Signs demanding "cyclists dismount" can be found all over the country, much to the annoyance of their intended audience (there’s no equivalent sign for motorists). However, one sign beside a cattle grid in rural Northumberland was perceived to be so out-of-place that the spotter made a formal complaint, and Northumberland County Council has now promised to remove 269 similar signs.
The spotter was rights-of-way expert Alan Kind. He happened upon the sign near Simonburn, just north of the Roman Wall, and fired off a letter to the chief executive of Northumberland County Council informing him that the placement of such a sign below a warning triangle for a cattle grid was unlawful.
After prodding, Kind received a response: "Local Transport Note 2/08 Cycle Infrastructure Design also indicates that the cyclist dismount sign should be used in relatively rare situations where it would be unsafe or impracticable for a cyclist to continue riding.
The reply added: “As a result of incidents reported to the County Council by cyclists at this particular location, officers considered it was necessary to advise cyclists to dismount and walk over the cattle grid rather than risk potential injury whilst riding across it especially during inclement weather conditions, hence the introduction of these advisory signs.”
The sign at this single location had therefore been erected as a form of liability avoidance, and then other signs had been erected at a further 133 cattle grids across the county.
Kind informed the council that, in fact, cyclists dismount signs can only be used in the circumstances set out in Schedules to the 2016 Regulations and Directions of DfT Circular 01/2016, and that’s at "the end of, or at a break in, a cycle track or route."
The road in question is not a cycle track or route, and Kind told the county council that "if the cattle grid is dangerous, then it needs to be repaired."
After further letters the county council did not respond so Kind issued a pre-action protocol letter – this prompted the council’s director of local services to say the signs will be removed.