HUNDREDS of people across the Portsmouth area have been fined for cycling on the pavement.
Figures show a total of 293 fines were given out by Hampshire police last year – a big chunk of the 449 fines given out across the county. And the numbers appear to be going up.
Back in 2008, just five £30 fixed penalty notices were given out in the Gosport area. Last year it went up to 69 fines.
It is perhaps one of the most divisive and emotive issues between drivers, pedestrians and cyclists – with almost everyone having a view on whether it should or shouldn’t be allowed.
The fact of the matter is it is an offence – and has been for 124 years.
Under section 72 of the Highway Act in 1835 it is offence to wilfully lead or drive any horse, ass, sheep, mule, cattle or carriage of any description upon any footpath or causeway by the side of any road.
In 1888 carriage was amended to include a bicycle or tricycle.
Since 1980, local authorities have been able to convert some or all of the footway into a cycle track, thereby removing the offence provided it is designated.
Since 1999 police have been able to hand out on-the-spot fixed penalty notices of £30. If the matter goes to court, a fine of £500 can be handed out.
So that’s the law. Simple. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t lots of grey areas, for instance, when a child is learning how to cycle with his mum pedalling alongside him on the pavement.
What about skate boarders and kids on scooters?
Thinking laterally, what about irresponsible parking on pavements or cycle tracks?
Cycling is not allowed on the pavement at Southsea seafront, but that has never stopped people doing it.
At the time fixed penalty notices were introduced, Home Office Minister Paul Boateng wrote: ‘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.’
On the other hand, surely the elderly, mums with prams, disabled people and the visually impaired should expect to be able to use a footpath without the danger of ever being struck by a bicycle?
Never has a bell been more a more worthwhile investment, but what about if someone is deaf?
John Holland, chairman of Portsmouth Cycle Forum, says: ‘Portsmouth Cycle Forum does not condone illegal cycling, yet one must ask why a minority of people take to the pavements on bicycles.
‘The answer is that many fear for their safety on the city’s busy and crowded roads. Portsmouth has a collection of disjointed cycle lanes often ending abruptly and obstructed by illegally parked vehicles, throwing the cyclist into the traffic.
‘Cyclists are encouraged to use the so-called quieter back streets which are choked with parked cars, obscured junctions and used by some motorists who are unaware of the prevailing speed limits.
‘Travelling by bicycle is increasing in popularity – it’s cheap, healthy and environmentally friendly. Major cities such as Copenhagen, New York, London have all embraced cycling and have many new measures to encourage it.’
He adds: ‘Rather than issuing fines, police should be urging all road users to be more considerate and the authorities should be making our roads safer for cycling. And this must include enforcing the speed limits and parking restrictions. Perhaps then will the problem of pavement cycling disappear.’
Someone suffering the consequences of cycling on pavements is Eileen Webb.
The 72-year-old suffered serious injuries last year when she was knocked unconscious in a collision with a cyclist on the pavement outside her home in Gosport Road, Fareham.
Mrs Webb was taken to hospital where she remained unconscious for two days with a fractured skull, a fractured eye socket and a broken nose.
She says: ‘It’s stupid behaviour not to be looking out and aware of others on the pavement. Some of the cyclists I see are listening to music on headphones or talking on a mobile phone. They need to slow down at corners and give pedestrians a wide berth.’
The 18-year-old Gosport man who collided with Mrs Webb received a caution for careless cycling, which carries a maximum penalty of £1,000.
Sergeant Darren Ord, from Hampshire Constabulary’s Roads Policing Unit, says: ‘Every police officer and PCSO can use their discretion when responding to reports of cycling on the pavement. Our focus is on cycling considered to be reckless or dangerous to the rider and other people using the pavement or the road. Safety must always come first.
‘Police can choose to issue a £30 fixed penalty notice for cycling on the pavement.
‘Police can take further action when there is evidence a cyclist on the pavement has committed more serious offences, namely an assault or collision where someone is injured.’
Regarding the rising number of fines in some areas, he says: ‘Several communities in the Eastern policing area have raised cycling on the pavement as a priority for their local Safer Neighbourhoods teams to tackle.
‘They are dedicated to maintaining an active presence in every community by solving the issues that matter most to local residents.