I was somewhat surprised to hear recently that a four year-old girl was cautioned by police for riding her bicycle on the pavement.
Sophie Lindley was riding her bike equipped with stabilisers along a pavement in Grantham, Lincolnshire. She was on her way to school and was accompanied by her father.
A police officer noticed Sophie riding on the pavement and demanded that she get off her bike. The officer said to Sophie’s dad that “the law is the law” and threatened to confiscate the bike if he caught Sophie riding on the pavement further up the road.
Lincolnshire Police have since apologised for the incident. A spokesperson said that although safety is their priority and “cycling on the pavement is illegal”, common sense should prevail and officers should use their discretion where young children are concerned.
Where the Law Currently Stands on Riding your Bike on the Pavement
The Highways Act 1835 made it an offence to ride or drive a ‘carriage of any description’ along ‘any footpath or causeway by the side of the road’.
Fifty-three years later the Local Government Act 1888 declared that bicycles are defined as ‘carriages’ within the meaning of the Highways Act.
So, it is illegal to ride a bike along a pavement in England and Wales. Courts can impose a maximum fine of £500 or police can issue a fixed penalty notice of £50.
Children under the age of 10 like Sophie Lindley are below the age of criminal responsibility and therefore cannot be prosecuted or cautioned.
Is Cycling along the Pavement Dangerous?
Accidents involving pedestrians being hit by cyclists on the pavement are rare.
Even on the busy streets of London just 2% of pavement-related pedestrian accidents involved cyclists. The other 98% involved motor vehicles.
Should Children be Allowed to Ride their Bikes on the Pavement?
Research from the CTC, the national cycling charity, has found that only 1% of primary school children cycle to school. We should therefore encourage young children to cycle on pavements.
Many children of Sophie’s age are still learning to ride a bike. They need to be safe and away from any traffic.
It’s not just young children who find it safer to ride along the pavement. For older children, cycling along the road can be dangerous as cars can still drive along at 30 miles per hour in residential areas. Groups such as 20s Plenty for Us are campaigning for the default speed limit on UK residential streets to be reduced to 20mph.
If we had more shared pedestrian and cycle pavements in the UK then it would be much less of an issue whether riding a bike on the pavement is illegal or not.
Lincolnshire police have wisely apologised for the incident involving Sophie Lindley. Children should be encouraged to ride bicycles from a young age. As long as young children are carefully supervised when riding on the pavement there should not be a danger to other road users.
Paul Kitson is a keen cyclist and Slater and Gordon’s Principal Lawyer for the CTC, the UK’s national cycling charity.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers have secured more than £40 million in compensation for CTC Members who have been injured in cycling accidents since 2002.
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