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Coventry E-Bike Ban: Has the City Lost Its Mind?

Woman with e-bike in Coventry

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Did you know that Coventry recently banned electric bikes and scooters from its city centers, sparking a heated debate? Imagine this: while these eco-friendly alternatives are under scrutiny, something much more harmful continues to roam freely on our streets.

You might wonder, isn’t this against the progress the UK has made recently?

Well, you’d be right. Over the past few weeks, there’s been uproar over this perplexing turn of events. Has Coventry lost its mind? Why did this happen in the first place, and, more importantly, what can be done to stop other cities from falling victim to the same mistake?

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Why Is Coventry Banning E-Bikes?

The question that you’re probably asking yourself is, why has this happened? Well, according to the BBC, the measure has been introduced to tackle the reckless driving of some electric vehicle users in pedestrianised areas. 

There’ve been reported incidents of some speeding e-bike users who’ve been riding “too fast” in the city centre. According to the Business Improvement District, electric vehicles have “infiltrated” areas specifically designated for pedestrians, making them feel vulnerable. Lyndsay Smith, deputy manager of the BID, says that e-bikes are a “growing issue” and that food delivery services using electric vehicles are partly to blame. 

It would seem that there are also instances of people using illegally modified e-bikes, some of which are capable of some serious speed.

To address this, they’ve banned e-bikes in pedestrian areas in the city centre, with fines or legal action for those who break the rule.

Penalising cyclist

The Irony of Coventry’s E-Bike Ban

Obviously, safety and concerns for pedestrians are extremely important. There needs to be spaces where pedestrians can feel safe and secure, away from the risk of any high-speed vehicle. 

But it’s here that we run into a paradox. While e-bikes and scooters are labeled dangerous and banned, cars continue to roam freely through city streets, posing a much greater risk to the health and well-being of residents and visitors alike. You are considerably more likely to be injured, or even killed, by a car than by an e-bike or an electric scooter.

And, that doesn’t even take into consideration the polluting effects of motorised vehicles, where the gases emitted are the cause of long-term health damage. Yet, they continue to navigate city streets largely unimpeded. 

But there’s another hypocrisy. Does it make sense to ban electric bikes because of the anti-social behavior of a small minority? We certainly don’t ban cars due to negligent driving, even if it does account for almost 40% of road accidents

Critics such as the West Midlands Walking and Cycling Commisioner Adam Tranter rightly point out, that penalising responsible cyclists is “reckless”, and can ultimately discourage active, sustainable, and largely safe forms of transport. 

Everyone in the UK is familiar with anti-social behaviour on bikes, and it should be stopped. But surely it can be done in such a way so as not to punish other cyclists, who are, for the most part, responsible and careful road users?

Of course, we acknowledge the concerns raised regarding e-bikes and scooters. Safety for everyone on the roads is something we can all get behind, especially when it comes to the most vulnerable road users. It is crucial, however, to approach these concerns with practical and effective solutions.

an e-bike is a great option for people looking for affordable, convenient, and environmentally friendly alternatives to driving

How Coventry’s Ban Could’ve Been Averted

There are so many alternatives to an outright blanket ban. For example, why not push for the implementation of alternative regulations, such as low mandatory speed limits, or educational campaigns to encourage safer cycling practices?

It’s also clear that enhancing infrastructure for cyclists by creating dedicated, protected cycling lanes and paths can help to protect the most vulnerable road users, contributing to the safety of everyone. We only have to look to the model European cycling cities such as Seville, Copenhagen, and Amsterdam to see what difference proper bike infrastructure can make.

Even Coventry’s Director of Transport Colin Knight has admitted that there is ‘no clearly defined network of paths’ in the city suitable for cyclists. Would it not be a better idea to give e-bike users somewhere safe to cycle before kicking them out of the center? 

With the increasing cost of running a car, an e-bike is a great option for people looking for affordable, convenient, and environmentally friendly alternatives to driving. It can make travel more accessible for a large number of people. 

So shouldn’t we be doing more to make that a reality? Cities like Paris offer financial incentives for people to swap their 4 wheels in for 2, so couldn’t the UK consider doing the same instead? After all, we could all benefit from having fewer cars on the road. 

Red traffic light for bicycles

A Simple Solutions to Coventry’s Real Problem

As responsible cyclists, we propose a different approach to ensure that other cities do not follow suit with similar measures.

Let’s embark on a “Common Sense Revolution!” Emphasising responsible riding, adhering to traffic rules, and respecting pedestrian zones can substantially improve the reputation of e-bikes. These are all things that should be promoted, where everyone can learn the importance of respecting all road users.

One step would be to collaborate with cycling organisations. Cyclists know the streets as well as anyone else, and it would be a good idea to discuss such proposals with them and other vulnerable road users before introducing them. Discouraging cycling is something that can hurt the lives of all of us.

We shouldn’t let the behaviour of a minority of abusive riders tarnish the reputation of electric bikes and cyclists alike. By setting an example through our actions, we can pave the way for other cities to embrace these sustainable modes of transportation.

This ban will particularly impact commuters who rely on e-bikes for their daily journeys.

The Negative Impacts of Coventry’s E-Bike Ban

According to a study by Decarbonising Transport, journeys of under 5 miles made up almost 60% of all private car journeys in the UK in 2019. These are journeys that could largely be made with bikes and electric bikes, helping to remove polluting vehicles from our streets to make them more liveable.

E-bikes are much cleaner than cars. According to the Bike Storage Company, switching from a daily car journey to an e-bike could save an average of almost 250 grams of CO2 for every kilometre travelled. With many UK cities still suffering from illegal levels of pollution, the increased popularity of e-bikes is something to be celebrated, not scolded.

This ban will particularly impact commuters who rely on e-bikes for their daily journeys. For many, these vehicles offer a cost-effective and efficient means of transportation, especially for those unable to afford a car or lacking access to public transport. Removing this option feels like pulling the rug out from under their feet.

We’ve seen some truly ridiculous fines in 2023 of over £1000 for cyclists merely just riding in a city centre!  Surely we should be punishing the truly anti-social cyclists, as well as anti-social drivers, and not, as Cycling UK points out, be criminalising cycling itself?

Both bikes and e-bikes need to have a place in our cities. If we eliminate these green alternatives from our streets, we divert from the path of sustainable mobility that we all strive for, and that’s bad for everybody, not just cyclists.

ALSO READ: Electric Bike Lease: Can You Rent an E-Bike Long Term?

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