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Proposed Public Space Protection Order to ban cycling in what was once a global hub for cycle manufacturing is latest use of the legislation to criminalise legal behaviour, says Cycling UK

A ban on cycling is being proposed in Coventry city centre, with the threat of a £100 fine, in a move Cycling UK says amounts to the latest abuse of new “public space ASBO” powers by councils.

Coventry City Council is proposing a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) – a geographically-based ASBO which restricts certain behaviours within a given area – banning cycling, along with begging, skateboarding and charity “chugging” within the city’s ring road. A consultation on the proposals runs until 15 January, after which a decision will be made.

The proposed ban, which follows complaints of anti-social behaviour, has raised concerns normal activities are being outlawed, as well as questions over the potential effect the ban could have on those who use cycles as a mobility aid. 

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Coventry City Council says the PSPO is a "less bureaucratic" way to “tackle cycling and skateboarding in pedestrianised areas” along with “problematic buskers”.

Deputy Cabinet Member for Policing and Equalities, Councillor Pervez Akhtar, said: “A Public Space Protection Order could reduce some of the issues that potentially put people off coming into the city centre and so we’ll be considering whether it should be introduced in Coventry.  If we think it could help, we’ll be asking residents and businesses for their views.”

However, national cycling charity, Cycling UK, says PSPOs are not fit for purpose and are being abused by councils.

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s Senior Road Safety and Legal Campaigns Officer, said: “Cycling UK is currently speaking to local campaigners about the implications of the Coventry PSPO and we will respond to the consultation in due course.”

The Home Office is currently revising its guidance on PSPOs, and Cycling UK says it will add, in its response to the Coventry consultation, that PSPOs should not be used to restrict cycling as happened recently in Mansfield.

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“It’s clear PSPOs are not fit for purpose as we see some councils abusing their new powers by seeking to ban cycling amongst other normal activities. Cycling UK is pleased the Home Office has realised this, and is currently looking to revise their guidance, which we believe should make clear that PSPOs should not be used to ban cycling,” says Dollimore.

A statement on Coventry City Council’s website says if the public and businesses are behind the idea a £100 fixed penalty notice will be issued to those caught engaged in one of the banned activities, reduced to £60 if paid within 14 days.

The statement said this would be an alternative to “lengthy and costly criminal proceedings”, and notices could be issued by the Police and Council officers.

However, local representative for Cycling UK, George Riches, told road.cc the PSPO threatens those who cycle considerately, as well as tackling those who don't. 

“There is a problem with cyclists closely passing pedestrians in these areas where there’s a lot of pedestrians," said Riches, "but I’m worried that people will face a fine just because they are cycling, not because they are going fast past pedestrians, and it’s not only in the most highly pedestrianised shopping areas but also various subways that go under the ring road."

“They were built for pedestrians in mind, so they are narrow with poor sight lines, but I don’t see why cyclists who ride carefully should face prosecution."

He added PSPOs will make life difficult for people with mobility issues who use their bikes as mobility aids.

If approved, cycling and skateboarding would be completely banned in Cathedral Square at all times, and would only be allowed in other paved areas before 9.30am and after 3.30pm.

Riches points out the council can change a surface from paved to tarmac, or vice versa, without public consultation.

Cycling UK is currently supporting six cyclists in an appeal against Mansfield District Council’s imposition of a PSPO 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 says it is the first time that a PSPO has been challenged at the High Court since the legislation’s introduction in 2014.

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.

The consultation on the PSPO, which ends on 15 January 2017, is available here.

In the 1890s Coventry was the global centre of bicycle manufacturing. Its cycling business roll call, as listed on the Coventry Transport Museum's website, extends to 21 pages. Starley, whose eponymous founder, John Kemp Starley, invented the safety bicycle, built its bikes in the city, while Dunlop, whose founder developed the pneumatic tyre for cycling, still has a factory in Coventry.