A short piece from the BBC reported the outcome of a UK public accounts committee. It seemed to find three things.
1) Roads are dangerous places -
2) Pedestrians and cyclists are particularly vulnerable road users because they don’t have the protection of a metal box.
It said pedestrians and cyclists were particularly vulnerable – largely because they had little physical protection from crashes. In 2007 more than 30,000 pedestrians and 16,000 cyclists were injured, while 646 and 136 respectively were killed on Britain’s roads.
Well so far the report is hardly breaking new ground. I hope they didn’t claim a raft of expenses to highlight these previously unbeknown revelations of transport policy.
3) The report recommended cracking down on people riding bikes on the pavement.
Well, generally I have no objection to this. As a cyclist, I want to ride on the road – not the pavement. Sometimes I see people cycling on pavements in a reckless way and it is a real nuisance. It can also occasionally cause serious accidents and is a frequent source of minor annoyance.
But, as bad as cycling on pavements is, it is hardly the cause of 3,000 road deaths a year. Maybe the report made other recommendations not reported by the press, but, a policy of issuing fines to pavement cyclists is not really going to do anything to tackle the fact road accidents are one of the biggest killers of young people.
That doesn’t mean, we shouldn’t try to stop anti social behaviour like cycling on pavements, but it has to be given the appropriate priority. As well, what about cracking down on car users who pass too close to pedestrians, jump red lights, ride on the wrong side of the road, break speed limits, drive under the influence / too tired / with mobile phone e.t.c?
I feel cycling on the pavement is a very visible example of bad road use. When motorists drive on the verge of sleep, pass too close / without due care and attention it is actually hard to spot it, which is perhaps why MP have highlighted a more visible and easy target of cyclists on pavements.
Also, whilst I strongly support pedestrians who want to have pavements without rampaging cyclists. I hope, that any implementation of the law would follow a policy common sense. If a cyclist is going a few metres to get from one road to another / avoid a very busy junction / cycling at walking pace less than 5mph, this is a very different case to cycling at a very fast pace expecting old ladies to jump out of the way. People will say the law is the law, but, these will be the same people who routinely break the speed limit. If someone does 80mph on the motorway, they would hardly expect to get a speeding ticket, even though they are technically breaking the law.
Like all things, it requires a degree of common sense. Fine those reckless cyclists, but don’t issue a ticket to every 6 year old child learning to ride a bike who might happen to use a pavement because the roads are too dangerous.
Richard Devereux, the top civil servant at the Department for Transport, made a well balanced quote:
“There are, without doubt, some elements of the cycling community who are in that position and there are equally, I imagine, rather more people who are far more dangerous drivers as well,” he said.