A couple who decided to make a small DIY parking space for their cargo bike outside their home in Bristol have been asked by the council to either remove it themselves or have it removed by the council. The couple have lodged a complaint against Bristol City Council, pointing out that other residents parks their cars in front of homes too.
Anna and Mark Cordle recently gave up their car and switched to riding a cargo bike. Since they couldn’t store it inside their home, they said that they had no option but to store it where they used to park their car — on the road outside their home.
So, they placed two large green containers filled with soil and plants, which was heavy enough to be able to secure their bike to, and sturdy enough to withstand any bumps from nearby parked cars.
Before doing this, they had asked people in their street and two neighbouring streets to see if anyone minded. They said said there was unanimous backing, and they had even consulted with one of their local councillors.
However, Bristol Live reports that the council has sent the couple a letter informing them that enforcement action would be taken against them if they don’t remove the heavy planters from their road in Redfield.
The letter read: “Your placing of the planters on the highway is in breach of Section 149 of the Highways Act. Please remove the planters urgently and ensure that they are not replaced on the highway at any time. You may also wish to consider that if any person has an accident has a result of your planters being on the highway, it will be you who will be liable for meeting any compensation claim.”
The letter then added that the council had the power to remove the planters if the Cordles didn’t.
However, the couple have said that they are not going to remove the planters, and in return have lodged a formal complaint against the council.
Anna Cordle said: “We explored all the options for how we could store it securely - but we live in a terrace, with no front garden to speak of. The only option for us was to park the bike - our car replacement - where we used to park the car, on the road.
“For security and insurance, we needed to get something heavy and secure to lock it to, so we placed bike planters in the road to lock the bike to.”
She added: “We sought out ways we could seek permission for what we were doing - but there were none. We consulted with our neighbours, those who would have most claim to be affected, and received a positive response, so went ahead. It has been transformative to our ability to get around without adding to Bristol’s poor air quality and carbon emissions.”
“After more than a year of them being in the road with nothing but positive responses, the council are now siding with anonymous complaints that the planters are an obstruction/danger on the highway and have sent us a letter telling us to remove them and threatening further enforcement action.
“Without them, we would have no way of storing our cargo bike without causing far greater obstruction to the pavement (locking it to lampposts or in front of our house). We would probably need to get a car,” she added.
The Cordles mentioned that their situation highlights how the law, and the council’s interpretation of it, favours car ownership over people who cycle.
Mark Cordle said: “We are saying no, we will not remove them. They do not obstruct free passage on the highway, and we deny that they are any more a danger than other street infrastructure. We want them to stay.
“Our street wants them to stay. It’s better for all of the council’s objectives, for all of Bristol's residents, for the climate and for air quality, that it stays.”
The couple have submitted a formal complaint against the council in a bid to try to get the issue looked at in more detail, and they acknowledge that they do not own that space and can’t commandeer it for their sole use.
“We don’t like the disparity of it, and wish our neighbours could also reliably park near their homes,” said Anna Cordle. “But it is the council’s role, not ours, to facilitate that.”
She continued: “We of course don’t claim to own the road, and would be very content with council-provided infrastructure on the street - but that is not coming any time soon. It wouldn’t have to be outside our house, but it wouldn’t have made sense for us to put it in front of somebody else’s house on the street.
“Nobody owns the road, but also everybody does - not just car users. Saying cargo bike parking infrastructure needs to be dismantled to provide another space for a car to park would be telling us we can’t share this public asset if we don’t own a car.”
The reaction on social media has been divided, with cyclists questioning the legality of such an action, but some also wondering if this calls for a change in the outlook of how we perceive and use roads.
Tricky - Applaud them for travelling sustainably but ‘bagsying’ a permanent space outside their house is going ti annoy people. If you get a disabled space you have to apply and be throughly vetted - it’s not a good comparison . A fresh look at Highways legislation prob needed
— Karen White (@karenwhite03) July 12, 2023
Of course they should remove them. Surely this is no different to a car owner blocking a space outside their home with cones or bollards? They can park their BIKE legally on the public highway but can’t create a space just for them any more than anyone else can for any vehicle.
— Ross Henderson-McKillop (@rsmck) July 12, 2023
The issue is that the council doesn't have the will, foresight or man power to support people who want to make a change. Be it secure bike storage for cargo bikes, road side car charging, bike hangers, safe infrastructure for kids to cycle.
— Gavin Wells (@xjib) July 12, 2023
Meanwhile, Bristol Cycling wrote: “The failure to provide any infrastructure for storing bikes in this city should be a cause of major embarrassment - why emphasise it? This council has decided not to develop any processes for storing anything other than a car.”
There has been no progress on any of the following despite public pressure:
1) Process for adding yourself to a hangar waiting list
2) Process for allocation of hangars
3) New hangars
4) Cargo bike storage - like in the article
5) Secure storage in Broadmead/Centre
— Bristol 🧡 Cycling (@BristolCycling) July 12, 2023
What do you think? Are DIY cargo bike parking spaces safe and if yes, should they be legal? If not, what are the alternatives?
Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.