A council has insisted that its controversial town centre cycling ban — which locals say has seen officers "target" old and slow cyclists after an 82-year-old man was fined for riding a bicycle in a prohibited area — will not result in disabled people using mobility aids receiving a fixed penalty notice. However, a campaign group has called for clearer signage that specifically states that people who use standard cycles as mobility aids are permitted to ride in the town centre, which they say will both reassure disabled cyclists and help reduce the risk of confrontation between pedestrians and people on bikes.
The council’s clarification comes after Wheels for Wellbeing, a campaign group for disabled people who cycle, criticised a councillor's "just get off an walk" advice to cyclists who do not want to become the latest people to be fined under Grimsby town centre's Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) prohibiting cycling in pedestrian areas.
Wheels for Wellbeing said the attitude "only works for people who can" walk their bikes and called upon North East Lincolnshire Council to accept a more inclusive approach, rather than preventing disabled people access to their local amenities.
However, the council replied to a road.cc request for comment by insisting that the PSPO does not prevent disabled cyclists riding into town.
"The PSPO applies to cycling in the pedestrian area. This clearly does not prohibit the use of mobility aids and therefore we wouldn't issue a fixed penalty notice to a person with a disability who is using a mobility aid," a council spokesperson said.
Since the PSPO's introduction in 2019, the council's enforcement officers have handed out £100 fixed penalty notices to more than 1,000 cyclists who ignored the no cycling signs, with headlines made after a woman was recently ordered to pay a fine of £660 and more than £400 worth of costs after refusing to pay the original ticket.
Back in October, a local pensioner made headlines too, telling the council to "stick it up your a***", after being fined for cycling through the town centre. As outrage about the situation spread, the council's officers were accused of targeting "old and slow" cyclists while ignoring youths "racing up and down".
"This restricts where we can go and reduces our independence"
However, campaign group Wheels for Wellbeing is keen to point out councillor Ron Shepherd's advice that cyclists can "just get off and walk" if they do not want a fine is not that simple for disabled people, and while the local authority has addressed the issue of disabled cyclists potentially being fined, questions may still remain about the elderly who may also rely on cycling for transport.
"Cycling is a hugely important way for disabled people and older people to get around independently, including for those of us who can't walk at all or can only walk short distances," a spokesperson for the campaign group said.
Saying it’s “easy to avoid a fine[...]just get off your bike and walk" only works for people who can. #Disabled ppl often use cycles as mobility aids. For #Equality, Disabled ppl #cycling should be permitted (while slow & careful). #MyCycleMyMoblityAid. https://t.co/tiE4pMsPgR
— Wheels for Wellbeing (@Wheels4Well) August 24, 2023
"At Wheels for Wellbeing, we've been really heartened to see reporting of so many Grimsby residents expressing their support and understanding for older and disabled people cycling slowly and considerately in pedestrianised areas. This kind of acceptance can make the difference between a disabled person becoming isolated at home, or being able to go where they want and need to be.
"If you can't walk without pain or risk to your health, it's not as simple as 'just get off your bike and walk'.
"Other places around the UK are taking a different, more inclusive approach in line with our My Cycle, My Mobility Aid campaign. In this campaign, we're calling for disabled people to be permitted to cycle at walking speed in pedestrian spaces, just as we already use mobility scooters, wheelchairs etc."
The group also highlights how signage, like the ones seen below in Wandsworth in London, show how all route users can be informed of such a policy.
Wheels for Wellbeing continued: "We'd like to invite councillor Shepherd to talk with us about how a simple change to how the Grimsby PSPO is worded and enforced could welcome more disabled and older people into Grimsby's shopping centre, increasing spending and helping local businesses to thrive."
Following a day of action alongside Humberside Police, seven cyclists were fined earlier this month, cllr Shepherd saying: "It's easy to avoid a fine for cycling in the town centre. Just get off your bike and walk along the relatively short stretch of pavement. I’m grateful to everyone who does so and I ask that others do the same."
The council's website document informing the public of the PSPO does not explicitly mention that disabled people using mobility aids are exempt, only that "the validity of the Order can be challenged on two grounds: that the Council did not have the power to make the Order or to include particular prohibitions or requirements; or that proper process had not been followed as prescribed by the Act."
And Wheels for Wellbeing believes that official clarification concerning the exact nature of the PSPO, as well as clearer, reworded signage in the town centre (like the one in Wandsworth), would reassure disabled cyclists in Grimsby that they will not be fined, as well as reducing the risk of confrontation between pedestrians and people who use standard cycles as mobility aids.
Responding to the council’s insistence that disabled cyclists are permitted to ride in the town centre, the Wheels for Wellbeing spokesperson told road.cc: “We are glad that Grimsby Council do not want to fine disabled people using mobility aids. But it would be really helpful if they could clarify that their PSPO specifically recognises that many disabled people use a cycle as a mobility aid and they would not be fined for doing so.
“Wheels for Wellbeing surveys consistently find that most disabled people who use a cycle as a mobility aid ride a standard, non-adapted, two-wheeled bicycle. Most of us are not visibly disabled when riding, including people who can’t walk at all unaided and those who experience severe pain or risk to health from walking more than very short distances.
The spokesperson continued: “To support disabled people using cycles as mobility aids, we ask Grimsby Council to alter their signage to make clear that cycles as mobility aids are permitted. For example, changing the signs to read ‘Cyclists dismount unless a mobility aid’ would reassure disabled people that they are allowed to ride within the town centre (safely and slowly at walking pace) and would reduce the risk of members of the public confronting disabled cyclists.
“Training for staff involved in enforcing the PSPO is also crucial. Many people don’t realise that disabled people cycle and often ride non-adapted bicycles. All organisations and individuals are welcome to read and use our simple training guide on supporting disabled cyclists in pedestrian spaces, which assumes that signage will state that riding cycles which are mobility aids is permitted.”
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.