Cycling UK backs High Court challenge to Mansfield’s ‘cycling ASBOs’

Public Space Protection Orders criminalise legal behaviour, say campaigners

Cycling UK says it is supporting six cyclists in an appeal against Mansfield District Council’s imposition of a Public Space Protection Order that makes riding a bike through parts of the centre of the Nottinghamshire town a criminal act.

Acting through the Cyclists’ Defence Fund, which it co-ordinates, the charity formerly known as CTC says it is the first time that a PSPO has been challenged at the High Court since their introduction in 2014.

According to Cycling UK, the ban on cycling “cycle ban applies for 24 hours a day, even outside of trading hours and when the streets are deserted.”

It added: “The PSPO was apparently introduced to address anti-social behaviour of a minority of people who cycled in the designated area. It now impacts upon residents, considerate cyclists and disabled people who may use specially adapted cycles to visit the town centre.”

The charity contends that the council has gone beyond its powers in using legislation aimed at curbing anti-social behaviour to criminalise what is otherwise a legal activity.

> Cycling UK looks to fight town centre "ASBOs" for riding a bike

Brought in under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, PSPOs allow councils to criminalise what would otherwise be non-criminal behaviour – in the case of the London Borough of Hillingdon, for example, banning a gathering of two or more people, unless waiting for a bus.

So if you’re meeting friends for a ride, best park your bike outside a café and meet there before setting off, presumably.

In the centre of Kettering skateboards are banned – as is riding a bicycle or scooter in certain parts of the Northamptonshire town if “causing, or likely to cause, nuisance, alarm or distress.”

Given that some purists would be alarmed or distressed at the sight of, say, a vintage Italian road bike converted to single speed, they might be wise to stay away from the town in case they chance across someone riding one.

Civil rights campaigners Liberty, which opposes PSPOs, says “they are too widely drawn, with vague definitions of what can be criminalised, and carry disproportionately punitive sanctions.”

Duncan Dollimore of Cycling UK, who is spokesman for the Cyclists’ Defence Fund, said of the situation in Mansfield that the organisation “is disappointed that we have reached such a stage where legal proceedings are necessary.

“How can the council have failed to account for people with disabilities who might use a cycle as a mobility aid or even those who commute to work within the defined area?

“Clearly a rethink from the council is needed.”

He added: “If the council was experiencing problems with a small number of inconsiderate people cycling, it would be far better to tackle that behaviour, which would benefit everyone, rather than impose a blanket ban on all cycling in the area at all times.”

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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