Red tape with bells on hits cyclists
CYCLISTS, send not to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.
The government is drawing up legislation to order that every bicycle must have a bell, and that the owner should always use it to alert unsuspecting pedestrians about to step off the pavement and cross the road.
The crackdown - which will be viewed in some quarters as the ultimate manifestation of the nanny state - follows mounting public anger at irresponsible cyclists who jump red lights, cycle on pavements and ride two abreast on main roads.
Those found guilty of riding without a bell could face on-the-spot fines or court-imposed penalties of up to 2,500. It is even possible that a two-year jail term could be imposed.
Whether US President George Bush - who careered his bike into a policeman during last year's G8 summit at Gleneagles - would have fallen foul of the new law is unclear, but other high-profile cyclists such as Tory leader David Cameron and MP Boris Johnson would risk punishment if they failed to sound a bell in an attempt to avoid such a collision.
World record-holding cyclist Graeme Obree immediately lambasted the idea as a "pointless exercise in red tape".
He said: "If a cyclist is about to hit a pedestrian they are not going to hit a bell, they are going to shout. What bobby is going to enforce a law like this on a housing scheme? They would be a laughing stock.
"Cycling yobs will take the bell off anyway. Bad cyclists should be charged with riding in a reckless manner. Only civil servants could come up with crazy ideas like this."
Commonwealth Games gold medallist Craig MacLean agreed the law would have little effect on irresponsible cyclists. He said: "In principal it's not a bad idea, but the people who ride like idiots are going to ride like idiots regardless.
"I honestly cannot see the police stopping a cyclist in the middle of nowhere for not having a bell on their bike."
Government figures show that in the past five years, 12 pedestrians have died after being hit by cyclists. However, the total number of road deaths last year stood at 3,201. The number of pedal cyclists killed rose by 10% to 148 - the highest level since 1999.
Current laws require bells to be fitted to new bicycles before they leave the shop, but cyclists do not have to keep them on their bikes - or even use them when they are out on the road.
UK ministers have vowed to close the loophole when harmonised bicycle construction standards are introduced across all 25 European Union states in the autumn.
A Scottish Executive spokeswoman last night confirmed that the issue was governed by UK-wide consumer safety legislation, which means Westminster politicians are free to impose the bell demand on Scotland as well.
But government ministers believe an explosion in public interest in cycling has been accompanied by an increase in complaints about aggressive and inconsiderate riding.
Westminster transport minister Stephen Ladyman said in a parliamentary written answer: "The introduction of these standards makes this a sensible moment to review our current policies on cycle construction, including the question of bells.
"I would of course undertake a public consultation before making any proposal to amend regulations."
After being horrified at seeing cyclists pedalling through red lights on a pedestrian crossing outside his office, London mayor Ken Livingstone confirmed earlier this month that he was considering forcing cyclists to carry "number plates", to ensure those caught breaking the law by CCTV cameras did not remain beyond the reach of the fines.
Clive Murray, president of the Scottish Association of Police Superintendents, said: "Officers have discretion which they use to good effect on numerous occasions during performance of their duties with the public, cyclists or otherwise. I am sure they would be able to decide whether use of this legislation was appropriate in the circumstances."
Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, and an active cyclist, said he supported better enforcement and fines in line with those meted out to motorists.
He added: "Cyclists breaking traffic laws should be prosecuted. If cyclists want to be treated sympathetically they have to behave responsibly. Some don't. Some behave obnoxiously. They do harm to all cyclists."
Meanwhile, Tom Franklin, chief executive of the pedestrians' pressure group Living Streets, said: "We would support measures to require cyclists to maintain and use their bells, because this will help to create a safer environment for pedestrians.
"Using a bell to warn pedestrians that you are approaching is not only safer, it is also courteous. Pedestrians who are older, or who are unsteady on their legs, can find it very intimidating if a cyclist skims past them at high speed, without any warning. It is good manners for cyclists to use their bells.
"Clearly, this measure by itself won't be enough, but it is part of a bigger culture change which needs to happen. That includes ensuring that the police, and local authorities, clamp down on pavement cycling and going through red lights; and on ensuring that traffic is tamed so that pedestrians and cyclists feel safer."
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North