December 8, 2022

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Closure of Snake Pass to bike riders described as an ‘anti-cyclist decision dressed up cheaply as Health and Safety’

Derbyshire County Council’s decision to close Snake Pass to cyclists and walkers – just two weeks after its closure to motor traffic due to landslides saw the Peak District climb become a car-free ‘cycling utopia’ – has been criticised as an anti-cyclist move “dressed up cheaply as health and safety”.

The scenic climb, which lies within the Peak District National Park and carries the A57 between Sheffield and Manchester, was closed to motor vehicles at the end of February for at least four weeks due to landslides caused by storms Eunice and Franklin, which affected three locations on a mile-long section of the road between Glossop and Ladybower Reservoir.

News of the closure led cycling writer Simon Warren, author of 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, to proclaim on Twitter that the climb “now belongs to cyclists”, with riders from across the country duly flocking to Snake Pass to take in the scenery, winding hairpins and, most importantly, the serendipity of a car-free road on what was described as the “best LTN ever”.

> Snake Pass now “belongs to cyclists” as Peak District climb closed to motorists for at least a month 

However, after a week of cycling utopia, on Monday evening EF Education-TIBCO-SVB pro Lizzy Banks tweeted that she had been informed by traffic management on the pass that the climb was also set to be closed full-time to cyclists. 

This news was confirmed both by Derbyshire’s Roads Policing Unit and Derbyshire County Council, which tweeted that the climb would now be closed to all road users, except for local access, “because of concerns over safety”. The council also said that the road would be monitored 24 hours a day to prevent people using it.

A council spokesperson said: “There is still traffic on the road, as people live there and we have vehicles going up to monitor the landslip and carry out other work on other parts of the road.

“We are very concerned that there will be an accident involving a vehicle and a cyclist because of the large numbers of cyclists that have taken the opportunity to go out and ride the road.”

 The council’s decision has been roundly condemned by local cyclists such as Warren, who says that the pass is “safer than it has ever been”.

“The car lobby got a bit upset, that cyclists were getting all the fun when they couldn’t use it,” the author told Cycling Weekly. “Someone in the council said it was too dangerous for cyclists to use, because there could be an accident. It’s safer than it has ever been!

“Yesterday Derbyshire County Council put their message up saying it was closed 24 hours a day until they fix it. It is ludicrous. It does seem like they’re just being spoilsports. We’re all grownups here, let people take the chance.

“It has become a tourist attraction… people were dropping everything just to ride this one road. Glossop should capitalise on this, get some money in, not just shut it off. They’ve shot themselves in the foot there.”

Other Twitter users were unimpressed by the council’s claim that the decision was based on concerns over safety, with one writing that the council doesn’t “care about the safety of cyclists on the A57 the rest of the time, anywhere near as much as they do about stopping us riding on the closed, perfectly safe section now”.

A local resident wrote directly to Derbyshire County Council to complain about the decision, arguing that “cycling only becomes dangerous when the infrastructure is such that car drivers become the danger”. 

Others have pointed out that despite the staffed closure at the bottom of the pass, which appears to have shut the entire climb, the temporary closures only apply to the sections of the road affected by the landslip and that cyclists can legally ride their bikes up to those points.

To protest the council’s decision, a mass trespass by cyclists and walkers on the road (reminiscent of the mass trespass at nearby Kinder Scout in 1932) has been organised for 2pm on Saturday.

One of the protesters, Harry Gray, said in a statement: “Snake Pass has been closed because of a landslip, we agree that this section should remain closed to cyclists and walkers for safety reasons.

“However, closing the entire road is unfair and potentially not legal. The claim that it is dangerous because of works vehicles is laughable, since the road is one of the most dangerous when open to motor vehicles.

“All that is needed is a sign to let people know there is still traffic using the road. Derbyshire Council have taken no previous steps to make the road safer for cyclists, like an average speed check, in the past – so why do they care so much now?”