Police lessons for Bristol cyclists and motorists who are inconsiderate to cyclists
CYCLE on a pavement, go through a red light on your bike or cut up someone on two wheels in your car and you could soon find yourself on a course.
Sessions aimed at improving levels of respect between motorists and cyclists will soon be on offer to those who fall foul of the rules of the road in Bristol.
Under a new police initiative, cyclists caught going through red lights, cycling on pavements or without lights and motorists caught driving in a way that is inconsiderate to cyclists would be given the option of paying a £30 fine or attending "awareness training".
It is believed the scheme, which will focus on the city centre, could be the first of its kind in the UK.
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A pilot of the cycling course is due to start in August, with one-to-one cycling lessons costing £15 being run by Bristol charity Life Cycle UK. If funding is granted, the scheme could start in September. The scheme is being compared to speed awareness courses that are offered to motorists caught speeding.
Sergeant Stephen Bell, who is part of the team behind the plans, said: "It is something we get complaints about and we want to try and educate people. This is about education, not enforcement or penalising people, and it won't make the police any profit.
"Quite often we stop people who aren't cycling on the road because they don't feel safe. We want to give them the opportunity to have one of these lessons.
"There will be some people who don't get offered the chance to go on the course, it will be at the officer's discretion."
He said he was not aware of a similar course being run anywhere else in the UK, and is hoping to roll it out across the whole city if the pilot goes well.
Officers will issue a £30 penalty ticket to the motorist or cyclist in question, and will also hand over information about three options: they could either request a court hearing, pay the ticket, or take part in the course – which would cancel the ticket. Mr Bell and his team are discussing the initiative with Cycling City, a £23 million scheme funded by the city council and Cycling England and aimed at doubling the number of cyclists in the Bristol area.
Bristol City Council spokesman Kate Hartas said no decision had been made yet on whether the proposed initiative would get funding.
She said: "It is early days but there are plans for a trial period of what is known as conditional ticketing, where instead of paying a fine a cyclist would be given the option to attend a speed awareness or safer cycling course, similar to courses that exist at the moment for motorists caught speeding. The aim would be to encourage good behaviour."
Martin McDonnell, chairman for the Bristol Cycle Campaign, said: "We welcome these plans because we do not condone anti-social or law-breaking cycling behaviour.
"But we do want to see a balance – it shouldn't just be a crackdown on cyclists, but on all anti-social behaviour on the roads, including drivers. So we are happy that there are plans to work with drivers too."
Allan Williams, Sustrans' policy advisor, said: "It's a mistake to look at people as either drivers, pedestrians or cyclists. Many of us are all three and as the number of people cycling in Bristol increases, creating space that all road users can share is vital.
"But it's important to consider that cyclists are considerably more vulnerable road users than motorists and they face a much greater risk from motorised traffic than they pose."