Interim measures

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insouciant's picture
Interim measures

Back in February, when the spate of deaths had galvanised the cycling community, politicians were promising changes and better infrastructure. I had hoped that infrastructure construction work would be well underway by now. Other than a rather sorry effort by TfL to tinker with Bow Roundabout, all that effort and promise seems to, so far, have resulted in little return and the majority of our roads are as dangerous as they ever were.

Perhaps I was naive in expecting changes in infrastructure in the short term, but if these are going to take time, perhaps we need to think about how to make things safer in the meantime.

Some interim measures that politicians could enact overnight could be:

  1. Decriminalising cycling on the pavement where the pavement is next to a road with a speed limit over 20 miles an hour and where there is no protected cycling facility.
  2. Decriminalising cycling on the pavement and crossings around any junction which is deemed to be dangerous.
  3. Where 1 & 2 above are unfeasible/unpalatable, the speed of the road should be reduced to 20 miles per hour.

I think these measures would force the creation space for cyclists — protecting us and giving new cyclists confidence to start cycling.

This could also incentivise authorities to get on with providing proper infrastructure for cyclists. I suspect pedestrians would join the call for proper facilities to get cyclists back off the pavement and car drivers would call for facilities to allow them to drive above 20 mph.

Would people back this sort of thing? Would I be alone if I wrote to my MP to call for such measures?


Unfortunately, I think your measures would be very difficult politically. People HATE pavement cyclists and may not want this decriminalised.

Police don't/won't enforce 20mph speed limits, which is why we have to tolerate 'traffic calming'.

Mrs. Vole,

Katsdekker's picture

An interesting proposal that's clearly borne out of the longing for things to change. I am just not sure any "interim measure" would actually make any difference.

The police (and judicial system) do require a reality check, for sure. However the / their "cycling culture or awareness" just isn't there (yet). In that sense it's a societal fault.

My logic runs like this. It's safe space we require in the long run (yes, I agree), which would create a cycling culture as more peeps take to their bikes. We get this by pestering the politicians (write to you MP  and councillors) to put money and effort into

1)  fostering expertise amongst the professionals to deliver first class designs (first time round)

2) build dem cycleways

I am sure the discussions will rumble on, as we discuss where exactly the split the vicious circle and put the CROWbar.


Personally I don't see decriminalising pavement cycling as  a bad idea at all.  No doubt there will be some people who will hate it but there are some people who hate cyclists on the roads as well, or in share-use spaces such as car-free town centre streets, bridle paths etc.  It rather depends on where as well - in much of rural or suburban Britain you rarely see pedestrians on pavements these days, because our profligate approach to land use in housing design ensures that distances from one place to another, eg home to school or shops, are in that middle range of being a bit too far to walk but well within an easy bike ride - say 2-3 miles.

It does of course depend on how new cyclists behave.  There seems to be an assumption that people who are attracted out of their shells by safe infrastructure woudl cycle teh same way as those who cycle already, but that strikes me as implausible.  The hostile conditions we face on our roads, as cyclists already, give rise to a form of Darwinian "natural" selection, that only the fit, the fast and the furious proponents of that survival strategy known as vehicular cycling can ultimately survive, but why do people assume that kids and grannies/graddads, who came out of the closet in light of a kinder environment, woudl want to operate that way?  I saw recently in Italy that cyclists of all ages from small children to pensioners, men and women seemed content to ride quite sedately on either fairly mediocre cycle paths or on most pavements shared with pedestrians.  they were still travelling at perhaps three times the speed of a pedestrian, and not visibly threatening anyone.

I don't dispute the need to have ambition, and to keep campaigning for better, but can we really achieve a quantum leap?  If a steady, insidious creeping expansion of road capacity has worked for cars as demand pressure has been maintained, could something similar not work for bicycles?



Hmm , I think your suggestion that these measures will lead to motorists and pedestrians lending political weight to the building of high quality cycle infrastructure is highly dubious. I would expect such measures to result in motorists calling for 20mph limits to be lifted and pedestrians calling for cycling to be banned.


I certainly think we could press for legalising cycling on footways next to roads with speed limit 40mph and above. While not all footways next to such roads are up to standard, it would at least remove the threat of prosecution from those of us that do it already on derestricted roads, and allow councils to concentrate on improving the worst sections of footways which cyclists regularly use rather than having to go through redetermination orders before doing any physical works.


That migth work as 40mph roads aren't generally that busy for pedestrians (would you want to walk along one?) but wouldn't do much in most towns and cities. How much of the urban road network is over 30?

AKA TownMouse

insouciant's picture

You all make really good points and I’m probably expecting too much from our political system.
I suppose I take a view that some might describe as a bit hysterical, but if people were dying and being injured in the same numbers as a result of anything else, the government would enact legislation instantly. Society has somehow agreed that pedestrians and cyclists killed and seriously injured by motorised vehicles are “acceptable losses”.
I think we need to reframe this argument: politicians and administrators who sit on their hands and do nothing are responsible for needless death and suffering.

pete owens

This would be a VERY bad idea (apart from 3.)  for a number of reasons:

1. Cycling on the pavement is illegal for the very good reason that is antisocial to pedestrians. Pedestrians are treated very badly by our highway designers, but they do value pavements as a refuge from fast moving vehicular traffic (and from the perspective of pedestrians that includes bicycles, however carfully their operators claim to be riding). When the Pedestrians Association (now Living streets) surveyed their members concerns, pavement cyclists came out top of the list. It really should be a wake up call for cycle campaigners that a group representing the most vulnerable road users considers us a problem rather trhan natural allies. This should be the end of the matter, particularly for those calling for segregated cycle ways; it is hardly consistent to call for space to protect you from motor traffic while simultaneously demanding to be allowed to invade the space of those more vulnerable than yourself.

2. Pavement cycling is less rather than more safe for cyclists - particularly at the sort of junction deemed to be dangerous. In any case, at any particular junction cyclists do have the option of using the pedestrian route so long as they push, rather than ride their bike.

3. This is exactly what our autocentric highway engineers want - and have been doing for the last couple of decades. (have you not seen all the blue signs and white paint). Pretty much any pavement wider than the bare minimum for pedestrian use has already been converted to shared use - usually with no consideration for its practicality as a cycle route anf minimal concern for pedestrians. It gives them a means to pretend that they are doing something for cyclists, while continuing to engineer our streets to accomodate the maximum throughput of motor vehicles.

4. Cyclists should welcome and campaign for the enforcement of traffic laws. We want the police to crack down on speeding, pavement parking, dangerous overtaking and the like, so we should not be seeking to exempt ourselves from the law. In practice, it makes little difference as most of the police are just as autocentric as the traffic engineers and actively encourage cyclists to ride on the pavement or at least consider it a very very low priority. 

5. It would have exactly the opposite effect on the authoities to that you are hoping for. Once such a law was passed, then as far as they were concerned every road in the country would fully cater for cyclists. Job done - and no need to even pretend to design for our needs (not that they pretend very hard at the moment). Decades of experience shows that they will not do anything more that the absolute minimum they can get away with and the only road users they care for are ones with motors. Drivers would be perfectly content to see us off the roads, and out of their way, while pedestrians are already campaigning vigorously for 20mph limits without needing the added incentive of pavements full of cyclists.

And a final note. Yes, you are being naive in expecting the Times campaign to make a difference in the short term (or indeed eny time frame). I remember similar hopes following the national cycle strategy in 1995 and periodically with the publication an update of local transport plans since then. All the right policies were in place, documents detailing good design practices were published, most authorities published cycling strategies and had claimed to have policies putting the needs of pedestrians and cyclists above those of drivers, but it all came to nothing other than a nice little earner for the manufacturers of CYCLISTS DISMOUNT signs. Everyone went through the motions of pretending to cater for cyclists. They knew how to write reports boasting of the miles of cycle paths created. But, nothing was ever done that would in anyway compromise the volume and speed of motor traffic. Eventually they gave up even pretending, when the last Government decided that congestion was their priority - bringing the official policy in line with what had always been done in practice .  And it is noticable that the Times campaign is careful not to call for anything that could be construed as "anti-car".

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