Cycling ban suggested for Darlington town centre

Councillors have called for bikes to be banned from Darlington town centre during a debate in a council meeting on December 4.

The debate came in response to a serious fall suffered by 74 year-old Brian Coates on September 5 which left him with a life changing head injury. It was alleged by the witnesses to the incident that a group of fast-moving children on bikes caused him to fall.

Although the first accident in the area of this type, councillors believe that it is one too many, and that it could have been prevented if bikes were not allowed through the town centre. They called for a full pedestrianised centre to be implemented to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Mr Coates is still being treated in hospital after his fall, which happened in the Skinnergate area of the town.

Other councillors at the meeting have criticised the response to the incident as a ‘knee-jerk’ and ‘ill-conceived’ reaction however. They highlighted the fact that cyclists were allowed in the town centre for safety reasons; banning cycling would force cyclists to use the busy ring-road and considerably increase their vulnerability. Councillors opposing the ban argued that the incident was about a lack of common sense and consideration for others – and should not be about banning cycling.

Cycling in Darlington town centre was successfully trialled in 2009; the study found that shoppers in the town centre were not endangered by cyclists. The trial period lasted from January to March, during which no incidents involving bikes were recorded. There was a recorded increase in cycling on the previous year, but no rise in reported accidents. Information leaflets were handed to cyclists in February of that year, with copies of the code of conduct for cyclists, along with safety items, such as lights, fluorescent vests and bells.

Paul Henderson, Solicitor at Macks and keen cyclist commented ‘It is becoming more and more important to strike a balance between the needs and safety of pedestrians, and those of cyclists, especially as the numbers getting on their bikes are increasing. However there has to be common sense. I am not that sure a ban will have any effect on those inconsiderate enough to ride at speed through a pedestrianised area; will they even read the signs? I am quite sure that sensible cyclists and genuine commuters would either cycle very slowly or dismount. Perhaps it would be better to consider whether or not it would be practical to create some cycle paths / routes through the centre.’

The Northern Echo

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