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Local politician says no such debates on road traffic collisions that leave dozens killed in Dorset each year

A Bournemouth councillor has criticised colleagues for tabling a motion asking for penalties for cycling offences to be enforced after a young child was injured by a pavement cyclist, but failing to do likewise after people are killed in road traffic collisions. The debate coincided with Lord Sugar last week suggesting in the House of Lords that cyclists should be forced to carry identification to help the police proceed against those committing offences such as cycling on the pavement.

Dave Smith, a Conservative councillor who represents Central Bournemouth, made his remarks as Bournemouth Borough Council debated the motion on pavement cyclists on Tuesday evening, reports the Dorset Echo.

The motion was tabled by fellow Conservative councillors Allister Russell and Blair Crawford after four-year old Sienna Barnett from Southbourne had been left with a broken leg when she was struck last month by a cyclist, who reportedly stopped briefly to apologise before riding off.

Councillor Smith, a regular cyclist, told the council: “My heart goes out to the little girl that was injured. Please pass on my thoughts to her family.

“But can we get it into context?

“I suspect there are tens, if not hundreds of people killed on the roads in Dorset every year.”

Data from Dorset Police in fact reveal that each year from 2001 to 2009, an average of 42 people lost their lives on the county’s roads each year, while from 2004 to 2009, 249 people suffered serious injuries annually on average, with a further 1,942 being slightly injured.

Despite that heavy toll, continued Councillor Smith, “I never hear anyone come to council when somebody is smashed up on the road, being buried. You don’t come forward with motions then.

“In fact, you get councillors saying keep the speed limit, ‘We want to go fast’.

“We want to be encouraging people to cycle,” he added.

The motion, which acknowledged that “the majority of cyclists are responsible citizens,” called for the council to support Dorset Police “in its commitment to increased enforcement of penalties for cycling offences and in particular welcomes Police Community Support Officers being granted enforcement powers to ensure public safety on our pavements.”

Cycling on the footpath is illegal except where cyclists are expressly permitted to ride their bikes, for instance through designated shared use paths, and punishable by a £30 fine.

However, official Home Office guidance is that such a penalty should only be imposed where the cyclist is riding in a manner that may endanger others.

That guidance was issued in 1999 by then Home Office minister Paul Boateng, who said: “The introduction of the fixed penalty is not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of traffic and who show consideration to other pavement users when doing so.

“Chief police officers, who are responsible for enforcement, acknowledge that many cyclists, particularly children and young people, are afraid to cycle on the road, sensitivity and careful use of police discretion is required.”

That was a point made by another Bournemouth councillor speaking out against Tuesday’s motion, Dennis Gritt, who told the meeting: Dennis Gritt said: “A policeman said to me, ‘What if I have to say to a 12-year-old boy, get off the pavement and ride on roads like Kinson Road and then he has an accident’?

“Do you think he could live with that on his conscience?”

Instances of pedestrians being killed or seriously injured are thankfully rare, and particularly so when considered against those suffering similar fates when a motor vehicle is involved.

However, pavement cycling does tend to be an emotive issue and one that is regularly flagged up by people throughout the UK at meetings with local councilors and police officers.

Speaking in Tuesday’s debate, Councillor Anne Filer, who represents East Cliff, claimed that cyclists were ‘the biggest annoyance’ highlighted at residents’ meetings in her ward.

In recent years, Bournemouth has seen police officers deploy speed cameras on the resort’s seafront promenade to catch cyclists riding at speeds in excess of the 10mph limit in force there.

Meanwhile a local dentist who commutes by bike along the same route blamed tacks being deliberately spread on the prom as the reason for his suffering a series of punctures.

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.