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'It's as much a crime as being drunk in a pub' says police chief...

Police in Primrose Hill, North London, have said they will no longer penalise cyclists who ride on the pavement, while pledging to look into the reasons why they don’t feel safe on the road.

Sergeant Nick Clarke, who we recently reported was behind a local initiative to crack down on drivers passing cyclists dangerously close, said that although it was technically illegal to cycle on the pavement, the crime was similar to ‘being drunk in a pub’.

He told the Camden New Journal: “We don’t enforce it unless we have good reason. It’s about using common sense and discretion.

“It’s not the scourge of Camden, but if it is happening, we have to look at why. Why are people choosing to ride on the pavement? Then we have to resolve that, so all vulnerable road users are safe.”

Police will continue to stop cyclists they see flouting the law, but instead of a fine or caution, they will be offered advice or “Bikeability” classes.

Sgt Clarke said: “I’ll advise them that, if you are going to ride on the pavement, treat the pedestrians as you would want a car to treat you and recognise they are more at risk than you are.

“The only possibility I can see myself [booking] a cyclist for riding on the pavement is if their riding is so dangerous that it would want to make me leap out the way and chase after them. I’m sure some people will bang a big drum and say that it’s wrong.”

There was mixed reaction locally to the news, with horse racing pundit John McCririck, who lives in Primrose Hill, saying: “If you break the law it should be enforced and the police should at least tell the miscreants that they are breaking the law and there are consequen­ces if they go on doing it, and if it’s a repeated offence there is a penalty to be paid.

“Cycles on pavement are dangerous for everybody there.”

He added: “There has been a lot of favouring of cyclists, and up to a point I’m all for it, having been a tricyclist myself, but at the end of the day it is the police’s job to enforce the law of the land, and in this case they are not doing that and, it seems, deliberately questioning if it is the law of the land.”

In 2014, then Minister for Cycling Robert Goodwill reiterated that the official line from the Department for Transport (DfT) was that cyclists may ride on the footway, provided they do so considerately.

That guidance, 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.”

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.