Bikes unwelcome in semi-public places?

I received  the letter below from a BTA member who is trying to use her bicycle ALL the time, and got a folding bike to make her work in the CBD easier. But was this a good decision?

Dear Heinrich

As my ‘advocate’ in the cycling domain, I share with you a couple of observations about conduct of security officials in the CBD.

Today I rode into the forecourt area of 140 William Street, which is both the address and the name of the building, to access the ATM for Members Equity bank.  A security guard from the building, with company ISS told me that I could not ride my bike in the area.  You may know that there are bike rails for about 30 or so bikes within 10 meters of where he approached me.

It is adjacent to the entry of the railway station and comnnects directly to the Forrest Place courtyard. I asked whether the planners actually expected cyclists to dismounts 40 meters away and walk into the area and he said yes.

I went up to him later to ask some details about the authority upon which he based he directives towards me and sought some specifics, such as the company name, his name, who to contact.  He refused all information.  I mocked him for expecting me to take orders from a fellow citizen, just because he was in a security uniform, without any further details about where he derives his authority.  He eventually said that all he is asking for is for me to demonstrate common sense.  It was a farcical exchange and an unnecessary alteration for me as I was ‘getting about my business’.

Some weeks ago I went to an event at the SGIO building on St G Terrace.

There is no bicycle parking at all and the tree surrounds expressly forbid locking of bicycles.  I found a convenient spot to lock my folder and made it ‘stealth’ by folding some bits to make it as unobtrusive as possible.  I came out a couple of hours later to find a notice on the bike stating that I could not attach it to the building.  I went in to the centre managers and told them that I thought that this was a silly and wasteful use of their time, that there was nowhere to easily secure my bike and that I was a customer of the building and should not be harassed.  I was informed that I could park in the basement car park and they were just following policy.  I left and went down to the carpark and asked to park my bike there.  I was told that free parking for bikes was only available to tenants of the building and there was no help they could offer on where to park.

When I bring my bike into the city by train in that window of peak hour, where folding bikes are allowed on trains in their collapsed state, I am frequently harassed by railway staff for opening my bike out to take it from the station.  I am quoted a statement in a pamphlet that asks that bikes not be on the platform, but nowhere in the statutes or PTA regulations is this specified.  When I ask what the infringement is that I should be issued, there is no answer that can be given. (Some years ago I had a lock cut from my bike and the bike taken away and stored in some cupboard by PTA officers because it was locked to the station fence, threatened with a $100 fine and left to replace my $60 lock)

In the City West precinct that is occupied by SciTech, cleaning staff will hang around to berate a cyclist who locks their bike anywhere around the building, even if this is on the footpath, adjacent to their building, as though all space near their building is under their authority.

Perth City Council offices are militantly defended by the Concierge who demands that no bike be locked anywhere on the St G Terrace level frontage, even if it is not locked to a fixed object. They actually leave the building to harangue a person arriving by bike.

In all of these cases there is no law or express authority that any of these ‘agents’ can quote to support the directives they make (or to justify the intrusion that they make into my space and to dictate my behaviour). There is a broader concern here for me about the proliferation of security officers that seem to interpret the scope of their authority fairly generously, telling people to do and not do all sorts of minor things.  But in relation to cycling alone, there is a problem for those of us who are integrating their bikes into all areas of their lives.  The exercise of discretion errs on the side of limitations and not liberalism in respect to individual choice and freedom of movement.

In all cases I argue to those who bother me, that this is the way of the future, that I represent a forward guard of an inevitable movement of more bikes and cyclists into the city, mixing with public transport, using public spaces for personal transit and transport.  This is in fact what we want and need for the future.

Perhaps our Perth cycle culture of commuting, from the suburbs down into the basements of city buildings, skews expectations away from those that use the bike for meetings, intracity travel and other utility purposes.

I wonder about the vision for city cycling held by the City of Perth when the big property owners and managers think that they have free reign to dictate the use of the spaces around their buildings.

In all of these cases, there is an implicit but very real threat that these people have the power and authority to call in force to back their directives.  There is a real threat that the bike will be confiscated, with the lock cut.  This is in fact a likely scenario in the face of the lack of authority that they hold, because persistent questioning that cannot be answered is likely to escalate to conflict.  The presumption of some proprietary ownership of space, land, buildings; combined with permission to maintain security personnel, means that opposition from an individual such as a cyclist will not be tolerated.  This morning’s blank refusal by one such security officer, to respond to any questions, reflects the sort of culture that prevails throughout the CBD.  Had it progressed differently, he may have a called the police to have them adjudicate.

I ask you to consider my comments in the context of others you may be hearing about such encounters in the CBD.  I ask you to raise these as you see fit in the forums and committees that you have a part in.  If you need further contribution from me, please ask.

Thanks for the good work that you do on our behalf.  Feel free to publish this in the BTA circular if you think that it may contribute to discussion and debate.

My regards

About Heinrich

Promoting everyday cycling