Legal and responsible enforcement

This article was published in 2009, in Newsletter 82.

The Campaign published a ‘position paper’ on legal and responsible cycling a number of years ago and we’re considering an update. Here Jim Chisholm gives his personal view on legal and responsible enforcement.

As part of our vain efforts to get the police to take action over inconsiderate driving on Hills Road bridge, in a letter to the police we asked for some data. We’ve now been provided with this by the Officer responsible for Freedom of Information. We’d asked for a list of locations where cyclists had been fined either for riding on the footway, or riding without lights within the City in recent years.

Having reviewed the data I’ve serious concerns about the ‘proportionality’ and ‘legality’ of police enforcement of the law relating to cycle offences. Clearly just as with motorists we should expect action to be taken against cyclists who seriously endanger others and, although I wouldn’t like to be called ‘Mr Getemoff’, I suspect a number of the fines are either inappropriate, illegal or both.

So what data have we been given?

Nearly 350 cyclists have been fined for ‘Cycling on the Footway’. As far as I can determine, this is the only offence for which a PCSO can issue a ticket. Of these fines nearly half were issued on roads with no footway! As far as I can determine, and I’ve heard from a former PCSO who is now training as a lawyer, you can only be fined for riding on the footway if there is an adjacent road on which you could cycle, other restrictions excepted. So Petty Cury (76) and Burleigh/Fitzroy (12+10) should be covered by ‘No vehicle’ access restrictions. We’ve previously questioned tickets issued in Sussex Street (20) because whatever signage should have been there was absent. It may be that we should support banning of cycling in these streets, but it should be by legal TROs (Traffic Regulation Orders) with legal signage. In Petty Cury the only indications that cycling is prohibited are the very small (100mm) ‘No Entry’ signs on the wooden posts. The police and the appropriate local authorities need to talk to each other, ensuring that the correct TROs and signs are in place, and that if cyclists are to be fined it is done under the correct regulation.

Incidentally, of those tickets issued elsewhere, 29 have been issued on Hills Road bridge during the current road works. The Campaign does not support cycling on footways, but to fine cyclists here when we’ve been given no evidence that even a single motorist has been fined for overtaking cyclists in the 3.0 m traffic lanes, seems an unbalanced use of police resources.

We’ve also obtained the data on fines issued for cycling without lights. Over 550 were issued but some 240 were in the City Centre ‘pedestrian area’. Perhaps surprisingly only 144 out of the 560 were issued on or outside the ‘ring road’ and it seems that fining the cyclist without lights outside Sainsbury’s is just too easy (123). It was interesting to discover that only 71 motorists have been fined within the City for lighting offences over the same period. I reckon, on my cycle trip home through Trumpington and Shelford, to see at least four times as many cars with illegal lights as cyclists without lights. It was also disappointing to hear that the police seem to have abandoned the use of ‘Defect Rectification Notices’ for cycle light offences. If such a notice is issued, the person concerned is not fined if they produce evidence that the fault has been rectified within 14 days.

Jim Chisholm