COV have been worried for some time about the dangerous use of bicycles and skateboards in pedestrian areas of the city, and have been trying to persuade the authorities to tackle the problem, as previous articles on this page demonstrate.
We seemed at one point to be making progress, when a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) was proposed, which would have banned the use of bicycles and skateboards within a large area of the City centre. Disappointingly, following a public consultation, the Council decided not to impose a ban, but to introduce “softer” measures, which we believe will not be effective.
We were unhappy with the way the consultation was conducted, and don’t believe that the views of older people were given sufficient consideration. In particular, the consultation gave an advantage to those who took part online, which meant that older people (who make less use of computers) were less able to contribute their opinions.
But all is not lost! The operation of the PSPO - which is concerned with other matters as well as the one that concerns us here - is to be reviewed after a year. COV intends to play its part by providing evidence (which the Council says was lacking first time round) of incidents involving the use of bicycles and skateboards.
So what is an “incident”? It includes actual collisions, of course, whether or not anyone was hurt. These should be reported to the police. But near-misses are important too, and can cause considerable annoyance and distress. They are unlikely to be reported to the police, but we want to hear about them, to help us in our attempts to persuade the Council to take action.
If you have experienced one or more near-misses involving a cyclist or skateboarder in the City, please do let us know, using this form. This will enable us to present the Council with concrete evidence of the nuisance, fear, and real danger that are caused – to older people in particular, but also to all sections of the community. Hopefully we can then persuade them to look again at introducing a ban.
Liam Nagle (Community Safety Officer) met with the COV Management Committee, after the PSPO had been in operation for two weeks. He told us that no breaches of the order had yet been reported. Liam spoke of the difficulty in enforcing the order – it isn’t easy for an officer on foot to stop a cyclist if the cyclist does not want to be stopped!
CCTV is in operation in the City centre, and could be used, but because of the many other demands on the enforcement officers, it is unlikely that cases not involving actual accidents will be pursued.
Liam reminded us that the PSPO had been “watered down” from the original proposals (which would have imposed an outright ban on the use of bicycles and skateboards in certain areas at certain times). The order will be reviewed in a year’s time, and it is important for the public (that’s us!) to report near-misses if we see or are involved with them. It will be no good if everybody relies on someone else to do it.
Following COV’s recent campaign on the dangers to older people of the use of skateboards in pedestrian areas, Davey Walmsley asked if he could speak to our Management Committee. Davey is a youth worker for the City Council, and a spokesman for the Coventry Skatepark Project. This is a “Community Interest Group” that is campaigning for a new “urban sports facility” in the City centre, catering for skateboarders, BMX and scooter riders, and related sports.
Davey asserted that skateboarders did not want to inconvenience or be a danger to pedestrians, especially older people, but that the lack of facilities contributed to the problem, because skateboarders have nowhere suitable to practice their sport. “This is your City too”, he said, and “Our issue is your issue”.
He told us that although there are five skateboard parks in the City, four of them are in play areas used by young children, which makes their safe use by “serious” skateboarders impractical. Furthermore, many of the current facilities are in poor repair, having defects such as cracked surfaces and broken fences.
The group have identified an area under the ring road near the Belgrade Plaza, which is currently used for storing building materials, and is extremely unsightly, as a potential site for a new park. They are applying for funding to several grant-awarding bodies, including Sport England. The City Council are generally sympathetic to the aims of the group, but are not in a position to provide financial support.
Davey said that skateboarding is to be included in future Olympic Games, which will increase its popularity, and that this is likely to exacerbate the problems of the lack of facilities, and skateboarding in the City centre, if nothing is done.
COV support the aims of the group, and wish them well in their ambitions. In particular, we admire their persistence in maintaining their campaign over a number of years.
However, we are not convinced that the creation of a new skatepark would have a significant impact on the problem of irresponsible skateboarding in pedestrian areas of the City. We suspect that there will be a significant number of skateboarders who do not share the responsible attitude of members of this group, and who would continue to make a nuisance of themselves. In addition, the new facility could increase the popularity of skateboarding, and could even add to the problem.Furthermore, we do not accept the argument that the lack of facilities for skateboarding justifies the use of areas designed for, and heavily used by, pedestrians. Skateboarders need to find a location fit for the purpose (and we commend this group’s efforts to do so), as do those who practice other sports. We do not see show jumping in Broadgate, hockey in Market Way, or archery in Pool Meadow. Safety of the public is more important than leisure activities.
COV members will be aware that the problem of bicycles and skateboards in pedestrianised areas of the City has been a matter of concern to us for some time.
We believe that action needs to be taken to address the dangers to older people (and others), caused by their widespread and reckless use.
We have had meetings with members of the Council on several occasions to discuss our concerns, and have attempted to draw public attention to the matter (via the local press and radio) whenever possible.
We were pleased therefore when a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) was proposed, which included plans to ban the use of bicycles and skateboards in pedestrian areas within the City Centre at certain times of the day. A public consultation was carried out, and the ban was supported by a narrow majority of those consulted. However, about twelve votes out of every thirteen votes were cast online. Older people, very many of whom are unable to vote this way, were significantly less able to vote, especially because for the first week of the voting period, only online voting was available. Not surprisingly, only about one in four of those voting was older than fifty-five.
Nevertheless, the Cabinet will recommend that rather than a complete ban, the order be amended to state that:
“Anyone cycling, or skateboarding in the specified area must do so in a careful and considerate manner and that if requested by an authorised officer, they must dismount. Failure to comply will leave them liable to enforcement. This condition would not prevent Police officers from using current legislation for anyone cycling in a reckless manner and evidenced appropriately. It will also allow officers to restrict activities if events are taking place such as graduations, funerals, Remembrance Sunday or similar, where skateboarding could be deemed inappropriate or an increased risk because of the amount of people around.”
While we would have preferred an outright ban, it may be that this measure will go some way towards influencing behaviour. But this does not mean that our campaign is over. The PSPO is expected to be implemented around the start of April. It must be reviewed within three years, and can be reviewed at any time. The Council’s Business, Economy and Enterprise Scrutiny Board has requested a progress report at the end of the first year.
One of the reasons given by the Council for not imposing a complete ban on bicycles and skateboards in the specified areas was said to be a lack of evidence of incidents or near-incidents involving them, and that a complete ban could therefore result in a legal challenge (from cycling groups, etc.). COV will now be considering how we might contribute to providing such evidence over the coming months. We will also be monitoring the effectiveness of the PSPO as it stands, to see whether the measures to prevent cycling and skateboarding other than in a “careful and considerate manner”, and the way they are enforced, will make a significant difference. We will of course keep you informed of the outcome.If you can help us in this task, or if you have any other suggestions on how we can further our campaign, please do get in touch.
We are pleased to report that the Council have decided to go ahead with the consultation on the Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO), which will run until 15th January 2017. We would have preferred a longer period, especially as it includes the Christmas holiday, and it means we have to act quickly.
The proposed PSPO, if approved, is intended to tackle anti-social behaviour in the City centre, including begging, busking, peddling, the distribution of leaflets, certain charity collections, and – the issue with which we are particularly concerned – cycling and skateboarding.
It is proposed that cycling and skateboarding be prohibited at all times in Cathedral Square, and elsewhere in the City centre between 9.30am and 3.30pm. This is better than nothing, but we have pointed out that the problem also exists outside of the City centre, and outside of the specified times.
The Fly in the Ointment
The consultation is initially available only as an on-line survey. We have made representations to the Council, but so far, we have no indication of whether or when it will be available to non-computer users. This of course is likely to skew the results significantly. It can be assumed that almost every skateboarder will have access to the survey (they have been seen skateboarding and using a mobile phone at the same time!), while a much smaller proportion of older people will be able to take part.
It is therefore particularly important that those older people that do have Internet access make use of it to take part in the survey. We need to make our voices heard!
We have received the following email from Liam Nagle, Community Safety Officer with Coventry City Council’s Community Safety Team. This answers many of our concerns. He also tells us that we will be provided with 300 paper copies of the survey questionnaire. We are most grateful for his quick response.
Good afternoon, thanks for raising your concerns, I can understand why they do concern you and Cllr Welsh has also raised them on your behalf of COV and the fact that many elderly people do not go online, nor do many want to. Our insight team have responded to Cllr Welsh which I am sure he will share with you. We have COV down as specific consultees about the PSPO and to those ends will be inviting yourselves to supplement Abtar’s initial Impact statement. I have attached it as part of the wider document.
I think it summarises the position of COV however if you would like to go into additional detail please do so, we know the number of near misses is under reported. Equally we know young people use the internet far more often and if they wished to mobilise themselves over this issue then there could be hundreds if not thousands of responses. However consultation isn’t a numbers game, we would acknowledge that when considering the order. We will be making paper copies of the consultation available at Council House reception also.
Equally we feel we have struck a good balance, the majority of young people will be at school or college during the hours of the proposed restriction which coincide with the times bus passes are valid and initial feedback from young people is they won’t come out and support but neither are they adamantly opposed to it. Hope that clarifies some points, don’t hesitate to ask me should you have more.
In the next week or two there will be Council officers over lunchtime approaching people directly to ask them their views on the order, I will ensure they are inclusive of all ages when they approach people, thanks
Liam NagleCommunity Safety Officer
COV have been pressing the Council for over a year to do something about the dangerous use of bicycles and skateboards in pedestrian areas throughout the city. In particular, we have had several meetings with councillors to bring our concerns to their attention, and with Liam Nagel, who is the Offender Management Strategic Officer with Coventry City Council’s Community Safety Team.
We have also written letters to local newspapers, and have spoken on local radio on several occasions.
It seems that we might be making some progress at last. The Council is to consider whether to enact a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) to tackle this problem, along with other types of anti-social behaviour (such as busking and begging) in the City centre. A submission provided by COV will form part of the evidence they will consider at a meeting to be held on 29th November, and if they decide to go ahead, the matter will be put to public consultation from 30th November 2016 to 15th January 2017 before a final decision is taken in Cabinet.
The proposed PSPO would mean that the authorities would be able to issue offenders with a fixed penalty notice, rather than having to use the existing criminal proceedings, which are lengthy, costly and ineffective. The fixed penalty would be £100, reduced to £60 if paid within 14 days.
We do have some sympathy with responsible skateboarders, and support their aims for more skateboarding facilities in the City.However, we believe that the irresponsible use of skateboards and bicycles is not only a nuisance, but a real danger to pedestrians, especially older citizens, young children and the disabled. We sincerely hope that the PSPO will be adopted, and we will pass on details of how you can give it your support as soon as they are available.
COV members regularly express concerns about the riding of bikes and skateboards on pavements and pedestrianised areas in the City, and about the danger caused to older people in particular. Some of us have reported seeing near misses, and it can only be a matter of time before we witness a serious accident.
But although we might agree that it is a real problem, finding a solution (or even a partial one) is a difficult task.
The police don’t seem to have the manpower, time or will to do much about it, bike riders and skateboarders do not seem to regard it as a problem, and although some practical measures have been put in place by the Council in recent years, the situation is largely unchanged.
COV would like to try to address this issue, and would welcome your suggestions on how to go about it. Should the emphasis be on enforcing the law, using the power of persuasion, or perhaps changing the design and construction of open spaces?
Liam Nagle, Offender Management Strategic Officer with Coventry City Council’s Community Safety Team, met with COV members to discuss this issue. For details of the meeting please see the Latest News page.
meeting has now been arranged with a group of skateboarders based at the On-Target youth centre in Spon End. We want to listen to their views as well as putting across our concerns. They are campaigning for space to practice their hobby/sport, which could reduce the amount of skateboarding in public areas.