Don’t persecute cyclists as they are forced off the roads

Kristian Gregory on his bikeCROYDON COMMENTARY: Earlier this week, another cyclist was killed on the roads of south London, this time after a collision involving a local authority dust cart. When it comes to traffic control, KRISTIAN GREGORY, pictured left, believes the police have their priorities wrong

Earlier this month, I was pulled over by a PCSO on the New Kent Road while riding a bike along the designated shared pavement and given a £50 fine. The incident was captured on my helmet camera and on seeing the footage, Mark Williams, the cabinet member for transport for Southwark, asked the Southwark borough commander to stop carrying out enforcement there.

Jenny Jones, the London Assembly member, raised my case as an example of over-zealous policing with Matt Bell, the head of roads and transport policing, who has in turn sympathised with my case and suggested that I challenge the fine.

However, the fine has not been cancelled and I face a court case and legal costs ranging from £400 up to £2,000, depending on whether the case is dropped before going to court or not.

It is clear that such penalties are reliant upon the recipient accepting the fine, as it pales in comparison to the cost of challenging it. Few carry cameras, as I do, to use in their defence.

Kristian pic 1So I was appalled when I heard that Crystal Palace’s policing team have taken it upon themselves to start fining people for cycling on the pavement at the Upper Norwood Triangle.

Pavements are not nice places to cycle. They are poorly surfaced, give way at side roads, are cluttered by lamp posts and signs and often blocked by pedestrians. So if at a given location a significant number of people are choosing to cycle on a pavement, then something has gone seriously wrong with the alternative.

When the one-way system at Upper Norwood was introduced, the Croydon Cycling Campaign opposed it. Speeding by motor vehicles is now commonplace, making the roads very dangerous. The one-way system forces cyclists around it, causing significant detours.

We were ignored and the inevitable has happened. People are trying to avoid going around the one-way system on a bike because it is inconvenient and very dangerous. Now the police are looking to fine people £50 for a situation that was imposed on them to their detriment.

This is the law, from the Highway Act 1835 that the Crystal Palace Policing team plans to fine people for:

If any person shall wilfully ride upon any footpath or causeway by the side of any road made or set apart for the use or accommodation of foot passengers; or shall wilfully lead or drive any horse, ass, sheep, mule, swine, or cattle or carriage of any description, or any truck or sledge, upon any such footpath or causeway; or shall tether any horse, ass, mule, swine, or cattle, on any highway, so as to suffer or permit the tethered animal to be thereon.

The fixed penalty notice for this offence was introduced by Paul Boateng in 1999 and he provided the following guidance for its application.

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

It is clear that targeting cyclists who are using the pavement to avoid dangerous roads around the Upper Norwood Triangle is not an appropriate use of this police power.

Gregory pic 2It is not clear, however, how the police determine their priorities.

On Twitter, several people questioned Sergeant Diane Hill on how their priorities are decided, and raised some valid questions.

• Why was this policing team ignoring ministerial advice on the application of this power?
• Why were no cyclists consulted before deciding to go ahead with this action?
• Why isn’t roads policing determined by harm caused, using collision statistics?
The response to these questions?

Gregory pic 4

At present, cycling is a mode of transport only used by a small group of people due to the dangers that make it an unappealing choice. I’m sure Diane Hill wouldn’t dream of increasing the number of stop and searches carried out on a minority ethnic group at the whim of a panel of white people, so why is it acceptable to do the equivalent thing with another kind of minority group?

The Crystal Palace policing team needs seriously to rethink how they determine their policing priorities. While they tackle cycling on the pavement, a problem which the council created and the council should fix, there are far more worthwhile things they could be doing.

Not far away on Grange Road, the community is crying out for policing as speeding motorists on their street have resulted in residents waking up with cars tipped upside down in their gardens. They fear for their children’s lives on a road where a recent speed monitoring exercise on this 30mph road recorded one vehicle doing 72mph.

Last year, Kremena Mersinkova was killed while walking on the pavement in Purley by Thomas Lee, who was driving at 50mph. Lee was high on cocaine, lost control of his car, mounted the pavement and struck her.

Our local policing teams must regain their sense of perspective.

 


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12 Responses to Don’t persecute cyclists as they are forced off the roads

  1. cyclegaz says:

    Kristian raises a good point, perhaps the better thing is to look at why people are breaking the law rather than flat out fining them. With the case of the Triangle, it is not pleasant to cycle round and with some of the drivers on the road, flat out dangerous.

    Like

  2. davidcallam says:

    My initial thought, as a pedestrian, is that pavements are sacrosanct.

    But there is a bigger problem here. Boris Johnson is often filmed on a bike; he says he wants to encourage cycling throughout Greater London, and who could object to that? But he does very little to make cycling safe because, like every other politician, he is frightened of the motoring lobby.

    Greater London is a place where motor cars should be much more restricted. We should all be encouraged to use public transport, or walk, or cycle much more often. But to do that we need safe places to ride bikes; an area physically separated from motorists and pedestrians.

    A little less of your political codswallop, Mr Johnson please, and a good deal more action!

    Oh yes, and why is a matter as important as this being left to a sergeant to decide? It should be determined at pan-London level and monitored by elected representatives.

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  3. Most cyclists do not ride on the pavements for fun, they do so because they feel vulnerable. So rather than tackle the vulnerability the local MPS decides to tackle the vulnerable.

    Why not spend some precious time actually clamping down on dangerous and excessive speeding that goes on in Croydon? And, here’s the real reason:

    @tom_chance We do have traffic enforcement days but to be honest don't really have the resources to carry out full blown op— Sgt Diane Hill (@MPSCrystalPSgt) July 22, 2014

    A lack of resources…

    Like

  4. Gerry King says:

    IME people only ride on the east side heading South. This is after 10 minutes puffing (I’m fat and old) up Gypsy Hill.

    Yes I could get off and push.

    That would involve taking up twice the space and having less control than if I was sitting on top of it ‘riding’ on the pavement. This is the only stretch of pavement I regularly mount. Those other places are few and far between.

    ‘Riding on the pavement’ needs to be defined so as to discriminate between riding slowly behind someone at walking speed, only overtaking them (if at all) on the curb and ‘hooligan cycling’.

    If you think someone is going too fast, jam your umbrella or walking stick in their back wheel and let go. Don’t forget to let go!

    A pedestrian + motorist + cyclist

    Like

  5. The one way system is a pretty unfriendly design for cycling – traffic capacity and on street parking have obviously been prioritised over anything cyclists might need. Arriving from Southwark, it’s pretty much “Welcome to Croydon, s*d you”. Pedestrians don’t get a much better deal, as anyone trying to get to and from the park will attest.

    Fixing it properly (as in, “make it safe and welcoming for all ages and abilities to cycle”) would be expensive and politically difficult, but some quick fixes (as in, “remove immediate danger to people cycling in existing conditions”) is not.

    In particular, and above all, it needs a blanket 20mph limit and a police force willing to enforce it.

    The Church Road / Anerley Hill junction is a death trap because of the way the northernmost end of Church Road is configured (there’s a high speed lane merge, around a corner, which appears out of the blue). It’s not great for motorists, for that matter – I saw a crash there last week in fact – neither party even stopped – and you regularly find bits of car and headlight lying in the middle of the road there – but where a car breaks a wing mirror, a cyclist will break a leg or worse. It’s not helped by the fact that TfL don’t seem to be able to get their own bus drivers to stick to posted speed limits or obey the ASL “bike boxes” at traffic lights.

    Making the footpaths through the middle of the Triangle permeable to bikes is another easy win. Give people a halfway workable alternative to going around the wrong way.

    Look at where the bike stands by Sainsbury’s are located. Drivers are, very sensibly, provided with a two-way access road to the car park allowing them to leave in either direction. The bike park is firmly on the one-way system – you can’t get to it from the best routes on the north side (Carberry Road and Haynes Lane), and if your return trip is southbound, you’ve got a walk and an awkward unassisted crossing to get on to the road at all.

    Southwark council have, in recent years, taken the pragmatic step of legalising pavement cycling entirely at a few junctions which otherwise create a barrier to bike trips (Bricklayers Roundabout springs to mind, and some bits of the South Circular, Camberwell Church Street and Peckham Rye Lane). It’s not ideal for anyone, but it breaks down barriers which would otherwise prevent bike trips entirely. The current pavements around CP Triangle are not wide enough to accommodate that, but they could easily be widened by taking away some parking bays and traffic lanes (in fact, they need to be widened just for the sheer number of pedestrians using it already) – and were that to be done, I reckon they could just decriminalise pavement cycling there & have done with it.

    Like

  6. mraemiller says:

    “Earlier this month, I was pulled over by a PCSO on the New Kent Road while riding a bike along the designated shared pavement and given a £50 fine”

    I’ve read this several times and I still dont understand. If the pavement is designated “shared” between cyclists and pedestrians (like round Waterloo station) surely you’re not breaking the law? If it wasn’t you are. If it was legal or illegal is then surely a fairly binary issue?

    If you’ve been wrongly fined by a council busybody ior PCSO… Sometimes if it’s OBVIOUSLY just wrong and you take it up with your local Councillor you can get the action stopped before it gets to the farcical stage of going to court. Sometimes … it’s worth a shot….

    While cyclists on the pavement are annoying it doesn’t wind me up too much as about the worst that can happen is some nasty bruises or broken bones. Cyclists who jump red lights on the other hand can cause death … if the police want something to do that’s non partisan I’d just stand by a set of traffic lights for a couple of hours… they’re bound to see lots of cyclists and drivers flagrantly breaking the law.

    Like

    • The designation on New Kent Road is a complex mess. There are bits of pavement you are legally allowed to cycle on, and bits that you are not, and most of the time look identical. The signs for “integrated shared use” (no demarcated zones for bikes) and “segregated shared use” (only allowed to cycle on a narrow strip, but pedestrians can use the whole thing – including the narrow bit allocated for bikes) are similar, and change frequently – part of the south side is integrated, part is segregated, and most of the north side is integrated. Confused?

      On top of that, we have the guidance from the Home Office, quoted above.

      “Fixed penalty is not aimed at responsible cyclists .. who show consideration to other pavement users .. police discretion is required”.

      A £50 FPN for straying a few feet out of the poorly-designated “cycling permitted” zone plainly doesn’t fit in with that, and that’s before we even get to asking about whether it’s a good use of limited police resources, or in any way proportionate to the harm likely to be done.

      Like

    • KristianCyc says:

      It’s fair that you found that line confusing. It’s complicated and I didn’t want to go into it in the article.

      You can read more here, see the video and make your own mind up
      http://road.cc/content/news/122715-video-london-cyclist-gets-%C2%A350-straying-shared-use-path-blocked-phone-box

      As I’ve said I kicked up enough of a fuss and received lots of support from various politicians and police officers but this hasn’t yet led to the cancellation of the fine.

      Rather than arbitrarily pick motoring laws to crack down on at the suggestion of locals, I’d like to see police take a different approach. First, I would like police to focus on harm reduction. There are plenty of statistics available on KSIs and what the major causes are. They include speeding, drink/drug driving, mobile phone use etc… Police priority should be to target the most common cause of KSIs until such a point as that is no longer the most common cause and something else is. So by all means go after red-light jumping as you suggest, but only if the stats show that is the most common cause of KSIs.

      Secondly I’d like to see a little root cause analysis. If a law is being broken systematically at a given location there is probably something about that location that is causing it. In the case of the triangle, its the dangerous conditions and long detours. Enforcement isn’t always the correction solution to a problem, and when it’s not the police should pass on the responsibility for solving it. For example, systematic speeding at the Coulsdon bypass has resulted in raising of the speed limit – the problem was felt to be that the design speed of the road was far in excess of the speed limit as opposed to being a problem with lawless drivers.

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      • Watch Kristian’s video closely, as the PCSO stops him he and his female colleague ignore a cyclist riding beyond the limit of the shared use footway, past the Diagram 951 No Cycling sign (which incidentally has a blue ‘shared use permitted’ sign on the opposite side of the post. They then ignore a second cyclist riding past the No Cycling sign. I’d certainly be complaining about this very ‘selective’ enforcement, and on a section of footway clearly signed for shared use, and presumably clearly defined as such, by the TRO which is required for the placement of the Diagram 951 No Cycling sign in the clearly specified place.

        At no time has Kristian cycled past the Diagram 951 sign and the PCSO must therefore explain himself for wrongly issuing the FPN

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  7. tomvoute says:

    Cyclists don’t belong on footpaths; it can be very unsafe for both pedestrians and cyclists. I am, of course, very biased because I grew up in the Netherlands. IT IS A MYTH that there are separate cycle paths everywhere in that country. In the cities there is often no space for that. But we NEVER cycled on footpaths – it would simply not enter your head to do so. Even as children we cycled happily on the carriage way, sharing road space with cars. The big difference, however, is that in the UK car drivers think of the highway as their exclusive space and have no concept of sharing road space. Motorists are the problem and they must be kept under proper control with much more rigorous and properly enforced speed limits to make cycling safer. Once that has been achieved and the numbers of cyclists on the carriage way has increased significantly, motorists will get more used at the greater complexity on the road and will begin to drive more safely and considerately. It is a general finding in modern traffic design – pioneered in the Netherlands – that increasing complexity of road usage through sharing by different forms of traffic increases safety because motorists become much more attuned to what is happening around them and become less possessive of “their own” road space.

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