Vehicle restricted areas (VRAs)

Cherry Allan's picture
Headline Messages: 
  • Completely car-free zones, or areas where motor vehicles are restricted at certain times of the day (shopping streets, for example) are now common in many town and city centres. There are aesthetic, environmental, safety and commercial benefits for doing this, and it also helps make cycling and walking more attractive. 
  • Research commissioned by the Department for Transport found no real reasons for excluding cyclists from pedestrian areas; in fact, it showed that cyclists tend to take the initiative and slow down or dismount when it's busy (actually, it's difficult to keep balanced on a cycle anyway when reduced to a crawling pace).
  • However, as with all shared-use areas, there are concerns that people with mobility, sight or hearing problems could be put at risk if cyclists are allowed into pedestrianised areas. These issues can be overcome through good design and suitable signposting - and usually the problems are more perceived than real.

Cyclists respond to pedestrian density, modifying their speed, dismounting and taking other avoiding action where necessary."

Cycling in Pedestrian Areas (Traffic Advisory Leaflet 9/93), Department for Transport

Cycling UK View (formal statement of Cycling UK's policy): 

We are currently revising and updating our detailed views on all aspects of cycling infrastructure and these will be published in due course. For general principles, please have a look at our 'overview' briefing on cycle-friendly design and planning. 

The following is an extract from our Policy Handbook (March 2004):

  • Cycling should be permitted in pedestrian areas wherever possible. If pedestrian flows during peak shopping hours make this impracticable, cycling should be permitted in pedestrian areas from midnight to 10 am and 4 pm to midnight to allow usage by cycle commuters.
  • Where pedestrian areas interrupt cycle routes, safe and convenient alternative routes should be incorporated into the cycle route network maintaining the directness of the cycle route as a priority and ensuring cyclists can use the alternative safely.
Publication Date: 
April 2012

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