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Should cyclists be banned from city's pavements?

THE government is considering outlawing cycling on pavements and in pedestrian shopping areas. Those who choose to ignore the new restrictions could face pounds 20 on-the-spot fines. The proposal, roundly condemned by cycling organisations, has also prompted a lukewarm response from the police. Chief feature writer PAUL DALE reports.

THE Home Office does not collect statistics on how many people are killed or injured on pavements by cyclists during the course of a year.

Numbers are reckoned to be so low it is hardly worth keeping count.

Civil servants, however, do record accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists on the roads. There were just 356 throughout the entire country in 1996.

The figure pales into insignificance when compared to the tens of thousands of road-users killed or maimed by cars and lorries each year.

Yet the government feels concerned enough about the situation to consider banning cycling on pavements and is poised to give police officers powers to fine offenders pounds 20 on the spot.

Children under the age of 12 are likely to be let off, but teenagers could be subjected to the threat of fines. Failure to pay could result in a court appearance and a higher fine.

Persistent offenders even face the risk of being sent to prison.

The root of the problem is a widespread fear, particularly among elderly people, that they run the risk of being hit by cyclists. The threat thought to be posed by 'lycra lout' on mountain bikes roaring silently through pedestrian areas presents a powerful image.

NO to blanket ban

COMPLAINTS about speeding cyclists prompted a Coventry police chief to speak out.

Supt Jim McGinty, commander of the Little Park Street station, called a year ago for urgent action to be taken against a "small minority of aggressive cyclists."

He made it clear the police would not hesitate to prosecute if the safety of pedestrians was being put at risk.

Police sources have stressed, though, that only a very small number of cyclists are guilty of reckless behaviour and laws already exist to deal with that.

The prospect of a blanket ban on cycling in pedestrian areas and on pavements is not welcomed.

Sgt John Fletcher, of Coventry traffic police, said: "We don't encourage cycling on the pavement, but we don't go out of our way to actively discourage it, particularly where children are involved.

"The answer is to provide more cycle lanes and better facilities for cyclists. That is what we are trying to achieve in partnership with the city council.

"A blanket ban would leave us with enforcement difficulties."

YES to blanket ban

COVENTRY city centre manager Peter Collard fields scores of complaints each year about cyclists in the shopping precinct.

Signs make it clear that cycling is banned, but the order cannot be legally enforced because the land is private property and falls outside the jurisdiction of a 1956 bylaw.

Mr Collard said he would fully support the government's planned clamp down.

"It's just what we want. There are very few accidents occurring, but the fact is that people are frightened. Cyclists weave through the shoppers and that causes problems."

Betty Saltiel, chairman of Coventry Older People's Forum, welcomed the initiative.

She said: "If an older person gets hit by a cyclist they are likely to suffer quite a nasty blow and there is very little prospect of being able to claim against any insurance policy."

Cycling enthusiasts say new restrictions aren't the answer and are calling for much more to be done to provide cycle lanes.

YES to ban in the precinct

FORMER Coventry Liberal city councillor Rob Wheway (pictured right), a children's play consultant, urged the government to concentrate on making roads safer for cyclists.

"The rise in people cycling on the pavements has nothing to do with cyclists becoming more irresponsible and everything to do with the roads becoming a more dangerous place," he said.

"We have got to make the roads safe enough for children and older people, both of whom need healthy exercise, to be able to cycle in safety."

He believes cycling should be banned in the precinct.

"It is clearly dangerous and there is no excuse for it. I have nearly been knocked down myself and I wouldn't defend anyone who goes racing through there on a bike."

Mr Wheway hit out at the police being given new powers to issue spot- fines. Some officers could not be trusted to behave fairly, he claimed.

"It's a very worrying development. All the evidence is that when the police are given these powers they abuse them.

"Whether it's black teenagers, or people who are gay, or travellers, there is consistent evidence of police abusing their powers by picking on minority members of society.

"People who are black who drive a nice car are picked up more often than people who are white. It's a matter of fact."

NO to ban in the precinct

BRENDA Stone (above), secretary of the pressure group Coventry Cycling Campaign (CYCLIC), also believes the proposal to introduce on- the-spot fines is a massive over-reaction.

"Fining cyclists is a complete nonsense. Generally speaking there isn't a problem in Coventry. It's just giving the police another job as if they don't already have enough to do."

Mrs Stone said she felt that the vast majority of cyclists behaved sensibly.

"We want to be law-abiding and stick to the rules and not be a threat to anyone.

"No sensible cyclist wants to frighten old ladies. On the other hand, there are many miles of pavements in Coventry where there is not a pedestrian in sight.

"If I cycle down Humber Road I am terrified because of the lorries. The obvious place is to cycle on the pavement."

Mrs Stone admits, though, that many pedestrians have an "irrational" fear of being run down by cyclists on the pavement.

"It's not necessary to be scared. Cyclists take great care not to run into pedestrians because if they do they will fall off and hurt themselves."

She wants cycling to be banned in the precinct at busy times, but feels cyclists should be allowed access during quieter periods during the early morning and in the evening.
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Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jul 27, 1999
Words:1030
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