Fixed Penalty Fines

This article was published in 1998, in Newsletter 17.

Responsibility for pedestrian casualties, 1996
Cars 39430; Scooter/Motocycle 1285; HGVs 794; Cycles 364

The Home Office said in January that it would introduce fixed penalty fines for cyclists riding on the footway. Offenders would be issued with a ticket and be required to pay £20 (not, though, an on-the-spot fine as the local paper said) – or be taken to court and risk doubling that.

While many people have written to the Cambridge Evening News objecting, and the Cyclists’ Touring Club has objected nationally, we have supported this move. The law is not changing; it is just becoming easier to enforce. There is a section of cyclists in Cambridge who use the footway to jump queues and take short cuts, where safety is not their concern. Generally they are cycling fast and are responsible for much of the intimidation felt by pedestrians and the poor image these give cyclists as a whole.

It would seem unlikely that the police won’t take a common sense approach. After all, they would make fools of themselves targeting, say, parents with young children. There is a danger though that the police could over-use these powers, because they offer cyclists as an easy target, when the clear evidence is that though pedestrians perceive a threat from cyclists, both groups are at hugely greater risk from speeding motor traffic.

Numbers of fatal, serious and slight casualties on the footway, by vehicle type, 1996
Cars: 34, 396, 1769; HGVs: 4, 26, 147; Scooter/Motocycle: 0, 18, 81; Cycles 0, 23, 65.

Taking attention away from speeding because it is easier to stop and fine cyclists is absolutely the wrong priority. The CTC is negotiating with the police at a national level for guidelines for the use of this power, to make sure that it is not abused.

Secondly, the penalties for motorists on the footway need to be equitably dealt with. At present it is not illegal to park on the footway, only to drive on it. So someone has to see the driver in motion. Presence of the car on the footway is not sufficient evidence that it was driven there, and this is absurd.

Nevertheless, if this measure can increase responsible cycling, then it is a good thing. Pavements are for pedestrians. It is our job to make roads safe enough and not blocked with traffic so that cyclists don’t need to resort to threatening pedestrians.

David Earl