A Conservative MP says that anti-social cyclists who ride on the pavement should be subject to a “three strikes and you’re out” regime after which they are fined the value of their bike – and have it impounded if they don’t cough up. As one of the people who helps decide the country’s laws, though, he perhaps should have boned up on the legal situation first.
Stewart Jackson, who has represented Peterborough since 2005, acknowledges in his Westminster Life column for local newspaper Peterbrough Today that it's “a pretty cycle friendly city, with its many miles of cycle routes, commitment to sustainable transport, as recognised by Central Government and aspirations to be the Environment Capital of the UK. So far, so good. What’s not to like?”
Quite a lot, it turns out.
“Well,” he continues, “the slightly superior and arrogant attitude of some hard core cyclists, who really don’t believe that basic roadcraft rules and conventions and the Highway Code really applies to them.”
Mr Jackson says his eyes were opened to the strength of feeling about people who ride on the pavement at a local Police and Community Neighbourhood Panel where he found people “were seriously irritated, annoyed, crazy, mad” about them.
He goes on: “People say, ‘it’s Eastern Europeans who don’t understand the rules of the road....’ but it isn’t. Young men and women, older men and women, students, council workers, parents with kids....yes, they all ride on the pavement at speed and really couldn’t give a monkey’s what you think about it or about your safety and security as a pedestrian and the fact that you might have babies and toddlers with you.”
The MP adds that the police “don’t seem that bothered either, despite the fact that a criminal offence is being committed and the law is seemingly being flouted with immunity.”
While cycling on the footway is illegal under Section 72 of the Highway Act 1835, amended by Section 85(1) of the Local Government Act 1888, the situation of enforcement is less cut and dried than the politician seems to believe, as a look at Bike Hub’s excellent Cycling and the Law article reveals.
Earlier this year, transport minister Robert Goodwill said in a letter to Donnachadh McCarthy of the campaign group Stop Killing Cyclist that Home Office guidance first issued in 1999 by former Home Office minister Paul Boateng which told police to use their discretion was still valid.
The latter had written to senior police officers to say: “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.”
Following Mr Goodwill’s reiteration of that guidance this year, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) repeated its support of the Mr Boateng’s 1999 letter, saying: “We welcome the re-issued guidance from the Minister for Cycling in respect of cycling on the pavement and have re-circulated this to all local forces.”
Back in Peterborough, Mr Jackson acknowledges that “of course there are some diligent, law abiding and respectful cyclists and I absolve them of my ire and collective opprobrium.
“But what about the “couldn’t give a damn” crew, who whizz round the corner on your street risking life and limb (yours, not their’s),” he asks.
Here’s his novel solution:“Well, how about three strikes and you’re out? Caught three times cycling on the pavement, they would have their cycles confiscated and unless they paid the full value of the cycle, it would be either destroyed or given to a charity. We’d soon have pavements for pedestrians and a little more mutual respect.”
He concludes: “Over to you Peterborough City Council. A bye law needs updating...”
Except it doesn’t. The fixed penalty notice for riding on the pavement, currently £30, is set out in Section 51 and Schedule 3 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 – and since that comes down to the Secretary of State; perhaps Mr Jackson needs to have a word with one of his Parliamentary colleagues instead?
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.