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Humber Bridge staff tell cyclist he can ride across it on main carriageway … police at other end tell him he can’t

Bridge owners explain why footways were closed since weekend and say they hope to restore access to commuters soon

A cyclist has said he received mixed messages when he set out to ride across the Humber Bridge on Sunday – with security staff telling him that, with the footways closed, he could do so using the main carriageway, only for traffic police at the other end telling him he should not have ridden across it.

Meanwhile the owners of the bridge, which spans the Humber Estuary near Kingston-upon-Hull, who closed the footways on Saturday due to an unspecified “recent incident,” have clarified that they did so as an “emergency response” following several recent suicides.

> Humber Bridge path closed to cyclists 'indefinitely'

While the bridge remains open to motor traffic, the 60-mile detour to access alternative crossings via bridges over the Trent and Ouse means that people who commute across it by bike or on foot cannot travel to work unless they other means of crossing, such as using their car if they have one, getting a lift from someone else, or taking the bus.

Humber Bridge diversion.PNG

In the description to a video posted to his YouTube channel, Audax cyclist Rikki Lake said that on Saturday evening he had been planning the route of his Easter Sunday ride, including crossing the Humber, when he learnt from the Hull Daily Mail website of the closure of the bridge to pedestrians and cyclists.

“So I rang Humberside Police to clarify their position, the message was clear from them the Humber Bridge is private property we are not getting involved it's not a police matter.

“I also rang Humber Bridge Board to clarify whether they were offering a free shuttle service across the bridge or conning off a lane on the road.  Another wasted call really speaking with the controllers – clearly no-one knew what was going on.

“I showed up ready to ride across, at the ramp I was greeted by someone from security who said if you want to cross they expect you to use the main carriageway.

“So hopping over the barrier a little bit further up I did just that, half way across the bridge, a private security van caught up with me and by the end I reached the other side of the bridge I was being bothered by traffic police.

“They told me I should not have crossed, so naturally I explained how I came to cross over and then proceeded to ask what about people who bikes who commute to work? What is the Humber Bridge Board doing to secure their safety?”

Mr Lake, who in the video said he “wouldn’t recommend” crossing the bridge on the dual carriageway due to the gusts of wind he experienced while passing under its arches, added that he hopes the bridge will be reopened “sooner rather than later – I don’t want to be known as the last person to ride across it.”

In a statement, a spokesperson from the Humber Bridge Board said: “We understand closing the footways has been a controversial decision that has not attracted universal support, but we would like to reassure the public that it has been taken as an emergency response to the unprecedented and deeply troubling events at the Humber Bridge over recent weeks.

“It is no secret that there has been a spate of people – mostly young people from the local area – who have decided to end their lives at the bridge.

“Closing the footways is the most immediate and effective way to prevent further incidents of this nature, and this was our sole consideration when making the decision.

“As well as protecting emotionally distressed individuals, the measure has been implemented to protect our staff and the public.

“When these tragic events occur, our staff are the first responders and have to deal with some extremely distressing and traumatic situations. We have a duty to minimise their exposure to such incidents to protect their mental health and wellbeing.

“The Humber Bridge Board currently spends a quarter of a million pounds each year on measures designed to prevent emotionally distressed individuals from ending their lives at the bridge. Until last month these measures have been largely effective.

“However, the recent tragic events are unlike anything we have previously dealt with, and we are working closely with Public Health, local MPs, local authorities, emergency services, the Samaritans, Hull and East Yorkshire Mind and other stakeholders to fully understand them and assess the future risk. While this is ongoing, the footways must remain closed to the general public.”

The statement concluded by saying that the Humber Bridge Board is “looking at reopening access to commuters as soon as possible, to minimise disruption to those who cycle or walk to work over the Humber Bridge, and we are considering a range of measures to ensure the situation can be effectively managed once the footways fully reopen.”

Alex Holdaway, interim strategic communications manager at  Sustrans, said that the sustainable transport charity’s “role as custodians of the National Cycle Network (NCN) is to care for, improve and champion a long-term vision for the future of the network.

“However, the charity only owns approximately 4 per cent of the NCN, with the majority belonging to various landowners who are ultimately responsible for their own stretch and are able to restrict access as they see fit. 

“Our Network Development Manager is in touch with the Humber Bridge Board to establish what the plan is,” she added.

The Samaritans website contains advice to people who are struggling with their mental health on how they can obtain help.

The charity’s advisors can be contacted at any time on the free telephone number 116 123, or via email tojo [at] samaritans.org "> jo [at] samaritans.org with a response time of 24 hours.

It has also developed a self-help app that enables users to “Keep track of how you're feeling, and get recommendations for things you can do to help yourself cope, feel better and stay safe in a crisis.”

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.

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44 comments

Avatar
Giles Pargiter | 2 years ago
0 likes

If it is as it was when I lived close to that area a few years back, then it is a plain ordinary A road, so pedestrians and cyclists can use it accordingly. It is neither up to the bridge owners nor police to make up the law as they go.

It does of course bring the issue of risking the lives of those who don't want to die V's those who sadly, do.

 

 

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Spiregrain replied to Giles Pargiter | 2 years ago
0 likes

A roads (any roads) can have cycle prohibition orders in place. Bridge is 1 such

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Jenova20 | 2 years ago
2 likes

"sooner rather than later – I don’t want to be known as the last person to ride across it." - Rikki Lake

Is this what Rikki has been up to since the heydays of having a prime time US talk show?

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Prosper0 | 2 years ago
4 likes

Very easy solution Humber Bridge Board people. Just cone off one of the carriageway lanes to become a bi-directional cycle lane/footway until you sort yourselves out.

Everybody can still cross the bridge and it costs practically nothing. Or is that too much common sense?

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Rendel Harris replied to Prosper0 | 2 years ago
2 likes
Prosper0 wrote:

Very easy solution Humber Bridge Board people. Just cone off one of the carriageway lanes to become a bi-directional cycle lane/footway until you sort yourselves out.

Everybody can still cross the bridge and it costs practically nothing. Or is that too much common sense?

As I mentioned below, the foot/cycle path, and hence the edge of the bridge, is only separated from the roadway by a low barrier, so converting a car lane to a pedestrian/cycle path wouldn't do anything to combat the suicide problem, which is the reason the closure has occurred.

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DamienB replied to Rendel Harris | 2 years ago
1 like
Rendel Harris wrote:
Prosper0 wrote:

Very easy solution Humber Bridge Board people. Just cone off one of the carriageway lanes to become a bi-directional cycle lane/footway until you sort yourselves out.

Everybody can still cross the bridge and it costs practically nothing. Or is that too much common sense?

As I mentioned below, the foot/cycle path, and hence the edge of the bridge, is only separated from the roadway by a low barrier, so converting a car lane to a pedestrian/cycle path wouldn't do anything to combat the suicide problem, which is the reason the closure has occurred.

The bridge is private and can only survive (maintenance, staff costs and servicing the almighty 1980s debt of  building it) by raising revenue through tolls. A huge amount has been done recently in ensuring the tolls are low, that there's tag systems and contactless payment to maximise the volume of traffic  - particularly HGVs heading to and from the docks. 

This might sound counterintuitive, but reducing truck journeys by around 60 miles is important. 

All that being said the Bridge Board needs to come up with a solution for pedestrians and cyclists soon. A quick look at Strava shows people genuinely commute by bike across the bridge (Donkin) and living just to the north of the bridge my own possible routes have been halved. 

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Gus T replied to DamienB | 2 years ago
0 likes
DamienB wrote:
Rendel Harris wrote:
Prosper0 wrote:

Very easy solution Humber Bridge Board people. Just cone off one of the carriageway lanes to become a bi-directional cycle lane/footway until you sort yourselves out.

Everybody can still cross the bridge and it costs practically nothing. Or is that too much common sense?

As I mentioned below, the foot/cycle path, and hence the edge of the bridge, is only separated from the roadway by a low barrier, so converting a car lane to a pedestrian/cycle path wouldn't do anything to combat the suicide problem, which is the reason the closure has occurred.

The bridge is private and can only survive (maintenance, staff costs and servicing the almighty 1980s debt of  building it) by raising revenue through tolls. A huge amount has been done recently in ensuring the tolls are low, that there's tag systems and contactless payment to maximise the volume of traffic  - particularly HGVs heading to and from the docks. 

This might sound counterintuitive, but reducing truck journeys by around 60 miles is important. 

All that being said the Bridge Board needs to come up with a solution for pedestrians and cyclists soon. A quick look at Strava shows people genuinely commute by bike across the bridge (Donkin) and living just to the north of the bridge my own possible routes have been halved. 

Exactly what I have been saying and been criticised for. Thank you for this.

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EK Spinner | 2 years ago
1 like

I did read elsewhere (unconfirmed) the one of the recent jumpers landed in an area where there are works going on, the folks on the site are obviously a bit upset, by the site, as well as the safety implications to them.

I belive in the past this was an issue on the erskine bridge, when they first added high anti climb fences they wee only at the ends, to ensure that jumpers went far enough out so as not to land in gardens below (i heard that one garden had 3 "direct hits"). It was only with other significant works on strength and wind loading tht they were able to extend the fence out to the middle eventually

These situations are very unplesant for everyone, I believe we need to work very hard to reduce the number of suicides in this country, particularly in young men strangely. taking a blunt approach to the methods isn't really addressing the bigger issue but will only really help some of those being affected by witnessing events

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brooksby replied to EK Spinner | 2 years ago
2 likes

On the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the road below it (the A4 Portway) has a concrete 'roof' over the section directly below the bridge (to protect the motor traffic below...).

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hawkinspeter replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
4 likes
brooksby wrote:

On the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the road below it (the A4 Portway) has a concrete 'roof' over the section directly below the bridge (to protect the motor traffic below...).

I wasn't aware that the concrete tunnel was specifically to protect against suicide attempts, but there's a net that is there for that purpose.

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eburtthebike replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
1 like
hawkinspeter wrote:
brooksby wrote:

On the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the road below it (the A4 Portway) has a concrete 'roof' over the section directly below the bridge (to protect the motor traffic below...).

I wasn't aware that the concrete tunnel was specifically to protect against suicide attempts, but there's a net that is there for that purpose.

The roof, which creates the tunnel, is there to protect the road from falling rocks.

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brooksby replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
0 likes
eburtthebike wrote:
hawkinspeter wrote:
brooksby wrote:

On the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the road below it (the A4 Portway) has a concrete 'roof' over the section directly below the bridge (to protect the motor traffic below...).

I wasn't aware that the concrete tunnel was specifically to protect against suicide attempts, but there's a net that is there for that purpose.

The roof, which creates the tunnel, is there to protect the road from falling rocks.

Oh, OK <slapped wrist>  I had just assumed, since it was the bit under the bridge...

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Captain Badger replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
2 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:
brooksby wrote:

On the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the road below it (the A4 Portway) has a concrete 'roof' over the section directly below the bridge (to protect the motor traffic below...).

I wasn't aware that the concrete tunnel was specifically to protect against suicide attempts, but there's a net that is there for that purpose.

When building warehouse mezanines we install drop nets beneath any edge to arrest fall without injury

The nets are only removed once the edge/fall protection is fully installed - and yes, we consider risk of suicide attempts when speccing edge-protection

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brooksby | 2 years ago
2 likes

   surprise

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Andrew Burrows | 2 years ago
3 likes

The Dartford crossing of the Thames doesn't allow bikes to use either the bridge or the tunnels but does provide a means for cyclists to cross https://www.gov.uk/dartford-crossing-bike maybe the operators of the Humber bridge should consider offering a similar service?

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qwerty360 replied to Andrew Burrows | 2 years ago
3 likes

On twitter someone mentioned that when the Tyne foot/bicycle tunnel is shut (e.g. for maintenance), they run a shuttle bus through the toll road tunnel...

Something to do with the road authority (In this case the Humber Bridge Board (which is why they can close the right of way)) having a legal obligation to consider alternative routes as part of doing closures...

In this case they could close a lane and use it as a foot and cycle path... Of course that would mean inconveniencing motorists...

 

Both in Tyne and Dartford, the alternative routes are a fraction of the distance you have to travel here!

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Rendel Harris replied to qwerty360 | 2 years ago
2 likes
qwerty360 wrote:

In this case they could close a lane and use it as a foot and cycle path...

But that would entail allowing pedestrians back on the bridge and so the suicides problem would continue; you only have to hop over a metre-high rail to go from the carriageway to the footpath and hence the edge. With six suicides in the month from March 3rd-April 3rd I do have some sympathy with the authorities here, it's not the usual muck cyclists about because we don't like them (see Richmond Park) but an attempt to address a tragic problem. Hopefully an effective permanent solution can be designed soon (perhaps with weatherproofing for cyclists as well, I imagine commuting across the mouth of the Humber in winter is not the most pleasant experience).

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meursault | 2 years ago
1 like

So the cyclist phoned bridge and police knowing there was going to be issues, yet still CHOSE that route? Not doing us cyclists any favours I reckon.

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Rendel Harris replied to meursault | 2 years ago
11 likes
meursault wrote:

So the cyclist phoned bridge and police knowing there was going to be issues, yet still CHOSE that route? Not doing us cyclists any favours I reckon.

The police told him they had nothing to do with it and he couldn't get any response from the Humber Bridge Board, so he showed up and was told he could ride across on the carriageway, then got hassled. Sounds pretty reasonable to me.

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meursault replied to Rendel Harris | 2 years ago
0 likes

Yes, but there was obviously an access issue, or he wouldn't have phoned either to check.

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Rendel Harris replied to meursault | 2 years ago
5 likes
meursault wrote:

Yes, but there was obviously an access issue, or he wouldn't have phoned either to check.

And as he couldn't get a clear answer, he showed up to check in person and was told he could cycle across. What's wrong with that?

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hawkinspeter replied to meursault | 2 years ago
4 likes
meursault wrote:

So the cyclist phoned bridge and police knowing there was going to be issues, yet still CHOSE that route? Not doing us cyclists any favours I reckon.

What alternative route do you suggest that he should have taken?

Also, what possible difference does it make to me whether or not some other cyclist goes one route or another?

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meursault replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
0 likes

It says he is an audax cyclist. Any other route?

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hawkinspeter replied to meursault | 2 years ago
3 likes

Well maybe he didn't fancy riding an Audax that particular time though the issue is going to be more pronounced for commuters that don't want to have several hours and miles added to their journey.

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brooksby replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
5 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

Well maybe he didn't fancy riding an Audax that particular time though the issue is going to be more pronounced for commuters that don't want to have several hours and miles added to their journey.

I had to leave for work at ten o'clock at night half an hour before I went to bed...

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to meursault | 2 years ago
4 likes

Most Audaxers usually plan a route to get set length distances and for safety check-ins an supply stops etc. Assuming he stuck to his route still after the Humber he was doing a loop of the estuary anyway of 126miles (looking on Strava.) He tried to find out the situation and was told nothing. Rather then let his original planning go to waste he decided to check out the situation personally and was told yes you can cross on the carriageway. I would suggest he probably had some backup route anyway if they said no. But they didn't. So why is this the cyclists fault?

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Bungle73 | 2 years ago
7 likes

"and this was our sole consideration when making the decision."

Hear that folks? They don't actually care about the extreme inconvenience they are causing people.  People regularly throw themselves in front of trains. We don't shut down the rail network do we........?

 

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Awavey replied to Bungle73 | 2 years ago
2 likes

False equivalence, the railway industry goes to considerable lengths to limit the number of suicides on their network by restricting access to certain locations, such as like what is happening here with the Humber bridge, training staff to spot people in distress, redesigning stations and working with organisations like the Samaritans or national suicide prevention alliance to carry out national campaigns like the there is always hope campaign , in the past year alone nearly 1500 interventions have been carried out by railway workers.

There's a remarkable lack of empathy on display in some of these comments to this subject, we are talking about saving peoples lives by this action and preventing the devastating impact that suicide has on families & friends and even the people who have to deal with the aftermath & not every suicide attempt is successful either,people can be left with horrific injuries.

So yes not being able to ride a bicycle across a bridge is utterly of secondary importance to trying to save those people at the moment and needs to take a back seat whilst the bridge authority comes up with a workable solution.

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mdavidford replied to Awavey | 2 years ago
2 likes

But the point people have been trying to make is that we're not talking about saving people's lives - all we're talking about is moving the issue somewhere else, where someone else will have to deal with it. If anything, the publicity this has generated is just likely to encourage more attempts.

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Awavey replied to mdavidford | 2 years ago
3 likes

Publicity created by cyclists not seeing the bigger picture.

The Humber bridge is not the first bridge to have encountered this issue, but the action theyve taken is well researched and backed by case studies & suicide prevention groups into what the effect of it achieves, and all their data indicates this does result in lower suicide rates overall. Its believed it creates enough of a pause in the impulse,simply by removing the availability,to enable an effective intervention to take place.

Does it completely solve the problem no,that's a conversation that ought to shame politicians that it even needs to be had with them that they need to do more and provide better services for peoples mental health. But until that happens what theyve done at the Humber bridge is an effective prevention method.

But now they need to come up with the effective solution for pedestrians & cyclists to use the bridge safely.

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