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Bedford cyclists protest ‘discriminatory’ town centre bike ban

A decision on whether to extend the controversial ban on cycling in pedestrianised areas will be made by Bedford Borough Council next month

Cyclists in Bedford staged a group ride on Saturday to protest the current ban on cycling in the town centre.

In 2016 Bedford became one of a number of towns to impose a cycling ban in pedestrianised areas, using a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO). Under the PSPO, cycling is not permitted in certain parts of the town centre between 9am and 6pm. 

Since the ban was introduced, over 3,200 tickets have been issued to people riding their bikes in Bedford town centre. In 2019, Livingstone cyclist Josh Quigley was slapped with a £75 fine for cycling through the town just a week into his second – and ultimately successful – round-the-world ride. 

> Round-the-world cyclist fined for riding his bike through Bedford town centre

According to Bedford Borough Council, the PSPO was put in place “following consultation suggesting that reckless riding of bicycles in Bedford town centre was reducing the quality of life of residents”. 

However, PSPOs have drawn criticism from Cycling UK for the way in which they target cycling as a whole rather than only those who cause a danger or nuisance through the manner of their cycling. 

The PSPO is set to expire this year, and Bedford Borough Council’s executive is due to meet in early March to decide whether to extend the ban for a further three years, while also implementing additional restrictions on e-scooters and skateboarding. 

With the council’s decision looming, cyclists associated with Bedford’s ‘Critical Mass’ movement organised a group ride to urge the council to drop the ban on town-centre riding and to highlight the need for wider improvements regarding cycling infrastructure in the area.

> Bedford town-centre cycling ban criticised over irrelevance

Kate, the group’s spokesperson, told the Bedford Independent: “On Wednesday 2 March the council’s executive will make its decision on whether to extend the ban on cycling in the streets of central Bedford that have been closed to motor vehicles. 

“We wanted to highlight the ‘A’ roads that cyclists are forced onto by the ban.

“We shouldn’t be forced into cycling in a large group to feel safe. The ban puts people off doing the responsible thing and cycling into the centre of Bedford and it is discriminatory.”

Another Critical Mass rider, Jan, also pointed out that the PSPO, rather than tackle nuisance cycling in the town, unfairly targets innocent cyclists and less able residents.

“A year ago I made my first trip into Bedford town in a year,” she said. “I cycled onto the area outside the library, slowing to a stop. I got off my bike at the cycle racks to lock it up. Virtually no one was around.

“An official shouted at me and pounced. I tried to explain my chronic pain condition and that it makes walking difficult. He ignored me and gave me a £75 ticket.

“The council claim they have equality measures that mean something different should have happened. The truth is, as it is really operated, this ban discriminates against disabled people like me. The equality provisions just don’t work and the council executive should end this ban.”

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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10 comments

Avatar
Des Roberts | 2 years ago
1 like

As I live in Bedford, I feel I am qualified to comment. Usually, pre Covid at least, Bedford town centre is a bustling place, full of pedestrians and getting off your bike to walk with it, there is no problem and is by far the safest thing to do.  There are reckless people who ride bikes in the town centre, typically on dodgy bikes, things like V brakes disconnected for whatever reason and really aren't what you could call proper cyclists.  The cycling ban is aimed at these people.  But any responsible cyclist would do the decent thing; get off and walk.

As for over zealous enforcement officers, this doesn't stop with cyclists.  I have received parking tickets on numerous occasions for overstaying my stay for just 3 minutes.  I believe that enforcement officers lay in wait and it has been said that enforcement officers receive a bonus for issuing tickets.  Bedford Borough Council deny this, but other sources beg to differ.

If ever anybody decides to visit Bedford, please be ware, bike thieves operate in the town and aren't afraid to use their bolt croppers in broad daylight.  Another tactic is to put a lock on an unsuspecting person's bike in the hope that they leave the bike as it has a strangers lock on it, return when it is quieter and Nick the bike in relative safety of not being caught.

Now if all the money raised in penalties was put to increasing bike security, making usable cycle lanes that cyclists would use, unlike the recent bike lane along the dual carriageway stretch of Goldington Road (you have to see it to believe it), I have never seen a cyclist use this lane and I feel there is a dangerous drop from the cycle lane to the main tarmac. Enough from me, but I hope I've shed some light on cycling in Bedford. 

Avatar
eburtthebike | 2 years ago
10 likes

I can't quite believe all the people on here defending cyclists, when everyone knows that they are the single largest killer of pedestrians.  In many pedestrianised areas where cycling is allowed, the council have to employ contractors for the specific duty of clearing all the dead bodies every day, as the sight of them can deter shoppers.

I for one salute Bedford council and their perfectly reasonable decision based on facts, not fake news, prejudice and bias.

Avatar
coggy replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
1 like

fact   cars kill on average 470 pedestrians in one year , cyclists kill 3 .

Avatar
Hirsute replied to coggy | 2 years ago
4 likes

Sorry to rain on your first post parade but eburtthebike was being sarcastic.

Avatar
eburtthebike replied to Hirsute | 2 years ago
1 like
hirsute wrote:

Sorry to rain on your first post parade but eburtthebike was being sarcastic.

How did you know?  It was the contractors wasn't it?

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to coggy | 2 years ago
2 likes

Exactly.  Which is 3 too many. That's clearly where we should start.

Avatar
Jackslad | 2 years ago
3 likes

Nice little earner for Bedford Council, if we assume that all ticketed cyclists were slapped with a £75 FPN = £240000.

Talk about a stealth tax!  No wonder they are keen to enforce it. 

Avatar
belugabob | 2 years ago
15 likes

Reckless driving in my neighborhood is reducing the quality of life of residents - can we get cars banned?

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to belugabob | 2 years ago
11 likes
belugabob wrote:

Reckless driving in my neighborhood is reducing the quality of life of residents - can we get cars banned?

I wish we could get cars banned from roads if there's too many of them speeding. I'd set a limit of maybe 5 speeding events per day per speed camera (or copper) and if that's exceeded, just close the road to motor traffic for the next year or so.

These PSPOs are clearly discriminatory because they criminalise an otherwise legal activity (i.e. careful cycling). From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collective_punishment

Quote:

Collective punishment is a punishment or sanction imposed on a group for acts allegedly perpetrated by a member of that group, which could be an ethnic or political group, or just the family, friends and neighbors of the perpetrator. Because individuals who are not responsible for the wrong acts are targeted, collective punishment is not compatible with the basic principle of individual responsibility. The punished group may often have no direct association with the perpetrator other than living in the same area and can not be assumed to exercise control over the perpetrator's actions. Collective punishment is prohibited by treaty in both international and non-international armed conflicts, more specifically Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol II.

When collective punishment has been imposed it has resulted in atrocities. Historically, occupying powers have used collective punishment against resistance movements. In some cases entire towns and villages believed to have harboured or aided such resistance movements have been destroyed. Occupying powers have claimed that collective punishment can be justified by necessity as a deterrent. Another view is that it is a retaliatory act prohibited under the laws of war.

Avatar
brooksby replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
4 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

I wish we could get cars banned from roads if there's too many of them speeding. I'd set a limit of maybe 5 speeding events per day per speed camera (or copper) and if that's exceeded, just close the road to motor traffic for the next year or so.

What seems to happen is that if too many vehicles break the speed limit then cameras are put in (while of course warning the poor hard-pressed motorists exactly where those cameras are, and when they'll be active), and then if the speed limit is still broken then the speed limit is (as an absolute last resort) reduced but with little or no further enforcement.

Personally, I think following Bedford's fine example and banning all motor traffic from a specific road (except for householder access (maybe)) if there have been too many speeding motorists there (and especially if it is not a 'main road') would make perfect sense pour encourager les autres.

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