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House of Lords Hansard
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Cyclists: Road Traffic Laws
18 April 2016
Volume 771

Question

Asked by

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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the extent to which general road traffic laws are enforced in respect of cyclists.

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My Lords, the enforcement of cycling offences is an operational matter for chief officers of police. The Government support any action taken by the police to deter and reduce the number of cycling offences.

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I thank my noble and learned friend for that crisp and helpful Answer. Does he agree that, at the very least, signs should be added for visitors who take bicycles in London and elsewhere warning them that it is illegal in Great Britain nationally to cycle on pavements and that they will be fined if they do so?

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The Santander cycle scheme in London is the responsibility of Transport for London and its terms and conditions specify that users must abide by the Highway Code. More particularly, its website, under the section “Driving & cycling safety”, states in unequivocal terms: “Don’t pavement cycle”.

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Is the Minister aware of how many cyclists know the traffic laws that they are supposed to be adhering to? I know that my next question will split the House completely according to whether one is an avid cyclist, but a cyclist came right in front of me and hit my car, so what insurance would he have for me to claim against?

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So far as knowledge of the law is concerned, the Government are committed to spending £50 million over the next four years on the Bikeability scheme, which is training young people in the terms of the Highway Code and the law pertaining to cycling. Therefore, we are doing everything we can to ensure that people stay within the law. On the matter of insurance, subject to cyclists having public liability insurance, there would be no obligation for them to be insured.

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My Lords, I am sure the whole House will agree with my noble friend Lady Wilcox about the need to enforce traffic laws and the importance of cyclists and motorists obeying them. Can my noble and learned friend tell the House how many prosecutions there have been for motorists entering the advanced stop line specifically put to one side for cyclists and for parking in cycle lanes?

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I do not have the figures for motorists as regards that matter in the context of prosecutions, but I would be content to write to the noble Lord to give him the statistics as and when they are available for the relevant year. The figures for 2014 are complete, but the figures for 2015 will not be available until May this year.

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My Lords, I am sure the Minister is well aware that the Transport Committee of the House of Commons said last month that it was very concerned about the ever-increasing number of pedal cyclist casualties, which has gone up by 8.3% in the past year. What are the Government doing to reverse that trend?

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The Government are investing considerable sums, in excess of £100 million, to improve the road network for the use of cyclists and walkers. That is part of our commitment. On the increase in the number of incidents and the number of casualties, that is always to be regretted. However, I think that the noble Baroness should bear in mind that there has been a marked increase in the number of cyclists on the roads in the past years as well, which is not inconsistent with the increase in the number of incidents.

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My Lords, following the publication of the cycling and walking strategy, will the Minister say whether the Government support a number of cycling and pedestrian organisations which have called for joint training for cyclists and vehicle drivers about each other’s experience of using shared space in an organised attempt to promote a greater understanding of how shared spaces on roads can be used safely for the benefit of all?

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At present the Government’s commitment is to the Bikeability programme, which is training young people in the use of cycles and making them aware of the position of motorists as well.

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My Lords—

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My Lords, what is the penalty for a breach of the Highway Code by way of either pavement cycling or a cyclist going through a red light?

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There are a variety of offences that may arise in respect of cycling, under both the Highways Act 1835—cycling on the footway—and the Road Traffic Act 1988. A number of steps can be taken, beginning with a warning, followed by a fixed penalty notice of £50, followed by prosecution for a summary offence, which itself would impose a maximum fine of £500. However, under the Road Traffic Act, there are also further, more serious offences such as dangerous cycling, which can attract a fine of up to £2,500.

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My Lords, could the Minister confirm that in one sense cyclists are treated unfairly?

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My Lords—

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My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt, but I want to make the point that it is the turn of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. It was actually the turn of the Labour Benches before but I thought it was right that we kept going in order to save time. Let us go to the Labour Benches now, and if we have time we will go to the Cross Benches.

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I shall be quick. Could the Minister confirm that PCSOs are able to fine cyclists on the spot for going through stop lines but are unable to fine cars? Is that not unfair on the cyclists?

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I do not believe it is unfair on cyclists. One has to remember that in the case of the vehicle, registration can be traced. In the case of the cyclists there is no registration, and therefore an on-the-spot fine is more appropriate.

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My Lords, I must declare an interest because I cycle regularly in London. The overriding obligation of cyclists in London is to try to ride their bicycle so as to keep it from contact with other vehicles and particularly from contact with pedestrians. If a cyclist does that, the proposition that he should be prosecuted for some breach of one of the many rules of the road seems to be a little overstretched. Still, if that overriding duty is observed, there should not be any problems with cyclists, and the need to prosecute them for minor infringements is clearly not present.

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With regard to the question that has just been posed to the House, I observe that prosecutions in respect of cycling offences are limited to about 1,000 a year at present.