Cyclists riding e-bikes in Coventry's city centre will soon face fines after the council passed a controversial Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) preventing e-bike use in pedestrianised areas, a measure the West Midlands' Walking and Cycling Commissioner last week slammed as "reckless" and something that will "discourage cycling and penalise responsible cyclists".
Coventry City Council passed the ban at a meeting yesterday, Coventry Live reports, and it will come into effect in two weeks' time (20 November), banning e-bikes and e-scooters from being ridden in the city's pedestrianised areas, including the Upper Precinct, Hertford Street, Broadgate square and most of the lower precinct and Market Way.
Councillors supportive of the move said it was in reaction to people riding "too fast" and making pedestrians "scared for themselves" and for "the safety of their children". However, the ban has been criticised in some quarters, the West Midlands' Walking and Cycling Commissioner suggesting it would "bring unintended consequences for active travel overall", such as risking to "sever" important cycle routes, forcing cyclists onto more dangerous routes.
The ban comes despite the council's own Director of Transport Colin Knight admitting that "ideally we would have" provided a "clearly defined network of paths that are suitable for cyclists" before banning e-bike riders from a large section of the city centre.
However, he said, "this is a serious public safety issue so we've absolutely got to address that" as well as working to offer "alternative routes" with funding from Active Travel England.
Cllr Abdul Khan who supported the ban said there is a need to stop people riding "too fast".
"Nothing in this report should be construed by anybody to take the view that we are suggesting in any way that e-scooters are legal, because they're not," he said. "I want to also make clear as well that nothing in this report affects the use of any disabled vehicles, and they should be able to be used by disabled people. They have an exemption in those cases.
"But in respect to all of these forms of transport, we're asking or advising everybody to use them in a manner which does not cause other pedestrians in the centre to be afraid."
The PSPO offers exemption to those using e-bikes as a mobility aid, campaign group for disabled people cycling Wheels for Wellbeing previously expressing concerns that the ban could disadvantage disabled cyclists and deter them from visiting the city centre.
The council says signs will be put up at pinch points and cycle parking facilities, with delivery riders also to be contacted about the new rules.
Cllr Jim O'Boyle said the council "should not tolerate any dangerous riding or driving of any vehicle of any sort in and around pedestrian areas or our public highway".
However, while the new proposal sees the council walk back on its initial plans to ban all cycles from Coventry city centre, Walking and Cycling Commissioner Tranter nevertheless responded to the report last week by arguing that prohibiting the use of e-bikes – and not just illegally modified or non-pedal-assist forms of electric bike – will also "bring unintended consequences for active travel overall".
"In September 2023, I wrote to Coventry City Council to highlight my concerns that their original proposed amendment to their Public Space Protection Order would discourage cycling and penalise disabled people who use cycles as a mobility aid," Tranter said in a statement.
"In my role, it is my priority to work to protect pedestrians but I do not feel that the proposed amendment to the PSPO will achieve this and will bring with it many unintended consequences. As a regular visitor on foot to Coventry City Centre, I too know that there are problems particularly relating to the anti-social use of illegally modified e-bikes.
"But throughout this process, I have been clear that the council and police already have the powers to enforce against this as the existing PSPO states that any person cycling or skateboarding must do so in a careful and considerate manner.
"The police have powers to deal with any person riding illegal vehicles, such as e-scooters or powerful e-bikes which do not conform to the Electrically assisted pedal cycle regulations 1983, and which are likely to be the cause of much of the public's concern."
He continued: "I am grateful to the council for taking some of my feedback on board as part of the consultation… The exemption from the PSPO of people using standard cycles and those using cycling as a mobility aid is welcome, however, the current recommendation for the approval next week will still ban the use of all e-bikes in the city centre core.
"This week I have again written to the council urging them to amend the draft PSPO wording to only include e-bikes that do not require pedalling to operate and/or have the ability to be electrically assisted to a speed greater than 15.5mph.
"I believe this would achieve the council's stated objectives and ensure responsible cyclists using EPACs (electrically assisted pedal cycles) are not unduly penalised."
Despite the suggestion the PSPO, as agreed yesterday, simply states that...
Any person is prohibited from riding, cycling, or using an E-bike or E-scooter, within the protected area shown on the attached map.
Unless: 1. that person has a reasonable excuse for failing to do so; or 2. the owner, occupier or other person or authority having control of the land has consented (generally or specifically) to that person failing to do so.
Any person may push and walk alongside their E-bike, or E-scooter through the defined area.
Exemption: Nothing in this order applies to a person who uses a mobility scooter for access reasons or a person who uses an E-bike or E-scooter as a mobility aid and cannot safely dismount and push a cycle for any significant distance, but these persons must use these aids in a careful and considerate manner.
Such PSPOs are nothing new of course, last February cyclists in Bedford staging a protest ride aimed at a "discriminatory" town centre bike ban, while this summer Hammersmith and Fulham Council introduced an e-bike and e-scooter ban along part of the Thames Path.
A pensioner in Grimsby also made headlines when he told the council to stick its £100 fine for cycling in the town centre "up your a***", saying he would "rather go to prison than give them £100".
Last month, police in Nuneaton said they had asked the council to introduce a no cycle zone to cut out "really dangerous" cycling and "anti-social behaviour" in the shopping area, saying that "we get a lot of kids wheelie-ing through and it sets the wrong tone".
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.