Page last updated at 23:46 GMT, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 00:46 UK

Target pavement cyclists, say MPs

A cyclist
MPs were told only a small number of cyclists were irresponsible

The government should do more to target "irresponsible behaviour" by cyclists - particularly when they break traffic laws, a committee of MPs has said.

There was some confusion about road laws, including the fact that it is illegal to cycle on pavements, the Public Accounts Committee said.

It was responding to a National Audit Office report on road safety.

The Department for Transport said it could devise new rules but had to be satisfied police could enforce them.

In its response to the committee, the department said enforcing cycling offences "was typically not high on the agenda of most police forces due to competing demands on their time".

It also pointed out anti-social cyclists represent only a small number of total cyclists.

Others 'feel unsafe'

The committee's report was a response to a wide ranging NAO report on road safety published in May which suggested Britain was still behind other countries in tackling road safety for child pedestrians.

It said pedestrians and cyclists were particularly vulnerable - largely because they had little physical protection from crashes. In 2007 more than 30,000 pedestrians and 16,000 cyclists were injured, while 646 and 136 respectively were killed on Britain's roads.

MPs pointed out that there was a "perception that anti-social behaviour of some cyclists increases their risks and makes other road users feel unsafe".

The only time I have been knocked down in my life was by a cyclist going like a bat out of hell outside the House of Commons
David Curry MP

The committee urges the government to "devise education, training and publicity measures to target such anti-social behaviour, particularly when it breaks traffic laws".

While deaths and injuries of cyclists had fallen overall since the mid 1990s, they had risen by 11% since 2004, the committee said.

During the committee's hearings two MPs raised concerns about "anti-social behaviour" of some cyclists and the fact there was some confusion among the public and the police about legal requirements on them.

'Not trivial'

Committee member and Tory MP David Curry said some were "irresponsible and arrogant road users" and said many people believed they took no notice of red lights and believed traffic cones were "not for them".

"The only time I have been knocked down in my life was by a cyclist going like a bat out of hell outside the House of Commons," he said.

"We seem to regard cyclists as living in some sort of superior moral category when they actually do not have any."

Labour member Geraldine Smith added that sometimes irresponsible cycling was "dismissed as something trivial" but it was a common complaint at meetings in her constituency.

She said one constituent had been seriously injured and there appeared to be "very little" the police could do, adding: "A police superintendent was at this forum with me and he said that it was legal to cycle on pavements."

Richard Devereux, the top civil servant at the Department for Transport, pointed out that, according to the Highway Code, it was illegal to cycle on pavements. But he said it was wrong to assume that all cyclists were dangerous.

"There are, without doubt, some elements of the cycling community who are in that position and there are equally, I imagine, rather more people who are far more dangerous drivers as well," he said.

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