Cycling UK has won a legal challenge against Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council over the latter’s decision to keep a narrow road underneath a railway bridge in Poole open to motor vehicles – and says that the decision underlines the need for local authorities to properly evaluate the benefits of temporary restrictions on motor traffic before removing them.
Earlier this year, the charity applied for a judicial review of the council keeping Keyhole Bridge in Poole Park open to motor vehicles, with drivers regularly using it as a rat-run, thereby posing a danger to vulnerable road users due to the narrowness of the road.
The council has now accepted that it acted unlawfully, since it failed to sufficiently follow statutory guidance to highway authorities, and furthermore has agreed to pay Cycling UK’s legal costs, with the action funded by donations to the Cyclists’ Defence Fund, which the charity runs.
During the early months of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, BCP Council banned motor vehicles from using the road under an experimental traffic restriction order, with the aim of providing a safe, traffic-free route for people on bikes or on foot.
However, despite the opposition of many people living locally, the route was reopened to cars and vans in March 2021.
According to Cycling UK, statutory guidance obliged the local authority to “take account of a presumption in favour of retaining any traffic schemes reallocating road space to people walking and cycling.”
The charity’s chief executive, Sarah Mitchell, said: “This is a victory for the people of Poole, who will be able to breathe clean air and enjoy their neighbourhood with quieter, more peaceful streets.
“The reopening of Keyhole Bridge was a legacy decision the current administration inherited, so Cycling UK is pleased it’s adopted a more pragmatic approach to resolve the case.
“This isn’t the first time a local authority has failed to consider the relevant government guidance before removing schemes designed to get more people walking and cycling by reallocating road space,” she continued.
“It’s crucial all councils realise they need to evaluate how active travel schemes have worked and consider the relevant guidance, and not rush to remove schemes because a minority of people object.”
Commenting on the support, financial and otherwise, that the legal challenge to the council’s decision had received, she added: “I also want to thank all of Cycling UK’s members and supporters whose donations to the Cyclists’ Defence Fund makes it possible for our charity to fight cases like these in the courts.
“While the immediate benefits of this case will be felt locally, we know other councils will take note of this outcome and think twice before restricting people’s opportunities to cycle.”
Simon joined road.cc 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.