City Cycle Parking at Crisis Point
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With cycling doubling in the City in the last couple of years there's more demand for ever for places to park cycles. The authorities have not managed to keep up with demand. With hundreds of unused on-street car parking spaces being removed in the last few years there's certainly the space: six cycle stands (i.e. twelve bikes) fit in the space of a single car.
Letter from City Police
Dear Pedal Cycle user,
Your pedal cycle has come to the attention of City Of London Police as it has been secured in an area other than a designated cycle bay.
The presence of your bicycle in this area poses an unacceptable hazard to pedestrians and other road users. Pedal Cycles are not permitted to be secured to street furniture, including railings, and for your convenience the City of London have provided designated cycle bays in this area.
From Monday 2 October 2006, any pedal cycles found secured to street furniture will be removed and relocated.
Having been made aware of the Police action, which now includes removal of cycles, by concerned members of the public, City Cyclists asked what was going on.
Clarification from City Police
At this time there is not a campaign to remove all pedal cycles located in Bishopsgate , but merely those by the railings and affixed to metal posts. I have received complaints that bicycles have fallen down posts and eventually lie flat on the pavement cuasing a hazard to pedestrian traffic, similarly those that have been affixed to the railings have slid down and fallen into the path of traffic.
Having personally placed courtesy letters forwarning of the intention to remove bicyles causing problems I am able to state that the ones I affixed letters to were not sited with consideration of the potential hazard they posed. With regard to locks, it is my understanding that we would be compensating those who would need replacement locks.
City Cyclists respond
We responded pointing out that:
- The City Corporation is aware of the extreme shortage of cycle parking in this area and is taking action to install more. So is TfL and it is about to install lots of racks on Bishopsgate, for which it is the highway authority. So the police campaign seems particularly ill-timed.
- The letter is unlawful as it wrongly states that "Pedal Cycles are not permitted to be secured to street furniture, including railings". This implies that it is unlawful for members of the public to lock cycles to or lean them against street furniture other than designated cycle spaces. However this is incorrect: common law - the offence of public nuisance - and statute - obstruction of the highway - do not make obstruction an automatic offence in itself but rather a question of degree for each individual case of an object left on a highway. Even parking a car on the pavement is not in itself obstruction or nuisance (though there's a specific prohibition on this in London).
- The letter fails to explain how cycles are to be reunited with their owners
- People will not know that their cyclists have been taken by the City Police as opposed to thieves: the only publicity has been letters attached to cycles before they are removed.
- Cycles locked to guard rails in particular are not a nuisance.
- The police do not have a general power to cut cycle locks so may in fact be committing the offence of criminal damage.
- There has been no consultation of, let alone warning to, any cycling groups or indeed the Cycling Officers at the City Corporation, even at the recent City Cycle Forum where many City Police officers were in attendance.
Following a threat of taking them to the High Court (along the lines of what happened to the Met Police in the Critical Mass cycle ride case) officers from the City Police have now offered to meet us but as yet have not backed down from removing cycles. We are particularly worried that their actions might set a precedent for the whole country. Their letter stated:
I agree that the letter attached to bicycles was unclear in several aspects and due to this we will cease using this particular version with immediate effect. There is no statutory prohibition on attaching bicycles to street furniture or railings that we can find, but as you will be aware, there are statutory controls on this practise which can be found under the Highways Act 1980, in particular under sections 137 and 149. We will redraft the notice making this clear and will consider each particular case on its own merit as to whether it constitutes a nuisance, obstruction or danger in those circumstances. This will be done in conjunction with our legal department and with the City of London to ensure clarity of our actions.
We will also ensure that the notice clarifies our position with regards to removal of such bicycles. We will liaise with the City of London regarding a protocol as to how this system will operate, as it is they, as the Highway Authority who will be responsible for obtaining any court orders requiring the removal of nuisance cycles should a preliminary warning notice be ignored, along with taking the decision to remove any bicycles deemed to constitute an immediate danger to other users of the highway.
I would like to again reiterate that no cycles have been removed and no locks have been damaged since we began putting these notices on bicycles. I do sympathise with cyclists in that there is a general lack of designated cycles bays in the area, but I am sure you will appreciate that we cannot continue to ignore the hazard that some of these cycles pose to other people using the highways. Cycles lying on the pavement attached to street furniture and those that slip down the railings causing danger to vehicles will not be tolerated – this is an issue that has been drawn to our attention on many occasions by members of the public and we cannot wait until there is an accident before we do something to resolve the situation. We have a responsibility to all sections of the community to ensure that a safe environment exists for all.
Whilst I hope that this addresses your concerns, I recognise that the lack of designated cycle bays continues to be an issue. We would be very happy to work with you and the City of London in finding a solution to the problem, which is only set to grow as cycling to work becomes an increasingly popular option.