Children at a school in Norwich face being ordered by police to get off their bikes and walk on the pavement unless they are wearing reflective safety gear during the hours of darkness, although there is no legal requirement for cyclists, whatever their age, to do so.
Last Friday, pupils at Hellesdon High School were given reflective snap wraps to wear and stickers for their bikes as part of an initiative launched by Norfolk Constabulary after local residents complained about children riding without reflective clothing or lights at community policing meetings.
According to local newspaper The Advertiser, the Hellesdon and Horsford Neighbourhood Policing Team, which has launched the initiative, will be telling children seen cycling without reflective clothing or stickers on their bikes to dismount and walk instead. Police will also contact parents or carers to inform them that their child had put themselves at risk on the road.
PCSO Chris Rolph told the Norwich Advertiser: “The purpose is to work with the school and pupils to reduce the risk of being injured by not being seen by other road users.
“We were getting reports from worried members of the public not being able to see youngsters due to the colour of clothing they were wearing and not having any bicycle lights,” he continued.
“The school has been very proactive and taken responsibility to launch this scheme which I hope others will follow.
“Ultimately the youngster's safety is paramount, with such a simple preventative measure to reduce the chances of injury I would encourage anyone to adopt it, ” he concluded.
Hellesdon High School’s deputy head, Alastair Ogle, supported the move, saying: “We haven't had any serious incidents involving cyclists and we would like that to continue.”
He added: “This scheme will hopefully remind all students about the dangers of riding a bike in a busy area such as Hellesdon and may even encourage more to cycle now that we are able to provide items to help them be seen more easily by other road users.”
The school told road.cc that it does not currently offer Bikeability training to its pupils, whose ages range from 11 to 18.
But cyclists' organisation CTC, which supports parents, pupils and teachers wanted to ride to school through its Right To Ride To School campaign, believes that the initiative is sending out the wrong message.
CTC Campaigns Coordinator Debra Rolfe told road.cc: “While it is great the police and the school are taking an interest in cyclists' safety, CTC is very concerned that asking children to stop cycling just because they are not wearing reflective clothing sends out completely the wrong message.
"By stopping the children they are merely blaming the victims rather than dealing directly with what causes the majority of cycling crashes - bad driving. CTC Campaigns for more traffic policing to make our roads safer for all. Cyclists are not required by law to wear reflective clothing, whereas drivers are required to obey the speed limit.
Ms Rolfe added; "If the school is concerned about cyclists safety, I would strongly suggest they offer Bikeability training to all pupils, as it would equip the children with the skills to deal with the demands of today’s roads and they should also ask the council to introduce lower speed limits near the school.”
According to the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations 1989 (amended in 1994 and 2005), bicycles being ridden between sunset and sunrise must be fitted with a white front and red rear lights and a red rear reflector, and bicycles made after October 1985 must also have amber pedal reflectors. There is, however, no legal requirement to wear reflective clothing.
The Cycle Safety page on the Norfolk Constabulary website advises cyclists to “always use bike lights when travelling in the dark or in conditions of reduced visibility,” but makes no mention of wearing high-visibility clothing or other reflective equipment.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.