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

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 [2] 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 Home Office minister, wrote [2] to Ben Bradshaw MP, who was then Chair of the All Party Parliamentary 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." 

Dealing with the problem 

CTC feels that a better use of resources [3] 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 [4] - 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 [5]. 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."