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Closure of Snake Pass to bike riders described as an ‘anti-cyclist decision dressed up cheaply as Health and Safety’

Derbyshire County Council announced that cyclists and walkers would also be banned from the Peak District climb after it was temporarily closed to motorists last month due to landslides

Derbyshire County Council’s decision to close Snake Pass to cyclists and walkers – just two weeks after its closure to motor traffic due to landslides saw the Peak District climb become a car-free ‘cycling utopia’ – has been criticised as an anti-cyclist move “dressed up cheaply as health and safety”.

The scenic climb, which lies within the Peak District National Park and carries the A57 between Sheffield and Manchester, was closed to motor vehicles at the end of February for at least four weeks due to landslides caused by storms Eunice and Franklin, which affected three locations on a mile-long section of the road between Glossop and Ladybower Reservoir.

News of the closure led cycling writer Simon Warren, author of 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, to proclaim on Twitter that the climb “now belongs to cyclists”, with riders from across the country duly flocking to Snake Pass to take in the scenery, winding hairpins and, most importantly, the serendipity of a car-free road on what was described as the “best LTN ever”.

> Snake Pass now “belongs to cyclists” as Peak District climb closed to motorists for at least a month 

However, after a week of cycling utopia, on Monday evening EF Education-TIBCO-SVB pro Lizzy Banks tweeted that she had been informed by traffic management on the pass that the climb was also set to be closed full-time to cyclists. 

This news was confirmed both by Derbyshire’s Roads Policing Unit and Derbyshire County Council, which tweeted that the climb would now be closed to all road users, except for local access, “because of concerns over safety”. The council also said that the road would be monitored 24 hours a day to prevent people using it.

A council spokesperson said: “There is still traffic on the road, as people live there and we have vehicles going up to monitor the landslip and carry out other work on other parts of the road.

“We are very concerned that there will be an accident involving a vehicle and a cyclist because of the large numbers of cyclists that have taken the opportunity to go out and ride the road.”

 The council’s decision has been roundly condemned by local cyclists such as Warren, who says that the pass is “safer than it has ever been”.

“The car lobby got a bit upset, that cyclists were getting all the fun when they couldn't use it,” the author told Cycling Weekly. “Someone in the council said it was too dangerous for cyclists to use, because there could be an accident. It's safer than it has ever been!

“Yesterday Derbyshire County Council put their message up saying it was closed 24 hours a day until they fix it. It is ludicrous. It does seem like they're just being spoilsports. We're all grownups here, let people take the chance.

“It has become a tourist attraction... people were dropping everything just to ride this one road. Glossop should capitalise on this, get some money in, not just shut it off. They've shot themselves in the foot there.”

Other Twitter users were unimpressed by the council’s claim that the decision was based on concerns over safety, with one writing that the council doesn’t “care about the safety of cyclists on the A57 the rest of the time, anywhere near as much as they do about stopping us riding on the closed, perfectly safe section now”.

A local resident wrote directly to Derbyshire County Council to complain about the decision, arguing that “cycling only becomes dangerous when the infrastructure is such that car drivers become the danger”. 

Others have pointed out that despite the staffed closure at the bottom of the pass, which appears to have shut the entire climb, the temporary closures only apply to the sections of the road affected by the landslip and that cyclists can legally ride their bikes up to those points.

To protest the council’s decision, a mass trespass by cyclists and walkers on the road (reminiscent of the mass trespass at nearby Kinder Scout in 1932) has been organised for 2pm on Saturday.

One of the protesters, Harry Gray, said in a statement: “Snake Pass has been closed because of a landslip, we agree that this section should remain closed to cyclists and walkers for safety reasons.

“However, closing the entire road is unfair and potentially not legal. The claim that it is dangerous because of works vehicles is laughable, since the road is one of the most dangerous when open to motor vehicles.

“All that is needed is a sign to let people know there is still traffic using the road. Derbyshire Council have taken no previous steps to make the road safer for cyclists, like an average speed check, in the past - so why do they care so much now?”

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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32 comments

Avatar
ShaneDG | 2 years ago
0 likes

Did the author or any of the twitter mob take a step back ask why it has now been closed to everyone but residents and maintenance teams?

From the looks/ sounds of things NO.

If I were to guess whats happened is -
A landslide occured the road was closed to everyone but those who would have a reasonable expectation of being able to safely turn their vehicles and leave the way they came in.
Then a team of Civil and Geotechnical Engineers and Engineering Geologists have been on site for the past two or three weeks assessing the ground conditions in particular the pore water pressure and monitoring for slope movements.
The Engineering assessment has since asked for greater restrictions to be imposed due to the risk of more landslides.

The Engineers have also probably asked to do a full visual inspection and walkover of the entire length of highway under landslip risk. So the risk of vehicle collison is likely due to Highway Maintenance vehicles being parked or stopping in unusual areas as visual inspections take place.

This is not anti-cycling its pro public safety.

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wtjs replied to ShaneDG | 2 years ago
2 likes

Did the author take a step back ask why it has now been closed to everyone but residents and maintenance teams?

The only non-negligible risk is that of being victimised as a solo cyclist. Therefore, people should join the mass trespass at the weekend, when the bulk, if not all, of the works will presumably cease- even I wouldn't want to genuinely hinder the landworks. The obvious way on is via several side roads at the eastern end, so that the lack of activity at the main road block causes them to cease manning it

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HoarseMann replied to ShaneDG | 2 years ago
2 likes

Surely the maintenance team would not risk making the landslip any worse by driving vehicles up and down it, and parking in odd places. They'd be much better monitoring the road condition by foot or bike.

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Dnnnnnn replied to ShaneDG | 2 years ago
2 likes

ShaneDG wrote:

If I were to guess

Better not to guess. I think you've gone wrong from the outset.

ShaneDG wrote:

the road was closed to everyone

The road hasn't been closed to everyone. It's only legally restricted for a very short stretch, for which there is a bridleway and footpath bypass.
https://twitter.com/WeAreCyclingUK/status/1502321385934401543

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Benthic | 2 years ago
3 likes

We are very concerned that there will be an accident involving a vehicle and a cyclist because of the large numbers of cyclists that have taken the opportunity to go out and ride the road.

A bicycle is a vehicle.

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Mungecrundle replied to Benthic | 2 years ago
1 like

Pretty lucky that the M25 doesn't run through Derbyshire or they'd have it closed most of the time given the number of vehicles that use it.

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Muddy Ford | 2 years ago
6 likes

It's open to residents and their visitors. Why would not every cyclist be keen to visit these residents, but perhaps change their mind when they get there or take a small parcel with a valid Snake Pass address on it.

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IanEdward | 2 years ago
3 likes

Is nobody else more worried about the vulnerable toad users?

I mean, they must be desperate to be trying to get their kicks from licking toads!

 

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mdavidford replied to IanEdward | 2 years ago
5 likes

I think it's the toads that are vulnerable, rather than the users. Possibly to the snakes.

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chrisonabike replied to mdavidford | 2 years ago
4 likes

mdavidford wrote:

I think it's the toads that are vulnerable, rather than the users. Possibly to the snakes.

I think the toad users are more likely to get an attack of the snakes... (Now available in a live action version, nice update with a now sadly topical ending).

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IanEdward replied to chrisonabike | 2 years ago
0 likes

My day has improved imeasurably for those videos, I am in your debt. laugh

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eburtthebike | 2 years ago
5 likes

As others have pointed out, demand to see the risk assessment that this decision was based on, then get all the local cyclists to harass their elected representatives because it is fatally flawed.

Wish I could be there on Saturday, I hope the weather is fine and there will be lots of pix and interviews with local cyclists.

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ShaneDG replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
0 likes

By all means ask. And if they show it to you. What then? Its a risk assessment and the problem is a risk assessment is a qualitative assessment based upon judgement.
It'll be entirely subjective and all the local council and National Highways will say its based upon a reasonable worst case scenario.
And that reasonable worst case scenario is -
The increased likelihood of further landslides accross the snakes pass because the water table is already very high - hence pore water pressure is high - causing slope stability issues.

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Dnnnnnn replied to ShaneDG | 2 years ago
1 like

ShaneDG wrote:

its based upon a reasonable worst case scenario. And that reasonable worst case scenario is - The increased likelihood of further landslides accross the snakes pass

That's not what DCC have given as the reason for closing the road to cyclists. And actually only a very short, by-passable section, despite the false assertion of a much lengthier stretch.

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Rockhopper229 | 2 years ago
0 likes

Road closed to traffic. Why do people always think this doesn't apply to us. It's all traffic. Get over it and accept it like everyone else does.

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HoarseMann replied to Rockhopper229 | 2 years ago
11 likes

The trouble is, when they are closing to 'all traffic', they usually only consider cars.

Nine times out of ten when I come across a road closure, it really is only motorised vehicles that could not get past safely. If there's work going on, I just ask if it's ok to ride by and it usually is.

If there's a verge or pavement, in most cases you can dismount and walk if only the road is impassable.

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brooksby replied to HoarseMann | 2 years ago
1 like

HoarseMann wrote:

The trouble is, when they are closing to 'all traffic', they usually only consider cars.

The centre of Tadcaster, in Yorkshire, flooded last month.  The council closed the road, due to the flooding you can see, so that there was no access to the bridge which crosses the River Wharfe in the middle of the town.

That closure meant that getting from this side of the bridge to that side of the bridge would lead to an (IIRC) nine mile detour...

https://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/19941914.tadcaster-bridge-shops-closed-...

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HoarseMann replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
0 likes

brooksby wrote:

The centre of Tadcaster, in Yorkshire, flooded last month. 

Meanwhile in Venice, they just put on some waders/wellies or a few wooden planks on milk crates.

https://uk.news.yahoo.com/see-tourists-wade-venices-flooded-161510835.html

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Accessibility f... replied to Rockhopper229 | 2 years ago
8 likes

Because it isn't closed to traffic, access is still allowed.  You can even drive across the short 200m damaged section of road.

The council has closed it with the explanation that lots of cyclists and lots of walkers + not many vehicles = dangerous.  That is what they have said across social media.  Nothing to do with construction or repair.

And they appear to have no legal basis to close anything but the damaged section.

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HoarseMann replied to Accessibility for all | 2 years ago
4 likes

Peowpeowpeowlasers wrote:

The council has closed it with the explanation that lots of cyclists and lots of walkers + not many vehicles = dangerous. 

I guess that's a council that will not be applying for any Active Travel England funding then. Too dangerous!

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Dnnnnnn replied to Rockhopper229 | 2 years ago
12 likes

Rockhopper229 wrote:

Get over it and accept it like everyone else does.

That's not how our relationship with our public servants should be. Where they make an irrational and unevidenced decision which ruins a unique opportunity for large numbers of people then it seems perfectly sensible to challenge it.

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Jetmans Dad replied to Rockhopper229 | 2 years ago
6 likes

Rockhopper229 wrote:

Road closed to traffic. Why do people always think this doesn't apply to us. It's all traffic. Get over it and accept it like everyone else does.

Because in this it isn't that simple. The road was closed to motor traffic only, and only when it became clear that lots of cyclists were wanting to use it while traffic-free have they decided to close it to cyclists and pedestrians too. 

And their announcement makes clear that they didn't misjudge the situation and suddenly realise that it is fundamentally dangerous for anyone to use the road (my reading of it is that it is closed to motor vehicles mostly to avoid further damage) but that they are concerned that there are going to be accidents between the increased number of cyclists and massively decreased number of motor vehicles ... which makes little, if any, sense. 

If they had just come out last week and said that the road is dangerous and closed to everyone, this wouldn't have happened. The council have only themselves to blame here. 

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HoarseMann | 2 years ago
10 likes

I once tried to explain to our council that I would gladly step over the 1ft wide 3ft deep water pipe trench on my commute to avoid a 5 mile detour on a busier road with drivers no doubt rushing to make up lost time.

No was the easy answer, despite me pointing out their policy is to permit pedestrian access wherever possible. Yet in the road closure order, it stipulated steel plates would be laid over the trench to permit emergency vehicle access at all times.

As you can imagine, I took no notice and lived to tell the tale.

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OnTheRopes | 2 years ago
0 likes

What exactly do you expect? Plaster it all over social media and they were bound to fully close it. 

Now let's have a mass protest? Get over yourselves it's a work site not a playground, had roadcc not been so keen to broadcast it it would probably still be open.

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Stpears replied to OnTheRopes | 2 years ago
13 likes

What rot! Have you ever been? It's not a work site, it's a couple of hundred yards of potential work site with a dozen or so miles of some of the most picturesque road in England leading up to it. The A57 is usually a difficult and dangerous road, particularly for inexperienced riders. Closing all of it without the requisite order is not only of no legal force, but a missed opportunity. In a sane world the Council would be emphasising no through road, but encouraging families to bring their kids and take the once in a lifetime opportunity to enjoy it while it was safe to do so. The serendipity of this happening close to the site of the famous Kinder trespass is sweet and I for one am glad it appears that there are people who evidently will be not be taking such a short sighted decision  lying down. 

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Awavey | 2 years ago
1 like

Cyclists and walkers have been "banned" (well simply asked to respect a road closure actually bet let's stick with the tabloid language why not) previously from using this road when it was closed for roadworks for repairs,maintenance and preventative work for landslips, it has nearly a 100 year history of regular landslips & closures and it didnt cause any problem or outrage then

So I really dont understand what the fuss or pedantry is about now, except of course it's a social media led thing #elfnsafetygonemad

But we dont get to choose what safe is in this context, because no one can know or predict whether there will be more land slippage to come, that's funnily enough why the road authorities cant do repairs at this instant. And its obviously far safer to limit access for everyone,expect for those that need essential access, cyclists riding for Strava kudos and photo snaps dont fall in that category imo, even if they only stick to the "safe" bits.

So maybe step back for just once and ask yourself is this reasonable to get that upset about to start petitions on, to start mass disobedience rides, there are literally thousands of miles of roads in the UK, alot with very little to no traffic, that are just as picturesque, selfie tastic and challenging to ride, go explore them for a change, theres at least 99 other recommended climbs to try in the UK, I heard some guy wrote a book about them all.

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mdavidford replied to Awavey | 2 years ago
1 like

Awavey wrote:

it has nearly a 100 year history of regular landslips & closures and it didnt cause any problem or outrage then

Well it might have done, but it just went unnoticed because it wasn't posted on social media.

In general, though, I pretty much agree. Though I don't see why they couldn't have just said 'the road is still unstable so the simplest thing is to stop people going up there for their own safety', instead of making up some nonsense about the danger of colliding with works traffic.

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Stpears replied to mdavidford | 2 years ago
10 likes
  • This. The majority of the road is not at all unstable as is evidenced by the locals still using it. I don't live nearby anymore, but in my beautiful corner of the Welsh Marches we had a similar landslip TWO years ago that is only now being repaired.  6 miles of road have been 'closed', except they haven't as hundreds of locals still need to use it and no-one has been so daft as to suggest the many cyclists using the road should be barred. 
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Achtervolger replied to Awavey | 2 years ago
7 likes

I've cycled snake pass before when it's been closed to motor traffic for repairs. None of the work crews had any problem, they just waved us through. It was absolutely wonderful to ride it traffic free. There certainly are many miles of other road to cycle on, but snake pass is pretty special. I just generally avoid cycling it because of the terrible driving. I was really looking forward to cycling it this time round. I just assumed it would be like the Abney Moor Road recently, or any other roads I've cycled on that have suffered landslip damage; concrete lego bricks down to stop motor vehicles on the affected sections, amd if you can cycle round them, good luck to you. A point came on the Abney Moor road when it was physically completely blocked off just at the section where the repairs were taking place, so I just turned around and cycled back the way I'd come. Seems a bit excessive to close off the whole of Snake Pass to cyclists in this instance. Definitely an air of jealousy over cyclists actually getting to enjoy it traffic-free for once about it.

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sean1 | 2 years ago
6 likes

On Majorca the road to the Formentor Lighthouse is closed during the summer months to private motor vehicles.  Shuttle bus and a few exceptions allowed.  As are cyclists.

https://www.palmaairport.info/2021/06/21/restricted-access-to-formentor-...

This is perfectly safe.

This is no different to Snake Pass but of course the local councillors here spew out the usual anti-cycling "safety" nonsense.

Ask for the risk assesment report under FOI.

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