Guns, burglary and cycling on the pavement

Cycling on the pavement screenshot of text from police briefing

I was a bit surprised yesterday when this was put through my door. After discussing gun crime and burglary the local police briefing moves on to the third worse crime known to man. Cycling on the pavement. The briefing read:

Cycling on the pavement is a problem in a number of wards in Camden and although not so many people are cycling due to the very cold weather, the Team continue to issue Fixed Penalty Tickets where appropriate. During a very lively session on the subject at the last Public Meeting, several suggestions were put forward to help deal with this problem. For instance: – why don’t cyclists have to take proficiency tests like motorists do? Should cyclists have identifying plates on their cycles? Should there be a cycling code similar to the Highway Code, and why not make cyclists pay for a licence? So many people have been frightened or injured by pavement cyclists that all these measures could be considered, especially since the major (left in for inaccuracy), Boris Johnson hopes to extend a cycle-club scheme in London.

Is it just me or is that basically anti-cycling propaganda? The tone was set quite early on: “although not so many people are cycling due to the very cold weather” which sounds to me like “thank god not a lot of people are cycling”.

Of course as with most anti-cycling talk the availability of figures to back things up is lacking at best. “So many people have been frightened or injured”. How many exactly? How many people have been frightened by a bus nearly running them over? Or a car? I’m willing to bet its a fair bit higher. Also how many have been injured?

The suggestions are of course similarly ill informed and about as out of date as a BNP manifesto.

“Should cyclists have to take proficiency tests like motorists do?”

Cyclists are not in command of a 1.5 tone killing machine. Proficiency tests will put people off cycling. They are available to anyone who wants to take them if they feel unsafe on their bike. Motorists take proficiency tests and accidents still happen.

“Should there be a cycling code similar to the Highway Code, and why not make cyclists pay for a licence?”

A licence to ride a bike? Why not pay for a licence to walk through the park? This is the old “road tax” argument” and I feel it has been well addressed in the past.

Why not just ban cycling all together and make all cyclists drive and take a bus. That would really solve things.

Of course luckily this police briefing will probably get no further than the bin bags of various houses in Swiss Cottage. Whilst I appreciate police are busy and probably have better things to do than send out newsletters they could have at least been a bit more careful about taking sides on this issue. To think that people are having “heated debates” about cycling on the pavement when there are much more serious things like gun crime and burglary just seems a little silly to me. I’ll probably head down to the next meeting, on my bike, and see if this silly question is asked again.

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49 Responses to Guns, burglary and cycling on the pavement

  1. Anth 15/01/2010 at 9:27 am #

    The question that shows the lack of any research or understanding whatsoever is “Should there be a cycling code similar to the Highway Code?” Because there IS a code for cyclists, and rather than being ‘similar’ to the Highway Code it’s actually ‘IN’ the Highway Code!

    • John 10/07/2010 at 3:55 pm #

      Yes, but a large percentage of cyclists *ignore* the Highway Code when it comes to things like jumping red lights, while most motorists observe the Highway Code and do not jump red lights.

  2. Joby 15/01/2010 at 9:38 am #

    Thats classic that.

    Guns, Burglary and Cycling On Pavements…

    I wish those three things where the only things wrong with the world 🙂

    • John 10/07/2010 at 3:49 pm #

      Something does not have to be “serious” to be a major concern of the general public: one of the worst aspects of modern society, according to polls, is LITTER.

  3. MarkA 15/01/2010 at 9:41 am #

    This is so sad, I had hoped the Met would be a little more aware of the issues facing cyclists, seeing as we are the ‘vulnerable’ road users (along with pedestrians)

    Whilst I do think there ARE issues with certain cyclists limiting universal rights to urban space for all through their behaviour (ie fear is a very real de-motivator for the elderly or less able, and sometimes cyclists do act in a way that endangers them) focussing on it whilst ignoring the elephant in the room is ridiculous. Anti-social cycling is a minor-nuisance that is being blown up into epic proportions by the media in the country whilst meantime the stats show the real danger on our roads are not cyclists at all…

    The ‘road tax’ argument is dead in the water so far as the Government is concerned, the message just needs to be communicated to the mass public who still lay claim to ‘their’ roads.

    As for training and insurance, most of us have that already, and a code for cyclists is the same as a code for peds, drivers, horse riders whatever, as Anth points out – it’s the Highway Code – I think some of these complainants at this meeting could do with reading it!

  4. Stephen 15/01/2010 at 9:44 am #

    The police simply aren’t there to take a side on matters of public policy, they’re supposed to enforce the law as passed by Parliament. If Parliament passes a road tax on bikes they will be responsible for pulling you over if you don’t pay it. They’re not there to propose it.

    I’d be tempted to follow it up a little, see where that policy statement came from.

  5. Alex 15/01/2010 at 9:46 am #

    I’d send a complaint to the Metropolitan Police over this. I wondered if they’ve ever issued a leaflet to let cyclists know that they take seriously our concerns about dangerous driving…

  6. MarkA 15/01/2010 at 9:56 am #

    Stepehn is right – after the seething rage dies down and I re-read this, the worst part of their statement is this:
    “all these measures could be considered, especially since the major (left in for inaccuracy), Boris Johnson hopes to extend a cycle-club scheme in London”

    Since when did the Police start telling our elected officials how to run the country? I thought they upheld the law, not made it up as they went along. Forget the angry residents, it’s the Police who deserve a tap here.

  7. Mike 15/01/2010 at 10:01 am #

    Don’t just send a complaint, send in a Freedom of Information act request to get them to reveal the figures that “back up” their position.

    The police are explicitly covered by the act.

    The Guardian (of course!) has a good guide for how to go about making the request:

  8. David 15/01/2010 at 10:11 am #

    I’d be a lot happier if they paid half as much interest to the crime of bike theft, a crime that has happened at least once to 80% of cyclists I know. The average cost of each bike stolen must be about £200-£300 to the individual. Often these bikes are registered with sites like immobilise, yet I’m unaware of anyone having their bike returned.

    • John 10/07/2010 at 3:53 pm #

      Yes, but bike thefts affect a small percentage (those who lose bikes) of a small percentage of people (those who cycle), while riding on pavements affects a much larger percentage (those who use pavements)

  9. Francois 15/01/2010 at 10:14 am #

    Aargh! Don’t get me started. I’m not sure what annoys me more, this type of propaganda by the police and government officials or people cycling on the pavement.

  10. Andreas 15/01/2010 at 10:28 am #

    @Anth, completely agreed! The highway code is what governs cyclists. Why should there be something else. Most cyclist have probably got a driving licence so they know the code of the road anyway.
    @Joby, me too.
    @MarkA, I was shocked that it was by the met police too. And yes agreed that there is far bigger dangers than cyclists on the roads. In fact, like you said, we too are vulnerable road users.
    @Alex, I haven’t seen anything pro-cycling in a long time from the Met.

    I think I will get in touch and go along to the next meeting to have a cyclists voice heard.

  11. bathory 15/01/2010 at 11:46 am #

    This is ridiculous. If the police could address the jerks who go out of their way to acceslerate to catch up to me to wave their fist in an angry matter when I’ve had the gall to check/signal/ride around a giant hole in the road that would be most appreciated. Anyone looking out for the safety and comfort of cyclists? Anyone? No? Ok then.

    @David – The cost to me to replace my stolen WHEELS was almost £300!

  12. Joby 15/01/2010 at 11:51 am #

    @dave @barthory
    I did pick up on the £300 bit, but didn’t want to comment – but your right Dave. It would cost that to replace my lights.

  13. thereverent 15/01/2010 at 1:11 pm #

    I would send a complaint to the Met about this leftlet. It gives the impression that they support some of the views from the Public meeting. I’m not sure if it will dismissed as I don’t live in Camden, but I’ll try.

    Of all the problems of Londons transport, pavement cycling is so low down the list. With 1 in 8 car uninsured in London and Camden including the dangerous Holborn/Southhamton Row junction where there have been fautal accidents involving cyclists.

  14. Adam Edwards 15/01/2010 at 5:06 pm #

    My reading of this is the Met are reporting (rather badly) a discussion with Joe Public.

    Out in Welwyn Hatfield where I live there is major concern about pavement cycling too. The problem is not the readers of this blog but teenage lads on BMXs who hurtle round our town centre for a laugh and less responsible cyclists all in black with no lights on pavements in the dark. I nearly hit one recently on the local cycle path as he was invisible. Fortunately my lights were on.

    This then gets whipped up in to a general hysteria and old people get frightened, as they are vulnerable to being knocked down. It doesn’t happen frequently, but the perception is worse than the reality.

    Having been hit by a cyclist going the wrong way down a one way street I can sympathise.

    Unforunately it’s another thing we have to politely refute and challenge, but it’s a live issue in local communities, local press and of course the Daily Mail.

    Perhaps we should be challenging other cyclists bad behaviour a bit more as it’s them that’s harming us in the eyes of the public.



  15. Corin 15/01/2010 at 5:37 pm #

    Well, for the first time I have to beg to differ with your view Andreas!

    I tend to agree with Adam Edwards above. As cyclists, we need to meet our responsibilities as well as claim our rights. Cycling on pavements IS dangerous and inconsiderate and there is no need for it. Get off and walk your bike if you need to use the pavement.

    As Adam says, the Met have given a skewed report of a public meeting and put out a very unhelpful leaflet, but the substance of it does, imo, have some validity.

  16. Stephen 15/01/2010 at 5:58 pm #

    Bad cyclists are bad is common sense and of course they are. I think if you absolutely had to come down on if knocking people down on the pavement with a bike is a good thing or not you’d have to say it’s a bad thing. That’s not why the leaflet’s bad, the police just aren’t supposed to make that judgement. The police can talk about policy issues but not with their police hat on. As soon as you make statements on police letterhead (or police leaflets) you need to abide by what the police are allowed to say.

  17. Stephen 15/01/2010 at 6:32 pm #

    My previous is unclear – when I say the police just aren’t supposed to make that judgement I don’t mean the riding on pavements, I’m talking about supporting or disagreeing with the Mayor.

  18. Al 15/01/2010 at 7:21 pm #

    This flyer is almost certainly from your ward’s police Safer Neighbourhoods Team. They are tasked, amongst other things, to deal with local priorities. There are usually between 3 and 5, which are decided upon at local meetings held within each ward. The emphasis is on ‘low-level’ issues, such as graffiti, litter, dog mess and (shock horror) cycling on pavements, as much as drug use, burglary and robbery. If the local population, at these meetings decides that cycling on the footway is a problem, and they do, then the local team are duty-bound to spend some time on it. (yes, I appreciate the problems over how representative the people who decide to turn up to the meetings are, but that’s the way it is)

    More info, and you can find your local team, here:

    Each ward team has a page which lists all the upcoming meetings. Go along and have your say. Send them an e-mail, phone them up.

    Al – who used to be on a Safer Neighbourhoods team (whose community were not happy about cyclists I’m afraid!)

  19. Alexander 16/01/2010 at 11:03 am #

    I have drafted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Metropolitan Police to ask them to “clarify” the contents of this newsletter. The draft is online at:

    The above link takes you to an editable version of the document, so if you have any suggestions on wording or content feel free to make an edit (the original version won’t be lost).

    I’ll send this to the Met on Monday via – so their response will be public.

  20. Andreas 16/01/2010 at 11:29 am #

    @Adam, you are a good voice of reason! I guess its hard for pedestrians to see our perspective in that pavement cycling is something done extremely rarely and cautiously. Of course that is not the case for all cyclists. Some sub sections are definitely causing a bad image for the rest of us.
    @Corin, this is obviously something people have issues with. I think what particularly angered me is some of the suggestions. Surely the Met should have been able to counter some of them there and then.
    @Al, Thanks for clarifying the source of this and providing that link. I will be attending the next one to see what happens there.
    @Alexander, I think your newsletter will at least mean the officers in charge of the newsletter will be more cautious about how they approach the cycling issue rather than be part of causing an anti-cyclist feeling in the community.

  21. Alexander 18/01/2010 at 12:29 am #

    I have now sent a Freedom of Information request to the Met:

    You can track this request by email & RSS (top right of the page) so you can see what their reply will be. They’re legally obliged to reply in 20 working days, so let’s see what happens.

  22. joost beunderman 20/01/2010 at 12:45 am #

    so here’s another one for the Met’s anti-bicycle attitude. i was cycling peacefully and with lights with my girlfriend sitting on the back of my bike. i installed a luggage rack especially for this purpose as, being a Dutchman, i know this is a delightful way to traverse the city.
    all of a sudden, a policecar stops with lights flashing. what i have done all my youth and student years in NL apparently is an offence here. they spoke as if we were complete and utter reckless lunatics. they drive off, we get back on the bike, and they even send another car to check on us. almost cuts me off – the most dangerous part of my entire journey

    is it true that there’s a law against this? i’ve been doing this, even in London, for half a year now. this would be SO sad as it makes a really nice way to travel impossible because of pure paranoia and risk-obsession. please, why does it have to be like this – either the law is utterly stupid or the police are abusing their powers. biths seems eminently possible.

    anyone similar experiences? i may write to my MP and London Assembly member for clarification.

  23. joost beunderman 20/01/2010 at 12:46 am #

    [pardon – BOTH seems eminently possible]

  24. Joby 20/01/2010 at 8:56 am #

    It dawned on me just now whilst reading something on Facebook.

    I went to London a couple of months ago for work and stumbled upon this sign:

    So it must be really really bad in London 🙂

  25. Andreas 20/01/2010 at 9:19 am #

    Joby, thanks for sharing that picture. It’s even worse in other towns such as Oxford. Must be plenty of police time to spare if they are going after cyclists! To be honest its just currently the flavour of the month. Next month the police will be onto something else (See how mobile phone use dropped dramatically when the law was introduce and then it rose up again due to a number of reasons no doubt one of which is less police prosecution).

    Joost, I have never seen anything in the highway code regarding carrying someone on the back of the bike so as far as I know this would just be part of a anti-cyclist feeling that seems to be growing. I’ll have a search on the internet to see if anyone has clarification on this.

  26. Joby 20/01/2010 at 9:23 am #

    From Bike4All

    The rule is that any bicycle which carries a passenger must have been built with this in mind, or modified. So, for instance, a childseat is a ‘modification’.

    A Dutch bike with a standard rear rack is perfectly suitable for carrying a passenger but, strictly speaking, has not been modified for this purpose.

    However, because of the long-standing common practice of carrying children (and adults) on the rear bicycle rack in the Netherlands, there is a strong case for arguing that a Dutch-style bike has been designed to carry passengers.

    Stand your ground.

  27. Andreas 20/01/2010 at 9:24 am #

    Ah okay quick check on this issue:

    You should
    # not carry anything which will affect your balance or may get tangled up with your wheels or chain

    You MUST NOT
    * carry a passenger unless your cycle has been built or adapted to carry one

    If you are stopped again then perhaps it’s worth talking about how your bike has been adapted to carry a passenger and maybe something about the Netherlands and how it was not a problem there. This should at least serve to appease them. Hopefully as anti-cycling feeling moves on they will stop checking you.

    My personal opinion is that carrying someone on the back could be a little dangerous though having never done this I would be unable to tell you how safe or unsafe it is. You will be a better judge of that.

  28. Andreas 20/01/2010 at 9:25 am #

    Joby, thanks for also providing clarification. I like your explanation.

  29. Joby 20/01/2010 at 9:28 am #

    Not my explanation – from the interwebs – wish it was as its an intelligent answer :oO

  30. joost beunderman 20/01/2010 at 9:49 am #

    thanks all. the highway code [mental note to self: remember to cite article 68 of the highway code to the police next time] is wonderfully ambiguous. but the police’s interpretation depressingly predictable…

  31. Murray 22/01/2010 at 4:37 pm #

    When I saw a mother with a toddler being stopped for cycling down a footpath (rather than on a busy road with, in particular, motorcyclists swerving in and out of the cars and trucks, being a danger to all cyclists) I asked the police if they would be handing out fines any time soon when they see pedestrians walking on cycle paths. The officer replied, “Yeah, sure.” He wasn’t being sarcastic, just saying what he thought I wanted to hear. But, let me tell you – in many years of cycling, I’ve had just a couple of collisions with pedestrians – but never on a footpath – always when they suddenly step into the road or onto a dedicated cycle path.

  32. Andreas 22/01/2010 at 5:43 pm #

    Exactly! The police are going after completely the wrong thing here. I rarely see people cycling on the pavement and when they are they are going at walking pace. Today while cycling around for ages the only thing I saw is an old woman cycling on the pavement supremely slowly. How could anyone in their right mind ask them to cycle on the hugely busy road next to them? The police asking the mother with a toddler to be on the road is silly policing. It is one thing a person doing 20mph on a pavement and another thing a mother trying to keep her kid safe.

  33. Chrysaor 25/04/2010 at 10:37 am #

    20 Reasons why pavement cycling is dangerous.

    1.It’s illegal. And it’s illegal for good reasons – a bicycle is a road vehicle.
    2.Pavements are too narrow to accommodate bicycles.
    3.Especially two abreast (or five abreast, which is a feature of the Holloway Road from time to time).
    4.Cyclists tend to pedal faster on the pavement than they do on the roads, seemingly because they feel safer – well, that’s nice for them. Pedestrians don’t.
    5.There is no way of telling what direction they’re going to approach from.
    6.Their approach is silent and consequently very frightening. You can hear prams and pushchairs coming but not cyclists.
    7.Their behaviour is erratic and unpredictable, so you cannot protect yourself effectively form them.
    8.They pose a threat to pedestrians, especially those with disabilities, and it’s well-proven that they deter many people from using public spaces.
    9.They tend to make verbal threats when challenged.
    10.If they don’t do this they take the moral high ground, which is totally unjustified coming from someone clearly breaking the law.
    11.If they don’t do this, by their very level of aggression and defensiveness they prove that cycling as a form of exercise does little for your mood.
    12.Nor does it appear to do anything for people’s weight.
    13.Contrary to the spin which pavement cyclists and some cycling groups tend to put on things, they are not harmless: there was a well-publicised death due to pavement cycling in 2007.
    14.A large number use mobile phones or have earphones in while pavement cycling, making them impervious to any warnings.
    15.Lights? What lights? Cycling on the pavement means that you don’t have to use them.
    16.One way system? What one way system? Cycling on the pavement means that you can ignore it.
    17.Traffic lights? What traffic lights? (you see where this is going….)
    18.They appear to have conned some public representatives into adopting a tolerant stance ‘until there are suitable cycle lanes and facilities’. Well, I doubt there ever will be…
    19.They point to features like gun and knife crime to justify their offending behaviour as being low priority for many police forces.
    20.The most charming pavement cyclists career along the pavements at speed dragging terrified panting dogs on a lead behind them.

  34. Joby 25/04/2010 at 11:27 am #

    Chrysaor. Here is an article to help your case – poor kid:

  35. scoop 14/05/2010 at 8:03 am #

    London roads are dangerous for cyclists. It would be great to have more cycle lanes and cycle only routes but that is not a good reason to make the pavement unsafe for walkers. The biggest safety threat to pedestrians in London is cyclists, not cars or lorries or taxis. Cyclists do have a choice. If the road is very congested, get off the bike a walk it along the pavement until you can return to the road. Cyclists accuse the car drivers of aggressive and unsafe behaviour. Exactly what the pavement cyclists are guilty of.

    • Chrysaor 16/05/2010 at 5:20 pm #

      Great reply, scoop, I’ve rarely seen it stated so clearly.

      • Sheridan 20/08/2010 at 12:30 pm #

        But entirely incorrect – try looking at the hospital admissions statistics for London of pedestrians on the pavement hit by cyclists and pedestrians on the pavement hit by cars. The difference is in the order of a hundred-fold (and no, it wasn’t the cyclists causing most of the injuries).

  36. John 10/07/2010 at 3:43 pm #

    You criticize with “The tone was set quite early on …”
    then continue:
    “Cyclists are not in command of a 1.5 tone killing machine …”
    Pot? Kettle? Black?

    You draw attention to the fact that they mis-spelled “mayor”, then mis-spell “ton” or “tonne”
    Pot? Kettle? Black?

    I am a cyclist, and do not own a car. But it is quite true that the selfish a***hole cyclists who jump red lights or ride on pavements deserve the hate they get from the public, while getting all of us a bad name.

  37. Dani Riot 09/08/2010 at 10:37 am #

    I agree with the whole licensing thing. Maybe not so you have to pay for it, but cyclists should get points in the same way any other road user would get. And get fined, and disqualified respectively.

    I am a committed cyclist, and a safe cyclist. And i completely agree with john, that there are individuals out there that are painting a bad image for the rest of us.

    I also don’t see why cyclist have to be so opposing on these subjects. Surely as safe cyclists, we are never going to get points on a licence. And its only the unsafe cyclists who will be affected.

    So, am i to believe that all the opposing views are just people breaking the law who are trying to make enough excuses to not get in trouble for it.

  38. murray 20/08/2010 at 8:35 am #

    Remember, Shirley, two wrongs do not make a right. You assault someone and you could be deservedly arrested for it.

  39. walltoall 19/10/2010 at 10:24 pm #

    I consider myself a responsible road user, [sometimes] drive in the city, am a BarclayBike user AND use my Strida from time to time in London. I’m not British and I underline this fact only because I just cannot understand all the hoo-haa about ‘misbehaviour’ by cyclists. I hold bicycles should NOT be classified as ‘vehicles’ for purposes of the Road Traffic Act, or if they must so should pedestrians. I see no problem in cycling up one way streets, riding on pavements, jumping lights as long as I occasion no harm or distress to another street user. I could develop the arguments but if you don’t get my drift by now you should just re read and reread til you do

  40. Chris 16/11/2010 at 2:43 pm #

    I am in agreement with walltowall here.Surely, it is time to address the real issues instead of mouthing the same old cliches??It is the case that the roads and pavements should be safer for all,but why not cycle on a pavement?If it is done safely with care and the pavement is of a certain width, then why not?

    • Kev 28/01/2011 at 2:40 pm #

      Many, if not most pavement cyclists are dangerous and inconsiderate often speeding up behind pedestrians who may change directions, buzzing past shop doorways and gates, narrowly missing people getting off buses etc. I accept cycling on the road is dangerous and there are too few dedicated cycle tracks, but bullying and anti social behavior on pavements is not the answer. It gives all cyclists a bad reputation. If you care about cycling don’t do it on the pavement and across the green man.

  41. Tom 24/02/2011 at 1:39 am #

    Cycling on the pavement is obviously very dangerous to pedestrians as Shirley will testify with her severely broken arm. The reason she was hit, is because like most people on the pavement, she wasn’t looking out for bikes. She is absolutely right about the elderly and disabled, or people walking along with young children being very vulnerable. Pavement cyclists do tend to be of limited emotional inteligence, as I have found when trying to communicate with them. I will hereon refer to them as ‘pavement cyclists’ for simplicity.
    Pavement cyclists tend to have no lights or helmets, and neither do they have any regard for how others perceive them. I’m guessing that they use bikes for very short journeys of probably less than 1/2 mile, as I cannot imagine them walking more than a couple of hundred yards, anything over 1/2 mile would be bus, I don’t see them as drivers or car owners.
    Somebody once said to me that he couldn’t ride on the road because there were cars on it, I hope that the day won’t come when he can’t walk on the pavement because there are bikes on it.
    So, how does someone with no driving lessons, licence or experience, suddenly get on a bike and legally take to the road executing perfect right hand turns and taking the third exit off a roundabout? they probably don’t! My guess is that they ride on the pavement.
    80% of cyclists drive, (I’m guessing that they’re the ones that cycle / commute on the road)? but only 10% of drivers cycle, with their families? for leisure? I don’t know the answer to that.
    Introducing cycling lessons to driving lessons would give additional road sense to new drivers and could also serve as an interim form of transport whilst awaiting to pass their test. It would make new drivers more aware of cyclists and their needs on the road and vice versa.
    This in turn would give a new generation of drivers the confidence to choose an alternative, cleaner and quicker more convenient form of transport, and reduce accident rates as awareness of cyclists and numbers of cyclists increase.

    • mary 31/05/2011 at 8:50 pm #

      i love the pavment and walk over it with my beach

  42. mira 04/06/2012 at 2:58 am #

    we walk over the pavment i love this <3

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