THE former council leader who had Bournemouth Square pedestrianised has said allowing cyclists to use it would be “disastrous”.

Bournemouth council has agreed to let cyclists use the Square and Pier Approach for a 12-month trial period.

The Square was dominated by a busy roundabout until the council, then led by Liberal Democrat Douglas Eyre, had most of it blocked off to traffic in 1996.

Mr Eyre said the pedestrianisation had attracted strong opposition at the time. “Having got it through, I think it’s commonly agreed it was a good decision. Bournemouth would seem to be walking backwards by allowing bikes in the Square,” he said.

“I think it’s absolutely disastrous. Anybody coming down Richmond Hill on a bike, on the pavement approaching the Square, is either going to do one heck of a skid or is going to be doing something fairly dangerous.”

A report by council cycling officer Lucy Marstrand said the proliferation of ‘no cycling’ signs at tourist spots sent an “unwelcoming message” to cyclists.

Mr Eyre said he was an occasional cyclist but the Square was the “wrong place” for riding.

“There had always been problems, before pedestrianisation of the Square, with the town being in two halves. People went to use either the Beales side or the M&S side,” he said.

He agreed with veteran councillor Ron Whittaker, who said cyclists should have to dismount while crossing the busy Square.

“As Ron Whittaker said, is it a great problem to get off and walk across with your bike?” he added.

The council’s cabinet member for transport, Cllr Michael Filer, has said it was important to promote cycling.

He said previously: “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.”

He said the permission would be withdrawn before the trial was up if there were major problems.

The starting date for the trial has not yet been settled.