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The BBC wades in on how the Police in London are dealing with a bicycle planning issue-Police officers in Camden Borough will no longer be charging cyclists who ride on the sidewalk or “pavements”, but instead examine why the cyclists are choosing sidewalks instead of the road. These officers are also following a protocol first adopted by the West Midlands Police, who are also enforcing a vehicular passing distance of 1.5 meters when overtaking a cyclist. Get closer to a cyclist, you will be stopped.

The intent is to discover what areas the cyclists feel “forced” off the road. It is the 1835 Highways Act which makes it an offence to ride on the sidewalk, and includes a penalty of 50 British pounds (about 82 Canadian dollars).  Enforcement is up to the Police, and discretion is asked when dealing with children riding on sidewalks.

There is also some pushback from pedestrians, some that feel “more at risk from cyclists than cars and would not like to see the police dropping fines”.   Many seniors are also very wary of cyclists on sidewalks, fearing the sudden movement will make them fall. Research undertaken by Victoria Walks in Australia shows that the ramifications of a fall to an older senior can mean death in months.

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Sustrans, an organisation promoting sustainable transport noted Many people in the UK do not feel confident or safe riding a bicycle on our roads. If we are to encourage cycling as an efficient and healthier way to get around our towns and cities whilst reducing cycling on pavements we need to better understand the concerns and needs of people and provide adequate cycle provision for them.”  

Meanwhile,” Living Streets, a campaign group for pedestrians, wants better enforcement of the law, not less. Dr Rachel Lee, policy and research coordinator for Living Streets, says: “We know most cyclists prefer to use the road, but a small minority continue to ride their bicycles on the pavement for reasons of convenience or safety. This can make pedestrians feel vulnerable – especially those who are visually impaired, suffer hearing loss or have mobility issues. Although Camden’s emphasis on education is welcome, cycling on pavements is illegal. We want better enforcement of the law.”

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