Police are trialling a new approach to pavement cycling, in which they will look at why cyclists are using the path instead of the road.
Officers in the London Borough of Camden will not fine cyclists – instead they will investigate why they feel the road is not suitable. Officers will also be cycling on the road in plain clothes, handing out fines to drivers who give less than the required 1.5 metres of passing room.
The trial follows a similar approach to that taking in the West Midlands, where police fined drivers for giving insufficient passing room.
It’s been an offence to cycle on the footpath anywhere in England or ales since the 1835 Highways Act was put in place. The offence carries a £50 fine – however, enforcement is at the discretion of the chief officer at each force and the Home Office calls leniency, particuartly towards children.
Camden’s Sergeant Nick Clarke has said that in his area, police will only take action if a cyclist is forcing a pedestrian out of their way. Explaining his motives, he told the Camden New Journal: "Riding on the pavement is technically illegal, just like being drunk in a pub is technically illegal, but 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."
He's made it clear that his eventual intention is to create an atmosphere where cyclists feel safe on the road.
When officers come across a cyclist on the pavement, they will ask them for their reasons, and may suggest they attend a cycling proficiency class such as those run by ‘Bikeability’ to improve their confidence.
Sgt Clarke added: "I’ll advise cyclists 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 them."
Councillor for Highbury East ward in Islington, Caroline Russell, has responded positively to the plans - commenting: "This man deserves a medal. Pitch perfect response to reports of pavement cycling. We need more police to tackle road danger at source."
What do you think? Should cyclists be able to cycle on the pavement if they feel unsafe on the road?