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Is It Time to Let Cyclists Ride the Pavements?

By Adam Marsal

In one of London’s districts, police promised they will not prosecute cyclists using pavements to commute. Is it the sign that times are a-changing? Should this policy be adopted also in other European cities?

In London borough of Camden, authorities said they won’t fine a cyclist riding on the pavement without a good reason to do so. Instead, they will stop them and ask why are they using footpath rather than the road. Additionally, they will be pulling over and warning all the drivers who should overtake cyclists without giving them an adequate passing gap. This way, they want to identify places considered the most dangerous by cyclists.

However, not everybody is happy with such a decision. Many pedestrians insist that bicycle is a vehicle and so it should stay on road.

Some of them feel even more endangered by cyclists than cars. The most common objection is that cyclists are darting too fast, switching unpredictably between the road and the pavement, regardless of the pedestrians. There are even voices that pedestrian rights are being eroded.

London-based cyclists who are commuting to work on a daily basis disagree – mostly those who are accompanied by kids. But majority of them understands unconditionally that bikers shouldn’t ride furiously and keep the pace with pedestrians when passing because any kind of collision would lead to an injury or even death.

Today, the offence charges for riding on a footpath in the UK include a fixed penalty notice of 50 GBP. But the Home Office issued and adjustment calling for moderation particularly in the case of the kids. One of the arguments is that if politicians want to encourage more people to choosing a bicycle as their daily means of transport, they should also guarantee them the comfort of safety on the roads. Unless this becomes a reality, there will always be a minority using the footpaths.

Every country has a different approach regarding bicycles on pavements. For example, in some cities in Japan, bicycles are entirely banned from riding on the roads and wide pavements are expected to provide enough space for both cyclists and pedestrians. German, Austrian, and Swiss local governments are pouring huge amounts of money into building networks of shared roads with separated lanes for pedestrians and cyclists. With respect for each other, this model works perfectly in most big German cities, including Berlin.

How is the situation in your town or a city? Do police enforce the law no matter the circumstances? Or are they rather tolerant?