Personal Injury

Cycling on the pavement: What are the rules?

Estimated read time: 4 mins

Carrie Tennick, March 06, 2020

Figuring out whether cycling on the pavement is legal or not isn’t the easiest thing for your average rider.

In fact, it’s not even particularly clear for those who do know the rules.

The main concern for cyclists on pavements is hitting pedestrians, which is all too easy when they are busy and people are sharing a few feet.

When there have recently been a number of high-profile cases of pedestrians dying after being hit by bikes, it’s important that the rules are followed to keep all road and pavement users safe.

Cycling on the pavement

It’s generally accepted that cycling is not typically allowed on the pavement – unless an established cycle lane has suddenly vanished into thin air.

Section 72 of the Highway Act 1835 prohibits carriages “of any description” riding on “any footpath or causeway by the side of any road made or set apart for the use or accommodation of foot passengers”. In 1888, bicycles were classified as carriages, meaning that they were then stopped from being ridden on footpaths or roads designed for pedestrians.

The act can’t refer to pavements as this term was coined too recently. This could leave cyclists in a legal grey area. However, the legal interpretation is generally that pavements are considered pedestrian footpaths, meaning that cyclists should not ride on the pavement.

The Highway Code states this more emphatically, stating in Rule 64 that “You MUST NOT cycle on a pavement”. It also advises that cyclists “take care when passing pedestrians, especially children, older or disabled people, and allow them plenty of room”.

Responsible cyclists

In 1999, the government made cycling on the pavement a fixed penalty offence. At the time, the government said: “The introduction of the fixed penalty is not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of the traffic, and who show consideration to other pavement users.

“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.”

Cyclists on the pavement can face fines of up to £500. But this rule doesn’t tend to be enforced by many police forces. In the majority of cases when a fine is actually issued, cyclists will have to pay around £50.

In 2014, cycling minister Robert Goodwill said that police officers should use their discretion when it comes to prosecuting cyclists on the pavement. If a cyclist is seen to be considerate of other road users while on the pavement, police officers will typically avoid fining them in most cases, instead choosing to point out the dangers of cycling on the pavement – to them and pedestrians.

Why do cyclists choose the pavement?

Reasons for cycling on the pavement vary, but in the majority of cases it comes down to road traffic. If there is a high volume of cars on the road, some cyclists might feel intimidated and choose to travel on the pavement instead.

Parents cycling with their children may also decide to use the pavement for safety. But it is also against the law for children to cycle on the pavement – although there is no criminal liability for kids under the age of 10.

They may also come across obstacles in their path while on the road, including vehicles parked illegally or potholes or other problems with the road surface. In cases such as these, cyclists may face real danger if they continue on the road or cycle path.

However, there have been instances of police forces cracking down on bikes on the pavement. So it can pay for cyclists – and their parents – to adhere to the rules of the road.

Pedestrian accidents

Cyclists and pedestrians are both considered vulnerable road users. Pedestrians, however, are at a disadvantage given the higher speeds cyclists are capable of and the fact they are riding a bike. This can make collisions between the groups serious.

If you have been hurt in an accident involving a cyclist on the pavement, you could be entitled to make a personal injury claim against the person responsible.

To find out how First4Lawyers could help you, just give us a call, request a call back or start your claim online.

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