width limit, including mirrors. 
Most drivers are using the entrance illegally. 

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David9694 | 2 months ago
5 likes

Cars don't belong in parks. 

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chrisonabike replied to David9694 | 2 months ago
4 likes

David9694 wrote:

Cars don't belong in parks. 

But what about car parks though?  Says it in the name?

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wycombewheeler replied to chrisonabike | 2 months ago
2 likes

chrisonabike wrote:

David9694 wrote:

Cars don't belong in parks. 

But what about car parks though?  Says it in the name?

Might as well talk about hot dogs needing to be on leashes on the public highway, since they are dogs an' all

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andystow replied to chrisonabike | 2 months ago
5 likes

chrisonabike wrote:

David9694 wrote:

Cars don't belong in parks. 

But what about car parks though?  Says it in the name?

I'm sure you know the history of why we call it "parking" a car, but just in case... when motor cars started becoming popular, they were good for getting into town but there was nowhere to store them once you got there. So the owners got into the habit of just leaving them in a bit of open public space: parks. The car, being in a park, was now "parked."

Sounds a bit anti-social, right? It's gone downhill from there.

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to andystow | 2 months ago
3 likes

andystow wrote:

I'm sure you know the history of why we call it "parking" a car, but just in case... when motor cars started becoming popular, they were good for getting into town but there was nowhere to store them once you got there. So the owners got into the habit of just leaving them in a bit of open public space: parks. The car, being in a park, was now "parked."

Sounds a bit anti-social, right? It's gone downhill from there.

That sounded plausible and interesting, so I tried to find out more, but instead discovered that using "park" as a verb dates back a lot longer

https://www.oed.com/dictionary/park_v

Quote:

1846: To the left of the sand hills in front are a number of wagons parked, to the left of them a pound containing about 200 mules.

G. B. McClellan, Mexican War Diary November (1917) 10

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andystow replied to hawkinspeter | 2 months ago
1 like

Well dang, I thought I read that in a real book.

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eburtthebike | 2 months ago
9 likes

"I must be allowed to drive wherever, whenever I like, it's a god-given right and you can't take it away."

The sheer insufferable entitlement is literally incredible.  Don't these people have any self-awareness?  Well, they could all be PopCons I suppose.

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Shake | 2 months ago
11 likes

"Now we have to squeeze into the queue of traffic waiting to get to the Civic Centre and then have to join a long queue taking it in turns to go through the railway bridge along Sandbanks Road"

As apposed to squeezing through the keyhole bridge and taking turns through the single file bridge?

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Hirsute | 2 months ago
14 likes

"And if you imagine they are households of two to three people, we could possibly have won the vote," he suggested.

Another one who doesn't understand what a consultation is.

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brooksby | 2 months ago
13 likes

Quote:

"So, more irritation, more delay, potentially more accidents, and more petrol being used up as we wait in stationary cars to navigate these blockages. So much for cutting the carbon footprint. 

I may be missing something, but if you are sitting in your car in stationary traffic then aren't you recommended to switch the engine off?  Then you wouldn't be using more petrol.

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brooksby | 2 months ago
12 likes

This whole Freemen of the Land "We do not consent" guff (see photo) just really winds me up surprise Laws don't work like that - you can't in general ignore a law just because you don't agree with it, or because the Govt didn't personally write to Mrs I. Diot of 25 The High Street to get her permission…

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a1white replied to brooksby | 2 months ago
15 likes

Years of car centric culture has led them to believe that driving a car where and when they like is a god given right. Sadly, we have Politicians using their stupidty to gain votes from them, by playing up to their fears.

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flobble replied to a1white | 2 months ago
0 likes

Along with sensationalism seeking journalists claiming the issue is in someway related to Sandbanks ("one of the wealthiest areas of the country"), which is both wrong (it's 2 miles by road, with other, bigger, more populated neighbourhoods in between), and irrelevant.

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