Please cycle gently! Riders urged to take care as they get go-ahead to use Norwich pedestrian zones at all hours

Gentleman's Walk, where the rules around cycling will change. Pic: Dan Grimmer

Gentleman's Walk, where the rules around cycling will change. Pic: Dan Grimmer - Credit: Archant

Cyclists are to be allowed to ride through pedestrianised city centre streets at any time of day.

But councillors have urged 'gentle cycling' and for riders to use common sense to decide whether to cycle through streets when they are busy with pedestrians.

And the change will be reviewed after six months, to see if it has caused problems.

At the moment, cyclists are not permitted to ride down a string of streets, such as Gentleman's Walk, Davey Place and White Lion Street between 10am and 5pm and not allowed to cycle on the likes of London Street or Lower Goat Lane at all.

Members of Norwich highways agency committee, made up of city and county councillors, today agreed to open up streets to cyclists at all times.

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The Norwich Cycling Campaign had supported the change, saying responsible cyclists would use common sense, but that it was currently difficult to get across the city centre.

Civic watchdog the Norwich Society and walking charity Living Streets had been against the change.

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They feared there could be accidents if all city streets were opened up to cyclists.

Mike Stonard, Labour city councillor and vice chairman of the highways committee, said: 'I understand the concerns that some people have about the increased sharing of pedestrianised spaces.

'In recognition that, even though there's no evidence of an increased accident risk, I think in deference to people who have expressed reservations, it would be helpful if we had a review after six months of how it has operated.'

Liberal Democrat city councillor Judith Lubbock said she was against the change. She said: 'I think we need more education for cyclists and the fear pedestrians feel about intimidation from cyclists.

'We haven't got enough well-behaved cyclists who do get off and walk.

'I don't think it's any hardship to use the good cycling links into the city centre and once in the city, where there's a lot of people in the streets, to get off and walk.'

But Labour city councillor Bert Bremner was in favour of the change. He said: 'Cycling in the city centre is a real positive. I want to see gentle cycling - this shouldn't be about racing through.

'The point is we need to change the atmosphere.'

The council had said accidents between pedestrians and cyclists are very rare in pedestrianised areas and the proposals are in line with government recommendations.

But councillors agreed consideration should be given to use of 'Share with care' signs within pedestrian and cycle zones.

And officers have been asked to look at whether there should be a code of conduct for cyclists using pedestrian areas.

However, John Peacock, of Norfolk Living Streets, said: 'This is a sad day for a city that pioneered the first UK traffic free street for the sole benefit of pedestrians.

'The vote today proves that pedestrian interests are well and truly 'bottom of the pile' and the politicians who have decided on this will now have to live with it and for any public anger which this decision subsequently generates.'

But Margaret Todd, from Norwich Cycling Campaign, welcomed the change. She said: 'I think it's a real vote for treating pedestrians and cyclists as people who can behave responsibly.

'When the street is full with pedestrians, cyclists generally would not ride down there anyway, but would get off and walk.' She said the changes, which would start to be made in January, would make it easier for police to enforce genuinely dangerous behaviour by cyclists.

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