Northumberland Street is a wide shopping street in Newcastle upon Tyne. Before it was fully pedestrianised in the 1980s it was part of the A1 between London and Edinburgh. In peak times it is thronged with shoppers, but during off-peak hours cars, vans and even HGVs are allowed to access the street. However, cycling is banned at all times. This morning Newcastle Police tweeted that officers were “advising cyclists” who were using Northumberland Street yet, ironically, in the photograph featured in the tweet there were two vans shown behind the police officer. Is it not rather strange that cyclists can be stopped for cycling on a street where motorists can pass at will?
Newcastle Police weren’t singling out cyclists in this morning’s call for road safety there was also this tweet aimed at motorists.
Last year a stallholder on Northumberland Street started using a megaphone to tackle what the local newspaper called “rogue cyclists”. That is, any cyclists spotted riding on Northumberland Street, which is often cluttered with vans, many of them belonging to stallholders.
Smallholder Karl Fitzpatrick complained that: “Nobody takes into consideration all the ‘no cycling’ signs which are on every other lamppost. I find it really annoying.”
Inspector Darren Adams, of the Newcastle Central neighbourhood policing team, told the Evening Chronicle: “Bicycle related offences are a neighbourhood priority which officers are tackling.
“Since November 2014, over 70 people have been spoken to about cycling related offences.
“Officers try to educate the cyclists rather than simply prosecute them. As a result the majority have been either verbally warned or have received letters of advice, while three repeat offenders have been summonsed to court.
He added: “There are signs on Northumberland Street and I would remind cyclists to heed these warnings.
“The restrictions are there for a reason – for the safety of both cyclists and pedestrians.”
Many towns and cities have restrictions on cycling in pedestrianised areas even though there is strong evidence that cyclists and pedestrians can mix safely. For instance, a 1993 study by the Transport Research Laboratory found that in 66 hours of video footage of pedestrian areas, not a single collision between a cyclist and a pedestrian was observed.
The study, commissioned by what was then the Department of Transport, found that “cyclists adapt their speed to pedestrian density, and dismount if necessary.”
When Leicester rescinded its ban on cycling in the city’s extensive pedestrianised areas there were no reports of collisions between cyclists and pedestrians.