The Pavement Cycling Issue

  1. The Road “Safety” Crackdown comes in the wake of the hit-and-run death of a cyclist, Jake Gilmore, in Bath in November. He was one of a number of cyclists who died in what was a dark month for road safety in the UK.
  2. Police forces in other locations – notably London, Edinburgh and Bristol – have also mounted similar crackdowns in the last few weeks.
  3. “Crackdowns” are barely more than PR exercises. They are designed to give the impression that roads policing still occurs, when it hasn’t done so in any meaningful way for 20 or more years.
  4. The road conditions we have are, in part, due to the Police’s unwillingness to actually police them over the last 20-odd years.
  5. This makes it slightly ironic that, in the name of road safety, cyclists were given advice – “stop riding on the pavement; take your place on the road” – that would increase their exposure to risk.
  6. Pavement cycling is illegal.
  7. However, when the Fixed Penalty Notice was introduced as a penalty in 1999, Home Office Guidance stated that it was only to be used in cases where the cyclist was cycling in an antisocial or threatening way.
  8. Yes, sometimes people get hurt or killed by cyclists. But really not very often: once every two years or so.
  9. You’re 500 times more likely to be killed by a motor vehicle on the pavement, than by a bicycle.
  10. Many UK cycle paths are converted pavements (shared use facilities), making it a confusing mess regarding where one is allowed to cycle away from the road, and where one is not.
  11. The motorists stopped in the “safety” crackdown were mostly using mobile phones.
  12. Distracted driving, including mobile phone use, is empirically a much bigger risk of harm –  both to car occupants and vulnerable road users – than pavement cycling, but unlike pavement cycling there is no provision for only giving penalties when it is done in an antisocial way. It is illegal.
  13. Despite this, the motorists caught in the crackdown were only given “words of advice” this time, not fines or points on their licence.
  14. 11 cyclists, and 10 motorists “caught” in one morning. Good PR for the police. Good business for the struggling local media (cycling is good for web hits).
  15. Everyone ignorescontinues to ignore the relative harm done by car drivers and cyclists, and cyclists are no safer (even, arguably, less safe) than before the “safety” (actually, “small section of highway code enforcement”) crackdown.