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Cycling: Accidents

Volume 733: debated on Thursday 8 December 2011


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many accidents have been caused by cyclists riding on pavements and how many cyclists have been charged with riding on pavements in the past year.

My Lords, in 2010, there were 680 reported personal injury road accidents involving cyclists on the footway on GB roads. The Department for Transport does not hold data on who caused such accidents. In 2010, 342 defendants were proceeded against in a magistrates’ court for the offence of cycling on a footway. However, this offence is normally dealt with by a fixed penalty notice and we do not collect information centrally on the number issued.

My Lords, one evening recently my wife and I stepped out to go to our local Chinese restaurant in Chester to be met by a young man on a bicycle advancing at speed. When confronted and challenged, he told us with an entirely straight face that, as he had no lights on his bike, he was obliged to ride on the pavement. Will the Minister first strengthen the powers of the police and community support officers to intervene where these cases happen? Will he intervene to improve the primary education of our young people learning about the art of cycling? Finally, will he improve the road environment for cyclists who mistakenly believe that it is legitimate to ride on the pavement as a result of the number of deaths attributable to the problems of cycling on the roadway?

My Lords, I know that all noble Lords are very concerned about these issues and I come to the Dispatch Box with some trepidation on this Question. PCSOs, like constables in uniform, can issue fixed penalty notices in respect of an offence of riding a cycle on the footway contrary to Section 72 of the Highways Act 1835. I do not know about their powers regarding lights. Youngsters may be more susceptible to a word in their ear rather than a fixed penalty notice. Education is an extremely important part of the process.

My Lords, speaking both as a driver and a pedestrian, what can be done to encourage cyclists not to cross the red lights and not to try to run down pedestrians on zebra crossings?

My Lords, I thought I would get a question about red lights. We are extremely concerned about cyclists failing to adhere to the law, but noble Lords will understand that this is an operational matter for the police, who can best judge where to devote their efforts.

Does the noble Earl agree that there is antipathy between all classes of road users? For example, bus drivers hate cyclists, pedestrians hate cyclists and motorists hate lorries. However, it is important that the classification of what PCSOs and local authority wardens are able to do is reviewed, and ensure that all chief constables and wardens have the powers, which I do not believe they do, to intervene not just in cycling on pavements but also in all sorts of moving traffic offences.

My Lords, the Question is essentially about cycling, and in respect of offences, I have already said that education is more important than enforcement, especially with youngsters. Frankly, it is not realistic to issue a fixed penalty notice to a 10 year-old.

My Lords, as someone who cycles into the House every day, I cannot help feeling that I could paraphrase George Orwell by saying that this sounds like, “Four wheels good, two wheels bad”. I experience many irresponsible motorists on my journeys. There are motorists who think it is okay to overtake on a humpbacked bridge and those who think it is okay to go on the wrong side of a traffic island to overtake, not to mention the motorist who kindly almost ran me over on a roundabout earlier this week. Does the Minister agree that we should be encouraging more people to cycle, given that we want a low-carbon economy, and that we should also be encouraging responsible cycling and driving?

My Lords, I absolutely agree with every word the noble Lord has said. I encourage all noble Lords and motorists to regularly read the Highway Code because the contents do change.

My Lords, does my noble friend recall that it is not many months since I asked a Question with regard to the education of those who seek to ride bicycles, bearing in mind that every other road user has to pass some sort of test or know what he is doing on the roads? Since that is linked with my noble friend’s answer to the question before last, can he say whether he thinks it would be possible to do more about educating cyclists before they hit the road and a lot of pedestrians?

My Lords, my noble friend makes an important point. That is why we have supported the development of the National Standard for Cycling and the related Bikeability training scheme. We have made a firm commitment to support Bikeability for the lifetime of the current Parliament and we are providing £11 million this year to local authorities and school games organisations so that 275,000 10 to 11 year-olds can benefit from on-road level 2 cycling training.

My Lords, from my recollection, the noble Earl has spoken on this subject several times. He has talked about the impracticality of licensing cyclists, which I agree with. However, can he inform us whether it is mandatory for cyclists using the roads to carry some form of identification on them? In the United States of America, for example—my noble friend Lord Young and I are big cyclists—we are told to carry identification so that the police can take action against people who ride on pavements or jump the lights. If you do not have identification with you, they will confiscate your bike and it is up to you to get it back by paying a big fine.

My Lords, I can assure the House that we have no intention of requiring cyclists to carry identification.