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Councillor urges police to charge "tourist cyclists" coming on cruise liners and "running around unsafe”

The island’s locals have complained of the “hazard large groups of cyclists can pose to motorists”

A councillor in Orkney has raised concerns about tourist cyclists coming to the island on cruise ships and urged the police to start charging them as part of an operation originally meant to tackle "anti-social driving", with the chair of the meeting confirming that measures will be put in place from next year to deal with the rider and ease the tension with the locals.

The agenda was raised by councillor Mellissa Thomson at the council's Police and Fire Sub-committee, while discussing Police Scotland's Fair Warn campaign.

The Fair Warn campaign was introduced in Orkney earlier this year to deal with anti-social and inconsiderate driving and parking behaviour. The officers have sent 47 letters to offending motorists in the last four months since the operation began.

However, Councillor Thomson asked local Chief Inspector Scott Robertson: "I am particularly interested in your Fair Warn campaign. I hadn’t understood much about it before but I’m getting it now. Is this just about vehicles or are we heading into motorbikes and push bikes?"

She added: "You probably know where I’m heading with this."

A chuckling Robertson told the councillor that it applied to motor vehicles and motorbikes, but not cycles.

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Councillor Thomson then questioned: "So there’s no way you’ll be writing to people who are on push bikes who are running around unsafe at the moment and coming off cruises?"

Inspector Robertson replied: "You will be aware that myself and the chair and others have had some really good discussions with regard to the cruise ships and the cyclists coming off them.

"I don’t want to preempt it but we hope to have something in place for the next season."

Cruiser heading to Orkney (image by Ronnie Robertson on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

MV Hrossey (image by Ronnie Robertson on Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

The committee's chair Councillor David Dawson added that it was too late to get something in place for this year. He said it wouldn’t be effective as there are only a few more visits planned from ships carrying push-bikes, but assured Thomson that they will have "something for next season".

> Just how good is Mallorca for cycling?

At which point, Councillor Sandy Cowie also chimed in, saying: "The laws around cycling seem to be fairly weak.

"I discovered the other day that you can’t actually break the speed limit on a bicycle regardless of how fast you go. Speed limits, apparently, don’t apply. But you can be charged with furious cycling. I think that’s the term."

Inspector Robertson told him that he wasn't sure if he had ever heard the term "furious cycling" but they could charge people with careless and dangerous cycling in Scotland. 

Do cyclists have to stick to the speed limit?

The Press and Journal reports that there has been friction between Orcadians and liner passengers who take to the roads in large cycle groups during this summer, with the "behaviour of some cyclists and the hazards these large groups can pose to motorists" being a point of contention.

Every year, hundreds of people visit the island archipelago located off the north eastern coast of Scotland. In 2023, over 200 ships are expected as part of the cruise liner season. Even more are expected next year, with 253 advanced bookings already made.

Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.

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112 comments

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zacchaeus | 5 months ago
2 likes

I think there are some good comments here. Some of the ones in favour of the councillor give food for thought; it's certainly not as ridiculous a complaint as it seemed to be when I first read the article.

However, as someone who married an Orkney girl I've been going there a few weeks a year for many years, and we also get the local paper delivered, so I was pretty shocked at the apparent approach of the police and/or paper when I saw this:

https://www.orcadian.co.uk/safety-warning-issued-after-cyclist-clipped-b...

It looks awfully like victim-blaming in a hit-and-run case, unfortunately.

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David9694 | 5 months ago
1 like

This isn't golf cart island then? 

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jam-gt | 5 months ago
4 likes

Come on Road.cc you could try harder as the ship pictured is the vital lifeline ferry that sails between Aberdeen and Lerwick t. The cyclists will be mainly off the German Aida cruise ships and they are a menace on the roads in my part of the Highlands as well with their poor road sense and ability along with the front and rear group leaders not really doing the job correctly. The foot passengers are no better and just walk in front of people as they think they're so entitled, cross the roads without looking and usually in front of cars and cyclists, and also decide to stand in the middle of the road so they can get their photos and they expect you as a cyclist or driver to get out of their way.

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brooksby replied to jam-gt | 5 months ago
0 likes

I don't think thats exclusive to Orkney, TBH. Any vaguely picturesque (picture-skew, for Blackadder fans) part of the country gets similar treatment. You should see the Clifton Suspension Bridge any weekend during the summer...

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Rendel Harris replied to brooksby | 5 months ago
1 like
brooksby wrote:

I don't think thats exclusive to Orkney, TBH. Any vaguely picturesque (picture-skew, for Blackadder fans) part of the country gets similar treatment. You should see the Clifton Suspension Bridge any weekend during the summer...

Try any of the cycle lanes around Parliament Square, and don't even bother trying to use the one that goes over Westminster Bridge!

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David9694 replied to jam-gt | 5 months ago
2 likes

You, Mr three posts, sound a lot like a whingeing driver to me. 

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alvinlwh | 5 months ago
4 likes

I also am an Orkney resident and I just have to state the facts. Groups of 10 to 40 cycling slowly at 10mph without giving other traffic an opening to overtake. Sometimes these groups merge (one catching up with another) and became an even bigger group. They can go on for many miles without consideration of the traffic behind them.
In fact, last Saturday, I saw a pair of them cycling two abreast on the road in front of the Pickaquoy Centre (the other two Orcadians will know where I am talking about) when an ambulance with lights and sound on came up behind them and yet they just carry on two abreast refusing to make way for the ambulance. All while there is a perfectly good and safe off road cycle path running parallel to the road!
It is things like these that got the locals up in arms against them.

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Hirsute replied to alvinlwh | 5 months ago
2 likes

It's good to hear a local write, as often these things turn out to be a bit of hyperbole.

Seems the local police/ council need to speak to the cruise ship folk organising these tours to get some changes made.

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brakesmadly replied to alvinlwh | 5 months ago
0 likes

Nice first post - did you register specially?

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to brakesmadly | 5 months ago
1 like

As an Orkney resident on a post about problems in Orkney, he probably did. 

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alvinlwh replied to brakesmadly | 5 months ago
0 likes
mbrads72 wrote:

Nice first post - did you register specially?

Yes I did. Google pushed this story to my feed, probably because I am in Orkney and looking at the number of ignorant comments compelled me to register.

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to alvinlwh | 5 months ago
4 likes

In all the accounts yourself and fellow islandser have mentioned (and I don't doubt them at all), none have explained why the councillor was moaning about cyclists not being charged for speeding? In fact it seems to be the opposite that they are all too slow.  As Hirsute mentioned, surely it is up to the tour providers to organise these better, or the council to state they won't allow these ships to supply cycles to visitors. 

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brooksby replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 5 months ago
1 like

Exactly. It seems as if she should be taking it up with the cruise ship operators, regarding the onshore excursions that they offer.  Not really the fault of the passengers taking advantage of an excursion that they're being offered.

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Cugel replied to alvinlwh | 5 months ago
3 likes
alvinlwh wrote:

I also am an Orkney resident and I just have to state the facts. Groups of 10 to 40 cycling slowly at 10mph without giving other traffic an opening to overtake. Sometimes these groups merge (one catching up with another) and became an even bigger group. They can go on for many miles without consideration of the traffic behind them. In fact, last Saturday, I saw a pair of them cycling two abreast on the road in front of the Pickaquoy Centre (the other two Orcadians will know where I am talking about) when an ambulance with lights and sound on came up behind them and yet they just carry on two abreast refusing to make way for the ambulance. All while there is a perfectly good and safe off road cycle path running parallel to the road! It is things like these that got the locals up in arms against them.

Have ye got a video of them ambulance-foiling rascals on the bikes? If not, perhaps you can contact that Mikey for details of how to provide actual evidence of alleged behaviours, just so we can see the details. Not that I would doubt your anecdotal details, of course. No drivist would exagerate or make up stuff about such things, I know.  1

On the other hand, you may have read a Daily Hate Mail or Torygraft newspap article and somehow turned it into one o' them constructed false memories. It happens all the time!

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alvinlwh replied to Cugel | 5 months ago
0 likes

For that particular incident, no as I was out for a nice quiet walk around the Peedie Sea, I did not bother to bring out my phone. However I did have a picture of another example of these cruise ship cycle group. Note that there was about a dozen round the bend and a few more behind the ones in the picture. And since this was peak hour (yes that exist in Orkney too), there was a long line of traffic behind them.

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mr_pickles2 replied to alvinlwh | 5 months ago
3 likes

This is just a picture of road users leagally using the road. Not much you can do about that.

Nobody bats an eye when it's a line of slow moving motor vehicles at rush hour, but when it's some people cycling, suddenly it's unacceptable chaos

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alvinlwh replied to mr_pickles2 | 5 months ago
2 likes
mr_pickles2 wrote:

This is just a picture of road users leagally using the road. Not much you can do about that.

Nobody bats an eye when it's a line of slow moving motor vehicles at rush hour, but when it's some people cycling, suddenly it's unacceptable chaos

You are absolutely right, completely legal. But is it considerate? Given the direction, they were coming from the Italian Chapel will be my guess, and that is about 6 miles away, with a significant amount of NSL roads. A 10 minutes journey, normally without these groups. When they cycle like this, without an opening, no one behind can overtake safely. The journey time is tripled or more.

Your last comment about "rush hour" slow traffic don't apply to Orkney. Even during rush hour, traffic on NSL roads will still be close to the limit. Eyes will be bat if there is a line of slow moving traffic here, usually loose cows on the road. There are many ignorant comments about there are no vehicles on Orkney roads here. Well there are, and they also do come in the opposite direction, more during the rush hour, making long overtakes of such groups impossible.

For the record, I don't drive, I don't own a car. Kirkwall is a truly 15 minutes town and I walk everywhere within 15 minutes. I came in here to clear the air about why the councillor and the locals are up in arms against these inconsiderate cyclists.

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brooksby replied to alvinlwh | 5 months ago
0 likes

Out of interest, do many Orcadians cycle?

I ask, as your comments about these peoples riding being "legal but inconsiderate" makes it read like "fear of the new" (ie. having to adjust to lots of cyclists riding legally but arguably inconsiderately where there weren't any before).

This site is full of councillors in towns all across the UK who want "something to be done" about cyclists riding legally who are thought to also be riding inconsiderately.

Now, reducing the number of cruise ships allowed to dock in your islands? That is something I could get on board with (geddit?)

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TheFatAndTheFurious replied to brooksby | 5 months ago
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brooksby wrote:

Out of interest, do many Orcadians cycle?

Hard to say, really. I always see folk out and about when I'm out riding, but I don't know everyone. There's Orkney Cycling club and Cycling UK Orkney running events throughout the year.

It's not that we haven't seen bicycles before. It's that we suddenly have large groups riding inconsiderately, be that slowly in long spaced out lines, or not giving way at junctions so as not to lose touch with the group, day after day.

I don't feel that having to adjust to others being inconsiderate is right or fair.

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Cugel replied to TheFatAndTheFurious | 5 months ago
1 like
TheFatAndTheFurious wrote:
brooksby wrote:

Out of interest, do many Orcadians cycle?

Hard to say, really. I always see folk out and about when I'm out riding, but I don't know everyone. There's Orkney Cycling club and Cycling UK Orkney running events throughout the year.

It's not that we haven't seen bicycles before. It's that we suddenly have large groups riding inconsiderately, be that slowly in long spaced out lines, or not giving way at junctions so as not to lose touch with the group, day after day.

I don't feel that having to adjust to others being inconsiderate is right or fair.

In a far more homogenous society, it's easier to know "what's right or fair". In our post-modern societies of fragmented and isolated producer-consumer ciphers (if you can still call them societies) all with their "individual" moral schemes, its much more difficult to arrive at a commonly agreed "right or fair" on all sorts of questions or issues.

Personally I feel that its not right or fair for drivists in very dangerous motored transporters (aka cars, often driven incompetently) to expect everyone slower to GET OOT MY WAY. But many feel the opposite; or something inbetween derived from various notions about the hierarchy of various road-user worths that doesn't really reflect the recent updating of The Highway Code.

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wycombewheeler replied to Cugel | 5 months ago
2 likes
Cugel wrote:

Personally I feel that its not right or fair for drivists in very dangerous motored transporters (aka cars, often driven incompetently) to expect everyone slower to GET OOT MY WAY. 

true, but it's been that way for 100 years now

 

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Rendel Harris replied to alvinlwh | 5 months ago
2 likes
alvinlwh wrote:

You are absolutely right, completely legal. But is it considerate? Given the direction, they were coming from the Italian Chapel will be my guess, and that is about 6 miles away, with a significant amount of NSL roads. A 10 minutes journey, normally without these groups. When they cycle like this, without an opening, no one behind can overtake safely. The journey time is tripled or more.

So from the Italian chapel into Kirkwall they would be coming on the A961, wouldn't they? Dropping the little Google chappie at random halfway along the route shows the picture below. Now I'm no driver but I'm thinking there might just be the odd overtaking opportunity here, even with a sizeable group of riders; can't see many people having to follow the whole six miles into town.

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TheFatAndTheFurious replied to Rendel Harris | 5 months ago
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Rendel Harris wrote:

Now I'm no driver but I'm thinking there might just be the odd overtaking opportunity here, even with a sizeable group of riders; can't see many people having to follow the whole six miles into town.

You're right - this is a lovely long straight piece of road.

It's also the main road used by residents of the southern islands of South Ronaldsay and Burray, and the HGV container freight traffic from the ferry terminal at St Margaret's Hope to get to Kirkwall, so it is one of the busiest roads. There tends to be 60mph traffic going both ways much of the time. It's not what you'd call busy, by any stretch, but it's not empty.

The road is also hilly (meaning blind crests you shouldn't overtake on) which you just don't get from a StreetView perspective, and it's also a complete sod when it's windy, meaning very slow rider speeds. Turn that view around on StreetView and you get this - I wouldn't overake a long string of riders going onto that blind crest. Would you?

Therefore, safely passing a group of 30 cyclists in single file riding 5 metres apart isn't trivial. Of course you'll likely never follow for 6 miles, but let's say... 1 mile... once in a while. At 10mph, that's a 5 minute delay for each and every vehicle behind the group.

The bottom line is... it happens often enough to be a nuisance to enough people that a councillor feels there's enough backing for issuing guidance, imposing restrictions, or issuing charges (as per the new highway code regs regarding cyclists pulling over). They reinforce "bloody cyclist" sentiment which is no good for me nor anyone else riding a bike here.

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Rendel Harris replied to TheFatAndTheFurious | 5 months ago
2 likes
TheFatAndTheFurious wrote:

Therefore, safely passing a group of 30 cyclists in single file riding 5 metres apart isn't trivial. Of course you'll likely never follow for 6 miles, but let's say... 1 mile... once in a while. At 10mph, that's a 5 minute delay for each and every vehicle behind the group.

The bottom line is... it happens often enough to be a nuisance to enough people that a councillor feels there's enough backing for issuing guidance, imposing restrictions, or issuing charges (as per the new highway code regs regarding cyclists pulling over). They reinforce "bloody cyclist" sentiment which is no good for me nor anyone else riding a bike here.

I've never seen cyclists in groups riding five metres apart, but if they do, five minutes "once in a while"? My God, the horror! I get held up by more than that by cars every single day both ways on my nine mile commute (weekdays close to 40 mins, Sundays below 30), I just accept it as part of sharing the road.

The new Highway Code guidance is that cyclists should pull over to let faster moving vehicles through when safe to do so (in the cyclist's judgement, not the driver's); leaving aside the fact that the guidance is primarily aimed at situations on narrow twisting country roads, not places where a driver may have to wait a short while for a suitable gap in the oncoming traffic, it's a should not a must, it's not a law and charges cannot be issued on the basis of it.

If we start basing cyclist controls on what one local councillor believes and some "bloody cyclist" motorists support, it won't be long before we're all banned from the roads.

 

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chrisonabike replied to Rendel Harris | 5 months ago
1 like

Well, I can certainly imagine my approval of some significant local economic input being reversed when the population suddenly more than doubles in my area for half the year. Or journey times on routes where there is no alternative are significantly - and unpredictably - longer.

As always "pace of change" is key.

I'd suggest that the councilors may have been partly responsible for this issue arising in the first place - or at least they're the appropriate people to sort this via agreement with / conditions on cruise operators.

Strangely no one seems (AFAIK) to have suggested a *cycle path* along a NSL main road before though, with lots of traffic including HGVs apparently? Can we sadly welcome Orkney to the unhappy "First World Problems" club? Human overuse catches up with everyone. "Our islands are too narrow... we never had problems before..." sounds like it's rapidly become "cyclists should learn to share the roads"...

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eburtthebike | 5 months ago
12 likes

"behaviour of some cyclists and the hazards these large groups can pose to motorists" being a point of contention.

Since the cyclists pose no hazards, none, zero, not one hazard to motorists, this councillor should get some retraining or resign.

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hawkinspeter replied to eburtthebike | 5 months ago
12 likes
eburtthebike wrote:

"behaviour of some cyclists and the hazards these large groups can pose to motorists" being a point of contention.

Since the cyclists pose no hazards, none, zero, not one hazard to motorists, this councillor should get some retraining or resign.

Alternatively, why not just have mandatory motorist helmets? That'll protect them.

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wycombewheeler replied to hawkinspeter | 5 months ago
10 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:
eburtthebike wrote:

"behaviour of some cyclists and the hazards these large groups can pose to motorists" being a point of contention.

Since the cyclists pose no hazards, none, zero, not one hazard to motorists, this councillor should get some retraining or resign.

Alternatively, why not just have mandatory motorist helmets? That'll protect them.

you forgot the hi-vis, not sure whether it should be applied to the car or the driver. Until a safety comittee has investiaged this issue cars should be banned from driving for their own safety

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jam-gt replied to eburtthebike | 5 months ago
2 likes

I also have the same groups of cruise ship cyclists when their ships berth in my part of the Highlands and it is you who needs to think before writing rather than calling out the councillor. These cyclists can be groups of up to 40 and I don't mean cycling club grade cyclists who know how to actually ride on the road and at a decent pace, as these ones have a lead and tail guide/leader while the tourists waver across the road at a slow speed while looking at the scenery rather than the road ahead and quite often you have another group just up the road.A few weeks back I was passed on a narrow two lane country road by a few cars and a breakdown truck but caught them up when they came upon a group of these cyclists so I overtook the vehicles and the group then came upon a second slow moving group about 1km up the road so passed them as well and it was roughly 2 miles later before the vehicles caught me up again. When these cyclists are nearing the end of the loop they take rather than use the perfectly good cycle path they stay on the road which has had multiple serious and fatal accidents on it over the years. On a separate note cyclists including some club level cyclists do pose a hazard to themselves and motorists by speeding through towns as recently written about on various news websites so could've an accident, some dangerous cycling could end up with the cyclist going through a windscreen if they were hit by a car, cyclists jumping red lights is a hazard, the list could go on.

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Hirsute replied to jam-gt | 5 months ago
2 likes

No it's for the cllr or the news item writer to explain further.

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