Possession of bicycles to be banned in the heart of the City
Riding, wheeling or even carrying a pedal cycle is due to become a criminal offence in the heart of the City by the New Year: see map extracts below (copyright restrictions prevent the whole map being shown).
The City Walkways byelaws date back to the 1960s when the City forefathers planned to replace most of the City with a whole network of raised walkways for pedestrians to circulate, the roads below being kept for motor vehicles. Cycles had as much a part to play in this Corbusian vision of the future as the livestock which used to be herded through the City's medieval streets. So it is hardly surprising that both are banned by the byelaws that regulate such spaces.
No place for cycling in this vision of the future
Fast forward to the present and only in the Barbican and London Wall has the vision of walkways been realised, since by the 1980s the City had accepted that the complex property rights entwined in the medieval street pattern of the City made such wholesale reconstruction impractical. However the byelaws themselves not only remain but also their scope is now being extended. New private developments are growing up all over the City that create new pedestrian areas by taking over streets after putting servicing roads underneath. These developments are taking over and extinguishing ancient rights of way on streets such as Paternoster Row and Gloucester Court.
While cycling has grown in London since the turn of the century, it has surged in the City, doubling in the last three years alone and now making up over 20% of peak hour vehicular traffic. The lack of cycle parking has become chronic as the City has only been installing 75 stands per year while private developers have refused to provide any public cycle parking. With nowhere to park and a ban on being in possession of a bicycle, the increasing number of Londoners who cycle are becoming effectively banned from growing parts of the City.
Department for Transport policy is that banning cycling (as in riding) should be the exception to rather than the rule: see this policy summary. However mere possession of cycles is not prohibited anywhere else, even around Parliament.
According to one City officer:
"The planning permissions for the Paternoster Square and Tower Place developments both [were granted many years ago] so are not affected by any change of approach in regard to the use of City Walkway. Whether we now consider this to be appropriate or not, we cannot rewrite history or unilaterally change planning permissions after they have been granted, so it will be an offence under the City Walkway byelaws to take any vehicle, including a cycle, onto any part of the Paternoster Square and Tower Place developments once the relevant declarations have been made."
A source at the City Police confirmed:
"The City Walkway Bye Laws do make it an offence to 'bring or cause to be brought any vehicle'. It would be up to the officer at the time to decide whether any action should be taken, and any further enforcement would probably depend on the reaction of the Magistrates in supporting any prosecution. As the City Walkways are designated as such to improve the conditions and safety of pedestrians there may well be times when wheeling or carrying a cycle might result in police action."
These outdated laws will equally trap businessmen carrying their Bromptons to meetings, couriers taking their bikes with them to sit down for a sandwich on a paved area, parents wheeling their children to school past the notorious Newgate gyratory and tourists inspired by Velib in Paris visiting sites by bike: the only safe access by bike to the Tower (going east from Gt Tower St over the cycle crossing to Gloucester Court) will be made illegal.
It makes no sense either as increasing parts of the City such as Queen St are 'shared space' on the same level where cyclists and pedestrians intermingle. There is virtually no signage to distinguish these shared spaces with areas where cycles are completely banned. Indeed there have been reports of police trying to fine people cycling down Queen St the main cycle route through the City, which shows that even those familiar with the City are confused by this.
What we are calling for
City Cyclists first called for City Walkways to be examined in early 2006. We are calling for the Walkways byelaws to be changed to prohibit motor vehicles only (not all vehicles), so that wheeling and carrying of pedal cycles will be permitted plus the introduction of cycle racks where appropriate. The byelaws should enable cycling (as in riding) to be permitted on wider sections such as the north side of St Paul's and the Tower Hill link or anywhere else that the City designates by means of a resolution. In general cycling should only be restricted based on objective factors (e.g. width, pedestrian flows etc) rather than historical accidents as to legal designation. Where cycling is prohibited there must be clear signage to warn people.