Letter: Fearful of walking down Horsham streets

West Street in Horsham - no bikes?
West Street in Horsham - no bikes?

West Sussex County Council is responsible for designating the ban on cycling in West Street and Middle Street in Horsham and for the erection of signs but has no responsibility for enforcement.

It chooses to follow the Department of Transport’s prescription for choice and positioning of signs. These are not only ambiguous in meaning but are essentially invisible because, mounted on a wall 2.1 metres above ground level, they are not in the normal line of sight of cyclists or anyone else.

Unsurprisingly, cycling remains commonplace in both these streets – by adults as well as children and young people.

There may not have been many recorded accidents or injuries caused as a result, but cycling in these often crowded streets poses a risk to pedestrians and causes great distress to many – especially the elderly, disabled and poor sighted.

The worst offenders are those who cycle fast through crowds of pedestrians.

I have been trying to get some action on this problem for over two years through my local councillor – who takes the view that education is the answer – but with no success.

It appears that Horsham District Council no longer has any responsibility for enforcement.

The police clearly do have a responsibility as confirmed in a report two years ago in this newspaper: ‘Police crackdown on cycling ban in Horsham town centre’ 15th May 2015.

A police spokesman stated that ‘a majority of cyclists are unaware of where they can and can’t ride their bikes’; ‘we are looking at educating people to make them aware’; ‘in the near future we will look at starting to enforce that cycling ban’ with a £50 fine: and we are ‘working alongside WSCC to improve signage’.

As a frequent pedestrian in West Street, I see absolutely no evidence that anything has changed in the last two years – not surprisingly, as the same signs are still there and one rarely sees a policeman in these streets.

The police spokesman added that ‘90 per cent of the people I stop don’t know you can’t cycle (in these streets) and will apologise, get off and walk’.

I am not a policeman and, surprise, surprise, that’s not my experience: my attempts to politely point this out to cyclists are only occasionally met with ‘I didn’t know’ and are usually ignored or have a rude response.

It seems so obvious that education will never work without signs that are prominent, have a clear meaning and are in the line of sight of cyclists.

Other authorities have recognised this and signs are readily available and used elsewhere that have a clear meaning.

West Street has a lot of street furniture, so there can be no legitimate objection to placing signs lower down and more centrally where they can be seen.

In some towns, ‘no cycling’ or similar words are painted on the road surface.

Part of the problem is, I suspect, that no single authority is responsible for all aspects of this issue and that there has consequently been no will by any of them to address the problem effectively (does this sound familiar ?).

Wake up WSCC, HDC and police and let’s see some action for the benefit of those who are genuinely fearful of walking down these streets. Sensible signage is a one off, low cost option that would make a real difference.

John Baker

Blunts Way, Horsham