New figures reveal a dramatic fall in fines given to cyclists in Norfolk
PUBLISHED: 15:13 08 December 2018 | UPDATED: 08:41 09 December 2018
The number of fixed-penalty notices (FPNs) issued to cyclists in Norfolk has fallen dramatically over the past two years, new figures have revealed.
Riding on a footway has been the most common reason for cyclists to earn an FPN, followed by cycling without bike lights in the dark, disregarding traffic signals or signs, and failing to stop when asked to by a police officer or traffic warden.
Figures obtained under a Freedom of Information request show Norfolk Police issued a total of 49 FPNs in 2012, 37 in 2013, 55 in 2014, 42 in 2015 and 44 in 2016. The total for 2017 dropped to just 11, and there were also only 11 FPNs issued in the 12 months to November 14 this year.
John Peacock, chairman of pedestrian-rights group Norfolk Living Streets, was not pleased by the decline, and said: “We would be very disappointed if there was a fall in the number of notices being issued. There has to be a continuation of enforcement and a stepping up of it.”
Mr Peacock said while the Living Streets group was not anti-cycling, they believed there needed to be more investment into improving access for pedestrians to create a ‘balance’. He said: “The government is putting so much into creating facilities for cyclists but there isn’t enough adherence to the Highway Code.”
Jeff Jordan, Norwich Cycling Campaign committee member, said the fall in FPNs could be partly due to police taking a softer line on cyclists in some pedestrian areas.
Riding bikes has been allowed in more pedestrian areas of Norwich since August this year.
Mr Jordan said: “I think the police have toned it down and focus more on when someone is cycling in a dangerous way.
“Considerate cycling on the pavement is allowed in some areas of the city now, and there’s so many shared cycle and pedestrian paths that it’s hard to come down hard on cycling on pavements. When it’s allowed here and not there, it blurs the division.”
The FOI figures also reveal: -More FPNs have been given to cyclists in King Street, Thetford, than anywhere else in the county. Since 2012 33 FPNs have been issued there for cycling on a footway and two for disregarding signs or traffic signals.
-From 2012 to the end of 2017 there was a total of 84 FPNs issued to cyclists in Norwich, followed by 41 in King’s Lynn, 39 in Thetford and 11 in Great Yarmouth.
The full figures can be found here: Freedom of Information Request Reference No: FOI 004203/18.
No-one from Norfolk Police was available to comment on the findings.
Cycling off road: A change in approach
Ray Barnett of Cycle West Norfolk said the fall in FPNs was likely due to a change in policing, rather than a decrease in offences taking place.
He said the government had encouraged police to: “Only look at prosecuting where it was an actual nuisance or hazard and apply a degree of discretion where cyclists are being sensible and trying to avoid a road.”
Mr Barnett said King’s Lynn had not seen the same focus on cycling provision as Norwich over the past few years, although the town had a “reasonable number” of off-road paths, which he said were better than shared use paths.
Mr Barnett said: “I think that the halfway-house style of shared-use pavement paths encourage conflict between pedestrians and cyclists - particularly where the cycle-way ends suddenly and puts cyclists back on the road. The risk is that the shared-use paths encourage cyclists to think that cycling on the pavement is OK, so when the cycle-way ends for reasons that aren’t immediately apparent, they are tempted to continue cycling on the footway.”
Advice: Staying safe and legal on your bike
The vast majority of FPNs issued to cyclists could be avoided by using a bit of common sense, according to cycling groups.
Mr Barnett said cycling on the road was generally far safer than cycling on the pavement, although cyclists sometimes considered the opposite to be true.
He said: “Cars are not good at looking before pulling out or into driveways, so bicycles that are moving faster than pedestrians are vulnerable to being knocked off by cars pulling out of driveways without looking. And cycling sensibly when pedestrians are around by keeping speed down and making intentions clear helps avoid crashes and foster better relations between cyclists and pedestrians.”
Mr Jordan said for nighttime drivers it could be “quite scary” coming across cyclists in dark clothing with no lights. He said: “Lights often get pinched, but for self-protection it’s worth it. I also wear a high-vis jacket day or night, which makes a huge difference.”