Like this site? Help us to make it better.

Campaigners seek funding for legal challenge to removal of Poole active travel scheme

Keyhole Bridge underpass which provided safe link between two parks in Dorset town was reopened to motor vehicles in March

Campaigners seeking to challenge a council’s decision to remove an active travel scheme in Poole, Dorset are appealing for donations to fund their application for a judicial review, with Cycling UK describing Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole Council’s reopening of the route to motor vehicles as “transport planning from the last century.”

The case, due to be heard in the High Court on 6 October, is the first of several across the country that are seeking to reverse the removal of emergency schemes introduced over the past year or so aimed at getting more people walking and cycling during the coronavirus pandemic.

It relates to the Keyhole Bridge on Whitecliff Road where in March this year, the council reopened the narrow 2.7 metre-wide road that runs beneath the railway it carries to motor traffic, with Cycling UK saying that at peak times, as many as 500 vehicles an hour use the route.

The charity has highlighted that when motor traffic was removed in August last year, the underpass provided a safe link for pedestrians, cyclists, wheelchair users and other people with disabilities to cross the railway while travelling between Poole Park and Whitecliff Harbourside Park.

The decision to reopen the road to motorists is being opposed by local campaigners who formed the Keyhole Bridge Group, but they were unsuccessful in persuading the council to reconsider, and while they have raised almost £11,500 to fund their legal costs, they are still around £1,000 short of the anticipated £12,500 they need.

Sue Smith, a member of the Keyhole Bridge Group, told Cycling UK: “The problems with congestion at Keyhole Bridge have been building for years so it was a huge relief when the council took the positive move to close it to traffic.

“It’s used by everyone from students to commuters, local hospital staff, young children cycling and others building up their confidence on the bike, and having it closed made a huge difference to people with sight impairment, hearing impairment, and wheelchair users, who could use the bridge safely without worrying about the traffic.

“But of course, we lost all of that when the bridge reopened. Having enjoyed the peace of moving from one park to the next without having to fight with traffic, many local people are rightly puzzled as to why the sensible closure of the road has been reversed.

“We explained to the Council how unsafe it now felt, but they simply erected a couple of ‘shared space’ signs which had no impact – with people once again back to waiting for a break in traffic then making a dash for it, all to save car drivers less than 0.25 miles. Sadly, our legal challenge is now our last hope.”

Duncan Dollimore, Head of Campaigns at Cycling UK, commented: “Squeezing cars through the Keyhole Bridge is transport planning from the last century.

“Rather than prioritising pedestrians, park users, and people wanting to cycle safely in Poole, the council caved in at the first sign of political pressure, but the Keyhole Bridge Group never backed down and the battle of the bollard will be fought out in court next month, provided the group secures the extra funding needed.

“If ripping out a bollard to create a rat run that stops people walking, in wheelchairs, or cycling, passing safely under a bridge sounds bonkers to you, and you’ve always favoured David to Goliath, this is campaign worth chipping in for.”

Donations can be made to the Keyhold Bridge Group here.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

Add new comment


bobbinogs | 2 years ago
1 like

The good news is that the funding target was met and that the review is in a couple of days time:

We start with a huge thank you to all of you for your generous contributions. We are delighted to say we have now met our fundraising target and it is completely thanks to you.  

As our hearing is due on 6 October 2021 we thought it would be a good time for a recap on the background to our claim and the key points in our case:

The bridge was closed in August 2020 under an experimental traffic regulation order (ETRO).  At the time, the Council said the aim of the scheme was to prioritise walking and cycling by improving pedestrian and cycling safety.  They also advertised a public consultation on the scheme with a closing date of 21 February 2021.  Yet on 15 January 2021, after a change in leadership in the Council, they published a proposed decision to reopen the bridge to traffic, then on 28 January 2021 they published a report confirming their intention to make that decision final.  In the report they blamed the need to reopen the bridge on a projected increase in congestion on nearby Parkstone Road, and linked that to an assumed reduction in air quality. 

hawkinspeter | 2 years ago

The big problem with Shared Space schemes is how are blind people supposed to feel safe using it?

The width of that tunnel doesn't look wide enough for motor traffic, so send it round the long route.

chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago

hawkinspeter wrote:

The big problem with Shared Space schemes is how are blind people supposed to feel safe using it?

They're not.  Shared space doesn't work even for sighted people as soon as you've got more than a handful of motor vehicles (a slightly nuanced evaluation here). Of course the idea is that because no-one knows what's going on motorists will be more aware and "negotiate" movements. I find this a bit... optimistic.

AlsoSomniloquism | 2 years ago

Forgetting the shared space side, I can't believe that bridge is not even traffic light controlled normally. Anyone local know how many accidents / mexican standoff's happen there? Streetview shows a cyclist heading towards it,  that must be fun. 

Edit: Streetview also shows that the Please Give Way To Pedestrians sign has been bent slightly, probably from vans mounting the pavement to allow vehicles the other way. 

PRSboy | 2 years ago

That pic just about sums up exactly why we need active travel schemes.

"Share space", says the sign.

"No", say the drivers.

brooksby replied to PRSboy | 2 years ago

Thing is, I also imagine many motorists would see that blue 'share space' sign and just assume it's a blue sign up on the footpath so it doesn't apply to them.

chrisonabike replied to PRSboy | 2 years ago

"Why can't we all just get along?" indeed.  "The lion and the lamb may possibly sometimes lie down together; but if you'll notice carefully, when the lion gets up, the lamb is generally missing." - Josh Billings

(And several variants on that theme).

There is some good analysis of - and slightly cultish dedication to - "shared space" schemes at aseasyasridingabike.

Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago

I know there are some South Coasters on here so I might be wrong but it also appears this scheme is a victim of control of the council shifting from a unity group to a minority conservative administration in 2020.  I might being unfair but I suspect gammon-ish influences.

Pyro Tim replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago

As someone who lives with this council, you are absolutely correct. However, it's only a minority Conservative council, as the independents are all conservatives who quit in protest against becoming BCP instead of individual Tory councils. The local rag pushes anti cycling at every opportunity, and the drivers actively try and knock you off round here. The route in question is a short cut from Sandbanks & Lilliput (very rich only) into Poole.

brooksby | 2 years ago

So all it actually takes is for someone with nerves of steel to "share the road" with the motor vehicles and just walk through there in primary against the flow of motor traffic...

(No - I wouldn't try it, either).

chrisonabike replied to brooksby | 2 years ago

Get them to pick on someone their own size!

...although then you'd just get wiped off as you passed under the bridge .

Hirsute replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
1 like

Just need 12 folk and some wheelchairs - think drivers might slow down then.

chrisonabike replied to Hirsute | 2 years ago
1 like

"Into the tunnel of death*

Rode the 12..."

No, what's needed is a more imposing chariot.  With blades on the wheels.

* Or at least lots of shouting and beeping.

chrisonabike replied to brooksby | 2 years ago

Update - I've found the solution.  Less height, more mass:

eburtthebike | 2 years ago

I find it hard to believe that those shared space signs aren't effective.

No, really, I do.

I really, really do.

How could it be possible that drivers rat-running this narrow space would have no regard for cyclists, pedestrians and the disabled; of course they do, just not as much as saving a few hundred meter drive.

Perhaps the councillors who made this baffling decision should be made to demonstrate how safe the new arrangement is by walking, cycling, and wheelchairing through it and dodging the cars.  Maybe the pedestrians/cyclists/disabled should take a leaf out of XR and Insulate Britain's playbooks and organise a protest of walking, cycling and pushing wheelchairs and prams through the gap for an hour at 5pm.

EDIT; donated and posted on fb.

chrisonabike replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago

You can't have read the article carefully:

> emergency schemes introduced over the past year or so aimed at getting more people walking and cycling during the coronavirus pandemic

So now that the powers that be - and a fair chunk of the populace - have got bored of this pandemic thingy then it's logically time to get back to being normal people in adult transport and get the economy moving.  Or at least restore the parking.

Luckily for us many people with motor vehicles are prepared to "reclaim the streets" with regular twice-daily protests taking back the space by driving very slowly through it.

As long as they do it with courtesy and politeness who could possibly object? It's like it's all "shared space" - what could be fairer? ("...based on mutual respect between the road-users who share the street environment..." quote from here)

Latest Comments