Westminster: Council tells dockless bike hire operators they have ‘responsibilities’ to pedestrians

Westminster: Council tells dockless bike hire operators they have ‘responsibilities’ to pedestrians

Westminster Council’s newly-elected Labour administration has demanded that dockless bicycle operators “take responsibility” for their bikes being abandoned on pavements and roads, which creates problems for pedestrians and residents.

Paul Dimoldenberg, cabinet member for city management and air quality, said the council has been “inundated with reports of these bikes blocking pathways, roads and even emergency access points, causing significant safety concerns – particularly for disabled and visually impaired residents and visitors to the city”.

Dockless hire companies Tier, Dott, Lime and Human Forest have been written to by Dimoldenberg to, in the council’s words, “remind them of their responsibilities to pedestrians and road users”.

The operation of dockless bike rental services is unregulated by law and although Transport for London published a code of practice for operators in September 2018, individual London local authorities must make arrangements for their management with the companies concerned.

Westminster, whose Labour leadership placed strong emphasis on being receptive to the concerns of residents during this year’s election campaign, says there is currently “no agreement in place for dockless bikes to park in Westminster”.

In a written answer provided last week to Tony Devenish, London Assembly member for West Central constituency, which includes Westminster, Sadiq Khan said TfL “understands the Department for Transport is considering creating such a framework for this market following the forthcoming transport bill”. City & East AM Unmesh Desai had also asked about the issue following reports of dockless bikes creating obstructions in Wapping.

In September 2019, prior to the pandemic, the Mayor told the then Labour group AM Florence Eshalomi, now MP for Vauxhall, that TfL and London Councils, the body that represents all of the capital’s local authorities, were collaborating on introducing a “pan-London by-law” to specify where dockless bikes can and cannot be parked, adding that such a by-law would be “subject to ministerial approval and public consultation”.

Both TfL and Westminster Council recognise the potential for dockless bike schemes to encourage more cycling, while also being mindful of the need and demand for their effective control.

TfL’s code of practice says dockless bikes “will complement London’s existing public transport network” but adds that “alongside this, streets must be made more accessible for those who prefer to walk, especially children and older and disabled Londoners” and stresses that “it is our duty to protect the rights of the public to use and enjoy the capital’s highways and footways”.

Paul Dimoldenberg said “Dockless bikes have potential to be a success around the world and I’m sure they can in central London,” but that he has asked the operating companies “why they appear to allow their bikes to be dumped anywhere without a thought for the mess they leave behind. Councils like Westminster shouldn’t have to clear up their mess and residents shouldn’t foot the bill”.

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