Zero tolerance! City council leader demands ALL Bridge Street cyclists be fined as authority gets new powers

One of the Bridge Street cyclists spotted in a 10 minute period

One of the Bridge Street cyclists spotted in a 10 minute period

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Every person caught illegally cycling in Bridge Street will be fined, according to the leader of Peterborough City Council.

Councillor John Holdich is pushing for a zero tolerance approach when council officers receive new powers, currently used by the police, to hand out fixed penalty notices of £50 next month.

John Holdich at the Town Hall

John Holdich at the Town Hall

A crackdown on aggressive begging is also being promised to make visiting the city centre a more enjoyable experience.

Cllr Holdich said: “There’s no point in having the powers unless you use them. If you look at other towns that have gone down this route, it’s controversial for a little while but it all goes away.

“I have been pushing for this for more than two years. I will be more than happy when this comes in and we can take some action.

“We need to have some discipline back in our city centre. It’s a pedestrian area and people should not ride bikes in it. People should obey the rules of the land.

“The only way to stop it is to fine people. We have done all the warnings and we have got to put a stop to it.”

Cllr Holdich added that many cyclists did not go at a “respectable speed” but instead were weaving in and out of people.

The council leader has been a vocal critic of cycling in Bridge Street which is prohibited every day between 9am and 6pm.

However, the ban is frequently ignored and last week the Peterborough Telegraph clocked 10 cyclists riding through the key city centre route in just 10 minutes.

Cllr Holdich’s predecessor as leader, Cllr Marco Cereste, was also eager to enforce the Bridge Street ban after his son was nearly hit by a cyclist.

But Liberal Democrat councillor Darren Fower, member for Gunthorpe, labelled the zero tolerance approach as “ridiculous.”

He said: “They are going to try and enforce something that cannot be enforced. The police have said they can’t enforce it.Is there an age limit? If you have a four-year-old on a bike with stabilisers, is he a problem?

“They should make a safe cycling route. It will make it safer for cyclists and safer for pedestrians. I think it could easily be resolved.”

Labour and Co-operative member for Ravensthorpe, Cllr Ed Murphy, said: “I do think this is over the top. They should try and improve the situation to avoid accidents by having a designated cycling area or a proper cycling route.

“Enforcement officers are better being deployed to deal with fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour.”

Matthew Barber, head of partnerships, Midlands and East, at Sustrans, which promotes sustainable transport, questioned whether the ban could be properly enforced.

He added: “We firmly believe, and the evidence agrees with us, that pedestrians and cyclists can get on harmoniously in pedestrianised areas.

“And we would still like to see a temporary lifting of the Bridge Street ban and a survey conducted to understand pedestrian and cyclists behaviour and interactions. Other cities have trialled the removal of bans and few returned to them.”

New Community Safety Accreditation Scheme powers, which are issued by chief constables, will allow council officers in the Prevention and Enforcement Service to fine people engaging in anti-social behaviour.

The enforcement service is a collection of officers from the council, police, fire service and private sector.

Cllr Holdich has also backed clamping down on aggressive begging in the city centre, with the new powers for council officers allowing them to fine or caution aggressive beggars or take them through the courts.

The council leader warned that the city centre could be “overrun” by beggars if action was not taken.

He said: “People from out of town email me and write to me to tell me the city centre has got a lot better but there are still beggars around.”

Aggressive begging policy ‘not been very successful’

A Peterborough City Council officer hopes new powers to tackle aggressive begging will help solve the problem after admitting the current policy has not worked.

From next month, council officers will be able to caution and fine aggressive beggars and take them to court thanks to new Community Safety Accreditation Scheme powers.

Gary Goose, head of community services, said: “If they are aggressively begging there will be a range of options available - first of all warn them, then caution them, and if none of that works, arrest them.

“In some cases, arrest might be the first option if it is the right option. But only the police have the powers to arrest.

“If it’s someone appearing on the streets for the first time and they give the indication they will stop doing it, we will look at a warning or caution.

“Fixed penalty notices are available and the court option. They have a whole range of sanctions available to them.”

Mr Goose stressed that the council will continue to try and help rough sleepers find housing, but that aggressive begging was a concern to people.

He added: “It’s a hard core number of individuals that most visitors to the city centre will have seen. We are aware it’s an issue of concern to the people who visit the city and work in the city centre.

“What we have tried so far has clearly not been very successful.

“Enforcement is not the only answer. What’s the point taking someone to court when they will not be able to pay the fine?”

Councillor Irene Walsh, the council’s cabinet member for communities and environment capital, said the council helps people who are begging to find benefit entitlements and search for temporary accommodation.

She added: “We ask people not to give money to people who beg as this does not encourage them to access the services they require to improve their lives. Instead they should give money to charities which help the homeless such as Shelter.”