Humber Bridge closure: more unanswered questions

The bridge has now been closed to pedestrians and cyclists for nearly two weeks. Photo: David Wright, flic.kr/p/8qhjyB
Humber Bridge
Humber Bridge
Rob Kingston's picture

Humber Bridge closure: more unanswered questions

Last week we wrote to the Humber Bridge Board to demand answers about the decision to close the bridge to walkers and cyclists. The response failed to address many of our concerns, so we are continuing to press for action

Cyclists and pedestrians affected by the sudden closure of the Humber Bridge footways two weeks ago are still being kept in the dark about the way the decision was taken – and when the bridge is likely to reopen.

The closure, which came into effect without warning on 3 April, left commuters and leisure cyclists facing a 60-mile detour inland to cross the river. Last week, Cycling UK wrote to the Humber Bridge Board, which maintains and operates the bridge, for more information on how the decision was made and the powers that were used to implement it.

On 13 April, Sean Chaytor, the chair of the Board, wrote a response stating that the decision to close the footways "was made under the emergency powers the Humber Bridge Board has under the Humber Bridge Act 1959 and therefore, does not involve any form of Traffic Regulation Order".

The reply also stated that the Board has "now allowed commuters to cross the bridge in a safe and controlled manner", but it is unclear how this works in practice. Emma Hardy, MP for Hull West and Hessle, said last week that she had met Board representatives and was told that a system was being set up for commuters who use the walkways to register so they can continue to cross the bridge.

However, at the time of writing there appears to be no mention of this on the bridge website. "If such a system is in place, it is not being communicated clearly to those who might wish to use it," said Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK's head of campaigns.

"The letter we have received from the Humber Bridge Board is little more than a boilerplate response which fails to address many of the questions we asked, and the same is true of its response to a Freedom of Information request about provision for disabled pedestrians or cyclists under the Board's public-sector equality duty," he said. 

Cycling UK has therefore written to the Board again, seeking clarification on a number of points, including:

  • how the decision to close the footways was made and by whom;
  • what consideration was given to the Board's obligations to maintain the traffic network;
  • whether its equality duty has been considered with regard to putting in place temporary mitigation measures;
  • whether a system for commuters to register to cross the bridge is now in place, and what information they need to provide.

The Board's response to a serious and chronic problem that has been raised repeatedly over many years seems to be to restrict access rather than invest in structural and other intervention measures to try and manage and mitigate the risk

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK head of campaigns

Cycling UK acknowledges the concerns about loss of life to suicide that led to the closure of the footways. However, its view is that breaking a vital active-travel link is not the way to solve this serious issue.

In the latest letter, Duncan Dollimore writes: "Each and every suicide is a horrific and appalling tragedy for the individual and their family and friends. Yet I am not aware of any other authority or body responsible for the management of highways across major bridges that has decided to close the bridge to pedestrians and cyclists in response.

"Following increased suicides from the Erskine Bridge, for example, steps were taken to install new safety barriers; yet, for the Humber Bridge, the Board's response to a serious and chronic problem that has been raised repeatedly over many years seems to be to restrict access rather than invest in structural and other intervention measures to try and manage and mitigate the risk."

The full letter can be viewed below, along with the Humber Bridge Board's response to Cycling UK's previous letter. Cycling UK has also submitted a Freedom of Information request covering six key issues, which can be viewed online.

  • The Samaritans can be contacted 24 hours a day on 116123 or via samaritans.org.
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