Position paper on responsible, legal cycling

Cover image of document Responsible, legal cycling – downloadable PDF version

See also:

Cambridge Cycling Campaign fully supports enforcement of traffic regulations.

This policy aims to make clear our advocacy of responsible, legal cycling. We believe this is in the best interests of cyclists themselves and of the wider community.

Enforcement of traffic regulations for all road users

The Campaign supports enforcement (applied in a fair and reasonable manner) of all traffic regulations, for all categories of road user, to reduce conflict and road danger.

Offences and/or anti-social actions by some cyclists include:

  • Riding without lights or with inadequate lights
  • Use of pavements not designated for use by cyclists
  • Riding in pedestrian-only streets
  • Riding through red traffic lights
  • Riding the wrong way down one-way streets
  • Cycling when under the influence of alcohol
  • Cycling in an aggressive or intimidating manner
  • Inadequate signalling or other poor road behaviour
  • Riding a bicycle in a dangerous condition, e.g. with inadequate brakes

Putting things in perspective

Transgressions by cyclists, though needing to be treated seriously, should be put into perspective by comparing them with transgressions by other road users. Offences and/or anti-social actions by some motorists include:

  • Speeding in urban, residential and other areas
  • Drink-driving
  • Illegal parking, e.g. on yellow lines, in cycle lanes, on pavements, at blind corners, at bus stops or in disabled/taxi spaces
  • Driving in bus or cycle lanes
  • Overtaking when unsafe to do so
  • Driving in an aggressive or intimidating manner
  • Driving through red traffic lights or accelerating through lights turning red
  • Driving an unroadworthy vehicle, e.g. with faulty lights

Enforcement of the rules is important for all road users. However, the consequences of transgressions by motorists are likely to be far more serious than those by cyclists. We understand that pedestrian deaths caused by cyclists are about one every two years nationally (and that, in terms of injuries, more cyclists than pedestrians are hurt in cycle/pedestrian collisions). By way of comparison, 823 pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles in 2001[1]. Moreover, 53% of motorists do not obey the speed limit in urban roads with a 30mph speed limit[2]; 95% of vulnerable road users survive a collision at 20mph; at 40mph only 15% survive[3].

We believe that better enforcement, directed at all groups of road users, should become a police priority and that this would reduce inconsiderate road use and road use which causes danger.

Reducing offending by cyclists

Campaigning for better highway design

We believe that a significant number of offences by cyclists are committed as a result of poor highway design which neglects the needs of cyclists.

The Campaign opposes poorly-designed road and traffic management schemes that, by taking insufficient account of the needs of cyclists, are likely to lead to an increase in the number of cyclists who break the law.

Our campaigning objectives therefore include:

  • On-road facilities designed to meet the needs of cyclists so that they are not tempted into illegal manoeuvres.
  • Modification of over-complex and intimidating road layouts (for example at multiple lane junctions) which result in some cyclists using illegal manoeuvres to navigate them in ways they regard as safe.
  • Installation of continental-style junctions with cycle filter lanes or which allow cyclists to cross during a pedestrian phase (thereby clearing the way for other vehicles when the lights change).
  • Cycle routes that are straightforward and direct, which eliminate the temptation to make shortcuts across areas not designated for cycle use.
  • Off-road tracks, in cases where such tracks are necessary, designed in a manner which reduces potential conflict with pedestrians, e.g. by ensuring that both pedestrians and cyclists are allocated adequate space.

In the absence of such improvements, however, the law stands and should be obeyed and enforced.

Campaigning for improved signage and public information and for modernisation of cycling regulations

We believe that, in a minority of cases, cyclists commit offences because they are unaware of the law. Better signage and public information would help to reduce the number of such offences. In some other cases cyclists are accused of committing offences when they have not done so. Again, clearer information would help to remedy the situation. Lastly, some laws and regulations are obscure or out-of-date and should be modernised to avoid unnecessary disputes.

Our campaigning objectives therefore include:

  • Clarification of the status of pavement-like areas on which cyclists are legally allowed to ride, through more explicit signage.
  • Removal, wherever possible and sensible, of purely advisory signs such as “Cyclists dismount” that cause confusion when they are not observed in favour of more relevant advisory signs such as “Cyclists give way to pedestrians”.
  • Better signage in areas with complex regulations such as Cambridge City Centre, done in a way which protects the visual amenity of the area concerned.
  • Provision of simple, straightforward information about cycling in Cambridge for foreign language students and other visitors hiring cycles during their stay in the area.
  • Better focused public information aimed at pedestrians, cyclists, motorists (including bus and taxi drivers) and the police about local cycling regulations.
  • Clarifying and modernising the regulations relating to cycling in Cambridge with the aim of promoting safe and responsible cycling, particularly where such measures would resolve problems and uncertainties.

Positive action by the Campaign

Cambridge Cycling Campaign is actively seeking to promote safe and responsible cycling, amongst its wider campaigning objectives. However, it cannot, of course, be blamed for the transgressions of cyclists in Cambridge, just as those motoring organisations which promote safe and responsible motoring cannot be blamed for the transgressions of motorists.

The Campaign is limited in what it can accomplish by the fact that it is an organisation of volunteers, with modest financial means which are not comparable to the far greater resources available to governmental and other organisations responsible for road safety initiatives.

Nevertheless we support and, where resources allow, will continue to be involved with:

  • Campaigning for traffic law enforcement as a police priority
  • Better road design to meet the needs of cyclists
  • Improved signage and public information
  • Clarification and modernisation of local cycling laws and regulations
  • Promotion of adult cycle training (including training, where practicable, for visitors such as foreign language students hiring cycles during their stay in the city)
  • Promotion of training for schoolchildren through safer cycling and cycling proficiency initiatives
  • Testing the roadworthiness of cycles and promoting their better maintenance
  • Initiatives to increase the roadworthiness of cycles being hired or sold, including the fitting of good-quality lights and reflectors

[1] Road Casualties in Great Britain 2001, Department for Transport.

[2] Vehicle Speeds in Great Britain 2004, Department for Transport.

[3] Killing Speed and Saving Lives, Department of Transport 1997.