Brighton and Hove City Council has been accused of misleading the public after it claimed that a group of “unhappy” residents “surrounded” contractors tasked with installing one of the city’s new bike hangars.
According to the council, staff from parking enforcement contractors NSL were in the process of implementing a parking suspension, in preparation for the installation of a second bike hangar on Cissbury Road, Hove, when they were “surrounded by a lot of unhappy residents”.
However, a Cissbury Road resident has criticised the council’s account, branding it “misleading”, and claimed that he “had barely gotten a word out before I was threatened with the police”, Brighton and Hove News reports.
The new cycle hangars, which offer secure storage for six bicycles, have proven a somewhat surprising and enduring source of contention in the south coast city in recent months.
With 150 hangars expected to be rolled out across Brighton and Hove by the spring, and a waiting list stretching into the hundreds, they have proven hugely popular with many local residents looking for somewhere to securely store their bikes. However, the units have also attracted the ire of some locals who claim that they are an eyesore and take up too much space, despite the hangars being able to fit in a space usually reserved for one car.
In November, a new cycle hangar in Norfolk Square, one of 60 already installed in the city since July 2022, was met with outrage after residents pointed out that it was hanging over two permit car parking spaces, prompting the council to investigate the hangar’s positioning.
[credit: Laura King]
Later that month, a Hove woman successfully persuaded the council not to put one of the new hangars outside her home because it was “unattractive” – leading one councillor to observe that people opposed to them do not seem to have a problem with “Range Rovers that are half parked on the pavement.”
With demand for bike storage increasing, the Green Party-led council’s environment, transport and sustainability committee voted in November to install a second hangar on Cissbury Road.
This was approved despite the objections of Labour councillors John Allcock and Jackie O’Quinn, along with seven residents, who opposed the additional unit because they claimed that it would exacerbate the pre-existing parking issues on the road, which is located near Brighton, Hove and Sussex VI Form College.
One local claimed that, thanks to the new hangar taking up a single parking space on the road, parents and carers picking up students from the college had since started parking on double yellow lines and leaving their engines running.
Councillor Allcock told a meeting last month that it appeared that council contractors had been advised by the local authority to contact police if people questioned what they were doing.
According to Allcock, after some residents of Cissbury Road approached workers who were preparing to install the second hangar, the contractors showed them an email from the council that said they should call police “if there was any trouble”.
The councillor, who maintained that his party backed the hangars in principle as part of efforts to promote active travel, said: “It’s certainly highly inappropriate and unhelpful to threaten well-meaning and responsible citizens with a call to the police when they question how council services are being implemented in their neighbourhood.
“I’m very afraid that this zealot-like behaviour will only alienate citizens from engaging in the process of active travel rather than govern by consensus and win support.”
In response to Allcock’s criticism of the council’s handling of its residents’ concerns, the Green Party’s Hannah Allbrooke replied: “We had a report from our parking suspension contractors NSL recently that their staff were surrounded by a lot of unhappy residents in Cissbury Road when they were trying to put a parking suspension in place ready for our bike hangar installers to install a hangar.
“We have a duty of care to our staff and contractors. We would always advise them to call the police if they are facing situations where they are concerned for their safety.”
However, one of the residents who approached the contractors, Graeme Lyons, disagreed with the council’s assessment of the situation, which he argued was “misleading”.
Lyons, who claimed that he was alone when he first approached the contractors before being joined by three neighbours, said: “‘Surrounded’ and ‘unhappy’ are quite misleading. No one was threatening, aggressive or abusive.
“The Falco staff were pleasant enough, apart from threatening the police within the first 30 seconds of contact when it was just me on the street.
“What is most crucial here, though, is the Falco guys read out that email and made that statement about the police when it was just me before the other three people came out.
“I had barely gotten a word out before I was threatened with the police. The other three people will verify that, as soon as they joined me, I told them how shocked I was at what I had just been told and the email I had been shown.”
Despite the Cissbury Road residents’ objections to a second hangar on the residential street, Green Party councillor Allbrooke insisted that the location of the bike storage units “are determined by where people asked for them”.
“We saw from the responses to the survey last year that residents really want them,” she said. “With so many people living in shared accommodation, flats or houses where storage space is at a premium, it can be so difficult for people to find spaces to store their cycles.”
Ryan joined road.cc 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.