Support road.cc

Like this site? Help us to make it better.

“Educating people wasn’t working… Hopefully this will deter others”: Police target motorists using city centre pedestrian and cycle zone as a “shortcut”

“Hopefully the thought of getting a ticket might make some of these drivers actually follow the rules”

Nine motorists were fined in a single day for driving through a city centre pedestrian and cycle zone as police announced a shift in tactics to combat the illegal rat-running, just weeks after locals came together to ‘block’ drivers from using the controversial street.

On Thursday 18 May, Norfolk Constabulary issued fines to nine drivers flouting the rules on Exchange Street in Norwich, the scene of often dangerous and heated confrontations between motorists and cyclists and pedestrians since the busy shopping street was closed to motor traffic in 2020, the Norwich Evening News reports.

Officers confirmed that the recent targeted action was not the first time that fines have been handed out to motorists using the street, though it does appear to represent a shift in tactics from the force’s previous focus on giving guidance and education to rat-running drivers, who have continued to use the cycling and walking route to continue through Norwich city centre.

The enforcement also appears to signify a shift away from the police’s targeting of residents attempting to stop what has been described by local campaign groups as the normalisation of “mass law breaking” by motorists.

> “The street was functioning as it should”: People reclaim street meant for pedestrians and cyclists from drivers

Last October, Harry Mach was arrested after he stood in the street in an attempt to block oncoming cars, with the charges against him only recently being dropped after he pleaded not guilty to “unlawfully obstructing free passage on the road”. A month later, 66-year-old Lucy Hall was forcibly removed by the police after she acted as a “human bollard” to demonstrate how many drivers were illegally using the road.

“The road was turned into a pedestrianised zone by Norfolk County Council and is closed to motorised traffic between 10am and 4pm seven days a week,” a police spokesperson said.

“Enforcement is just one of the ways officers are tackling non-compliance, along with signage and education in this narrow and busy city centre street.

“People are reminded the street remains open to cyclists in both directions. Officers routinely visit the area to discourage illegal vehicle movements and ultimately improve safety.”

“It’s just a shortcut for them, but it’s actively dangerous for the people using the street for its intended purpose”

While the enforcement on Exchange Street has been welcomed by local cyclists and pedestrians, some have voiced their concerns that last week’s campaign was a “one-off”, while noting the dangers of motorists continuing to use the street, a situation described by one activist as an “embarrassment”.

“We’re pleased that the police have finally recognised that educating people that it’s illegal to drive down Exchange Street simply wasn’t working and that it was necessary to actually enforce the law by ticketing offenders. Hopefully this will deter others,” Norwich Cycling Campaign’s Peter Silburn told road.cc.

“This needs to be the norm – and not just a one-off exercise – until a longer-term solution can be implemented, and the benefits of pedestrianisation can be realised for citizens and businesses,” adds Matt White, of Car Free Norwich.

“That Exchange Street is still subject to regular illegal driving, three years after introduction of the zone, is an embarrassment.”

Fern Blevins, a local parent, also described the ongoing situation as “actively dangerous” for people legally using the street.

“There’s a huge sign at the start of the road saying ‘pedestrian and cycle zone’, yet drivers keep using the street,” she said.

“It’s just a shortcut for them but it’s actively dangerous for the people using the street for its intended purpose. This is especially so for those with wheelchairs, pushchairs, or small children, for whom it’s not so easy to hop up on a kerb out of the way when a driver decides to push their way through.

“My child was nearly knocked over last week by a motorist trying to push their way past pedestrians. It’s not okay.

“Hopefully the thought of getting a ticket might make some of these drivers actually follow the rules.”

Families reclaim the pedestrian and cycle zone in Norwich (credit: Claire Bullion/Facebook)

Earlier this month, we reported that Car Free Norwich organised an event on Exchange Street which saw residents, including families and children, come together to take action by forming one massive, informal human blockade to stop drivers using the street.

“It’s clear that Norfolk County Council and the police aren’t succeeding in enforcing their own regulations as drivers continue to drive down there almost two and a half years on,” Silburn said.

“So, the residents just said enough is enough and organised an event, inviting everyone to gather in the street and remind any motorists trying to drive down there that they are breaking the law and will risk getting a fine.

“For two hours on lunchtime on Saturday, the street was really functioning as it should be. It was quite interesting to see the calm response from drivers, there was no real aggression from them. I think the fact that there were families there, a real mix of young and old, men and women, drivers could see that they’re not going to get through there.”

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.

Add new comment

39 comments

Avatar
tandem | 11 months ago
1 like

Hounslow BC do a good job on this type of restricted access using cameras and APN recognition which automatically issues penalty notices, not sure why (apart from initial cost) this is not more widespread 

Avatar
seven | 11 months ago
0 likes

"But bollards prevent legitimate vehicular access"

Uh huh, so you only put them at one end, with appopriate "no through road" signage at the other.  They'll soon learn.

Most of the legitimate use - i.e. deliveries and waste collection - is probably already happening before 10am anyway.

Avatar
Oldfatgit | 12 months ago
11 likes

Guess Norfolk Police have been shamed in to doing something.

The only thing that will work though, is rising bollards to block the road completely at the appropriate times.

Avatar
I love my bike replied to Oldfatgit | 12 months ago
4 likes

Where I live, the council (I assume) uses the low tech ,flexible solution by putting out & putting away (plus locking) the bollards.

Avatar
grOg replied to Oldfatgit | 11 months ago
0 likes

They can't block the road as vehicles loading/off-loading are allowed to use the road at all times.

Avatar
giff77 replied to grOg | 11 months ago
0 likes

Un/Loading access is only allowed within a certain timeframe. Bollards can be automated to drop during that time.

Avatar
Hirsute | 12 months ago
6 likes

@world bollards

Avatar
hawkinspeter | 12 months ago
18 likes

Surely an ANPR camera would make it a doddle for police to enforce driving restrictions through there.

Avatar
giff77 replied to hawkinspeter | 12 months ago
9 likes

It would be. Though possibly not as effective as being handed a ticket while their peers are watching. 

Avatar
AidanR replied to giff77 | 12 months ago
6 likes

I imagine that it would be significantly more effective, unless there are police there everyday between 10am and 4pm.

Avatar
Sriracha replied to AidanR | 12 months ago
7 likes

Or why not do both, belt and braces? If people are obstinate enough to knowingly drive where they are not allowed, let them pay twice, to be sure, and then suffer the hell of trying to claim one back.

Avatar
AidanR replied to Sriracha | 12 months ago
5 likes

Because in a world of limited resources, having police officers do work that a camera could do is nuts.

Avatar
giff77 replied to AidanR | 12 months ago
4 likes

Randomly mix it up. A handful of PCs around for a couple of hours and change the time frame. Change location on street. Motorist thinks they've got away with it and all of a sudden there's a peeler standing at the exit rather than the entrance. Keep them on their toes

Avatar
AidanR replied to giff77 | 12 months ago
6 likes

Sure. Or put a camera there that catches and fines every drivers, all the time.

Avatar
stonojnr replied to hawkinspeter | 12 months ago
2 likes

Each camera costs 20k + 5k annual maintenance, they usually get 2 per site. Is it a 50k problem ?

I was in Norwich yesterday just a street away, and was surprised to be walking up the much more pedestrianised Pottergate, and still have a car drive towards us. Apparently its access only route,but I reckon they were trying to avoid the roadwork delays around Dereham Road instead.

There's probably a much bigger education effort needed for Norwich motorists to get them to stop driving these types of streets.

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to stonojnr | 12 months ago
8 likes

stonojnr wrote:

Each camera costs 20k + 5k annual maintenance, they usually get 2 per site. Is it a 50k problem ? I was in Norwich yesterday just a street away, and was surprised to be walking up the much more pedestrianised Pottergate, and still have a car drive towards us. Apparently its access only route,but I reckon they were trying to avoid the roadwork delays around Dereham Road instead. There's probably a much bigger education effort needed for Norwich motorists to get them to stop driving these types of streets.

Sounds to me like they're getting ripped off. People have thrown together Raspberry Pi hardware along with a camera (there's some excellent camera modules available) for a couple of hundred quid so you should be able to buy quite a few of those for 20k and not care about maintenance when you can just replace the camera easily enough. You can see Raspberry Pis being used in lots of commercial signage solutions already, so they're fairly reliable with the most common failure being the SD card storage that's often used.

Alternatively, accept camera/video footage from the pedstrians' phones and the hardware doesn't even concern the police. I guess that some of the peds would be interested enough to sit on a bench with their phones ready to catch any drivers.

Edit: Here's an easy ANPR project for a RPi (this uses a RPi3, but it would likely be better to go for a modern Pi Zero 2): https://magpi.raspberrypi.com/articles/anpr-car-spy-raspberry-pi

It's easy to find UPS/battery packs for the Pi range and as an alternative, here's how to run them from solar: https://www.zdnet.com/home-and-office/run-your-raspberry-pi-off-grid-with-solar-power-heres-what-you-need/

Avatar
Secret_squirrel replied to hawkinspeter | 11 months ago
2 likes

50k sounds like a bargain.  This Bus gate camera collected approx £650k.  No reason same couldnt be done in Norwich given the alledged volumes....

https://www.getreading.co.uk/news/reading-berkshire-news/notorious-readi...

 

Avatar
Off the back replied to stonojnr | 11 months ago
2 likes

This sort of thing could be farmed out to the same companies who manage private car parks. They will use ANPR in their parking lots and are not afraid to pursue anyone they see breach the rules.  The ability to do it on a public street is no different if they are given the task of monitoring traffic by the local council. 

A similar way of monitoring bus lanes has existed for years. 

Avatar
Bmblbzzz replied to hawkinspeter | 12 months ago
6 likes

ANPR works retrospectively, bollards would actively prevent people driving there. Both are valid but the low-tech solution seems more appropriate in this case. That said, the only really effective solution is global attitude adjustment.

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to Bmblbzzz | 12 months ago
3 likes

Bmblbzzz wrote:

ANPR works retrospectively, bollards would actively prevent people driving there. Both are valid but the low-tech solution seems more appropriate in this case. That said, the only really effective solution is global attitude adjustment.

The advantage of ANPR is that it's likely cheaper and easier to install (don't know the costs to be fair) and can provide some revenue from fines. It's also pleasing to me that it penalises drivers who aren't paying attention to the signage.

Avatar
Bmblbzzz replied to hawkinspeter | 11 months ago
0 likes

ANPR might well be cheaper than rising bollards, but it's not cheaper than plain old fixed bollards. 

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to Bmblbzzz | 11 months ago
0 likes

Bmblbzzz wrote:

ANPR might well be cheaper than rising bollards, but it's not cheaper than plain old fixed bollards. 

Removing them each day at 4pm and reinstalling them the next day at 10am might increase the costs though

Avatar
Flintshire Boy replied to Bmblbzzz | 12 months ago
1 like

.

'global attitude adjustment'.

.

That's right. Start with the small stuff, then move on to bigger things.

.

Good luck.

.

Avatar
Bmblbzzz replied to Flintshire Boy | 11 months ago
0 likes

"I write in hope not expectation" as they say. 

Avatar
Off the back replied to Bmblbzzz | 11 months ago
2 likes

Issues with fixed (or semi fixed) infrastructure like bollards is they also prevent anyone who may have a legitimate reason for travelling down the road. i.e ambulances, bin lorries, trucks doing deliveries in quiet hours, disabled drivers. You can end up creating another issue by just slapping down a bollard or two. 

If you look at the photo it quite clearly states no vehicles except unloading. So its not a vehicle free area 24/7. There is only a temporary ban during business hours

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to Off the back | 11 months ago
2 likes

Off the back wrote:

Issues with fixed (or semi fixed) infrastructure like bollards is they also prevent anyone who may have a legitimate reason for travelling down the road. i.e ambulances, bin lorries, trucks doing deliveries in quiet hours, disabled drivers. You can end up creating another issue by just slapping down a bollard or two. 

Yes... but isn't this exactly the argument from motoring enthusiasts?  "You can't foresee all circumstances where someone has to drive there - ergo driving everywhere for everyone at all times".

Pretty sure even in this country - never mind more enlightened places - we've managed to find systems which work.  Obviously there is always the "but some idiot will break the system so we can't have any restrictions" argument too.  I'd say that's just further proof they were needed and doing their job.

The flip side is that bollards do stop drivers, 24/7.

Avatar
Off the back replied to chrisonabike | 11 months ago
2 likes

But that is exacly why ANPR would be the only solution. but others just choose to dismiss it. 

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to Off the back | 11 months ago
0 likes

Off the back wrote:

But that is exacly why ANPR would be the only solution. but others just choose to dismiss it. 

Not dismissing it but I think in many places telling people to behave else there will be later consequences doesn't work well enough.  So enough people driving won't notice / won't believe they'll actually be punished / think this is an assault on their fundamental rights they'll fight over / won't care about consequences

... that people will still not feel safe walking or cycling in the space.

The assumption that you can drive everywhere is just too prevalent and too frequently reinforced.

Again - there are some places in the UK signs and cameras do work, or where we have automatic / manual means of enhancing restrictions only during certain times.  It may be that what initially needs physical protection may later be made more flexible as patterns of use change.  Or more likely that other interventions mean that people simply can't rat-run through certain areas.

Avatar
Off the back replied to chrisonabike | 11 months ago
2 likes

In the context of the story, this is about the centre of Norwich. There may be other roads with other issues to solve but the one in question is a road that still requires vehicle access at certain times. Bollards, In this scenario, would not be a viable solution. Also, as I previously mentioned, emergency vehicles are also blocked from entering. That could be hazardous in itself. Even collapsable ones take valuable time to remove if there were an incident. 

There really isnt much of a danger to pedestrians since cars cant really go too fast on that road. Its more the fact they are inconvienencing people on foot in a crowded popular area. 

End of the day, you put up a sign stating ANPR in force, anyone driving through will be prosecuted should be enough. That money might even come in useful if people are willing to be fined. Even if it just went to a private company instead who cares? if they help stop offenders in the long run its worth it. 

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to Off the back | 11 months ago
0 likes

Off the back wrote:

In the context of the story, this is about the centre of Norwich. There may be other roads with other issues to solve but the one in question is a road that still requires vehicle access at certain times. Bollards, In this scenario, would not be a viable solution. Also, as I previously mentioned, emergency vehicles are also blocked from entering. That could be hazardous in itself. Even collapsable ones take valuable time to remove if there were an incident. 

There really isnt much of a danger to pedestrians since cars cant really go too fast on that road. Its more the fact they are inconvienencing people on foot in a crowded popular area.

Fair enough - I don't have local knowledge.  I'm just not seeing why e.g. a rising bollard (or just a gate that people could close at certain times) would be an issue - just drop it / open it for loading at certain times.  Or provide access tokens / codes.

This is a one-way street of 100 metres, in a tight grid of streets.  So you can access either end and there are very close parallel routes.   Albeit it looks like much of the area is really most suited for those on foot due to narrowness.

Genuine question - there are plenty of other places with physical measures to provide temporary access restrictions and AFAIK "the ambulances get through".  (Perhaps they're delayed by 15 seconds if it's a rising / falling bollard or one that they can slowly drive over, maybe a little more if they have to unlock a gate).  Is there something specific about this 100 metres of street (or the local network) that makes it different?

Pages

Latest Comments