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Metropolitan Police fines pavement cyclists - but were they right to do so?

Minister Robert Goodwill has said 1999 Home Office guidance on "considerate" riding on footway still valid...

Police in a London borough have fined more than 50 people for cycling on the pavement – despite a government minister saying last month that officers needed to use their discretion and that riders were allowed to take to the footway, commonly referred to as pavement, provided they do so considerately.

Officers in Kingston-upon-Thames issued 54 fixed penalty notices to cyclists for the offence as part of the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Safeway, launched at the end of November, reports the Kingston Guardian.

But as we reported on last month, minister for cycling Robert Goodwill confirmed in a letter to Donnachadh McCarthy of the pressure group Stop Killing Cyclists that Home Office guidance issued in 1999 regarding giving fixed penalty notices to cyclists riding on the footway was still valid.

Mr McCarthy had written to the minister in part to express concern about the targeting of cyclists riding on pavements under Operation Safeway, including at Vauxhall Cross.

The 1999 guidance was given 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.”

In his letter, Mr Goodwill told Mr McCarthy: “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."

The Kingston Guardian does not say exactly when the 54 fixed penalty notices were given to the cyclists, and it’s possible some or all of them were issued before Mr Goodwill’s reiteration of the original 1999 guidance filtered down to local level, assuming that has happened.

It’s also possible that not all of the cyclists fined would have been riding in a manner deemed “considerate” at the time, although some would say that is a subjective matter for the officer involved.

However, comments made to the Kingston Guardian by a spokesman for local police suggest that at least some of the cyclists fined were riding on the footway due to fears of the road being dangerous – exactly the circumstances Mr Boateng described in his 1999 guidance.

The spokesman said: “We are aware that some cyclists use pavements in particular areas because they believe this to be safer, however, cycling on the pavements can pose a threat to pedestrians and also to cyclists if they are subsequently re-entering a busy road at a point not designated for this.

“Issuing fixed penalty notices for this offence has been part of an overall programme to encourage mutual respect and consideration among different road user groups through law enforcement,” he added.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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