Residents of East Grinstead may have noticed some new signs around the Town Centre which have the following message: “Please don’t cycle on the pavement! Rule 64 of the Highway Code: You MUST NOT cycle on a pavement.”
According to the Town Council the signs have been placed following a number of complaints about people cycling on pavements, however it is disappointing to see the issue addressed in this way for a number of reasons.
1. Home Office guidance since 1999 has been to advise those responsible for enforcement that discretion is required as “the legislation is not aimed at responsible cyclists who may feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of traffic”. As recently as 2014, Robert Goodwill confirmed this and the Association of Chief Police Officers circulated the advice to all local police forces. Therefore, the wording of the signs placed by the Town Council ignore such advice and treat people who feel it necessary to ride on the pavement but in a responsible manner with the same criminal intent as anti-social bike riders.
2. We believe the complaints may derive from anti-social behavior committed by people who happen to be on bikes – we believe that it would be better spent targeting the anti-social behavior that has triggered the complaints rather than the mode of transport that many people are able to use in a responsible manner.
3. The signs create confusion with other areas of the town that have shared space for cyclists and pedestrian on pavements with no clear boundary of where that stops. People riding bikes are being told to cycle on pavements in some parts of town, then told they must not cycle on pavements a short distance away.
4. The main cause of disappointment is that the Town Council have not recognised the cause of the problem and treat that rather than the symptom. East Grinstead Town Centre – a road that is on National Cycle Network Route 21 – is a very hostile environment to cycle through. Despite the 20mph speed limit and traffic calming speed tables, very few motorists adhere to the speed limit, or the parking restrictions and with no dedicated cycling infrastructure or restrictions on motor vehicle access through the town, it has created very intimidating conditions for cycling. The result of which is that people riding bikes in this environment will seek refuge on the pavement rather than the unsafe conditions of the road, a problem recognised by the Home Office as described in point 1 above.
We believe that a much more positive way of dealing with the problem would be to create conditions that will see people naturally choose the road to cycle on rather than the pavement.
It’s also disappointing that the Town Council have decided to react in knee-jerk way to complaints rather than actually investigating the size of the problem within context of, say, injuries caused by motor vehicles (something the Town Council have done very little to mitigate):
We had a look into the road accident data that exists on this website: http://www.everyaccident.co.uk/in-east-grinstead-west-sussex
We analysed all the casualties (serious/slight/fatal) that occurred in East Grinstead Town Centre (where the signs have been placed) between 2005 and 2014 and found the following information:
Number of pedestrians injured: 22 (6 serious, 16 slight) – 16 hit by a Car (5 serious), 3 hit by Taxi/PHV, 3 hit by Van (1 serious), Hit by a Cyclist = 0
4 of the above were hit on the footway (1 serious), 3 hit on a pedestrian crossing
Number of cyclists injured : 12 (2 serious, 10 slight) – 10 hit by a Car (2 serious), 1 hit by Taxi/PHV, 1 hit by Motorcycle, collisions with pedestrians = 0
It turns out that the only people injuring pedestrians on the footway are motor vehicle drivers.