cycling on pavements

The following information has been reproduced with kind permission from Carlton Reid’s article “Cycling is Safe for Kids – no need to wrap them in cotton wool”.

should kids ride on roads or pavements?

End of cycle route signIn some countries, such as Germany, it is legal for children to cycle on pavements. In the UK (except for Scotland) it is illegal for anyone, including children, to cycle on the pavement, and in 1999 the police were given new powers to issue fixed fines for the offence.

Cycling on footways (a pavement at the side of a carriageway) is prohibited by Section 72 of the Highway Act 1835, amended by Section 85(1) of the Local Government Act 1888. This is punishable by a fixed penalty notice of £30 under Section 51 and Schedule 3 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988.

Cyclists have no right to cycle on a footpath away from the road, but only commit an offence where local by-laws or traffic regulation orders create such an offence.

Cycle campaigner Howard Peel said:

“It is important to note that most legislation relating to ‘cycling on footpaths’ actually relates to the riding of cycles on a ‘footway set aside for the use of pedestrians’ which runs alongside a road. For example, the ‘fixed penalties’ brought in a few years ago do not apply to country footpaths where there is no road. Fixed penalty notices also cannot be applied to areas such as parks, shopping precincts etc. unless a bylaw has been passed making cycling in such areas an offence… Many people, including police officers, seem to think that ‘a footpath is a footpath’ wherever it is and that the same laws apply. This is not the case.”

The legislation makes no exceptions for small wheeled or children’s cycles, so even a child riding on a footway is breaking the law. However, if they are under the age of criminal responsibility, which is 10 years of age in the UK, they cannot face prosecution.

In 1999, new legislation came into force to allow a fixed penalty notice to be served on anyone guilty of cycling on a footway. However the Home Office issued guidance on how the new legislation should be applied, indicating that they should only be used where a cyclist is riding in a manner that may endanger others. At the time Home Office Minister Paul Boateng issued a letter stating that:

“The introduction of the fixed penalty is not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of traffic and who show consideration to other pavement users when doing so. Chief police officers, who are responsible for enforcement, acknowledge that many cyclists, particularly children and young people, are afraid to cycle on the road. Sensitivity and careful use of police discretion is required.”

The maximum fine for cycling on the pavement from the courts is £500. However it is more usually enforced by way of the Fixed Penalty Notice procedure (FPN) which carries a £30 fine if pleading guilty.

In an email, a spokesman for the Department for Transport told BikeHub.co.uk:

 “The law applies to all but the police can show discretion to younger children cycling on the pavement for whom cycling on the road would not be a safe option.”

The above text forms part of an article entitled “Cycling is Safe for Kids, no need to wrap them in cotton wool”, by Carlton Reid, editor of Bike Hub.

More detailed information about the confusing situation concerning cycling on footpaths and pavements can be found in Mr Reid’s article “Cycling and the Law”

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