Police forces across Britain are once again launching crackdowns on so-called anti-social cycling, with initiatives targeting bike riders who commit transgressions such as ignoring red traffic lights and cycling on the pavement under way in cities such as Chester and Bath, while councilors in Middlesbrough are calling for police there to tackle the problem.
While there is no doubt that a significant number of people riding bikes do ignore the law - indeed, in a poll we ran earlier this year, anti-social cycling was singled out as the one thing road.cc users were annoyed at most when it came to their fellow cyclists' behaviour - there are concerns that police campaigns could also sweep up those who do adhere to the rules of the road.
In Bath, police last month issued fixed penalty notices to 30 cylists for riding on pavements and through pedestrian areas in the city, and gave verbal warnings to 14 others, according to the This Is Bath website.
Concern over the issue led to a meeting being set up between Malcolm Dodds of the Bath Cycling Campaign, Roger Symonds, Cycling Champion at Bath & North East Somerset Council, and Inspector Steve Mildren of Avon & Somerset Constabulary, who is in charge of neighbourhood policing in Bath.
The website reported that Mr Symonds was concerned that negative publicity resulting from the police clampdown could harm Bath’s attempts to market itself as a cycle-friendly city, although he added that “ “We have been reassured by Inspector Mildren’s positive attitude towards sensible cycling.”
The meeting reportedly reassured Mr Symonds, who had earlier claimed that police were “demonising” cyclists, and his fellow campaigners over the approach officers were taking, with Inspector Mildren telling them that the police force had not adopted a “zero tolerance” approach.
The inspector added that there would be no action taken against children riding responsibly along pavements, and that cyclists not presenting a danger would simply be spoken to by officers, and advised that anti-social cycling would not be treated as more of a priority than other anti-social behaviour in Bath, such as cars parking in bike lanes or encroaching on advanced stop lines.
Campaigners agreed that those riding recklessly or dangerously on the pavement should be stopped by police.
Inspector Mildren commented: “We will continue to take appropriate action against anyone who puts other highway users in danger. I would encourage all cyclists to take care, be aware of others in their vicinity, and ride in a manner that they are in complete control of their cycle at all times.”
Meanwhile, in Chester, councilors are warning cyclists who ignore the law that they risk being prosecuted.
Shirley Wingfield, speaking for Cheshire West and Chester Council, told the Chester Standard: "We believe the majority of cyclists like all other road users are responsible and compliant with regulations and provisions made for them.
“Regrettably, as in all walks of life, there is a minority who are not compliant and this is a matter for police enforcement which we continue to work with Cheshire Police to ensure happens,” she added.
Sergeant Ian Stead of Cheshire Constabulary claimed that law-breaking cyclists were increasingly being singled out as cause for concern at public meetings, and said “our stance is safety for all, including motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.”
However, he said that the issue could not be addressed through education alone. “We have to educate people with what is safe on the road. We also have to be in a safe position to deal with it ourselves.
"Cyclists who break the law is something that is of concern,” he continued. “For instance, if you live in an area where your house is directly on a pavement and you step out of the door and are narrowly missed by a cyclist, it can be very frightening."
Sergeant Stead added: "Cyclists are under an obligation to consider the safety of other road users and I would like that message to be passed on."
Gurminder Marwaha, of the Cheshire Safer Roads Partnership, said that all road users had a responsibility to act in accordance with the law.
"Motorists and cyclists both have a right to use the roads - a right to safe and enjoyable travel; drive safe and cycle safe,” he explained. “All road users share a responsibility to understand each other’s needs and must obey the laws regardless of their mode of transport.”
He added: "Jumping red lights is illegal, incredibly dangerous and puts yourself and others at great risk, with potentially fatal consequences. Mutual respect and consideration make for safer and more enjoyable travel. Always acknowledging a courtesy does make a difference."
In Middlesbrough, councilors John McPartland and Pervaz Khan are calling on police to target cyclists who they claim are putting pedestrians at risk. Their call to action has been backed by Brenda Thompson, the town’s executive councillor for public health and sport.
Councillor McPartland told the Evening Gazette: “Councillor Khan and myself want to see action to put an end to illegal cycling on the pedestrian walkways and pavements in the town centre,” adding that “Middlehaven Community Council supports us unanimously in our attempts to eradicate the dangers to pedestrians.”
He claimed that “It is only a matter of time before some innocent walker is injured by one of those irresponsible and couldn’t-care-less cyclists.”
Councillor McPartland continued: “This is not a small problem - we constantly get complaints about this. At times pavements in the town centre look more like the Tour de France and what should be a safe environment for shoppers and town centre residents becomes a dangerous place.”
However, Councillor Thompson was keen to stress that the town welcomes responsible cyclists but is concerned about those who flout the law, saying: “In Middlesbrough we are huge supporters of cycling - it’s a fantastic way to get around, is kind to the environment and, of course, helps people keep in shape.”
She continued: “Making more people more active is central to Middlesbrough’s Healthy Town programme - for example, hundreds of subsidised mountain bikes are now being used by schoolchildren and adults.”
Councilllor Thompson highlighted initiatives undertaken in the town to benefit cyclists, saying “Our Cycle Centre at the Bus Station continues to lead the way in providing secure parking and changing facilities for anyone who wants to come to town on two wheels.
“But,” she added, “cyclists are no different from any other road users - we would expect them to ride responsibly and respect the right of pedestrians to use the town’s pavements and pathways free from danger.
“Those caught breaking the law will be dealt with by the police, and we will use intervention by street wardens and talking CCTV where appropriate,” she concluded.
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.