This year’s Tour Of Britain will finish on Guildford High Street, in Surrey. It promises to be a fantastic spectacle, with the riders racing up the steep cobbled hill, surrounded on both sides by thousands of fans.
Throughout the rest of the year, you can cycle up and down the High Street, as it forms part of National Cycle Route 223.
Except… you can’t between the hours 11am and 4pm during weekdays, 9am and 6pm on a Saturday, and 12pm and 5pm on Sunday, because at these times, the High Street is fully pedestrianised.
The High Street is very wide, and there really shouldn’t be any cause for conflict between pedestrians and cyclists. Even at Christmas, when there are plenty of shoppers about, I cannot see any reason why this space shouldn’t be shared.
The only problems would come from anti-social cycling, but the proper response to that is to use the police, or street wardens, to fine and censure the wrongdoers, not a blanket ban on an activity that, in principle, should be harmless.
Worse, even when it is legal to cycle here – outside of the restricted hours – you can only cycle up the hill, because it remains a one-way street.
Both these restrictions mean that cycling around this part of Guildford is quite inconvenient.
How about providing some useful cycle lanes in Guildford? This might encourage cycle use. Anyone who wants to cycle is usually quite happy to provide their own bike, but might be put off by the fact that to cycle from the top of the High Street to the station, university, hospital or Research Park has to fight with one-way systems, 4 lanes of traffic and the bus station.
This 4 lane one-way system.
There are paths underneath this gyratory, but cycling is banned there too (in places with good reason, because the pedestrian underpasses are quite narrow. And there are lots of steps, in any case).
Thankfully it appears that the ludicrous situation of cycling being largely impossible on a major through-route in the town is coming onto the political radar, although a PCSO seems to have completely the wrong idea about what needs to be achieved.
The mention of Surrey County Council’s hope to improve cycle routes into and out of Guildford, making existing routes contiguous, excited a short exchange of views on cycling on the High Street and other one-way routes. One PCSO asked if the council’s plans would help reduce the amount of cycling, the wrong way, down the High St. A St Catherine’s resident, a regular cyclist, pointed out that there was little practical alternative for cyclists if the dangerous gyratory was to be avoided.
There is no need to stop cyclists going ‘the wrong way’ down the High Street, because there shouldn’t be any such thing as a ‘wrong way’ on a bicycle. It’s only an absurd traffic arrangement that has created this situation, and it needs to be remedied.