Pram arms on the Fort St George footbridge

This article was published in 2003, in Newsletter 47.

What a shock – cycling home, tired after a day at work, I reached the Fort St George footbridge and found, to my dismay, that barriers had been put up and I could no longer cross it.

This bridge leads from Midsummer Common (next to the Fort St George pub) over to Pretoria Road on the other side of the river. It is a crucial route between the north of the city – Chesterton, West Chesterton, Arbury etc. – and the city centre, the Grafton Centre, or Jesus Green for Quayside and beyond.

I, and thousands of other people, use it all the time. Living in West Chesterton and working off Brooklands Avenue, I find it an essential route, but the pram arms now form an impassable barrier.

barrier and basket
Reinstalled barriers on the bridge by the Fort St George pub make it impossible for some sizes of bike to use the bridge. The gap is far too small to allow Ann’s basket through.

‘Pram arms’ are triangular metal bars that are fixed to posts – apparently to stop cows escaping from the common – though why they need three sets on this and other bridges is a mystery! And why do they need them all over the city? Cutter Ferry bridge (the next footbridge along towards Elizabeth Way) suffers from exactly the same problem. If both bridges are impassable, cyclists will have to use Elizabeth Way, Victoria Avenue and Mitcham’s Corner. None of these is particularly appealing or safe. And of course these routes are longer – a significant factor if you are your own source of power.

Many people must be affected by these pram arms on the river bridges: slightly disabled people with tricycles, people with trailers, mothers with prams, people who are too nervous to negotiate Mitcham’s Corner and, of course, people wanting a direct route to the De Freville area and other places north of the river.

And why should bikes with a basket on the front be penalised? I carry shopping in my bike basket so I’m helping to keeping the city centre vibrant, the market profitable, all without increasing the parking and congestion problems. I don’t want to be forced into a car to do everything. Surely the council should be supporting this choice. Do they want to be sued when a cyclist forced onto the roads is involved in an accident?

Fort St George bridge
The Fort St George Bridge. When are we going to see a comprehensive programme to make all the river bridges accessible to cyclists?
The narrowest point on this bridge is 2.35 m wide, yet the County Council is forcing everyone to squeeze through two gaps less than 50 cm wide. (The narrowest gap is only 40 cm wide.) This is particularly ironic as these river bridges are the very locations where the Council surveys the number of cycle journeys twice a year.

Ann Fiddes