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When More is Less

When More is Less

To a cycle courier, the conflict between public and private, between the rules of the road and those of corporate estates, is constantly apparent. The glee with which the police hunt down and fine couriers who jump red lights, while letting off their commuting counterparts, is well known. But the guardians of private land are just as intolerant.

Sometimes, proclamations of ownership are local and specific, like the small ‘Polite Notices’, which read as anything but, informing you that ‘Bicycles locked to these railings will be removed’. Elsewhere the limits of ownership spill out beyond the railings. Representatives of the ‘West End Company’ patrol Oxford Street in red hats, giving tourists directions and admonishing cyclists who ride on the pavements. Some large commercial estates, such as Devonshire Square off Bishopsgate in EC1, have their own private police force. Anyone who isn’t obviously an office worker, snatching a lunchtime sandwich in the open air, is moved on. Running is forbidden.

The ‘More London’ development, designed by Foster and Partners, which squats on Tooley Street to the west of the new City Hall, is one of the worst offenders. According to its website, ‘More London is an economic solution providing value for money office space which will enhance retention and recruitment of staff by virtue of the environment and amenities.’

Its loading bay is cavernous, serving all of the seven large buildings above, and taking up an almost equal area underground. It’s a dangerous place to be on a bike: there are lorries to be dodged, strange one-way systems to be observed, oil slicks and wet patches to be avoided. Security staff in fluorescent jackets choreograph the traffic in a bored, slow dance.

Half of the development above ground is supposedly public space. Even so, and although the estate plays host to the cycle-friendly mayor of London and the GLA, More London has a policy of fining cyclists who lock their bikes up anywhere on its land. There is no bicycle parking space provided on Tooley Street, and even bikes chained to the lampposts next to the road will be clamped: there’s a £50 charge to have the clamp removed.

P1157872It’s hard to see the point of this. It can’t be intended as an active deterrent: the small warning sign on one of the lamp posts is easy to miss. Could More London really be dependent on income from renegade cyclists, filling the coffers £50 at a time? It seems unlikely. Southwark Cyclists, a local pressure group, has asked More London to put up clearer signs and provide a place where people can lock up their bikes. They haven’t.

So it’s fortunate that the locks used by the More London security staff are flimsy things. If you ever find yourself caught out, a sharp rap with a heavy D-lock, or two minutes with a hacksaw, ought to be enough to remove them.

Comments on “Chartered Streets”

  1. Thomas Jones says:

    Just spotted the wonderfully ungrammatical ‘all whom enter’ on the first More London sign. Strictly speaking, they’re not giving notice to anyone.

  2. Stan Carey says:

    Some landowners are rather precious about their space, even when it isn’t theirs, and this is sometimes combined with a general dislike or suspicion of cyclists — those freewheeling renegades. The idea of a rusting two-wheeler locked and abandoned on their property can fill them with an obscure dread, like the threat of a Victorian curse.

    As for the sign, “all whom enter” seems like hypercorrection, and the superfluous “onto” adds to the pomposity of the message. (People enter land; they do not enter onto it.) Furthermore, I suspect that “dedicate” is meant to be “designate”. My curiosity piqued, I clicked through to More London’s website. It gets worse.

  3. Jon Day says:

    Yes the whole thing is hideous in its pomposity and mean-spiritedness. I wonder if the threat in the second photo carries any legal weight, as they only designate ‘this post’?

  4. Jim G says:

    I share the concern over privatised public space but there are various statements in this post which are simply false. There are many bicycle parking spaces on both Tooley St (opposite the Tube Station or outside On Your Bike, for example) and More London (behind City Hall). Not enough perhaps, but a lot more than ‘none’.

  5. Jon Day says:

    Hi Jim, you’re right that there are some bike racks on Tooley street, but none are provided by More London. Those that are are hard to find, and the estate is clearly hostile to cyclists (I take issue primarily with the fines). Apologies for the ambiguity, but I don’t think my statemens are ‘simply false.’

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