Cardiff Declares War on Bicycles.
And not before time! Police in Cardiff have today launched a new crackdown on bicyclists flaunting the law and merrily weaving their way around the pavements of the city. While a £30 fixed penalty notice might not appear to be much of a threat, any deterrent for the increasing menace that the Cardiff cyclist can be can only be welcomed. A note of caution initially though, we don’t want to go painting all cyclists in Cardiff with too broad a brush. No doubt the majority of those on pedal powered twin wheels are all good sorts, very respectful and such, but equally there can be little doubt that a growing number of those who enjoy the un-motorised means of transportation have as much regard for the pedestrians in their way as a scorching sun has for the last ripples of a drained puddle – they are equally treated as an irrelevance, something to dismiss as were they not even there, and it is those cyclists that are the problem.
Increasingly in Welsh city and town centres, the travels of the pedestrian are marked by the need to dodge out of the way of those speeding past (and we do mean speeding) through clearly marked pedestrian areas. A trip through Cardiff City Centre can be measured by the number of times you are ‘ching chinged’ out of the way, if even that simple ‘courtesy’ is offered. More likely would be for you to suddenly jump to one side as some sun glass wearing blur of lycra shoots by. For too long, pedestrians have had to suffer the whims of cyclists regarding highways law, and it is good to see that the police in the capital are finally taking some action.
Plenty of debate has been stimulated by this, mostly regarding the lack of choice faced by cyclists when travelling. How can we be punishing those poor unfortunates? After all, too many cycle lanes are blocked by cars, while how many deaths do cyclists cause to pedestrians compared to motorists on cyclists? Well, for starters, it is simply against the law for cyclists to be on the pavement in the first place, so it is a very weak place to argue from. But if we put that to one side, what of those concerns?
First of all, cycle lanes, and indeed the dangers faced by cyclists on the roads, are both valid points of concern. While the cycling community needs to be much better regarding pedestrians, the motoring community in turn must raise its game regarding cyclists, who are no doubt vulnerable to the lack of attention given them by many British motor vehicle users. However, there is nothing that forces a cyclist to ride on a pavement. Unless said cyclists is physically welded by the groin to their bicycle, then there is no reason why the rider in question cannot dismount, push the bicycle to the next clear cycle lane or safe stretch of road, and continue. The decision to use pavements by cyclists is just that, a decision, a choice, and one not afforded to pedestrians. Pedestrians cannot amble down the middle of a dual carriage way at their choosing, they only have the pavements to make use of. If the roads are too scary for the cyclists of Cardiff City Centre, then get off the bike and push, you have the option.
As for injuries and deaths, fine, we do not see many pedestrians killed by cyclists, and the statistics are irrelevant almost when compared with cyclists killed by motor vehicles. What these death counts do not cover though, is the very real sense of fear instilled by cyclists whizzing through pedestrians. They might not get killed by the bike, but many are sure as hell scared witless by the cyclists who belt through those relying on foot. Put simply, pedestrians should not be made to feel intimidated while out walking in the only access routes available to them.
Cardiff in particular has a wealth of cycling provisions in place, offering the choice of using roads or a variety of cycle paths. There is no such diversity for the pedestrian. A cyclist weaving at speed through a pedestrian filled pavement, may not be as dangerous to pedestrians as were a car driver to mount the curb and commit a similar crime, but the risks are still there, the fear is still very real, and it remains a crime. While it may be a minority of cyclists who are responsible, it is a minority that is large enough now to warrant firm action, and we certainly hope that Cardiff police stand by this announcement rather than leave it as an empty threat.