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“Grow up”: Police criticised for targeting “incredibly dangerous” cyclists riding against one-way system

Cyclists have been warned they will be fined for riding the wrong way down a city centre street during roadworks, prompting one to question whether “cyclists are the most obvious issue” facing travel in the city

Cyclists in Salisbury have been warned that they could face fines for riding against a new one-way system, after police in the cathedral city say they “almost instantly” stopped a commuter flouting the traffic regulation during a targeted operation earlier this week, while branding the behaviour of both delivery cyclists and the general public “incredibly dangerous”.

However, the crackdown has been criticised by cyclists in Salisbury, with many questioning the police’s claim that using an alternative route would add “less than a minute” to journey times, while one social media user told the officers to “grow up” and questioned whether “cyclists are the most obvious issue” currently facing travel in the city.

Fisherton Street, a key route into Salisbury city centre, was transformed earlier this year into a temporary one-way system, as part of improvement works on Fisherton Gateway that will last until next summer and, Wiltshire Council says, “enhance the public realm and improve pedestrian areas”, making it “easier, safer, and more convenient to travel by foot into the city centre”.

> “Cyclists are entitled to use the road as much as anyone else”: Councillors and locals blast “discriminatory” ‘Cyclists Dismount and Proceed with Caution’ signs at temporary traffic lights

However, Salisbury Police took to social media earlier this week to announce that, despite the ongoing roadworks, people on bikes “are still cycling against the one-way system leaving the city centre” and that an operation was carried out to crack down on such riding.

“This is both delivery cyclists and the general public,” the police said. “This is incredibly dangerous.

“Officers today visited Fisherton Street and almost instantly stopped a commuter cycling the wrong way. If this issue continues, fixed penalty notes will be given out to prevent this practice.

“Cyclists can use Crane Bridge Road; this only adding less than a minute to leave the city.”

> Cyclists and pedestrians should be given priority at roadworks – even if it delays motorists and takes up road space, says roadworks commissioner

While the police’s post and threat of fines was applauded by most Facebook users – with many claiming that cyclists “don’t think the rules of the road apply to them” – others were critical of the force’s actions.

“Yeah, because cyclists are the most obvious current issue facing travel in Salisbury,” one commenter said. “Grow up. There are real crimes unsolved and unpunished.”

“I agree with parts of this post,” another said. “But suggesting that the diversion only adds one minute to a journey is farcical.”

“All the multiple road works make Salisbury impossible, and I don’t actually blame people for wanting to cycle the wrong way! Sometimes I feel like driving the wrong way,” a motorist added, while another claimed that while “rules are rules”, the lack of a cycle lane towards the city centre has made life difficult for people commuting on bikes.

> 'Vulnerable Road User' operation sees police fine cyclists for jumping red lights

This type of police operation, targeting rule-breaking cyclists and usually accompanied by a social media post, is of course nothing new.

In September, Police in Scotland carried out a ‘Vulnerable Road User’ initiative which saw four cyclists fined in Edinburgh for riding through red lights.

The operation, which also saw cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers “spoken to and given advice” appeared to take place at a pedestrian crossing in the Scottish capital, with Roads Policing Scotland explaining that four cyclists and one driver were fined for going through red lights.

And in February 2022, police in Hackney said they had caught 18 cyclists jumping red lights in 90 minutes, each getting a £50 fine and a road safety lecture.

A week later questions were asked after another force, this time in Manchester, was keen to highlight its crackdown on people using bicycles riding through reds. Like the action in Salisbury this week, the Manchester post attracted a significant number of responses questioning why the force is “prioritising” less dangerous offences, while others called for a more effective use of police resources.

A campaign group dedicated to making the A56 in the north-west of England safer for all road users also suggested there are “far more serious” dangers on the road that police should be looking to target.

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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56 comments

Avatar
Wheelywheelygood | 2 months ago
1 like

Of course bikers are going to object how dare people think they have the right to be kept safe from law breakers on bikes . One way system , well I was only going one way lights well they all mean go ,pavements that's the fast lane isn't it . Take that pedestrian to court he bent my wheel when he hit me at speed on the pavement I have rights you know what's the odd damaged pedestrian or 20

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BigDoodyBoy | 2 months ago
3 likes

I love all the comments here. "If the law was different, we wouldn't be breaking it." And "the police should turn a blind eye because cyclists can't cause as much damage as a car"

Guys, the law is the law. If you get caught breaking it, accept your medicine and maybe start posting articles in support of riding within the law rather than being openly critical of people doing their job by upholding it.

You, road.cc, and your readers don't do yourselves any favours with this sort of article or responses.

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Robert Hardy replied to BigDoodyBoy | 2 months ago
4 likes

The police has had little difficulty publicly refusing to police 20mph zones in the past, and when the vermin redcoats overran my parents village were nowhere to be seen to enforce road traffic laws or the hunting with dogs act.

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chrisonabike replied to BigDoodyBoy | 2 months ago
1 like

Hmm... on one hand I'm sympathetic to the viewpoint "you pays your money and you takes your choice".  Also while I think the danger in this story may be exaggerated (both parties are approaching head on - this should be maximum mutual visibility at least) I also don't think this is a great idea - even where legal.

I tend to stick to the rules.  But the rules are still taking on board the position of vulnerable road users and the rules "as people understand them" (e.g. how a substantial number actually drive) are different again!

"Shooting the messenger" / those actually enforcing the law: as Robert Hardy notes enforcement is ... interestingly selective.

Pavement driving?  Police have officially said "not interested" (it might change a bit here in Scotland - again enforcement-depended).

Close passes (or even contact)?  Police Scotland at least have effectively said "not interested" (see how easy it is to report and the fact that someone accused saying "No, I don't recall that" effectively ends an investigation).

Cyclists killed on the roads?  As we know from reporting here not infrequently the police and / or legal system says "not interested" ("driving to the conditions" is apparently optional / they're throwing themselves under vehicles).

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Cavey65 | 2 months ago
3 likes

Standard selfish ignorant responses. If you want to dictate roads policy join the council. If you want to dictate police priorities run for PCC or get involved in the myriad other ways there are. Those people saying police should have different priorities would be the first ones shouting if they or anyone they care about was injured while breaking the law. It's not the police who need to grow up here.

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Adam Sutton | 2 months ago
2 likes

From the photo there are cones and barriers on the road that are restricting the width, this makes cycling against the traffic doubly dangerous. Any vehicle, even another cyclist won't be expecting anything to be coming towards them, and they will be focussed on avoiding those obstacles.

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Stephankernow | 2 months ago
8 likes

We as cyclists are at times our own worst enemy, If its a one way system its that for all traffic we are not exempt.

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marmotte27 | 3 months ago
6 likes

For having been to Salisbury not long ago, the place is a total shambles traffic-wise.
If ever a city called for a total closure of its centre to motor traffic, it's this one

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neilmck | 3 months ago
7 likes

People assume that it is dangerous to cycle the wrong way down a one-way street. However one-way streets tend to be quiet streets often only existing as traffic calming measures. In France, once an area becomes a 20mph zone all one-way streets magically become two-way for cyclists.

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BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP replied to neilmck | 3 months ago
6 likes

Around where we live in Paris all the one way streets are two way for cycles. 

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cyclisto replied to BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 3 months ago
0 likes

That sounds very interesting, and I think it makes perfect sense. Do you have any link to it?

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Rendel Harris replied to cyclisto | 3 months ago
7 likes

It actually became law in France in 2008 that all 30 km/h roads had to become two-way for cyclists unless circumstances made it impossible: contraflow lanes for cyclists in Paris rose from 40 km to 250 km in a year. I don't have BIAD's experience of living there but I go to Paris a lot and cycle every time I do and they work brilliantly, being the default for one-way streets everyone is used to them and they are pretty well respected by car drivers (Parisian drivers, in my experience and contrary to popular myth, being significantly better around bikes than London ones). All the research I've seen has shown that there has been a very significant rise in cyclists using those streets without a corresponding rise in incidents.

 

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cyclisto replied to Rendel Harris | 3 months ago
6 likes

Thanks for the info, France really wants to promote cycling and doesn't fear changes.

I would really like to see similar changes in legislation in more countries.

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pablo | 3 months ago
6 likes

Everyone from pedestrians to motorists know what a one way street is you cannot be surprised if the police have an issue with it.

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hawkinspeter replied to pablo | 3 months ago
18 likes
pablo wrote:

Everyone from pedestrians to motorists know what a one way street is you cannot be surprised if the police have an issue with it.

Maybe not surprised, but if they routinely ignore speeding and distracted driving, then it seems curious that they choose to enforce arguably far less dangerous rule breaking.

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mattw replied to pablo | 3 months ago
6 likes

I'm surprised.

Contraflow cycling on a one-way streets without a painted cycle is normal and not uncommon.

You just put an "except cycles" board below the No Entry signs at one and, and a cycle symbol with an arrow painted on the road at the other end, so drivers are aware. If it is a long street repeating the painted symbols occasionally.

I'm not sure if I've seen one without a 20moh limit, mind.

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KDee replied to mattw | 3 months ago
3 likes

Seeing a no entry sign for a one way street without the "uitgezonderd" notice and a picture of a bike and brommer is pretty unusual in NL.

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Peowpeowpeowlasers | 3 months ago
11 likes

There are many one-way streets I can think of that I cycle down occasionally.  I do this because despite the outrage, it's safer for me.  One such is here https://maps.app.goo.gl/iJYrL5WDMd9b9ABz6 and no, I don't use the cycleway parallel to it, because it's full of broken glass like you wouldn't believe, and it's also dark and uninviting.

I think the default position should be that if a one-way system is implemented, contraflow cycling be allowed.  Only on dual carriageways, or very narrow urban roads, should this really be questioned.

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Rendel Harris | 3 months ago
17 likes

Sorry, can't see the validity of the protest here at all. Riding the wrong way down a one-way street is silly and dangerous. Perhaps there's a case for saying there's enough room for a cyclist contraflow and lobbying for it to be established but in its absence it's just a stupid thing to do, antagonises non-cyclists and perhaps most importantly from a cyclist's perspective it puts you completely the wrong side of the law if you hit a pedestrian or get hit by a car, in the former instance you are bound to be in serious legal trouble even if it was a pedestrian stepping out whilst looking at their phone or similar, and in the latter you can forget about any form of compensation for damages or injuries. Just not worth it.

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hawkinspeter replied to Rendel Harris | 3 months ago
11 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:

Sorry, can't see the validity of the protest here at all. Riding the wrong way down a one-way street is silly and dangerous. Perhaps there's a case for saying there's enough room for a cyclist contraflow and lobbying for it to be established but in its absence it's just a stupid thing to do, antagonises non-cyclists and perhaps most importantly from a cyclist's perspective it puts you completely the wrong side of the law if you hit a pedestrian or get hit by a car, in the former instance you are bound to be in serious legal trouble even if it was a pedestrian stepping out whilst looking at their phone or similar, and in the latter you can forget about any form of compensation for damages or injuries. Just not worth it.

There is some research showing that contraflow cycling can improve cyclists' safety despite the common perception that it's dangerous:

https://roadsafetygb.org.uk/news/research-calls-for-legislation-to-allow-contraflow-cycling-on-all-one-way-streets/

Often, the alternative to cycling the wrong way down a one-way street will involve tangling with much busier roads and/or a longer journey - both of which would increase the likelihood of a RTC.

I don't think your point about hitting pedestrians is that relevant as you want to be avoiding doing that anyway and I'd recommend going safely and carefully when contraflowing so that you can stop whenever necessary.

https://www.cycling-embassy.org.uk/sites/cycling-embassy.org.uk/files/documents/Contraflow%20Cycling%20TAL%206-98.pdf

https://www.cyclinguk.org/briefing/contra-flow-cycling-2-way-cycling-1-way-streets

https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/downloads/file/24959/c5-contraflow-cycling

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argiebarge replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
5 likes

In a defined contraflow system sure, which this isnt. We cant make up the rules as we go.

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hawkinspeter replied to argiebarge | 3 months ago
10 likes
argiebarge wrote:

In a defined contraflow system sure, which this isnt. We cant make up the rules as we go.

If it's safer to ignore the rules, then I'd put personal safety above rule following.

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argiebarge replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
1 like

What you actually meant to say is if it slows down my trip its better to break the rules, and this is where one of the biggest risks from cars arises.

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hawkinspeter replied to argiebarge | 3 months ago
10 likes
argiebarge wrote:

What you actually meant to say is if it slows down my trip its better to break the rules, and this is where one of the biggest risks from cars arises.

There's always a trade-off between speed/ease of travel and safety. However, I don't think that using a back-street road the wrong way is anywhere near the danger of a busy road with lots of side roads and junctions - that's where most RTCs happen with cyclists.

Allowing cyclists to take the most direct and speedy route is a big step towards getting more people travelling by bike. If you've got a route along a busy road where you get stopped every 500m by a traffic light, then it's going to be an arduous journey fraught with danger. If instead there's a route that allows a steady speed, then cycling along that is going to be much more pleasant and acceptable for more people.

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IanGlasgow replied to argiebarge | 2 months ago
2 likes
argiebarge wrote:

What you actually meant to say is if it slows down my trip its better to break the rules, and this is where one of the biggest risks from cars arises.

Motorists Break Law To Save Time, Cyclists Break Law To Save Lives, Finds Study

https://www.forbes.com/sites/carltonreid/2020/09/18/motorists-break-law-...

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OnYerBike replied to argiebarge | 3 months ago
5 likes

Some of the "defined" contraflow systems are little more than a sign at the end of the road. They make it legal to cycle in the other direction, but the practical on-the-ground change is often negligible.

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Rendel Harris replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
6 likes

For sure, I'd be perfectly happy for it to be made legal on the majority of one-ways, as it is in Paris for example and works well. I'm just saying I don't think it's a good idea whilst it's not legal as drivers aren't going to be expecting you and I do think there's an increased risk of hitting pedestrians because when they're walking towards the oncoming traffic they're more likely to step out without looking behind. I guess you can obviate the risk by riding at walking pace, but then why not go a legal way round at normal speed?

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hawkinspeter replied to Rendel Harris | 3 months ago
2 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:

For sure, I'd be perfectly happy for it to be made legal on the majority of one-ways, as it is in Paris for example and works well. I'm just saying I don't think it's a good idea whilst it's not legal as drivers aren't going to be expecting you and I do think there's an increased risk of hitting pedestrians because when they're walking towards the oncoming traffic they're more likely to step out without looking behind. I guess you can obviate the risk by riding at walking pace, but then why not go a legal way round at normal speed?

It very much depends on the specifics of the roads, but in my experience most one way roads are quieter back roads that do lend themselves to contraflow cycling. There's busier multi-lane one way roads that aren't suitable (e.g. round the Triangle in Bristol) so it does require some evaluation of when the alternatives are better.

I have my doubts about pedestrians looking for cyclist traffic even when the road isn't one way.

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wycombewheeler replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
1 like
hawkinspeter wrote:

I have my doubts about pedestrians looking for cyclist traffic even when the road isn't one way.

I find too many pedestrians look with their ears before crosing roads. Amazing that the introduction of electric cars hasn't reduced the frequency of this.

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neilmck replied to Rendel Harris | 3 months ago
3 likes

Most pedestrians never look either way when they cross a side road. So you always have to expect them to step out regardless.

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