Our county councillors claim their new Sunday cycling ban is not vindictive (Observer Online, 14 June). Maybe so, but it is intransigent and full of muddled thinking.
‘Intransigent’ because they produced little evidence to justify the ban in the first place, and opponents were mildly asking the council to meet them half way by tailoring the restriction to the Sunday trading hours, not the weekday ones. Yet the council didn’t budge.
So now, on a Sunday morning, you can be prosecuted for cycling along practically deserted streets entirely suitable for the purpose. How does that square with county’s paper commitments to encourage cycling wherever possible?
Which brings us to the ‘muddled thinking’. One argument for making the hours of the ban the longest possible was because councillors had a suspicion the Sunday trading hours will one day be extended to match the weekday ones. But this might never happen.
Surely the issue is to tailor today’s ban to today’s conditions?
Then what does one make of the councillor who pronounced himself keen on cycling in one breath, but in the next said he actually wants to ban cycling in the precinct 24 hours a day, all year round.
Hasn’t he cottoned on to the fact a complete ban would play havoc with one great piece of planning, handed down from his more thoughtful predecessors, namely that allowing cycling until 9.30 allows parents and children to cycle to school, and still leaves time for parents to get back home or off to work after the drop off.
The 9.30 start is after shop opening hours but the streets are quiet enough that cyclists and pedestrians comfortably mix. We all know the school run is a major source of congestion and pollution.
Does he really want to encourage more parents into cars, instead of allowing them to continue to use by far the most direct and the only fully safe route for bicycles?
Ah yes, safety. Another councillor commented he does not want an accident in the precinct to happen ‘on his watch’.
Yet there is little evidence of accidents in the precinct. None in the past five years and one in the last ten. You are far more likely to be sent to A&E by uneven paving stones.
In contrast, Killed and Seriously Injured (KSI) statistics show a high level of accidents in the surrounding streets, onto which councillors have just pushed cyclists.
Why no similar worry about increased accidents on the surrounding streets ‘on his watch’? And why no thought to the fact that, though we will still see confident cyclists on the surrounding streets, this ban will ‘take out’ the families with young children who currently use the precinct on Sundays.
How’s that for creating a climate conducive for cycling, and learning to cycle and learning how to behave among pedestrians?
Let’s face it, yes, you do see people behaving badly on cycles in the precinct, but, having recently surveyed the scene, most are a credit to Chichester, passing through almost as if someone had just asked them to be on their best behaviour. In an example of dual standards, if this were a road, county would not be closing the whole thing down because of a few boy racers; they would be enforcing the rules.
Finally, we get to the disability implications. When a council’s decision might impact on people with disabilities, the council is supposed to assess that impact.
Further, national government has a series of Local Transport Notes that advise councils to be on the alert for ‘those who use their cycles as a mobility aid’; all the way from a kind of rolling walking stick to a full-blown alternative to a mobility scooter.
This council was even told that, for one such person, Sundays were the only days he could currently shop in town.
Nevertheless county did not examine this ban for its effect on people with disabilities.
They considered they didn’t need to, because ‘this ban affects all cyclists equally’. I don’t think that’s quite how the Equality Act actually works.
There is therefore good reason to perceive this ban as, if not vindictive, then squarely ‘anti-cycling’. It’s hardly a comfort to the aggrieved that there’s no malice, and it’s just that councillors ‘know not what they do’.
Is it too much to hope that while county gets stuck in to questions of northern and southern bypasses, it also addresses the issue of its own logic bypasses?
Bill Sharp, Whyke Lane, Chichester