A proposal has been raised by Coventry City Council to ban cycling and riding e-scooters through the pedestrianised city centre. The idea, which will involve an amendment to an existing Public Space Protection Order (PSPO), comes in response to concerns about dangerous and inconsiderate riding in pedestrianised spaces. It is now out for consultation allowing the public to have their say.
The notion of banning cycling in pedestrianised areas and key destinations is an all too common one across the UK, and it’s a bad one. Cycling allows a flexibility and freedom that cars cannot offer, where if properly enabled, people can cycle almost to the door of where they want to visit and lock up for free. For many, cycling is also easier than walking, so banning riding in these spaces may not only be discriminatory on accessibility grounds, but may stop or hinder city centre visits for some people.
Cycling through urban centres may also offer the only safe and attractive route for through journeys. Coventry is making improvements to its wider cycle network, but the city centre has not benefited so far. The surrounding roads can be busy and hostile. Banning cycling in this case puts a very real barrier in the way of people who want to cycle but are less confident mixing with traffic. Nearby Bedworth has a similar problem where cycling is banned in its pedestrianised area, but there is no safe and comfortable alternative.
Implementing a blanket ban to tackle the specific issue of inconsiderate or dangerous riders is a “sledgehammer to crack a nut” approach. The Council and police should absolutely tackle riding that puts others at risk, but this should be specific using targeted enforcement rather than by penalising careful riders. Nuance and discretion is also important. What might be dangerous when the centre is packed, might not be at quiet times.
The consultation on the proposed change to the PSPO runs until 09 October 2023.
Update: 17 Sep 2023 – My Consultation Response
I’ve now submitted my own comments in response to this consultation, as follows:
1. How are you responding to this consultation? “As a member of public”
2. How often do you tend to visit the city centre? “I rarely visit the city centre” (expanded on in Q9, below).
3. Residents and visitors are worried that people are not being responsible when they are riding Ebikes, pedal cycles and Escooters in the City Centre. Do you think this is making the City Centre less safe? “No” (expanded on in Q9, below).
4. Do you support the idea of an extension of the City Centre Public Space Protection Order? This order would aim to ban the riding of Ebikes, pedal cycles and Escooters in the pedestrian area of Coventry City Centre. Users would have to dismount and walk their bike/scooter through pedestrianised areas. “No”
5. Can you give your reasons for your answer? “Privately owned e-scooters are already banned on the basis that their use in public places is illegal under national legislation. This should be used to tackle that specific issue. Where people are seen to be cycling in a dangerous manner without consideration for others, this can and should be dealt with under existing laws. A blanket ban is a “sledgehammer to crack a nut” solution. The city should be enabling and encouraging people to cycle into the city centre, where riding almost to the door has a significant advantage over using the car including the hassle and cost of parking. Forcing riders to dismount may be discriminatory on accessibility grounds where people can find riding easier than walking (speak to Wheels for Wellbeing for advice). The roads around the city can be busy and hostile, and riding through the city centre rather than around can provide a safe link. Banning cycling removes that link and puts riders at risk. As shown, the amendment to the PSPO is unnecessary. Appropriate enforcement can already be taken against those who are causing problems for others. It is not right to punish responsible riders for the behaviours of the irresponsible.”
6. The PSPO currently has a condition requiring skateboards to dismount if being ridden in a reckless manner but we are proposing to extend this requirement to include manual scooters, do you agree with this proposal? “Not sure” (expanded on in Q9, below).
7. Do you think the Public Space Protection Order covers enough area in the City Centre? “Yes”.
8. We are proposing that the order to dismount from Ebikes, pedal cycles and escooters will be in place 24/7 every day of the year. Do you agree with this or do you believe the order (if implemented) should be time related? “No I do not support any ban”
9. Finally, do you have any comments you would like to make? “Expanding on question two, I do visit from time to time but less often than once a month. I do not currently find Coventry the easiest place to access where my primary travel mode is cycling. Expanding on question three, this feels loaded in that if I answer “yes”, it may be taken to support the proposal. This is not the case. Obviously if people are being reckless, this may pose a risk to others, BUT the act of cycling in itself is not dangerous when done carefully and with consideration. Expanding on question six, I have answered “not sure” as that specific proposal is disproportionate to the other proposal to simply ban cycling. On the face of it, asking specifically and only those being reckless to dismount from their scooters and skateboards seems reasonable, as long as there is no overreach. This leads to the question though – why is cycling being treated more harshly? Asking those riding recklessly to dismount while leaving alone those being considerate seems reasonable. The outright ban is not, and is entirely disproportionate.”