Back in 1931 (correct me if I'm wrong on that date) when the highway code was first published, rule 64 "You MUST NOT cycle on a pavement" made perfect sense.
In 1931 everyone walked. Our pavements were crowded with people walking to work, walking to the shops, walking to visit friends and relations, kids were on the pavements playing marbles, conkers, skipping, hopscotch and much more. It would have been insanity not to have a law that protected pedestrians as rule 64 did.
In 1931 very few cars were sharing the roads with cyclists. Cars did not travel at the speeds that they do now and motorists were far more conscious of sharing the road. On top of which, roads had been originally designed and created for the bicycle. It was logical that a government wouldn't go to all that expense creating roads for the cyclist not to make them mandatory.
In 1931 a cyclist's thoughts when starting out on his journey wouldn't have been about safety. Wouldn't have been about planning his journey in advance for the quietest and safest of routes. Wouldn't have been about making the choice of wearing a helmet, or wearing hi viz clothing. He would have slapped his cap on his head, wheeled his bike out of doors and ridden to work. His only planning for his ride would have been to remember to take his lunch box, and bike lights if he knew he was coming home after dark.
Back in 1931 rule 64 was protecting the majority of vulnerable people. It made perfect sense and no one questioned it. No one even thought about it. No one wanted or needed to cycle on a pavement. Why would they? The roads in 1931 weren't killing and injuring hundreds of cyclists a year.
Forward to 2012 and we have a very different society. A society where a law written in 1931 now adds to the death of many cyclists. Rule 64 has now become lethal.
In 2012 no one walks anywhere. In most parts of the country (excluding city and town centres obviously) pavements are deserted. There are no children playing on the paths. There are few people walking to the shops, walking to visit their friends and relations or walking to work. Pavements now are totally under used. Society has changed so much that in most parts of the country pavements are only serving as a space between driveway and road, with the occasional pedestrian needing to use it for a short distance. Now it is perfectly safe to allow cyclists, if they wish, to ride on all pavements unless stated otherwise when in high pedestrianised areas.
In 2012 roads have now been so widened, are so fast and so congested that it's insanity to expect anyone not encased in a metal box to be anywhere but on a pavement. Even our residential roads where children used to play happily and safely are now full of parked cars and motorists using them as short cuts at speeds that will kill or maime.
In 2012 cars have become so very safe for the driver and his passengers that they have become even more lethal for anyone on foot or cycle. The safer the motorised vehicle has become the more daring and dangerous the driving. Is it any wonder that the majority of people feel it's too dangerous to cycle on our roads.
Once upon a time it was illegal to shoot the kings deer. Was that law moral and just in a time when thousands of peasants were dying of hunger? No! of course it wasn't. No more than it is moral or just to force nervous, young or elderly cyclists out into the path of killing machines today.
In the cities it maybe that more young, healthy fit males are taking to
commuting by bike, but here in the country and quieter towns it's the
elderly and the families that are taking to their bikes because they are willing to risk breaking the law and pavement cycle.
Every day hundreds of normally law abiding people are breaking the law and risking fining or court simply because they can't (not wont) cycle in amongst the traffic of today. For many it's a choice of breaking the law or of not cycling at all. And illegal or not, pavement cycling is getting more and more people on their bikes.
Until this country builds a real, safe, Dutch style infrastructure, rule 64 needs removing from The Highway Code and in it's place pavement cycling etiquette rules written. People should be given a legal choice of whether to cycle on road or pavement until cyclists have a place of their own within our infrastructure.