Sergeant Nick Clarke said it was time to understand what forced cyclists onto the pavement
Published: 18 January, 2017
By WILLIAM McLENNAN
POLICE are to stop punishing cyclists who ride on the pavement in Primrose Hill – and instead investigate the conditions that led them to leave the road.
In a move which has split opinion, safety campaigners have hailed the change of approach as a way of identifying danger spots where cyclists fear sharing the road with cars and lorries, but critics say a free pass has been handed to those on two wheels.
Sergeant Nick Clarke told the New Journal: “Riding on the pavement is technically illegal, just like being drunk in a pub is technically illegal, but we don’t enforce it unless we have good reason. It’s about using common sense and discretion.
“It’s not the scourge of Camden, but if it is happening, we have to look at why. Why are people choosing to ride on the pavement? Then we have to resolve that, so all vulnerable road users are safe.”
Any cyclists seen riding on the pavement during the operation will be stopped, he said, and offered advice or directed towards “Bikeability” classes if they are new to the roads and lack confidence.
Sgt Clarke said: “I’ll advise them that, if you are going to ride on the pavement, treat the pedestrians as you would want a car to treat you and recognise they are more at risk than you are. The only possibility I can see myself [booking] a cyclist for riding on the pavement is if their riding is so dangerous that it would want to make me leap out the way and chase after them. I’m sure some people will bang a big drum and say that it’s wrong.”
The approach has proved unpopular among some residents in the area. Horse racing pundit John McCririck, who lives in Primrose Hill, said: “If you break the law it should be enforced and the police should at least tell the miscreants that they are breaking the law and there are consequences if they go on doing it, and if it’s a repeated offence there is a penalty to be paid. Cycles on pavement are dangerous for everybody there.”
He added: “There has been a lot of favouring of cyclists, and up to a point I’m all for it, having been a tricyclist myself, but at the end of the day it is the police’s job to enforce the law of the land, and in this case they are not doing that and, it seems, deliberately questioning if it is the law of the land.”
Mr McCririck’s wife, Jenny, famously referred to by her husband as “The Booby”, said: “It’s just appalling. It’s breaking the law, so the police are condoning breaking the law, I can’t believe it, it’s so dangerous.”
However, another famous face, BBC Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine, who commutes to work by bike, has labelled Sgt Clarke as “2017’s Met Officer of the Year (so far)” after learning of the change of approach.
Officers will be carrying out an undercover “close pass” operation – where plain clothes officers on bicycles stop drivers who leave a gap of less than 1.5 metres when overtaking – to try to identify dangerous spots.
Highgate ward Green councillor and London Assembly member, Sian Berry, who has campaigned on cycle safety, said: “He [Sgt Clarke] recognises that if people are cycling on the pavement, there’s probably something wrong on those roads, so he’s going to go and cycle on those roads and find out what’s wrong with them. That’s the perfect answer. To get the cyclists off the pavement you have got to make them feel safe on the road."