A stallholder in a busy shopping street in Newcastle-upon-Tyne has taken a leaf from the book of London street preacher Philip Howard – pictured right and known as the ‘sinner winner’ man – by using a loudhailer to get his message across. But instead of preaching the Gospel, he’s been using it to berate people riding bikes in a pedestrian zone.
Karl Fitzpatrick, who runs a household linens stall on the city’s Northumberland Street, close to the Eldon Square shopping centre, uses a megaphone to tell cyclists to dismount when he spots them riding there.
But a local cycling campaigner says the road in question is an essential route through the city centre for bike riders.
Mr Fitzpatrick told Chronicle Live: “It’s annoying how many cyclists come down this street without getting off their bikes; it’s dangerous because it is a busy area.
“Nobody takes into consideration all the ‘no cycling’ signs which are on every other lamppost. I find it really annoying.”
The trader, who claims that ‘No Cycling’ signs are ignored by many riders, says that people on foot shopping in the area have given him their backing.
“They love it,” he said. “I’ve had comments from them and they find the megaphone idea really funny.
“It is funny and a different approach, but at the same time it needs to be sorted out.”
He continued: “I went to serve a young girl once and as I passed her a ball from the stall a cyclist actually hit her.
“It is not nice to see and obviously it would have hurt her because they travel at some speed.”
He believes the authorities should be tougher on pavement cyclists, saying: “I see nine or 10 times a day the council giving an on the spot fine to somebody for dropping a cigarette.
“I’d do exactly the same for people who don’t get off their bikes where they are supposed to, because that would stop them straight away.”
However, Katja Leyendecker of cycing campaign group Newcycle told road.cc: "Northumberland Street is the only viable north-south option through Newcastle at the moment. Considerate cycling should be allowed until safe and convenient alternatives are offered by the transport and planning authority, Newcastle City Council.
"Big heavy delivery vehicles are allowed on Northumberland Street which is just another slap in the face for cycling safety, adding insult to injury."
She added: "Hopefully John Dobson Street / Market Street / Pilgrim Street will provide a north-south link in the near future.
"Recent plans for JohnDobson Street are good, but the drawings for Market Street and Pilgrim Street look less promising. And how that route will link up northwards into Jesmond and Gosforth is anyone's guess, as yet."
Newcastle Central neighbourhood policing team’s Inspector Daren Adams said: “Bicycle related offences are a neighbourhood priority which officers are tackling.
“Since November 2014, over 70 people have been spoken to about cycling related offences.
“Officers try to educate the cyclists rather than simply prosecute them.
“As a result the majority have been either verbally warned or have received letters of advice, while three repeat offenders have been summonsed to court.”
He added: “There are signs on Northumberland Street and I would remind cyclists to heed these warnings.
“The restrictions are there for a reason - for the safety of both cyclists and pedestrians.
“We want to encourage cyclists to cycle in a safe, considerate and legal manner.”
Evidence from further south is that people riding bikes in pedestrian zones is not as dangerous as one might assume from the comments that typically accompany such stories on local newspaper articles about the issue.
Earlier this month, we reported how the London Borough of Croydon is to allow cyclists to ride through its main shopping street, North End, on a trial basis.
The borough’s cabinet member for traffic and environment, Councillor Kathy Bee, said alternative routes "are not safe" for cyclists.
But she said the council was not aware of any incidents involving pedestrians and cyclists on North End.
The councillor added: "Actually cyclists are quite likely to come off badly as well if [a collision with a pedestrian] happens.
"From a cyclist's point of view running into people is not a great idea."
Born-again Christian Howard was a familiar figure in Central London for several years as he preached his message from a traffic island at Oxford Circus, using a loudhailer or microphone and amplifier combo.
He would ask people, “Are you a sinner or a winner?” until he was moved on after the City of Westminster applied for an ASBO to silence him.
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