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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 as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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