It is important in all of the cycling hype going on at the moment to recognise that pedestrians are the legitimate users of footpaths and footways, not cyclists. Cyclists, just like other road users should make some contribution to the provision of facilities for cycling and demonstrate that they are safe to be on the roads and that their machines are safe also. In the event of a cyclist having an accident it is only plain common sense that they should be insured so that a third party can claim against the cyclist if necessary.
As demonstrated by the recently opened ‘cycle super highway’ in London an increasingly large amount of money is being spent on infrastructure and other facilities for cyclists, we are talking very, very, many millions of pounds. Who is paying for all of this? It is certainly not the cyclists, other than via the general taxation to which we are all subject.
The avowed intention of all of these so-called cycle friendly (but not pedestrian or other road user friendly) measures is to increase the number of cycles on our roads. This is in itself a misguided notion because as the TV news pictures showed a significant proportion of cyclists still rode on the normal road surface, detoured onto the footway and rode without any consideration for other road users.
No-one doubts the exercise derived health benefits and effective means of commuting, especially in town centres, that cycling offers; however, if the numbers of cyclists are going to be encouraged and increased further by such measures then it is also high time that they were also brought firmly within and made rigorously subject to the principles and laws that govern other traffic using the public roads. The ever increasing levels of reduction of road width are impeding the normal and effective flow of regular traffic which is the essential life blood of our towns and cities and the increasing restriction of which has a negative impact on the economic viability of our urban areas.
If these facilities are being provided for them then cyclists must be kept off the footways and footpaths so that they become once more safe for pedestrians rather than de-facto cycle tracks on which legitimate pedestrians are second class citizens. What once were considered to be adequately sized footways must cease to have white lines painted down them and be reduced in width, with two thirds of the width being given over to cycles, such that there is little or no room for people to walk in comfort, or mothers to pass when pushing a pram or push chair.
I have never met a cyclist who admits to riding on the footway, riding through red lights, riding without lights or audible warning of approach, or riding the wrong way down a one way street. You only have to be out on the road or in our towns to witness the lie of this apparent situation; the huge majority of cyclists ride without any concern whatsoever for other road users, the highway code, the rules of the road, road signs, or the most basic of traffic law; they hardly ever ride in single file to allow other vehicles to safely pass them on narrow roads or country lanes. As far as they are concerned the law does not apply to them and yet they castigate other road users for not considering cyclists, whilst not demonstrating any reciprocal consideration on their part. This ridiculous situation must change for the benefit of society as a whole.
I have seen cyclists blatantly ride through a red traffic light while a police officer stood and watched. If I had then driven through the red light in my car that same officer would no doubt have taken my registration number and reported the offence, but because it involved a cyclist nothing happened. I have witnessed similar occurrences at camera controlled lights when cyclists have ridden straight through knowing full well that they almost certainly cannot be traced.
The increase in cycling activity will inevitably bring with it an increase in the already high levels of illegal cycling activity. Even with current cycling levels, let alone any increase, we must start to curb errant cycling and also force cyclists to become responsible road users with consideration for others. This can only be done by the following suggestions:
- All cyclists must take the equivalent of a driving test including theory, cycle maintenance, and Highway Code before they are allowed on the roads or cycle ways.
- All cycles must be subject to the cycle equivalent of vehicle excise duty so that the cyclists make at least some contribution to the facilities provided for them.
- All cycles must carry registration numbers so that other road users or pedestrians can identify them and report them if necessary. This measure is also necessary so the police or cameras can identify, and action be taken against cyclists flouting traffic law, e.g. riding through red lights.
- All cycles must at all times be equipped with adequate and appropriate lighting, both front and rear, and with an effective audible warning of approach.
- Cycling on the footway and footpaths must end no argument.
- All cycles over 3 years old must be subject to a cycle MoT.
- All cycles, and/or cyclists, must be insured for at least third party risks.
All of the above are not anti-cycling; on the contrary, they will promote safe, responsible and considerate cycling whilst at the same time helping to bring the increasing numbers of cyclists within the management of existing traffic law. Any responsible cyclist cannot but fail to agree with this philosophy; if they do disagree then they are not the responsible cyclists they claim to be. Disagreement can only come from those who feel it is their divine right to do what they like on the public roads without fear of censure and cyclists can do no wrong, even if it is illegal.