Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Pavement Cycling - Right or Wrong?

Ok, by law we know it's wrong, but is it ethical?

Thinking About Cycling calls us Heroes of British Cycling.  Yes I say us, because I am a pavement cyclist.  I am just learning to ride a two wheeler and I am determined to stick to pavements apart from really quiet residential streets.  Even with my trike there are many times that I simply have to pavement cycle to stay safe.

The first thing I said to my eldest Granddaughter on buying her a bike (which she desperately wanted) a couple of years ago for her 18th birthday was "Stick to the pavements" along with advice on not cycling too fast and giving way to pedestrians at all times, etc. etc.

My Daughter had freaked out at me buying her Daughter a cycle, and said to me, "If she gets killed it will be on your head".   My Daughter was forcing my GD to learn to drive because "She would be safer driving".

My Daughter said to me only a couple of weeks ago, "I am going to get fit - I'm going to swim once a week, go on long walks, and cycle 5 miles every day" - My face lit up at the mention of her cycling.   Before I could say anything she said "I don't mean cycling on the roads I mean in my bedroom".  The bedroom is where she keeps her exercise bike.  She is only 42 years old, there are two cycles in her garage, and yet she is too scared to ride one on our roads.

People that don't cycle really are terrified to even contemplate it, because they see, and quite rightly so, that one is taking their life in their hands at getting on a bike.  It's no good experienced cyclists continually decrying that cycling is safe in this country.  It isn't!

Pavement cycling, I think, all comes down to common sense and there are many variables.  Area, the speed one cycles at, width of the pavement, volume of pedestrianised traffic, etc.

I have noticed that most cycle bloggers are all London or other big city bloggers.  Cities are only a small amount of the UK.  Cycling in the city is totally different to cycling in the country and therefore I don't think there should be a blanket ban of pavement cycling in the whole of the country.

We have really fast A roads, duel carriage ways, By passes and some massively large dangerous roundabouts.  Country lanes are only wide enough for one car and yet the national speed limit of 60pmh exists on those.

On most of our through roads one very seldom passes a pedestrian.  The pavements are like ornaments sitting at the side of the road.  Because of this the police turn a blind eye when seeing a pavement cyclist as long as it's not in a heavily pedestrianised area.  Pedestrians do not get angry at having to pass a cyclist on the pavement and there are very few "near misses" of pedestrian/cyclist.  No ringing of bells to get out of the way, just a pleasant excuse me, or more often the pedestrian senses a cycle coming and just moves over.   We mostly all share quite happily.

Most of those that are experienced cyclists and cycle to and fro work do not pedal furiously trying to keep up with traffic as cyclists seem to in London.  They keep their legs moving in a steady motion in whatever gear is needed at that point on the road (very much the Dutch style of riding), never breaking out in a sweat.  If traffic stops, they hop up on the pavement and continue riding steadily.  And yes, they also jump red traffic lights by hopping onto the pavement and cycling across along side pedestrians.

There is far less friction down here between cyclist and pedestrian than there is between cyclist and motorist.  Motorists get up tight if cycles hold them up in a lane.  Get agitated if they see a cyclist avoiding the red light by becoming a pavement cyclist whilst crossing the road.  Furious if they have to pass 2 abreast cyclists on the road, offensively shouting "Single file" - obviously they haven't read the highway code.

When on a pavement I cycle no more than 4 - 5mph.  Mobility scooters are allowed to travel at 4mph.  Therefore when on a pavement I am only breaking the one law not two.  The law could be change to allow cycles at 4 mph.

Give Way at all times to pedestrians:  On non set out shared pavements this could also be written into the highway code as a "must".

Instead of having a blanket law of "No cycling on pavements" - "No Cycling" signs could be erected where there are high volumes of pedestrians such as in town centres.

I honestly believe, that while we are waiting for a real cycling infrastructure, if more of us broke the law and pavement cycled, not only would more people get on their bike as they see others do it, but the government then would move faster on implementing a good cycling infrastructure.  All the time cyclists are willing, and even in some cases fighting to stay on the road, it is seen as our country not having a problem with the lack of cycling facilities we have now.  They would certainly see a problem with hundreds, if not thousands of cyclists on pavements.

If only London and other big city cyclists would start riding the pavements en-mass, rather than fighting to stay on the roads!  Sadly city cyclists only seem to have an interest in keeping "the right to the road" for the young, fit, healthy, and brave.


  1. A policeman told me to cycle on the pavement at major crossings or when I felt unsafe in the traffic. He said it was better than an accident and really would any judge apply the law. I live in a large town and we do have some good cycle tracks but there a some I would be reluctant to ride at night .
    While I am confident riding on the roads, I do believe we should have laws that allow cycling on pavements. However, pedestrians need to be aware of us as even when we do politely say we are there some can get a bit shirty. You never can tell whether they want you to ring a bell or speak. The other problem is having headphones in their ears blocking out sound. I never ride with them in but I see people walking and cycling with them. I feel this isn't good stops people being aware of what is going on around them.

  2. I do know that a lot of cyclists that wear headphones have them on extremely low whereby it isn't affecting what they can hear around them.

    As for bells. I always feel it's rude to ring a bell. It sort of says "get out of my way I am coming through" rather than saying, do you mind if I pass - I don't have a bell on either bike or trike because we don't have to here in the UK. If one is cycling safely around a pedestrian then one should have already slowed their speed to walking speed ready to say excuse me.

    I suppose it depends on the mentality of the cyclist as to whether they are capable of safe pavement cycling.

    If one wants to cycle with head bent down and peddling hell for leather, then pavement cycling would be dangerous, but for those that cycle sensibly, steadily, and with respect, pavement cycling is safe for all and certainly safer than the roads.

    Cyclists that ride the pavements fast and furiously, bobbing and weaving amongst pedestrians are no better than the motorists that blatantly break the speed limit.

    Cycling on pavements through a heavily pedestrianised area is a big "No". For someone like me that feels more comfortable on pavements then get off the bike and walk it if one doesn't want to join the road traffic.

  3. I ride on the Pavement where it is unsafe to ride on the road, there is one main street near my place where that is the case for me. There are so few pedestrians it seems absurd not to. I have had only one who told me I should be on the road and ironically she stepped aside for her when I passed her. I mostly cycle around pedestrians and am very polite to them and thank th if they give me extra space on the path.

  4. I usually ride in the street (though I'm afraid for my life half the time) and I get annoyed at cyclist on the sidewalks ... err... pavement as I assume it's called there.

    I like your thought on this type of civil disobedience. Maybe it'll show policy-makers that cyclists are people, too, and we have a RIGHT to safety.

  5. If they take away 1/3 of all street space (at a city level) for bicycles, it'd solve the whole problem. I, personally, think the busiest roads are where cycle tracks (physically protected) should be located. I hate having to go out of my way to give way to cars. They've only been around 80 years ... in great numbers, and they think it's a right. Well, no constitution guarantees the ability to drive and park all over the city.

    1. When you think if of it, it's crazy that we have reached the 21st century and we are still allowing, no, forcing, vulnerable people to ride along side fast moving weapons. Give it 50 years and they will look back and think, "how on earth did cyclists manage in those days".

  6. With the shared pathways for pedestrian and cyclist (we have a lot in Perth) I always ring my bell. I do so from a good way off, so as dogs, small kids on trikes, etc. can be reigned in safely and people don't get a shock when a bike overtakes them. I think that good manners dictate this be followed up with a smile and a thank you as you pass. I find cyclists who ring and then ignore your existence as they whoosh by a little arrogant.

    1. Actually I like your idea of ringing the bell a long way away from pedestrians. It wouldn't be seen as ringing at them, as the sound of the bell would probably be picked up more sub-consciously before one got close to them.

      For a short while I had a squeaky front brake on my trike and I did deliberate squeak it a short distance from pedestrians so even before I got near them they had already looked behind and seen me coming, then made sure I had plenty of room to get through.

      And yup, a thank you and a smile goes a very long way.

  7. I was driving the car today for work. An older youth on a bike shot out from a shopping precinct, across the pavement and a grass verge straight into the road in front of me. Those type are a horror and they are the ones who give those cycling on pavements a bad name and me nearly a heart attack .

    1. I totally agree. Trouble is, those types will ride badly on both pavement and road. I don't call them cyclists. They are yobs on bikes. Never been taught any manners or respect. It's because of blighters like that, that we get older and disabled people petitioning to stop cycling in pedestrianised high streets.

  8. I live in Australia where we're also not allowed to cycle on the pavement. I think this is why people don't want to be healthy and good to the environment by riding a bike, cause there are so many stories of cyclist being hit by cars. I lived in Japan for a month and I was so jealous of the cyclists because they can ride on the pavement! And because they can ride on the pavement they don't have to wear helmets that make your head sweaty and ruin your hair! It was great to see so many people being able to ride their bikes without fear of being killed! I didn't see one incident of cyclists being unsafe on the pavement! I don't know if that's because they are more skilled (when it was raining they were all able to hold umbrellas while cycling and not being dangerous. Except maybe one school girl who was holding an umbrella AND texting! ^^

  9. I have heard talk that Australia might be changing the law on helmets to children only. If they do I think that will do a great deal to help get people on their bikes over there.

    I think changing the highway code for cyclists is more important for cycling than a law for helmets. At the moment the highway code for motorists is exactly the same for cyclists, which is ridiculous being as how we are not motor cars, but a completely different form of travel.

    If the law for pavement cycling were changed it would save a great many lives while we wait for a real cycling infrastructure to be built which is going to take many years.

    1. I didn't know that! That would be great!
      I hope they will change the pavement law thing! I've been riding my bike on the pavement and no police cars that have passed have bothered stopping. Either they don't care or they think I am under 12!

    2. All the time one is pavement riding safely and carefully and not upsetting pedestrians the police will turn a blind eye.

      I honestly believe the more people that pavement cycle the quicker we will get a decent cycling infrastructure.


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