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Number of fines has risen six-fold since enforcement was contracted out to a private firm

Bedford Borough Council is consulting on the renewal of its Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) banning cycling, which is due to expire later this year. According to the Cycling Campaign for North Bedfordshire (CCNB), there has been a decline in the number of people riding into the town centre since the PSPO was introduced in 2016.

Bedford is one of a number of towns to have imposed a cycling ban using a PSPO with cycling not permitted in certain parts of the town centre between 9am and 6pm.

Round-the-world cyclist Josh Quigley was recently handed a £75 fine for riding his bike in the town centre, not realising it was an offence.

The Livingstone cyclist, who was just a week into his trip, tore up the ticket and said he won’t pay. He argued that local councils should be encouraging people to get on their bikes, not punishing them.

PSPOs have also drawn criticism from Cycling UK for the way in which they target cycling as a whole rather than only those who cause a danger or nuisance through the manner of their cycling.

The Bedford Independent reports that CCNB has adopted a similar position.

“CCNB was in favour of the proposal to fine the minority of cyclists who ride in an aggressive and reckless manner,” said Peter Blakeman of the group.

“We were however concerned the effect the order would have on a number of disabled residents who use a bicycle or tricycle as a mobility aid in the same way that others use a mobility scooter.”

Since January 2018, enforcement of the PSPO has been contracted out to Kingdom Securities, a private firm that is also responsible for enforcement of a similar PSPO in Peterborough, where it has raked in £80,000 in fines for unauthorised cycling.

The number of Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) issued by Kingdom in Bedford rose six-fold in just nine months from 181 in January 2018 to 1,127 in September 2018.

Blakeman said: “We were disappointed to hear that within the first month of operation they had given out 181 fixed penalty notices (FPNs). By July this had increased to 935 and September to 1,127. A number of reports were heard of the aggressive behaviour of the officers towards the elderly and foreign visitors.

“Government research has shown that incidents between cyclists and pedestrians in pedestrian areas are extremely rare and that there are no real factors which should exclude cycling in these areas. This is in contrast to the increase in fatalities/serious injuries caused by users of mobility scooters.”

A spokesperson for Bedford Business Improvement District, which represents businesses in the town centre, said: “Our former Bluecaps town centre team received endless complaints from members of the public about the hazards of people cycling on pavements or pedestrianised areas.

“Polite requests to ask people to dismount by Bluecaps were often met with abuse.  The situation came to head a few years ago when an elderly lady had to be taken to hospital after being knocked over in Harpur Square.

“We fed that information back to the police and council and they made a decision to step up action with their own special team currently in operation in the town centre.

“The feedback from businesses and the public has been generally positive, and where there have been cases of complaint the council has dealt with directly.

“Quite apart from the legalities, cycling in a busy pedestrianised shopping area is impractical. Out of simple politeness people ought to dismount and push their bike for short distances.

“The restrictions only apply during busy day times. They do not apply when streets are largely empty at night.

“We have encouraged businesses to take part in this consultation so the council has the widest possible feedback upon which to make a decision based upon views from both town centre customers and businesses.”

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