Hundreds of bikers converged on Westminster City Hall last night as they protested at a £1.50 motorcycle parking charge brought in last year.
Motorcyclists and residents forced their way into the foyer at the council offices in Victoria Street at 5.30pm on the final day before the deadline for objections to Westminster Council's experimental motorcycle parking charge, a scheme that has generated more than 2,000 letters of objection in just six months and six earlier protests. Some council staff had to leave by the back door to avoid the angry crowd.
Introduced in August, the scheme charges every motorcyclist £1.50 to park in the borough, payable with mobile phones or online. In return Westminster Council says it has created 2,000 new bays in 97 locations, brought in safer parking methods and made parking cheaper than using a car pay-and-display bay costing £4 per hour.
But the No To The Bike Parking Tax campaign, formed by 'powered two-wheeler' enthusiast Warren Djanogly and five others, brands the £886,000 made in collections so far a 'stealth tax'.
He said: "They have taken away the freedom that bikers have all over the world. In most cities bikes are seen as the solution to congestion and pollution and not the problem.
"It is not just cyclers involved, it is group of citizens angry at the hypocrisy of Westminster Council bringing in a stealth tax just like the bin tax of Labour councils."
Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, Cllr Danny Chalkley, said: "The number of motorcyclists coming into Westminster has increased considerably in the last few years... We believe it’s only fair that motorcyclists make a small contribution if we are to provide extra dedicated bays for them.
"We acknowledge that some motorcyclists are unhappy about the recent introduction of motorcycle charging and have met with today's protest group on several occasions to discuss and hopefully alleviate some of their concerns."
Westminster Council will now collate the objections and statistics from the first six months before a decision expected in the spring.