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City of London residents call for crackdown on cycle tour groups

Transport committee will debate issue tomorrow - but tour operators reject claims riders are a risk to themselves and others

Residents in the City of London are calling for a crackdown on cycle tour groups, claiming they present a danger both to themselves and pedestrians – an allegation tour organisers reject, while insisting that people on foot put themselves at risk by looking at their mobile phones while walking.

According to The Times, the complaint has been made by residents of Farringdon Without – the largest of the City of London’s 25 wards but even so, home to just 1,099 people according to the 2011 census.

The ward, which sits on the boundary of the Square Mile, is effectively split into two parts with the western part including Inner and Middle Temple and Chancery Lane, while the north western part includes Smithfield Market and St Bartholomew’s Hospital.

A motion that will be debated tomorrow by the Corporation of London’s Planning and Transportation Committee has been tabled by the Farringdon Without Wardmote, which represents the ward’s residents. It reads:

This Wardmote notes the dangers caused by cycle tour groups in narrow, semi-pedestrianised areas of the City. Despite discussions with City of London representatives, the operators of such tour groups do not appear to have made any substantial changes. There are reports of cyclists colliding with residents, but such collisions have not been recorded. Cycle convoys are seen to travel at speed through narrow cobbled lanes and have been crossing busy roads at unsafe points with participants, including children, not wearing any safety protection.

There is a risk of serious injury to both participants and pedestrians and the Wardmote therefore urges the Planning and Transportation Committee to undertake an urgent review of the terms of licences for such tour groups and confirm the actions that will be taken to improve safety.

The Wardmote further urges the Committee to work with the City of London Police on enforcement measures against cyclists who contravene the Highway Code, to safeguard the interests of pedestrians and other road users.

However, Jack Harris, the founder of tour operator, Tally Ho!, which provides guided tours including City & Secrets and the London Gin Safari on three-speed Pashley bicycles, insisted that “speeding is certainly not a factor.”

He added: “In areas where there are many pedestrians, we are advocates of old-fashioned courtesy and common sense.

“We certainly uphold the Highway Code, but it must be noted that many pedestrians today hop between public transport in a zombified state, staring at a phone and ears covered with music.”

Chris Abbott, who owns another tour operator, Brakeaway Bike Tours, which has rides including The Secret London Bike Tour and The Grand London Bike Tour, told The Times that in the nine years the company has been in business, “no collision between a participant and a member of the public has ever taken place.”

A number of businesses offer off-the-peg and custom bike tours in London, including bespoke itineraries for hen groups or for corporate events, with nine operators listed on the Visit London website.

With the City of London being the location of some of the capital’s most iconic landmarks including St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London, cycle tour groups are now a familiar sight there.

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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