Roads minister tells police: Let cyclists go on footways when roads look dangerous

Roads minister Robert Goodwill has told a cycle campaign group that he agrees with the ‘pavement cycling’ guidance issued 15 years ago by the Home Office. Before fining cyclists for riding on the footway, police officers ought to use their discretion, said the minister, and not automatically issue a fixed penalty notice. The guidance has since been circulated to all local police forces by ACPO, the association of chief police officers.

On 1st August 1999, new legislation came into force to allow a fixed penalty notice to be served on anyone who is guilty of cycling on a footway. However the Home Office issued guidance on how the new legislation should be applied, indicating that they should only be used where a cyclist is riding in a manner that may endanger others. The then Home Office Minister Paul Boateng issued a letter stating that:

“The introduction of the fixed penalty is not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of traffic and who show consideration to other pavement users when doing so. Chief police officers, who are responsible for enforcement, acknowledge that many cyclists, particularly children and young people, are afraid to cycle on the road, sensitivity and careful use of police discretion is required.”

Almost identical advice has since been issued by the Home Office with regards the use of fixed penalty notices by ‘Community Support Officers’ and wardens.

“CSOs and accredited persons will be accountable in the same way as police officers. They will be under the direction and control of the chief officer, supervised on a daily basis by the local community beat officer and will be subject to the same police complaints system. The Government have included provision in the Anti Social Behaviour Bill to enable CSOs and accredited persons to stop those cycling irresponsibly on the pavement in order to issue a fixed penalty notice.

I should stress that the issue is about inconsiderate cycling on the pavements. The new provisions are not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of the traffic, and who show consideration to other road users when doing so. Chief officers recognise that the fixed penalty needs to be used with a considerable degree of discretion and it cannot be issued to anyone under the age of 16. (Letter to Mr H. Peel from John Crozier of The Home Office, reference T5080/4, 23 February 2004)

In a January 2014 letter to Donnachadh McCarthy of the pressure group Stop Killing Cyclists, roads minister Robert Goodwill said Boeteng’s original advice was still valid.

Goodwill said: “Thank you for bringing the issue of cycling on the pavement around dangerous junctions…to my attention. I agree that the police should be using discretion in enforcing this law and would support Paul Boateng’s original guidance.”

The Association of Chief Police Officers then circulated this reiteration of the 1999 advice to all local police forces. ACPO’s National Policing Lead for Cycling Assistant Chief Constable Mark Milsom said: “We welcome the re-issued guidance from the Minister for Cycling in respect of cycling on the pavement and have re-circulated this to all local forces.”

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