As a consultation begins, town centre cycling rates decrease in the face of PSPOs

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Cycle lane sign

Bedford Borough Council is consulting on the renewal of controversial Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) which are due to expire later this year.

Two PSPOs were introduced in Bedford Borough in 2016, restricting cycling in the pedestrianised area of the town centre from 9am to 6pm, and dog control orders for various areas of the Borough.

You can take part in the consultation here: www.forms.bedford.gov.uk/PSPO2019.

According to data collected by the Cycling Campaign for North Bedfordshire (CCNB), since  the implementation of the PSPOs there has been a decline in the number of responsible cyclists coming into the town centre.

Since January 2018, enforcement of the PSPO has been contracted out to a private company, Kingdom Securities.  The number of Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) issued by Kingdom Securities rose six-fold within just nine months (181 in January 2018 to 1,127 in September 2018).

Round-the-world cyclist, Josh Quigley, recently fell foul of the PSPO regarding town-centre cycling earlier this year, taking to social media to vent his frustration.

PSPOs are intended to deal with a particular nuisance or problem in a particular area that is detrimental to the local community’s quality of life, by imposing conditions on the use of that area which apply to everyone.

Duncan Dollimore of Cycling UK has equated PSPOs to “geographically defined ASBOs” and expressed incredulity that they are being used to “restrict the use of public space and criminalise behaviour not normally regarded as illegal… [like] the pernicious pastime which undermines the very fabric of our society: cycling.”

The town centre PSPOs are set to expire later this year, and the Council is holding a consultation on extending them for another three years. By extending the duration of the PSPOs the Council will be able to continue to take action against those individuals that commit these anti-social behaviours.

Cycling Campaign for North Bedfordshire (CCNB) held a number of meetings with the borough and the police prior to the introduction of the PSPO in 2016.

“CCNB was in favour of the proposal to fine the minority of cyclists who ride in an aggressive and reckless manner,” said Peter Blakeman of the CCNB.

“We were however concerned the effect the order would have on a number of disabled residents who use a bicycle or tricycle as a mobility aid in the same way that others use a mobility scooter.”

Said Peter: “We were disappointed to hear that within the first month of operation they had given out 181 fixed penalty notices (FPNs). By July this had increased to 935 and September to 1127. A number of reports were heard of the aggressive behaviour of the officers towards the elderly and foreign visitors.

“Government research has shown that incidents between cyclists and pedestrians in pedestrian areas are extremely rare and that there are no real factors which should exclude cycling in these areas. This in contrast to the increase in fatalities/serious injuries caused by users of mobility scooters.”

CCNB believe the ban should be continued for aggressive and irresponsible cyclists but by targeting all cyclists had the effect last year of reducing the number of responsible cyclists (the majority) coming to the town centre for their shopping, etc. The only routes through the town are by using the heavily congested roads around the town centre.

Cllr Charles Royden, Portfolio Holder for Environment and Transport said: “Through these PSPOs, the Council aims to promote responsible dog ownership and reduce complaints for issues such as dog fouling; and to ensure that our town centre continues to be a safe and enjoyable place for all to visit by restricting cycling in the pedestrian area. Please take part in this consultation and have your say.”

A spokesperson for Bedford BID said: “Our former Bluecaps town centre team received endless complaints from members of the public about the hazards of people cycling on pavements or pedestrianised areas.

“Polite requests to ask people to dismount by Bluecaps were often met with abuse.  The situation came to head a few years ago when an elderly lady had to be taken to hospital after being knocked over in Harpur Square.

“We fed that information back to the police and council and they made a decision to step up action with their own special team currently in operation in the town centre.

“The feedback from businesses and the public has been generally positive, and where there have been cases of complaint the council has dealt with directly.

“Quite apart from the legalities, cycling in a busy pedestrianised shopping area is impractical. Out of simple politeness people ought to dismount and push their bike for short distances.

“The restrictions only apply during busy day times. They do not apply when streets are largely empty at night.

“We have encouraged businesses to take part in this consultation so the council has the widest possible feedback upon which to make a decision based upon views from both town centre customers and businesses.”

You can take part in the consultation online at www.forms.bedford.gov.uk/PSPO2019.

Hard copies of the consultation can also be found at Borough Hall, the Customer Service Centre and local libraries, and you can reply by email to consultingbedford@bedford.gov.ukor by writing to Consulting Bedford, Borough Hall, Cauldwell Street, Bedford MK42 9AP. Responses must be received by Friday 26 April 2019.