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Police hand out fixed penalties to just five bike lane parkers while ticketing hundreds of cyclists

Cyclists in Cambridge are fighting back at motorists who park illegally on cycle lanes in the university city by posting pictures of the offending vehicles on a website – and no fewer than eight police vehicles have made it into the hall of shame.

The gallery is an initiative of the CycleStreets website, founded by Cambridge Cycling Campaign members Simon Nuttall and Martin Lucas-Smith, which acts primarily as an online mapping and journey planning resource for cyclists throughout the UK.

According to Cambridge News, more than 100 cars, lorries and vans have been caught on camera flouting laws regarding parking in cycle lanes in roads in the city including Emmanuel Street and Downing Street. To be fair, however, the vehicles concerned have been snapped over a period of years, rather than weeks, with the police vehicles, including scientific support units, photographed at various points between 2006 and 2009.

Cambridge News quoted a spokesperson for Cambridge Cycling Campaign as saying: “There is a serious lack of understanding by many parties on the issue of cycle lanes.

“Lanes marked by a solid white line are for cyclists only. Loading, waiting, and entering to pass are all prohibited by law. Only in exceptional circumstances may motor vehicles enter such lanes.

“Not only do many drivers, even professional ones, fail to understand this rule, but enforcement also fails due to lack of understanding. Illegal use of cycle lanes by motor vehicles causes very significant dangers for cyclists and the law needs better enforcement.”

Mr Lucas-Smith speaking in his capacity as Co-ordinator of Cambridge
Cycling Campaign, echoed the call for there to be better enforcement of existing regulations, saying: “Cars and vans parking and driving in cycle lanes cause real difficulties for cyclists. If more space is made on the roads for cycling, and drivers keep out of that space, cycling will be safer and people will not feel any need to use pavements.”

He continued: “More enforcement by the police against both motoring and cycling offences is needed, so that a culture of respect for each other on the road is created.”

A spokeswoman for Cambridgeshire Police explained that police officers often needed to park their vehicles close to scenes of investigations, saying: “Because of the nature of police work, officers do need to park as close to a scene or an incident as possible in order to deal with it quickly and effectively.”

She added: “Unfortunately, on some rare occasions this will inconvenience other road users. Staff are encouraged to ensure this is done for a minimal amount of time.” Statistics regarding the issue of fixed penalty notices in Cambridge suggest, however, that it is one rule for cyclists and another for motorists.

Only last week, Cambridge News reported that 449 cyclists had been issued with fixed penalty notices, and 1,800 stopped and spoken by city rangers for “anti-social cycling” between November 2009 and February 2010.

During the same period, however, only five tickets were issued to motorists parking in cycle lanes. In response to that story, a spokesperson for Cambridge Cycling Campaign said: “Although cycling may seem to be an issue in the city centre, anti-social behaviour by drivers of motor vehicles hit the top two spots in a national Home Office survey of anti-social behaviour.

“Recently there has been media coverage, with a video, of a cyclist hit from the rear while passing a vehicle illegally stopped in a cycle lane.

“Those who cycle in Cambridge know that such illegal behaviour is a daily problem, yet only five tickets have been issued for that offence in the city. There are a number of places within the city where more than 50 motor vehicles can be seen driving illegally in such cycle lanes each and every day.

“Illegal behaviour such as driving and parking in cycle lanes is a widespread problem, endangering cyclists.

“Our conclusion is that there needs to be a more proportionate approach to enforcement, better reflecting the real danger to road users.”

A police spokeswoman said however that the issue of anti-social cycling was one that police were determined to tackle, as much for the wayward cyclists’ own safety as anything else, saying: “Cyclists are among the most vulnerable on the road and by not adhering to the rules of the road they are putting themselves and other road users in jeopardy. We take these kind of offences very seriously.”

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.