OAPs' anger over town centre cycling

Pensioners have accused council bosses of 'living in cloud cuckoo land' over plans to legalise and encourage cycling in pedestrianised areas of the town centre.

The council is set to give the go-ahead to plans for a 14-month trial allowing cyclists to ride along Robertson Street, parts of Cambridge Road and Queens Road.

But the 1,000-member strong Hastings and St Leonards Seniors' Forum, which represents the interests of the elderly in town, is up in arms.

Roger Oxenbury, the organisation's crime and safety spokesman, said: "We already get more complaints about dangerous, illegal cycling on pavements than anything else.

"Imagine what it will be like when irresponsible cyclists will soon, apparently, be able to whizz about the town centre without breaking the law.

"Some of these councillors must be living in cloud cuckoo land.

"Many elderly people, especially the frail and those whose hearing and eyesight are impaired, are furious about this being pushed through.

"It has already reached the stage where some old people fear for life and limb almost every time they go out."

Members of the forum were in Priory Meadow Shopping Centre yesterday (Thursday) asking for people's views.

Mr Oxenbury said there would be legal issues over compensation if a pedestrian was knocked down.

He said: "The police recently announced a crackdown on cycling on footpaths in the town centre. Shops could see trade drop like a stone on weekdays if retired people are put off shopping here because of concerns for their personal safety."

A council spokesman said: "Implementation of a trial to allow cycling through Robertson Street, Cambridge Road and lower Queens Road, is still some way off. We are keen to carry this out, but budget restraints have meant we have had to prioritise other highway schemes.

"We have consulted widely among community groups and are hopeful this 14-month trial will go ahead soon, using an Experimental Traffic Order, during which time we will carry out studies to see how pedestrians and cyclists interact with each other."

Nick Hanna, of Hastings Urban Bikes (HUB), said: "The radial nature of the roads in Hastings town centre means that the current ban creates a huge disincentive to using bikes in town.

"HUB believes that cyclists and pedestrians can share the same urban spaces as they do in numerous other places from Holland to Japan.

"We understand the fears and concerns of the elderly and the disabled around this issue, although we maintain that the perception of the risk is far greater than the risk of collision itself."