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Cycling charity urges food delivery companies to check couriers are using legal e-bikes after cyclist left "terrified" by cycle lane collision

A cyclist injured in a collision with a rider travelling the wrong way along a two-lane cycle path said he regularly sees couriers "come down the cycle lane at full chap", the police admitting that some are "absolutely" not using legal bikes...

Cycling Scotland has called on food delivery companies to provide couriers "effective training around cycling safety" and check the bikes they ride "are legal and road worthy". The comments come as a Glasgow cyclist says he had been left "terrified" after a collision involving a courier riding the wrong way along a two-way cycle lane, the police admitting that some couriers are riding bikes that are "absolutely" not legal.

The discussion surrounds the use of powerful electric bicycles that are actually legally classed as like petrol-powered mopeds, not electrically assisted pedal cycles which are only allowed to assist the person up to the speed of 15.5mph (25km/h). The general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation admitted to BBC Radio Scotland's Drivetime programme that "there is not enough police officers on the street to deal with" people riding bikes that are not legal.

The result is that in many urban areas couriers and other people can be seen riding 'e-bikes' that are actually closer to mopeds and that require a licence, tax and insurance, a helmet, and that can only be ridden on roads or unrestricted byways.

> "You're just collateral" — Ultra-cycling legend Steve Abraham on Deliveroo and the gig economy, plus road.cc staffers' go-to bike tools on the road.cc podcast

Speaking to the BBC, Cycling Scotland's road safety manager Simon Bradshaw said food delivery companies need to do more to check their riders' bikes "to make sure that they are legal".

Modified e-bike (Devon and Cornwall Police)

The comments come after the news outlet also heard from Ben Williams, a 24-year-old PhD student studying in Glasgow, who suffered a torn kidney in a crash caused by a courier riding at around 15mph the wrong way along a two-lane cycle path.

"When I think back, the guy must have been on his phone because there is no way we would have collided if he was paying any attention," he said. "I'm terrified of them, the amount of times I have had an e-bike come down the cycle lane at full chap. I just move out of the way now. Why risk it, I don't want to get hurt again."

> London Fire Brigade speaking to Just Eat, Deliveroo and Uber Eats in bid to raise awareness of e-bike charging dangers

Mr Bradshaw of Cycling Scotland said responsiblity should fall on delivery companies to ensure riders are using "legal" bikes and are properly trained on "cycling safety".

"A simple thing would be are companies actually checking the bikes that the riders are using to make sure that they are legal," he said. "If the riders are given effective training around cycling safety, if their bikes are checked to make sure that their bikes are legal and road worthy and if they're given effective training and support and the right safety equipment then I'm sure that would make a difference."

Mountain bike modified (West Sussex Police/Twitter)

Commenting on the situation, the Scottish Police Federation general secretary David Kennedy suggested people assume if they can buy something then it must be legal, "not realising no in actual fact it's legal to buy it — but not use it on the road".

> Canterbury City Council to clamp down on "reckless" food delivery riders

He added that "absolutely" some bikes do not meet the legal standards, but in practise it is more complex as "there is not enough police officers on the street to deal with it" and stating it can be difficult to "tell just by looking at a bike how fast it is or the power of it".

Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats all responded similarly to the comments, stating that safety was a priority, Deliveroo saying all its couriers undergo a programme of road safety guidance and are "offered equipment to ensure they are visible to all road users".

Just Eat said "appropriate action" would be taken if a courier was not meeting the company's standards, while Uber Eats said riders are expected to follow all laws and regulations.

For more electric bike news, reviews and buying advice, check out our sister website e-bike tips...

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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43 comments

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Jimbo1531 | 3 months ago
3 likes

I've got a high speed version of a Riese and Muller, with a logbook and a numberplate, but there is no insurance available. Riese and Muller themselves didn't know what paperwork needed to be provided with it, that took two months to sort out. It took me 6 months to convince the DVLA it needed to be registered. I had to get a CBT, fine no problem with extra training, but it isn't really relevant to an ebike to have to learn to ride a moped. In the end I had to declare it off the road and take the numberplate off. Until that changes, there's no way to make them road legal, and I don't think they should be for sale in this country.

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rover759 | 3 months ago
3 likes

It's not something is more like a moped as the article suggests, it's in a different vehicle class - period.
The police need to stop pussyfooting around and start prosecutions on all importers and resellers (including the likes of Amazon) for selling products without type approval, and this would be easy as in almost all cases, they would fail the test without significant modification. Any powered vehicle must legally have type approval. EAPCs have a specific exemption, which modification removes.
They should also shut down and prosecute all the companies selling manipulation devices as these are also changing the bikes to vehicles requiring type approval - and the device itself must have passed the relevant tests to be fitted technically to each make and model they're offered for. The bike makers will not approve this, so by default these two are non approved devices. Don't forget EMC compliance is also required and juicing up a bike will increase the emissions too.
Just to add, I spent about a decade doing type approval work in the automotive sector and a similar decade involved in importing and reselling ebikes. I have also read most relevant legislation.

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Rendel Harris replied to rover759 | 3 months ago
3 likes

How would you get round the "only for use on private land" loophole?

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hawkinspeter replied to rover759 | 3 months ago
2 likes
rover759 wrote:

It's not something is more like a moped as the article suggests, it's in a different vehicle class - period. The police need to stop pussyfooting around and start prosecutions on all importers and resellers (including the likes of Amazon) for selling products without type approval, and this would be easy as in almost all cases, they would fail the test without significant modification. Any powered vehicle must legally have type approval. EAPCs have a specific exemption, which modification removes. They should also shut down and prosecute all the companies selling manipulation devices as these are also changing the bikes to vehicles requiring type approval - and the device itself must have passed the relevant tests to be fitted technically to each make and model they're offered for. The bike makers will not approve this, so by default these two are non approved devices. Don't forget EMC compliance is also required and juicing up a bike will increase the emissions too. Just to add, I spent about a decade doing type approval work in the automotive sector and a similar decade involved in importing and reselling ebikes. I have also read most relevant legislation.

I don't think it's practical to go after importers and resellers, especially when those things are legal to use on private land. The problem is that if you outlaw the complete bikes, then people will just import the separate parts, until you get to the situation where you're banning electric motors and batteries as otherwise people will make their own franken-e-bike.

The true answer is sufficient traffic policing. However, I'd prefer the police go after the bigger threats which are drivers using mobile phones, speeding and road-raging etc. I still consider the very worst of the e-bikes to be much less capable of causing harm than a typical car in the hands of the un-skilled.

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Secret_squirrel replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
1 like
hawkinspeter wrote:

The problem is that if you outlaw the complete bikes, then people will just import the separate parts, until you get to the situation where you're banning electric motors and batteries as otherwise people will make their own franken-e-bike.

Thats overblown imo.  Lack of convenience would kill 90% of the market.

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hawkinspeter replied to Secret_squirrel | 3 months ago
2 likes
Secret_squirrel wrote:

Thats overblown imo.  Lack of convenience would kill 90% of the market.

A lot of the delivery riders that I see are riding what look like franken-e-bikes. Typically they're a normal looking MTB, but with a lot of duck-tape in the frame triangle that presumably holds the batteries in place.

What we should be doing as a society is encouraging far more use of e-bikes to get people out of cars. Putting in extra regulation on imports of them would seem counter-productive.

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ktache replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
2 likes

Duck tape is a quality branded product, like Gorilla, they will be using generic duct or gaffer.

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chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
0 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

A lot of the delivery riders that I see are riding what look like franken-e-bikes. Typically they're a normal looking MTB, but with a lot of duck-tape in the frame triangle that presumably holds the batteries in place.

What we should be doing as a society is encouraging far more use of e-bikes to get people out of cars. Putting in extra regulation on imports of them would seem counter-productive.

Agree that some are in the "likely to injur someone" category, either through deficient construction or maintenance.  I think there may be a concern with e-scooters about risk to riders (small wheels) and others as they're invariably in pedestrian spaces* .  Of course so are cars - but not all the time...

In the case of those homebrew ebikes it's presumably they can't afford a regular e-bike up-front and/or it's in the dark economy.  So presumably unless the costs came down massively (or there were enough about so stealing them can supply that market...) those wouldn't go away.

Again I don't think this is the apocalypse.  As noted this shows a desire for cheap and easy *private* transport other than the car - for (probably) short distances.  Perhaps I'm just concerned that we're potentially missing another road-exit marked "cycling"**?  With more potential benefits.

Certainly scooters have some particular advantages e.g. ultimate portability / minimal storage space.  Plus people like less effort (e.g. none) and an upright riding position.

* Even with e-motorbikes as opposed to escooters I almost only see these on the local motor-traffic-free paths, or on pavements.

** I think there's a general understanding (albeit with several alternative theories) why there isn't more cycling in the UK.  Apart from the main reason that everyone drives 'cos it's been made easiest and the norm.  That is of course there aren't a network of convenient, social, direct routes which feel safe, plus a lack of suitable parking or storage.

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chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
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Hmm... so ignore the importers and dealers and just fix the problem by tackling the users one-by-one?

Like so many things I think it probably needs to be "both, but in appropriate ways".

I guess a question is "why do these bikes exist?  Why do people want them?".  (Obviously "they exist because people want to make money selling them, and people want them because people are selling them".)  But who's buying them?  We know "some gig economy people (legal, questionable and fully lawless)" and "kids (cool, you're too young for a motorbike or can't afford one)".  Presumably also the "cool toy and I've got the money" crowd.  Any other groups?

Do they fill a gap where "cycling - if there were places to cycle" would fit or is that irrelevant?

The whole "import the bits" I think may be less of an issue - unless a local manufacturer starts doing this.  After all you can build your own nuclear reactor if you are keen.  Adding a motor to a bike is pretty easy though.  But not as easy as just ordering one on the internet and getting it delivered to you.

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hawkinspeter replied to chrisonabike | 3 months ago
1 like
chrisonatrike wrote:

Hmm... so ignore the importers and dealers and just fix the problem by tackling the users one-by-one?

Like so many things I think it probably needs to be "both, but in appropriate ways".

I guess a question is "why do these bikes exist?  Why do people want them?".  (Obviously "they exist because people want to make money selling them, and people want them because people are selling them".)  But who's buying them?  We know "some gig economy people (legal, questionable and fully lawless)" and "kids (cool, you're too young for a motorbike or can't afford one)".  Presumably also the "cool toy and I've got the money" crowd.  Any other groups?

Do they fill a gap where "cycling - if there were places to cycle" would fit or is that irrelevant?

The whole "import the bits" I think may be less of an issue - unless a local manufacturer starts doing this.  After all you can build your own nuclear reactor if you are keen.  Adding a motor to a bike is pretty easy though.  But not as easy as just ordering one on the internet and getting it delivered to you.

Here in Bristol, there's also lots of personally owned e-scooters which are also illegal to use on the public roads, so there's a lot of demand for cheap, efficient transport. I think the problems with them are over-blown (not denying that there are problems with inconsiderate riders though) and they solve a lot of issues compared to everyone just using cars instead.

The other aspect with trying to make them illegal to import is that there will then be a criminal market for the devices and likely minimal quality control (think lots of house fires from dodgy refurbished batteries). I'd prefer that private e-scooters were legalised (possibly with some kind of easy, cheap registration of them), though I'm sure that the hire companies would be very much against that kind of thing.

I think we're in the experimentation phase of the new, improved tech and it's going to take a while for the pros and cons to be fully realised.

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wookey replied to chrisonabike | 3 months ago
1 like

"Why do people want these bikes"?
I had a long commute (13 miles/19km) which took me about 55mins on a manual bike. That's OK, but nearly 2hrs of commuting every day is tiresome however you do it. So I looked at an e-bike, but I was already doing about the same speed as one of those so it wouldn't have made my commute take less time, just make it easier. Time, not effort, was the issue. I ended up getting an e-moped which brought it down to 35mins. Great. Exept that it's bloody freezing just sitting there at 30mph in winter. I wanted to pedal.
Also half my commute was through town and not being able to use cycle lanes was very frustrating. So an illegally-fast e-bike would have been ideal for this: use cycle facilities in town, then travel much more quickly out of town, but still get warm/some exercise.
So that's a reasonable use-case for these faster e-bikes, and why I wanted one. I changed jobs (and had already paid for the moped) so never did anything about this. Sadly of course, there is no legal way to both use the cycle lanes in town _and_ go 30mph in the country. One has to choose a vehicle class.
(This was 2007, so when I imported a Chinese e-moped I had to get it DVLA-registered myself, and finding anyone to insure it was hard. According to a poaster above, if the machine doesn't _look_ like a moped it's still hard).

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chrisonabike replied to wookey | 3 months ago
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Thanks for the info.  I have heard of this want.  And indeed I think it's being mulled over in e.g. The Netherlands also.  It seems reasonable and of course you might also then bring up unpowered transport which could get up to that kind of speed with normal riders (given a lack of steep hills).

I suspect ATM it's a fairly niche "want".  However if the laws changed I think it would rapidly become a bigger "need".  Because if there's one thing we know it's that companies will eagerly sell you "more" when it comes to transport.  And people will buy that thing, because other people have it.

I'm undecided on the general issue.  I guess I'd lean towards "on the road" for vehicles that anyone can hold 28mph (is it?) on.  However, in the UK I'd say it's moot.  We haven't even got to the point where there's much of the kind of infrastructure which is suitable for unpowered bikes and EAPCs (normal pedelecs) never mind faster machines.  And there are too many motor vehicles where cycling / walking occurs, going too fast.  Plus IIRC in some cases it's not legal to use mobility vehicles on UK cycle infra. (But of course in practice driving or parking a car in what infra we do have is rarely punished).

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chrisonabike replied to chrisonabike | 3 months ago
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And I should add - of course, in the UK we're still baking in conflict and ensuring fairly low limits on the potential for active travel because "shared use" between cyclists and pedestrians.  And even where some bright spark has figured out that pedestrians and cyclists are happiest and most efficient when each has their own space it goes to pot because we fix it with a paint line.

Even if we had "standards" for what each space should look like (hint below) and actually stuck to them it will still be quite some time (a generation?  Two) before people have learned / there are enough cyclists so that walking your dog in the cycle part doesn't feel right.

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NOtotheEU | 3 months ago
7 likes

Cycling charity urges food delivery companies to check couriers are using legal e-bikes employ full time workers on a decent wage who then won't be coerced into endagering themselves and others just to scrape a meager 'living'.

Don't like the increased delivery cost? Go and get it yourself.

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46 and two | 3 months ago
0 likes

E-bikes should be illegal cheating just isn't on!

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Rendel Harris replied to 46 and two | 3 months ago
6 likes
46 and two wrote:

E-bikes should be illegal cheating just isn't on!

Not everybody thinks they are in a competition with everybody else. The logical extension of banning ebikes as "cheating" is to ban all buses, trains and other motorised vehicles, aren't they "cheating" as well when they go faster than bikes? Hang on though, better ban bikes as well, they're a machine that "cheats" on people who are walking. Better ban shoes as they're "cheating" on people who walk barefoot...

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festina | 3 months ago
1 like

Delivery riders are the fkn worst, ebikes or mopeds. They are usually staring at a sat nav (if they aren't on the phone chatting to someone) and then either change direction or stop suddenly with no indication or awareness. Most of the delivery ebikes I see aren't road legal. Even some of the scooters I see aren't legal but there is zero police presence any more and delivery riders aren't visibly licenced so how would you report one?

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Barraob1 replied to festina | 3 months ago
0 likes

If you could sue the company they represented, that might change things

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Muddy Ford | 3 months ago
7 likes

A few high profile cases of illegal e-bikers being prosecuted for riding without insurance, licence, helmet, MOT and all the other stuff needed to ride a motorbike might reduce the number tearing around at 30mph on paths. I can sympathise with couriers getting large batteries so they get mileage for a long day, but when they are using nothing more than their finger to ride at twice my speed on a shared path they are not cyclists they are motorists. 

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Oldfatgit | 3 months ago
0 likes

How would this even be checked?
Rider has to get it checked on registration, then the takeaway has to scan a QR that's been indelibly etched in to the frame before they can let the rider go?
That would have to be done every pickup ... and even then, what's to stop the 'rider having an illegal bike around the corner?

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Steve K replied to Oldfatgit | 3 months ago
7 likes
Oldfatgit wrote:

How would this even be checked? Rider has to get it checked on registration, then the takeaway has to scan a QR that's been indelibly etched in to the frame before they can let the rider go? That would have to be done every pickup ... and even then, what's to stop the 'rider having an illegal bike around the corner?

Spot checks, and then being sacked if you have an illegal bike?  

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chrisonabike replied to Steve K | 3 months ago
8 likes

Agree - although AFAICS the whole business plan of the food delivery companies is to minimize the nuisance costs of actually employing humans.  I bet even now there are some things they would take action on.  But "public safety risk from the rider's conveyance / cycling" doesn't seem to be one of them.

I mean, the idea of having to employ someone to physically be out and about to check on / support staff - totally last century!

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Oldfatgit replied to Steve K | 3 months ago
4 likes

Who is going to pay for the additional manpower needed to spot check 10,000s of bikes in the UK?
Just Eat? Deliveroo? The take away?

We (as in the British Public) won't pay for an increase to give agricultural workers or truck drivers a wage that they can live on and is consumerate with their skills and abilities ...
We're *really* going to fund spot checks ...

The public response will be "tax and insurance for all cylists" ...

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Oldfatgit replied to Oldfatgit | 3 months ago
0 likes

Takeaways are already facing increased costs with trying to meet reduced plastics.
Food trays that were costing pennies an item and made from plastics are being replaced with ones made from cornstarch - at [if I remember right] around 25p per item ... so that's 25p straight on the cost of your burger.
These trays still have to go to landfill - just like the 100% recyclable - pizza boxes as once they have been used and had grease / cooking oils / fats in them, they can't be recycled.

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chrisonabike replied to Oldfatgit | 3 months ago
1 like

Perhaps this could be sold partly as "safety for the consumer"?  After all, people still go out / even visit takeaways in person (at least in Edinburgh) - and the riders up and down e.g. Leith Walk are "cycling" around people on foot.

In both cases you mention paying more for the convenience of your delivery or because you generate waste that has to be dealt with obviously ain't most people's priority.  We always want "cheap" often up to and including "too cheap".

However - in the delivery case the delivery firms are clearly making money (having outsourced responsibilities on the general public).  Otherwise they wouldn't have expanded everywhere. (Either that or it's a scam on some venture capitalists and/or they're trying to drive some other services out of business...)

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Oldfatgit replied to chrisonabike | 3 months ago
3 likes

The majority of people couldn't give a flying feck at a rolling donut about 'safety for the consumer' when they order.
I can't for the life of me, ever recall thinking ... "I hope the guy delivering my order has a valid MoT, VFD and *commercial* insurance".
When they pull up, my main thoughts are "where are the cats, and what is that shit the driver is listening to. Turn it the feck down, assailed." [Should have been 'asshole' but assailed kinda works]

No-one is going to pay more to make things 'safer' as no-one gives a feck.
People see the delivery riders in the same light as the white van man and taxis: we know they drive like cnuts, but we want what they've got.

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chrisonabike replied to Oldfatgit | 3 months ago
1 like
Oldfatgit wrote:

The majority of people couldn't give a flying feck at a rolling donut about 'safety for the consumer' when they order. I can't for the life of me, ever recall thinking ... "I hope the guy delivering my order has a valid MoT, VFD and *commercial* insurance". When they pull up, my main thoughts are "where are the cats, and what is that shit the driver is listening to. Turn it the feck down, assailed." ...

Sounds like we do agree people care (otherwise you'd be "damn, I lost a cat - screw it though I got my shiny order!") - it's just that we don't care very much, and if the costs are mostly borne by other people we're all fine with that.

I do agree that sorting out stuff to do with the takeaway business is more like "trying to regulate the market in crack" end of things though.

But again - I haven't bothered to check but presumably these (pretty recent) massive delivery firms are filing large incomes? (Although if they've got any wits no profits, due to repaying loans from themselves at inflated interest rates / paying a licence fee to an Irish subsidiary or whatever you do now to make the tax disappear etc...)

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David9694 replied to chrisonabike | 3 months ago
1 like

Profit, you say? 

https://www.thegrocer.co.uk/online/orders-are-tumbling-at-deliveroo-and-...

It's a worthy intervention from Cycling Scotland, but one to file under W for "wait 'til you hear about cars".

My favourite thing is: "but we must allow motor vehicles doing deliveries into the pedestrianised area, otherwise the shops will have nothing to sell"

**Deliveroo/ Just East riders ride to / from restaurant/ take away ***

"Aarrggh! Not like that!!"

We're not covered by these services where I live, but they've earned a place in my heart for delivering hot food and an improving range of groceries to my mother within the hour, 7 days a week when she gets in a tizz about supplies. 

I'm not sure which decade we're in, but a couple of villages along you seem to have to 'phone, message or use an app to place an order at the kebab shop, the weekly mobile fish & chip van or the weekly pizza van. Like on a Tuesday I'm going to order my fish & chips before midday for collection before 7.  They look quite suprised if you haven't pre-ordered at the pizza van.

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Oldfatgit replied to David9694 | 3 months ago
3 likes

There's a big posh hotel in Central Edinburgh - I think it's St James Quarter ... but it's the one that looks like the turd emoji.

They are up in arms as the council won't allow taxis and *mini-coaches* on to the pedestrian area to unload.

The hotel says that it's Discrimination against the disabled the vehicles can't get to the door.

Council countered that with ... is there a reason why the lifts to the underground car park and dropping off point don't work ...**

** bit of paraphrasing going on here

Car brains... chuffing everywhere

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chrisonabike replied to David9694 | 3 months ago
1 like

True - it's not cars (well, they do employ some people who drive IIRC).

Probably me tilting at windmills, the recent food delivery companies won't be the first or the last bunch of grabitalists trying to take the money and duck any wider (or even direct) responsibilities.

And delivery services causing issues isn't anything new.

And of course other countries have issues - although I think in NL they have indeed got regulating.

It's a balance.  I think we might be at a point (assuming this "we're on the side of the driver" voter-bait is just that) where active travel could change significantly*.  OTOH is there a concern that "idiots on bikes (or electric motorbikes) mean people then say we can't have nice things"?

Yes people will be "shocked" and startled by seeing more bikes anyway.  But is it a good idea to nod along as these firms incentivise riders not to play nice?  (Can be observed currently in Edinburgh - and yes, it's all relatively new...) Particularly when they know they're often employing folks who are dubiously legal in several ways.

* e.g. say the percentage of journeys being made by bike increasing from 1% to say 5%.  Of course "average" and naturally urban areas will see most change.  So while some places will hopefully be much nicer to walk and cycle in e.g. Lancs and Lincs probably will remain as now...

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