Councillors, campaigners and residents have expressed their disappointment that Bedford’s deputy mayor has recommended ignoring consultation results to keep a controversial town centre cycling ban.
In council papers released yesterday (Tuesday) it was revealed that most people were opposed to the ban when consulted.
54% of those responding to the Council-run consultation answered ‘oppose’ or ‘strongly oppose’ when asked about the ban. 43% supported it.
However, Bedford’s deputy mayor, Cllr Charles Royden (Lib Dem) has recommended ignoring the majority view and is advising the council executive to keep the ban based on the views of local businesses, who, he says are “overwhelmingly in favour of keeping the ban.”
The formal decision on whether to accept the deputy mayor’s recommendation will be taken by the council executive at its meeting next Wednesday (2 March).
Green councillors Lucy Bywater and Ben Foley have said they are “furious” at the decision and one resident has said she is “appalled” at a “very depressing decision by a short-sighted and ill-informed authority”.
Cllr Lucy Bywater, whose ward includes the whole of the ban area said: “I am stunned that the deputy mayor would fly in the face of the majority view like this.
“His party claims to be one of ‘democrats’. What’s worse is that in the section on ‘Risk Implications’, the report totally ignores the increased risks to cyclists of being forced to cycle on adjoining roads (mainly ‘A’ roads and all public transport routes).
“It really feels like both democracy and cyclists are being thrown under the bus by the deputy mayor.”
The consultation was run by the council over the Christmas and New Year period and 574 people responded.
“Last time, in the formal decision documents, a key reason given for keeping the ban was ‘there is…public support’,” said Cllr Bywater.
“It is completely clear there isn’t public support for the ban now.”
In a statement to the Bedford Independent, a Borough Council spokesperson said “A decision has not yet been made on this PSPO extension, it will be discussed at the Executive meeting next week.
“With an overwhelming majority of local businesses and Bedfordshire Police in favour of retaining this ban on cycling, the report recommends that a PSPO continues to be in place prohibiting cycling between 9am and 6pm in the pedestrianised area of the town centre, alongside other measures around e-scooters and skateboards.
“This means people can continue to use this area of town to commute to and from work in those traditional peak periods, but it makes the pedestrianised area of town safer during the main shopping day.”
“Undemocratic and discriminatory”
Traffic and safety specialist and local resident, Kate Carpenter, told the Bedford Independent: “This is disappointing and surprising on many counts.
“Firstly, it is not democratic. They asked people what they wanted and have ignored the views of the public.
“Second, it is discriminatory. By excluding cyclists, inclusive cycling is prevented so people with disabilities who use alternative types of cycle (trikes, handcycles etc) are excluded from the town centre as they may be unable to walk from car parking or bus stops, and/or have no physical access to them or unable to afford those modes.
“Thirdly it is not founded on evidence.
Kate said evidence by eminent experts TRL proves that cycling in town centres does not increase pedestrian risk, rather the reckless and disrespectful riders who are so fast-moving that no enforcers are able to catch them.
“Overall this decision is appalling in my view and utterly disrespectful to the people of Bedford and detrimental to safety, accessibility and public health.
“A very depressing decision by a short-sighted and ill-informed authority.”