Page last updated at 13:37 GMT, Wednesday, 9 July 2008 14:37 UK

Cyclists 'don't obey road laws'

By Tom Warren
BBC News

There has been a 91% rise in cyclists across London, figures show

Congestion, soaring fuel prices and more designated lanes are some of the reasons given for a huge rise in cycling across UK towns and cities.

But it has led to rising tension between drivers, pedestrians and those on two wheels.

On Tuesday cyclist Jason Howard was fined 2,200 following the death of a pedestrian he had collided with in Buckingham.

Seventeen-year-old Rhiannon Bennett hit her head on the pavement in April last year, and later died.

Following this week's court case, Ms Bennett's father branded the sentence "laughable" while her mother said the law had let them down.

They are a rule unto themselves, to put it bluntly
Hugh Bladen, Association of British Drivers

A policeman involved in the case said the law which allowed Howard, 36, to escape a prison term, as he was only charged with dangerous cycling, may need to be re-examined.

But the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has defended the lesser charge, as opposed to manslaughter, saying it was the "appropriate" course of action.

Recent figures from Transport for London show there has been a 91% jump in cycle use across the city since 2000.

And towns and cities across the UK - including Bristol which is set to become the first "cycling city" - are getting multi-million pound windfalls to improve facilities and encourage more people into the saddle.

'Dodge red lights'

But as greater numbers of cyclists take to the roads, are they becoming more irresponsible?

Hugh Bladen, from the Association of British Drivers, certainly thinks so.

"They are a rule unto themselves, to put it bluntly," he said.

"You can't tar the whole lot with the same brush, but the number of people who cycle on the pavement, ride up one-way streets the wrong way or dodge red lights is quite extraordinary.

Many towns in the UK are getting money to improve cycle provisions

"We should all obey the rules of the road but unfortunately cyclists have got to the stage now where they don't observe them at all."

Mr Bladen said cycling on pavements was an especially dangerous habit which more cyclists needed to stop doing.

"All road users have a duty of care for other road users.

"But there's a sort of anti-cycling feeling among motorists and vice versa."

Road safety officer Martin Cook, from West Sussex County Council, said growing numbers of bikes on the roads had sparked "very strong feelings" among people.

'Drivers must adapt'

"There are groups who feel there should be a lot more engineering to facilitate for cyclists and others who feel cyclists shouldn't be on the road," he said.

"It's about trying to find the common ground with the two."

Others believe drivers, pedestrians and cyclists are slowly learning to live with each other on the roads.

Charlie Lloyd, from the London Cycling Campaign, said: "The situation is getting better. Cyclists are more aware of traffic and motorists are more aware too.

"It's something you learn very quickly in London, that pedestrians have more rights than anyone else and you have to respect that."

Cynthia Barlow, chairwoman of safety charity RoadPeace, thinks it is drivers who need to alter their habits to protect the growing band of cyclists across Britain.

Her daughter Alex McVitty, 26, was killed in 2000 when a turning lorry struck her bike in the City of London.

"The biggest problem involving the interaction between cyclists and heavy goods vehicles is when the cyclist is going straight on and the lorry is turning left," Mrs Barlow said.

"Cyclists should obey the law but there are some very practical measures which the large goods vehicles can and should do in recognition that this is going to be an increasing problem."

Death cyclist fine angers family
09 Jul 08 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
Cyclist fined over fatal accident
08 Jul 08 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
Bristol named first cycling city
19 Jun 08 |  Bristol
City cycle journeys rise by 91%
16 Jun 08 |  London

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Wakefield Express Dead teenager's family blasts cyclist's 'laughable' fine - 15 hrs ago
Worthing Today Dead teenager's family blasts cyclist's 'laughable' fine - 15 hrs ago
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