Following our recent post on whether the perceived dangers of pavement cyclists matched up to the statistics, Keith Irving from Living Streets Scotland got in touch. He argued that the statistics on serious accidents that we mapped out in that post don’t tell the whole story. So we asked him to explain more, and we’re delighted that he’s written us this guest post below.
An increase in cycling levels – alongside more people walking – has the potential to make our streets more civilised. But while most cyclists observe the rules of the road, a significant minority cause concern and fear among pedestrians by their irresponsible behaviour.
We all need to show mutual respect on our streets. Cyclists stopping for pedestrians on crossings and not mounting the pavement are key parts of this. Pavement cycling is illegal throughout the United Kingdom. It is dangerous and can cause fear and anxiety to vulnerable pedestrians.
Although Fixed Penalty Notices can be issued to offenders, we would like to see it, as well as irresponsible driving, more seriously enforced, with police forces taking the law more seriously and demonstrating that they are taking action against it. There are a number of causes of pavement cycling, but a major cause is the perceived risk to cyclists from fast-moving motor traffic on the road.
Whilst we understand that it can be scary being penned in by motor vehicles, it is wrong for cyclists to then cause disruption or anxiety to pedestrians on the pavement. The anxiety that pavement cycling creates can deter people from using public space. Even if someone is not actually hit by a pavement cyclist, the surprise and shock of a silent approach, or fear of injury, can be sufficient to put some people off walking entirely.
Young children can, of course, be first taught to cycle on pavements if under supervision. There are though two further reasons why pavement cycling should not be tolerated: We have a rapidly ageing population and peripheral vision deteriorates with age. There will therefore be increasing numbers of older pedestrians who may not be able to see or hear pavement cyclists as well as they used to.
Secondly, Anti-social cycling contributes to the anti-cyclist feelings all too prevalent across the country, making it harder to argue for other road users to give consideration to people on bikes. All road users must adhere to the law.
Although the needs of cyclists and pedestrians can be very similar, they are also very different. The need for slower motor speeds, driver liability, reallocation of road space (for example, wider footways and advanced stop lines) and greater enforcement of driving offences are key examples of a shared goal.
However it must be recognised that they remain two very different modes: mixing them together inappropriately can cause fear, anxiety, insecurity and, in a tiny number of terrible tragedies, serious injury or worse.
We believe that the best way to make all our streets safer for everyone is to introduce a default speed limit of 20 mph in areas where we live, work and shop. Walking and cycling are such fantastic ways to get about, they promote a healthy lifestyle, are environmentally friendly and also allow you to enjoy the area in which you live and work.
We actively encourage responsible cycling, but strongly believe that pavements are solely for pedestrians.
This opinion piece is by Living Streets. Keith Irving, the Living Streets Scotland Manager, cycles to work every day and recommends Hamax bike seats for toddlers…
Image by Steven Sutterby