Every cyclist in the land will now surely have heard of the plan to ban cyclists from using a 15-mile stretch of the A63 dual-carriageway at Hull, which forms part of the V718 time trial course, one of the fastest courses in the land.
Tour de France winner Sir Bradley Wiggins recorded a 17-58 “10” here in May 2015.
Cycling UK, the national cycling charity, have called the proposed ban “ludicrous” and demanded it be scrapped. They threaten legal action. Cycling Time Trials (CTT) is also strongly opposed, as you might imagine.
This is Highways England’s idea - the company appointed by the government to manage the trunk and A-road network and, would you believe, promote cycling!
They want a Traffic Restriction Order (TR0) banning cyclists from using the section of the A63 Trunk Road between North Cave Interchange and Daltry Street Interchange.
They cite six accidents – including one fatal - to cyclists in five years on this road as reason for their concern. Not all were in CTT events.
Opponents of the ban say this is not evidence based and the accident
rate to cyclists simply do not merit such drastic action.
They point out there have been nearly 300 accidents involving motor vehicles and yet no talk of banning the motor menace, or slowing it down.
They use the generic term “cyclists”, not time trialling specifically. But it seems likely that time trialling on this stretch of road is the target.
According to a local radio source, the police have long considered it unsafe to organise competitive events on this stretch of road.
The irony is, of course, die hard testers benefit from traffic flow and like racing on these roads. It has been a debatable point for decades now, time trialling on busy fast dual-carriageways which have become motorways in all but name. Well, it seems Highways England may force the issue!
I felt uncomfortable time trialling on such big roads a long time ago, when the A3 in Surrey had a makeover and was transformed into super-fast wide “motorway” style dual carriageway way, with slip roads as wide as airport runways!
Traffic was still relatively light in the event I rode, but I felt at risk and never went there again. But that was my perception of risk!
I felt happier on smaller country roads, but it has been argued that smaller roads may be no safer!
What we do know for certain is that cycling is not in itself dangerous; the danger comes from others. And that is not being addressed.
However, the main concern here is not that time trialling may be banned from a road even some local time triallists consider too dangerous to race on, but the dangerous precedent such a ban will set for other roads deemed “dangerous” for cyclists.
“Dangerous” for no other reason than for the past 70-80 years, the needs of cyclists have been neglected and designed out of the road system.
It is further evidence of successive government’s laisse faire approach to transport ever since car ownership began to grow back in the early 20th century.
For the dream fostered then and reinforced by marketing ever since is that drivers must be able to go where they like, when they like, quickly and with the least inconvenience.
CLEAR CYCLISTS OUT OF THE WAY!
Highways England’s twisted logic is that because cyclists can’t keep up the 65mph flow of traffic they are therefore in “danger”. So they’ll clear them out of the way.
Bollocks. Cyclists can’t keep up with traffic on the rest of the 200,000-odd miles of the national road network either, which they have every right to ride.
Expect other stretches of road to be banned to cyclists, too - you can bet on it - if Highways England is allowed to get away with this.
Meanwhile I know of no major initiative by the police to collar the millions of thickheads illegally using mobile phones while driving, many of them texting which means they aren’t even looking!
CTT urge cyclists to object
Cycling Time Trials National Secretary Stewart Smith is urging all cycling club members to lodge a complaint with Highways England. But he advises don’t mention time trialling! For fear, I suppose, of adding wood to the fire!
I wonder if he realises his desire to keep quiet about time trialling harks back to the sport’s clandestine Victorian origins.
Back in the 19th century there was widespread opposition to road racing on the highway which led to a ban on an early form of massed start road racing. (Read Peter Whitfield’s absorbing account in his book “Time, Speed and Truth. A history of Time Trialling 1890 – 2010”.
This ban led to the formation of time trialling in 1895 – riders separated by minute intervals and not so noticeable! This was the brain child of F.T. Bidlake, the “Father of time trialling”.
Races were called “events” and held in secret on roads identified only by a course number, just like today, and all to escape the notice of the police!
In 2018, perhaps it’s time for CTT to cast off this cloak of secrecy and brazen it out.
CYCLING UK PLAN LEGAL ACTION
Meanwhile, Cycling UK, the national cycling charity, and point out that such a ban runs contrary to Government and Highways England policies and agree it will set a dangerous precedent which could lead to more restrictions.
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns said:
“Highways England’s approach to the A63 is entirely unreasonable and lacks both evidence and analysis. It’s hardly surprising cyclists can’t keep up with motor vehicles on an A-road, but it is ludicrous to use that as one of the reasons for banning them.”
He adds that no evidence was provided on the numbers of cyclists on the A63 which would allow for an injury rate to be ascertained.
“Cycling UK would urge Highways England to re-consider their plans and stop going against both their own and the Government’s cycling policies.”
I asked Roger Geffen, Policy Director at UK Cycling, could Highways
England legally enforce this ban?
Geffen told me: “We shall see. Our objection has been crafted in the hope that it will either dissuade Highways England (HE) from adopting this TRO or, failing that, that it will enable us to bring a legal challenge through the Cyclists’ Defence Fund, if they were to proceed with it.
“I’d prefer to dissuade HE from adopting this TRO to start with, so that we don’t need to threaten legal action in the first place!”
Objections to the proposed ban should be made in writing not later than Monday, February 19, 2018, and posted to:
The Office of the Director, Operations Directorate (Yorkshire & North East), Highways England, 3rd Floor South, Lateral, 8 City Walk, Leeds, LS11 9AT. The objection should quote the reference 'The A63 Trunk Road (North Cave Interchange to Daltry Street Interchange) (Prohibition of Cyclists Order)'.
For details of Peter Whitfield’s fine book: “Time Speed and Truth – a history of time trialling 1890-2010”, email him at: PWWHITFIELD1@GMAIL.COM