People who abandon dockless bikes should receive harsher fines, Westminster Council has said.
Bike rental firms have been urged by the Council to charge customers more for leaving cycles blocking pavements and on roads, with some companies imposing fines as low as £2 for repeat offenders.
The moves comes after a spate of bikes dumped in high footfall areas in the city, particularly in the Soho area, with multiple pictures shared online of bikes parked horizontally across busy pavements.
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Cabinet Member for City Management, called on bike hire companies to do more to penalise ‘irresponsible users’ and said the Council was prepared to remove dangerously parked vehicles.
He said: “A warning and £2 fine are doing little to stop people dumping these bikes all over the streets of central London.
“We are seeing thousands of dockless bikes left in Westminster every day and many of them are blocking pavements and roads. This is a safety hazard for pedestrians, especially for those with mobility needs such as those with limited eyesight.
“If we see bikes parked dangerously the council will confiscate them. But the dockless bike companies need to do more to and handing out harsher penalties to irresponsible users is a good place to start.”
Dimoldenberg also stressed the need for firms to introduce a ‘fine structure’ given the large discrepancy between penalties issued.
Currently fines depend on the policy of the respective company and no agreement exists between the Council and rental operators.
Human Forest, one of London’s largest fleets of e-bikes, charges users £15 for the second abandoned cycle, while Lime Bikes, which has over 2000 green cycles scattered around the capital, charges just £2 for a second offence, rising to £20 on the fifth offence after which the rider is permanently banned from the service.
Lime said that all users were obliged to take an ‘end trip photo’ of their parked bike, which are reviewed and fines issued for non compliance. It said that 80% of its do not reoffend.
A spokesperson for the operator said: “Since launching in London five years ago, our top priority has been ensuring our services work for everyone sharing London’s roads.
“We understand the importance of not obstructing pavements and other shared spaces, particularly for those with access needs.”
Caroline Seton, co-founder of HumanForest said that the company was open to working with the council on new parking zones and pointed out that they had introduced messaging to promote considerate behaviour and put ‘guardians’ on patrol to ensure bikes are safely parked.
She said: “We are supporting the council on their work exploring potential parking zones for e-bikes. Our model favours the parking zone approach, incentivising users with a reduced fare to end their ride in these locations.
“We strictly enforce our three strike escalation process for users who mispark. To promote responsible parking, we are focused on user education and other mitigating measures, including mandatory end of ride photos and the introduction of HumanForest’s own Forest Guardians who patrol on foot to retrieve e-bikes and ensure that they are parked safely.”
Westminster Council has indicated that it is identifying sites for designated parking bays, but insists that such schemes would still depend on users’ responsible behaviour.