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Cycle campaigners agree with approach on anti-social cycling, but say better infrastructure needed

Cyclists in Avonmouth, Bristol, have received a letter from police telling them not to ride on pavements or through traffic signals. The letter, which has been welcomed by local cycling campaigners, forms part of a wider clampdown on anti-social cycling and was drawn up after concerns about people riding on pavements were raised at a neighbourhood forum.

In the letter, issued jointly with Bristol City Council, Avon & Somerset Constabulary says: "You are breaking the law when you cycle on the pavement. If you are found to be cycling on the pavement, you could have to pay an on-the-spot fine or be prosecuted." It is not clear whether the letters were sent to all households in the area, or didstributed in some other way.

The reverse of the letter outlines recommendations such as wearing a helmet and wheeling bikes across pedestrian crossings, as well as reinforcing laws including not riding on the pavement or through red lights, not to “ride dangerously, carelessly or inconsiderately," and not to "not hold onto other moving vehicles."

Bristol Cycling Campaign backed what it described as the “common sense” rules contained in the letter, with spokesman Eric Booth saying that it provided a "fair and complete summary" of the laws cyclists need to adhere to.

"We back the integrated approach from the council and police to tackle anti-social cycling on our streets,” he said, quoted by The Bristol Post, but added that issues such as pavement cycling were often due to a lack of adequate facilities for riders.

"But where there is a persistent problem it is usually the case that the engineering is not right,” he explained. “It is common that in areas where you find anti-social cycling, cyclists do not feel safe using the road plans in place."

Jon Usher from Sustrans added: "Everyone should abide by the law and many of these recommendations are a common-sense approach to encouraging a culture of mutual respect.

"Often cyclists feel they have no choice but to cycle on the pavement because speeding traffic and poor infrastructure make riding a bike on our roads so dangerous.

"We need more dedicated space for cyclists, slower speeds and improved driver training so that cyclists and pedestrians can travel safely."

As BikeHub’s comprehensive Cycling and the Law article written by Carlton Reid outlines, official guidance on issuing fixed penalty notices to cyclists riding on the footway is that they should only be given to cyclists riding inconsiderately, and there is an acknowledgment that at times, road conditions mean cyclists have no other safe option.

The Bristol Post adds that in June this year, Avon & Somerset’s chief constable, Nick Gargan, said he did not believe his officers should fine everyone found cycling on the pavement.

Nevertheless, the issue of anti-social cycling is one that regularly features at or near the top of list of residents’ concerns at neighbourhood forums, with riding on the pavement singled out as an area of prime concern that attendees want the police to address.

While most responsible cyclists share the view that riding recklessly or dangerously on the pavement is reprehensible, many argue that the emphasis given to the issue by neighbourhood forums is out of proportion to the danger in practice, and official statistics seem to back that up.

In 2011, the last year for which detailed statistics are available, according to the Department for Transport, there were 369 reported ‘accidents’ in which a pedestrian was injured following a collision with a cyclist.

Of those, 99 were classified as seriously injured, and there were 2 fatalities. The figures include all incidents, including for example when a pedestrian and cyclist collide while the former is crossing the road.

In the same year, 383 pedestrians were killed in collisions with vehicles other than bicycles, and nearly 5,000 suffered serious injuries.
 

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.