Residents in a part of Plymouth have been warned that they risk receiving fines – or having their car taken away – if they continue to park their vehicles in clearly marked cycles lanes.
Police have delivered hundreds of letters to people living in Billacombe Road and Elburton Road in Plymstock warning them of the parking restrictions in force, but also asking them to fill in a resident’s survey in an attempt to try and resolve continuing parking issues and keep cyclists safe.
PCSO Bob Bayly, of the Plymstock neighbourhood team, said the action followed a number of complaints from cyclists who were fed up with a line of cars parked in the cycle lane which stretches for most of the length of Billacombe Road and Elburton Road, despite the council warning in 2019 it was set to make all new cycle lanes have restrictions to keep them clear of parked vehicles.
He said: “We contacted MPc Justine Lewis, the road casualty reduction officer for Devon & Cornwall and Dorset Police and discussed the issue.
“It would appear that Plymouth City Council changed the cycle lane lines from dotted to a solid white line in many places which results it being deemed an offence to drive a vehicle into a mandatory cycle lane and crossing that white line.
“Effectively, it changed the rules from advisory to compulsory.
“Following discussions with the council it was decided to do a latter drop to all the relevant properties along the two roads explaining that we would be enforcing the parking regulation and that parking in the cycle lanes was not allowed.
“In addition, we’ve added in a survey and return envelope asking whether they have off road parking, whether they use the cycle lane and how often, their concerns about road layout, parking, speeding, impact of parking restrictions on businesses, whether they had been consulted about changes to the road layout, whether they had previously been made aware of the parking changes and what changes they would like to see along the road.
“The survey will be collated by MPc Lewis and we’ll have further discussions with Plymouth City Council as a result.”
The letter sent to residents emphasises that they run the risk of a Fixed Penalty Notice for contravening the traffic signs and signal regulations, adding that it was also an offence to “cause an unnecessary obstruction by parking a vehicle in such a manner as to straddle the lane dividing hatched markings and causing cyclist to manoeuver out into a live traffic lane.
It notes how section 36 of the Road Traffic Act makes it an offence to drive a motor vehicle into a mandatory cycle lane by crossing the solid white line markings and parking there.
It added: “In the last few years, there were 21 recorded collisions along this road, some involving cyclists and police have worked with the local authority to reduce that casualty number. These have been reduced with speed control measures and by implementing the mandatory cycle lanes and this should not now be increasing due to parking issues.”
The letter provided no breakdown of the collisons, one of which PlymouthLive is aware was due to a cyclist riding their bicycle the wrong way along Elburton Road heading towards the city. That cyclist struck a car which was exiting a side road, joining traffic heading away from the city centre. Police were called to the scene and the incident was logged. The driver was not prosecuted and the cyclist was given words of advice about using the correct direction of travel.
The letter, written by MPc Lewis, goes on to warn residents of stiff penalties if they continue to park in the cycle lane.
It notes: “We will be actively monitoring and enforcing ongoing issues within this area until a long term solution is reached. On first occasions advice and guidance will be offered and a log made of vehicles.
“Following this, there will be robust action taken regarding vehicles identified who continue to offend, and any found on this carriageway parked in such a manner that is committing an offence will be fined and removed if necessary”.
However, residents are not entirely happy with the move, having already endured over the last few years the road being turned from double-lane to single lane, a reduction in speed from 40mph to 30mph and the entire length of both roads being made subject to average speed cameras.
One resident took to social media to point out that while they have enough off-road parking for their own cars, their visitors – especially elderly ones and relatives with very young children – were left having to park in the road.
They added: “It has always been this way since we purchased the house. The cycle lane used to be a broken white line but whilst we were on holiday last year it was changed to a solid line without any consultation or notification. We phoned the council highways department and was told that whilst the Highway Code says you cannot park on a cycle path, it is not legally enforceable so we could continue to park outside our house.
“Whilst I completely understand that cyclists need safe paths, my husband is a cyclist and feels that this road is very safe because where cars are parked in the path they can use the hatching part of the road safely.
“We have already suggested to the council that they swap the hatched part with the cycle path to allow cars to park by the pavement with enough room for a cycle path also but this does not appear to be considered.
“Our immediate neighbours share our concerns and I was hoping the residents could come together to try to ensure an outcome to this issue which supports both cyclists and residents.”
Another retorted: “I’m also a cyclist and there is more than enough room on that road to accommodate cyclists safety and allow residents to park without the threat of fines. My cynical mind tells me that maybe to there’s an opportunity for another means of raising money as with the 30mph speed limit imposed along that road to pay for these infrastructure changes.”