Cycling UK threatens BCP Council with legal action over decision to keep Keyhole Bridge underpass open to motor traffic

Cycling UK is threatening legal action against Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council, should it not reconsider its decision to keep Keyhole Bridge underpass in Poole open to motorised traffic.

The narrow single-lane road was closed to motor vehicles under an experimental traffic restriction order (ETRO) in 2020 to provide safer walking and cycling facilities during the pandemic. The UK cycling charity said local residents benefited from quieter streets and were ‘dismayed’ when it was reopened to motor traffic.

The charity, in its letter before action, says the council’s decision was unlawful. Cycling UK argues the council failed to take into account statutory guidance issued to highway authorities, like BCP, under the Network Management Act 2004.

The legal challenge follows the decision by BCP Council on 14th December 2022.

Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns at Cycling UK, said: “It shouldn’t be down to local groups or charities with limited resources to police council decision-making to ensure due process is followed, mounting legal challenges that rely on donations when councils act unlawfully.

“However, this is where we find ourselves with authorities like BCP Council persistently ignoring not just public opinion and expert analysis but also statutory guidance. As it stands this decision has no rational evidence base, which is why Cycling UK is asking the council to reconsider, on a lawful basis, their decision to keep Whitecliff Road open to motor traffic.”

Read more: £200 million Government fund announced to improve walking and cycling routes and boost local economies

BCP Council’s decision to reopen the bridge in March 2021 was based on its assessment that the closure would create delays of around three minutes at peak times, resulting in an economic cost of £220,000 per year. However, Cycling UK said that the assessment is based on assumptions from a short-term closure of another part of the park in 2016.

A report commissioned by the Keyhole Bridge Group and authored by independent experts KMC Transport Planning in April concluded that the decision to reopen was based on ‘flawed’ analysis which ‘ignored the health benefits of cycling and walking in its own economic assessment’. The revised economic analysis by KMC demonstrated a positive financial impact of £8.5 million over a 20-year period from closing the bridge to motor traffic.

Cycling UK’s Cyclists’ Defence Fund supports significant legal cases involving cyclists and cycling, especially those which might set an important precedent. The Cyclists’ Defence Fund relies entirely on donations.

Rebecca Morley

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