Westminster Council begins seizing ‘nuisance’ abandoned hire bikes

·2-min read
Council workers seize a dockless e-bike (Westminster Council)
Council workers seize a dockless e-bike (Westminster Council)

A London council has begun seizing dockless hire bikes which are left blocking pavements and roads creating an “obstacle course” for residents.

Westminster Council announced on Tuesday that it had become the first borough to begin seizing “nuisance” bikes which are left strewn across streets.

Unlike TfL’s Santander cycle hire scheme, e-bikes hired from private companies do not require the user to return the cycle to a dock at the end of the rental, meaning they are left wherever the user ends their journey.

But Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, cabinet member for city management and air quality in Westminster, said the problem of discarded bikes is “potentially dangerous, especially for those with disabilities”.

He said: “The council has begun seizing dockless bikes that we find blocking pavements and roads in Westminster. Trying to walk down some of our streets has become like attempting an obstacle course and we are fed up finding these bikes dumped across the city.

“We’ve contacted the major dockless bike operators and made it clear that if they don’t remove their bikes from the pavement the council will - and we’ll charge them for doing so.

“Any money we raise will go towards improving cycling infrastructure on our streets.”

Councillor Dimoldenberg added that the council is “supportive” of efforts to encourage cycling but that people “shouldn’t have to put up with” abandoned bikes blocking pavements and roads.

The issue was recently raised with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan by Assembly Members Tony Devenish, who represents Westminster, and Unmesh Desai.

Responding to questions about efforts to tackle discarded dockless bikes, Mr Khan said that dockless bike hire is “unregulated” and there is “no legal framework” for hire companies to operate within.

He said: “In the meantime, TfL is leading engagement with operators, alongside London Councils, to improve cycle hire parking provision, but this remains predominantly a matter for the boroughs as local highway authorities.

“Where dockless bikes are found obstructing the pavements on the Transport for London Road Network (TLRN) by TfL’s Operational Officers, these are reported and removed by the operators.”

Lime, one of London's dockless e-bike hire operators, has said it is "committed" to working with councils and other operators to "resolve these issues", but has stressed it has never deployed bikes in Westminster.

Hal Stevenson, Lime's senior public affairs manager, said: “We are committed to working with WCC, other operators and wider stakeholders to resolve these issues, and will be putting forward a cross-operator package of measures aimed at more effectively managing e-bikes that have been left in the borough.

“If you ride Lime in London, please remember to park responsibly, and never leave a bike in a way that obstructs the pavement, or makes someone else's journey more difficult.”

The Government is expected to outline a legal framework for dockless bike hire in the upcoming Transport Bill, which is also expected to include legislation around e-scooter hire.