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"It's more about culture wars than what we want for the city": Council changes controversial cycling ban that campaigners branded "psychological barrier" to people using bicycles

With the Public Space Protection Order expiring this month the council has voted not to extend it, with councillors now saying they were "never convinced dangerous cyclists were the big issue" and the ban felt like "political theatre"...

Worcester City Council has opted against extending a controversial Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) brought in with the stated aim of tackling dangerous cycling in the city centre, but which drew criticism from campaigners who said it acted as a "psychological barrier" to more people using bicycles.

The council's Communities Committee voted against extending the order introduced in 2021, which expires at the end of March and that also banned feeding of seagulls and aggressive begging, Worcester News reports. It is seen as unnecessary and ineffective as the police and council officers have said it is hard to enforce and is made more complicated by traffic regulation orders (TRO) in place on certain city centre streets that ban cycling between 10am and 6pm anyway.

Those TROs are to remain in place, however several councillors have spoken out about the lack of need for a PSPO tackling dangerous cycling and other supposed issues.

"I was never convinced people feeding gulls, aggressive begging and dangerous cyclists were the big issues facing Worcester," Cllr Matt Lamb, a Labour Party representative, said. "I thought it was more a bit of political theatre."

> "They have all the resources in the world to pick on cyclists": Council slammed for stopping and fining cyclists on pedestrianised city centre street

Green Party councillor Tom Piotrowski suggested the PSPO had been "more about culture wars than what we want for the city".

However, Conservative figure Alan Amos accused the council of having "given in, yet again, to vocal minorities" and said removing the PSPO would create "a free-for-all in the shopping centre".

"Pedestrianising the city centre was designed to create a safe and welcoming place solely for pedestrians but is now becoming a dangerous place, in particular for the elderly and parents with children," he said.

"A psychological barrier"

Bike Worcester chair Dan Brothwell has been critical of the PSPO and said the signs telling residents and visitors that no cycling is allowed in parts of the city centre act as a "psychological barrier" to people using bicycles.

Brothwell has previously spoken out about the council's attitude towards active travel, accusing the local authority of "going backwards" on the issue after the aforementioned 10am to 6pm ban on certain streets was introduced four years ago.

"While towns and cities up and down the country are making changes to enable and encourage active travel and are reaping the rewards of all the benefits this brings, here in Worcester we are going backwards," he said in 2020.

"I find it difficult to believe that Worcester retailers are happy to have customers discouraged from visiting because they arrive by bike. There's evidence showing customer spend increases where active travel is encouraged."

The council opted to ban drivers and cyclists from the routes during the stated hours, in a bid to improve pedestrian safety and make areas "more enjoyable".

"If this is being done under the remit of safety, it is not supported by evidence," he continued. "Pedestrians remain at far higher risk of being hit by a motor vehicle, and the consequences are far worse. In short, this is an embarrassment. Worcester is being used as an example nationally of how not to transition to a more sustainable city."

In the autumn the council announced that it would be rolling out a bike hire scheme in 2024 in a bid to "recognise the many benefits" cycling can have for the city.

"The scheme facilitates healthier lifestyles by promoting cycling and encouraging people to use active travel for short journeys," Mike Rouse, cabinet member for highways and transport said.

> "We get a lot of kids wheelie-ing through": Police claim danger of "anti-social behaviour" should be tackled with town centre cycling ban

Locals and campaigners quickly pointed out a potential problem if cyclists are banned from riding through large parts of the city centre.

"I'm sure many won't want to pay for a bike if they’ve then got to walk on sections of their route from A to B," one said. "The big concern I have is it won't work unless either the cycle ban is lifted on the city centre or at least several through routes are provided."

One part of the town centre ban, in the form of the PSPO, is soon to be reversed, however questions remain about the TRO elsewhere.

Active travel charity Cycling UK has long been a prominent critic of PSPOs, which it says have the effect of criminalising cycling, with head of campaigns Duncan Dollimore stating that the orders only discourage people from riding bikes into town.

Over the weekend, we reported that Southend Council, in Essex, had launched a consultation to impose stricter 'no cycling' rules in the town centre that could see cyclists being ordered to pay £100 for riding on the High Street. The consultation is set to be part of a plan to strengthen a PSPO which was first introduced in July 2019 to tackle anti-social behaviour.

Councillor Martin Terry said the council had received "a lot of complaints about cyclists and e-scooter users riding dangerously in the high street" and "older people are worried about it and there's been a number of people struck and quite badly injured by dangerous riders".

North East Lincolnshire Council too introduced a PSPO, a councillor earlier this month hailing a "great result for our enforcement teams" after a 60-year-old cyclist in Grimsby was fined and ordered to pay £500 after breaching a PSPO by cycling through the town centre.

It was the latest episode in the ongoing "zero-tolerance policy" and follows the council making headlines last summer after a female cyclist was ordered to pay £1,150 in fines and costs after being caught breaching the PSPO, which was introduced in 2019 and has seen more than 1,000 fixed-penalty notices.

Grimsby town centre cycling ban enforcement (Google Maps/North East Lincolnshire Council)

In December, the council said it had "escalated" and "intensified" its "war on cycling menaces" by implementing a complete ban on riding a bike in pedestrianised zones, as part of a wider crackdown on anti-social behaviour.

The council and its enforcement officers have come in for criticism during the five years the PSPO has been in place, locals accusing council officers of targeting "old and slow" cyclists after a pensioner was fined for riding through the town in 2022. Barrie Enderby, who was 82 at the time, told the council to "stick it up your arse" after being fined £100 for breaching the order.

In November, Coventry too introduced a PSPO preventing e-bike use in pedestrianised areas, a measure the West Midlands' Walking and Cycling Commissioner Adam Tranter slammed as "reckless" and something that will "discourage cycling and penalise responsible cyclists".

Dan is the news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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The Larger Cyclist | 2 months ago

The sooner Alan Amos retires or gets voted out the better for the city. He's just anti active travel.

eburtthebike | 2 months ago

However, Conservative figure Alan Amos accused the council of having "given in, yet again, to vocal minorities"

indecision  Says a tory, from the party which is half as popular as LTNs, that they want to ban.

Kendalred | 2 months ago

"However, Conservative figure Alan Amos accused the council of having "given in, yet again, to vocal minorities""

As opposed to the vocal minority who complain about LTN's, which the Tories seem very keen on listening to...

ROOTminus1 | 2 months ago

Can we get a standing ovation for Worcester city council, and a rare triumph of sensibility and evidence-based decision making?
It's such a sad state of affairs that this is newsworthy

fwhite181 | 2 months ago

If it's anything like Cardiff city centre, most of the 'dangerously' ridden bikes are hacked e-bikes with throttles and no/upped speed limiters, being used to deliver takeaways and on-demand shopping. These bikes are already illegal and arguably do represent a real risk - being near-silent and potentially much faster than a typical bike/legal e-bike.

However...the capacity of councillors and the police to identify the already illegal problem and a bunch of people pottering about town on their bikes is woefully lacking. We need proper enforcement of the existing laws, not bans on using the most efficient mode of transport ever devised! 

Mr Hoopdriver | 2 months ago

"a lot of complaints about cyclists and e-scooter users riding dangerously in the high street"

I suspect a bit of prevarication here.

Does anybody believe that people distinguish between cyclists and e-scooters ?  BSO's all look the same.

'a lot' - compared to ?

Boopop replied to Mr Hoopdriver | 2 months ago

Mr Hoopdriver wrote:

'a lot' - compared to ?

Compared to the number of dangerous driving complaints from residents they take seriously, would be my guess.

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