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Goodwill reiterates footway cycling guidance

Chris Peck's picture
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National media has become very excited about Cycling Minister Robert Goodwill's affirmation that police should not fine cyclists on the pavement if they are there through a fear of traffic. However, CTC believes that it is better to improve road conditions for cyclists and offer cycle training.
Police should use discretion when penalising cyclists on the pavement
Police should use discretion when penalising cyclists on the pavement

Goodwill had mentioned in a letter his support for the principle that police should use their discretion when fining cyclists on the pavement. 

This reiterates guidance from Home Office ministers 15 years ago - when the fixed penalty notice for cycling on the pavement was created.

Although CTC believes that more enforcement of road traffic law is necessary to make conditions safer for cyclists and keep bad drivers off the streets, the risks posed by cyclists are often not proportionate to the level of enforcement that is targeted at cyclists.

Getting it into proportion

According to a Freedom of Information Request CTC made to Transport for London, from 1998-2007 (the data available at the time), only 2% of the pedestrians injured or killed on the footway involved cycles, whereas 58% of the injuries - and 37 deaths - involved cars on the footway.

These figures show that a far greater concern in terms of injuries and deaths is represented by users of motor vehicles losing control of their vehicles and mounting the kerb, or crossing the footway to reach private land. These injuries and deaths receive far less attention than those caused by cyclists, which tend to be rare, but perceived as a bigger problem.

In 1999, Paul Boateng, then a minister in the Home Office, wrote to Ben Bradshaw MP, the Chair of the All Party Cycling Group. At the time Boateng wrote that the fixed penalty was only for "inconsiderate cycling" and shouldn't be used for "cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of the traffic, and who show consideration to other road users when doing so." A copy of that letter can be downloaded below.

 

Dealing with the problem 

CTC feels that a better use of resources would be for police to direct cyclists who are illegally and inconsiderately using footways to receive cycle training in lieu of a fine. Such an approach is widely used when it comes to speeding motorists, and equivalent programmes are occasionally used for cyclists in London. Adult cycle training can help give cyclists the confidence to use more difficult road junctions safely, instead of resorting to pavements. 

A lot of pavement cycling could be averted if councils created dedicated space for cycling on busy roads.  That would enable more people to cycle, reducing congestion and pollution, benefiting our health and our communities, our wallets and our waistlines.

Roger Geffen 
CTC Campaigns Director

Ultimately, the existence of people riding on pavements should be an indication to local authorities that the road conditions are not considered safe and efforts should be focused on providing better facilities to accommodate cyclists' needs.

The poor design of many cycle facilities - where pavements are merely converted into footways, even though their design is inadequate to cyclists' needs - may convince many cyclists that they are entitled - or expected - to use wide footways where they are available. The image above, for instance, actually shows a cyclist legally using a shared-use footway, but with little indication that this footway is any different to one from which cycling is banned.

While a handful of cyclists can confidently use major roads and deal with heavy traffic, if we want to reach the levels of cycling found in the Netherlands or Denmark, better facilities are needed on the busiest roads.

Following Mr Goodwill's comments, the Association of Chief Police Officers have issued a statement supporting the original guidance. The National Policing Lead for Cycling, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Milsom, said:

"We welcome the re-issued guidance from the Minister for Cycling in respect of cycling on the pavement and have re-circulated this to all local forces. The issue of cycling on the pavement, as in other areas of law enforcement, varies according to local circumstances. The ministerial guidance supports the importance of police discretion in taking a reasonable and proportionate approach, with safety being a guiding principle. London's roads present unique challenges, not least of which is the sheer number of drivers, cyclists and pedestrians who use them, therefore their approach may vary from other areas of the country."

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burtonian296's picture

I live and work in Skegness, Lincs. The streets are long and straight. At night they are very well lit. The terrain is flat. In the winter there is very little traffic.
During the summer season the streets are packed with traffic.
I estimate that more than 50% of cyclists ( myself and my wife excluded) cycle on the pavement)
Until reading about Robert Goodwill's affirmation I have been very frustrated with them for blatently breaking the law
From now on I will have to acknowledge that if they do not consider the roads to be safe then they are justified in using the pavements which actually have fewer pot holes
My wife and I are also Bikeability Instructors
In the past when we have explained to children that they should not cycle on the pavements becasue it is against the law we have received looks of astonishment fdrom some of them. Do we now advise them it is alright to cycle to school on the pavement because there will be no sanction? - Ian Benton

LuckyDave's picture

Completed a 1200 mile End-to-End (JoGLE direction) last year. Although much of it was off-road, I had to cycle a fair bit of road - from tiny lanes to dual-carriageways - to join up the off-road sections. Having also cycled for nearly 60 years I have come to a few conclusions about cycling in traffic. We have to defuse the antagonism of the inevitable minority of vehicle drivers who don't want to give us space by surprising them with courtesy. If we meet anger with anger, we will only inflame them and make it even more likely they will injure, or even kill, another cyclist the next time.

I try to:
Always acknowledge courteous drivers who ease off or wait til it's safe, with a brief wave of thanks. Chances are they are being followed by an angry motorist who will probably see the wave, too, and realise I am actually a living human being. It may soften their views a little each time they see that happen. They must be more likely to then give space next time, to another cyclist. Basic psychology.

Avoid holding up queues of traffic. I have seen so many cyclists, and cycle groups, unnecessarily causing delays for vehicles. It's easy for us to choose to: ease off (or even stop if we have to) so they can pass quickly; move in a bit when it's safe for us; go onto the pavement. Far more dangerous to let their anger build up. Less polluting in total if they're not crawling along behind. Til we have more dedicated cycle routes we HAVE to share space with them.

Cycle on pavements whenever I can, even when it's not a dual-use route. If there are pedestrians I slow right down, etc. etc.. A brief thanks helps here, too.

Not fool-proof and every situation different, but it's worked -so far for me!

One last suggestion: I know we already contribute to road costs, as taxpayers, but fell we ought to consider bike registration and a nominal sum each year to deflect those motorists who claim we pay nothing for the road space we use. £10? £20? Registration but free for those on benefits?

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