Mandatory cycle lanes

This article was published in 2007, in Newsletter 74.


No doubt many of you will have seen reports of exchanges between the driver of an illegally parked delivery vehicle and a local councillor in the local paper. It still seems that even in busy contraflow mandatory cycle lanes (MCLs) such as Downing Street, delivery drivers and others fail to abide by the law and are even abusive to cyclists who complain.

Illegal parking in Downing Street Cycle Lane
Image as described adjacent

You may also have heard that the police issued a press release at the start of August on the subject:

It is an offence to drive on or park in cycle lanes marked by a solid white line during their operating hours.

Sergeant Mark Kathro said: ‘We have had a number of complaints from the public about motorists using cycle lanes in and around the city.’

‘Clearly this can be dangerous for the cyclists using these lanes.’

‘We are monitoring this problem and will be issuing a Fixed Penalty Notice to anyone caught breaking the law.’

Of course not all is as it seems.

Firstly, the police press release followed threats by an officer to charge a cyclist for ‘obstruction’ for cycling sloooowly in an MCL, hence holding up his police car. When the cyclist complained, a more senior officer wrote to say the officer was within his rights and that it was not illegal for motor vehicles to enter such lanes. The Campaign has had similar letters from the police in the past. On this occasion a further complaint to the police resulted in an apology, and the issue of the press release at the start of August.

Secondly, the incident with the councillor occurred at the very same spot we highlighted in our previous newsletter.

Yet still we have so called ‘professional’ delivery drivers who blatantly disobey the law, and a manger of premises who is clearly irresponsible. Is it surprising a Councillor lost his cool?

We’ve also had several reports from people who’ve complained about illegally parked vehicles at other locations where the police have failed to take effective action.

Finally in early September I witnessed two Police Community Support Officers approach a delivery lorry outside the Revolution in Downing Street, the very same company we’ve previously photographed and reported about. What did these officers do? They walked straight past without even a glance at the dangerous and illegal obstruction.

When I questioned their lack of action they claimed to have no powers and I was told ‘He’s got to unload somewhere.’ During 2005, in the whole of Cambridgeshire, only 18 tickets we issued for offences in Mandatory Cycle Lanes. No doubt there are many members who know of a location on their normal cycling route where an astute officer could issue that many tickets within an hour for moving vehicle offences in mandatory cycle lanes.

We’ve since written to the Chief Constable to ask for a meeting with a senior officer on the issue of the failure of the police to understand their responsibility to educate even their own officers on this subject.

Are we being fussy? Of course not. When the Home Office did a survey and asked people what they considered the worst forms of anti-social behaviour, what do you think made it to second place? It was anti-social and illegal parking! (The top spot was claimed not by binge drinkers or painters of graffiti, but speeding motorists).

Jim Chisholm