Minister for Cycling Robert Goodwill has reiterated that the official line from the Department for Transport (DfT) is that cyclists may ride on the footway – more commonly referred to as pavements – provided they do so considerately, and that police officers need to exercise discretion.
The confirmation came in an email sent to a cycle campaigner in London just two days after the Metropolitan Police confirmed nearly 1,000 cyclists had been fined for pavement cycling as part of its Operation Safeway.
In a letter emailed to Donnachadh McCarthy of the pressure group Stop Killing Cyclists, which has recently held protests outside the headquarters of Transport for London (TfL) on Southwark Bridge Road and at Vauxhall Cross, the minister said that original guidance issued by the Home Office 15 years ago when Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) were introduced, and repeated in 2004, was still valid.
Mr Goodwill told Mr McCarthy, who had written to his ministerial colleague at the DfT, Baroness Kramer, in December: “Thank you for bringing the issue of cycling on the pavement around dangerous junctions such as Vauxhall Cross to my attention. I agree that the police should be using discretion in enforcing this law and would support Paul Boateng’s original guidance. You may wish to write to Sir Hugh Orde, President of the Association of Chief police Officers, to bring this matter to his attention too."
That guidance from Mr Boateng, issued in 1999 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.”
Stop Killing Cyclists has hailed the minister's clarification as its first major success and Mr McCarthy said: “Fining vulnerable cyclists for cycling responsibly on the pavement at extremely dangerous junctions like Vauxhall Cross, is a bedroom tax on two-wheels as there is no safe alternative for them to cycle on.”
In a press release, the group added that it "is calling for an urgent meeting with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to discuss policing of cyclists in the capital.
Together with issues such as red light jumping, cyclists riding on the pavement is an issue that regularly sees bike riders come under criticism, and is one that is regularly highlighted at meetings between the police and local residents across the country.
While it is rare for pedestrians to be killed or seriously injured following a collision with a cyclist, occasionally cases do hit the headlines where the latter has been riding recklessly.
Last month a cyclist received a suspended prison sentence for wanton and furious driving after he collided with a teenage girl on a shared footpath on Southend-on-Sea’s promenade, leaving her with life-threatening head 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.