CYCLING restrictions are to be lifted in Bournemouth in the hope of making the town more bike-friendly.
Cyclists will be allowed to ride through Bournemouth Square and across Pier Approach for a 12- month trial period, to try and combat the town’s reputation as a dangerous place for cyclists.
The council’s transport chief Cllr Michael Filer has appealed to cyclists to act responsibly to ensure the initiative is a success and has promised to stop the trial if there are accidents.
Police statistics for the past five years show there were nine pedestrians hit by cyclists between January 2008 and December 2012 and none of these incidents occurred in pedestrian areas.
In the same period, 638 cyclists were hit by vehicles and last year Bournemouth was labelled the second most dangerous place for cyclists outside of London.
A report by council cycling officer Lucy Marstrand said the current proliferation of ‘No Cycling’ signs at key tourist spots sent an “unwelcoming message” to cyclists.
And she said the restrictions forced cyclists onto unsuitable, hazardous routes, including Bath Hill, Lansdowne roundabout and Richmond Hill roundabout.
She said cyclists and pedestrians currently co-existed at Hengistbury Head and along the seafront with no reported problems and pointed to Cambridge, Exeter and Darlington as examples of areas where cycling restrictions had been successfully lifted.
Cllr Filer said: “In order to show that we’re really serious we’ve been persuaded that for a trial period we’re going to give cyclists the opportunity to go across the Pier Approach and Square.
“We are urging cyclists to take this very easy and to realise that shared space means shared space – we don’t want any accidents.
“The number of accidents that there has been between cyclists and pedestrians is very low and we want this to continue. If there should be any major problems or large numbers of accidents then the permission will be withdrawn well before the 12-month trial is up.”
He added: “We’re putting a lot of effort into trying to make this a good town for cyclists. If we don’t do anything at all about cycling then traffic is going to snarl up over the next 10 to 20 years.”