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22 January, 2008

Clamp away

Under a sensationalist headline about London "clamping down on cyclists", the Guardian reports that local authorities are seeking legislation which will enable them to remove obstructions from busy pavements.  These 'items deposited on the highway' may include advertising boards, building materials – and parked bicycles.

Campaigners fear that if Transport for London and London's 33 councils get their way, bikes chained to lamp-posts or railings outside designated cycle parking areas will become fair game for forcible removal by council officers.
More sensationalism. In fact, the local authorities have been keen to stress this isn't supposed to be about decluttering public spaces as a matter of misplaced tidiness or aesthetics, and it's not supposed to be about removing all bikes parked in other than specified areas. Hence, a bike parked inconsiderately, such as locked to a lamppost in the middle of a pavement, would "become fair game for forcible removal", but not bikes chained to railings, out of the line of pedestrian traffic and causing no problems. Sounds entirely reasonable to me.

That's just the authorities' claim, of course, and 'causing obstruction' is dangerously open to interpretation/abuse, so I'm not unreservedly happy about extending council powers. However, unlike certain 'campaigners' who regard cycling as the One True Path, to be promoted irrespective of the cost to other users of the public environment, I'm not going to whinge about it as a matter of principle. A badly-parked bike is a nuisance, and should be removed.

I don't know how it'd be administered, but I'd quite like to see this extended to designated cycle parking areas, giving authorities the ability to remove plainly abandoned bikes. That's certainly a problem here at the University, where a small but annoyingly significant proportion of the parking spaces are permanently occupied by bikes with flat tyres, rusted chains and bits missing, yet security staff have no powers to 'seize private property'.

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