Clause 22 - Breach of requirements as to control of vehicle, mobile telephones etc.

Part of Road Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 27th January 2005.

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Photo of Charlotte Atkins Charlotte Atkins Assistant Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport 10:45 am, 27th January 2005

Certainly, but we could also perhaps legislate for a cyclist eating an apple while riding their bicycle. It makes no more sense to do that than it does to legislate for their using a mobile phone. The police already have adequate powers to deal with cyclists who cycle dangerously. Let us make it clear that it is a minority of cyclists who cycle dangerously or carelessly. We have seen a growth in cycling, particularly on cycle paths and off-road. We are also ensuring that cyclists get proper training. We are introducing a new training regime to ensure both that people who are not used to cycling in traffic get appropriate training and that there is training for youngsters who cycle to school or near their homes.  

The important point is that we do not need to legislate to dissuade cyclists from using a mobile phone. Any cyclist should recognise that it is sensible to have both hands on the handlebars and to keep control of their bike. It is clear that police do not often prosecute cyclists but, under sections 28 and 29 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, they have the appropriate powers to take action against those who are cycling dangerously or carelessly. The penalty for dangerous cycling is a maximum fine of £2,500. For careless cycling, it is £1,000. Those are more than adequate penalties.

The amendments do not work as amendments because the construction and use regulations of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, made under section 41 of the 1988 Act, do not contain requirements that prohibit the riding of a pedal cycle when using a hand-held mobile phone. Therefore, there is nothing against which the offence of contravening the regulations could be applied. That is a technical issue.

I do not believe that we need to take action against a cyclist using a mobile phone. We need to train cyclists and get them to understand not to drive dangerously, whether by holding a mobile phone, eating an apple or, as often happens, cycling on pavements and going through red lights. We must create a culture in which cyclists understand that they too must obey the rules of the road. They can be dangerous. Cyclists who cycle in that way give a poor example to those youngsters we are trying to encourage to take up cycling because it is healthy exercise and helps to combat obesity. I hope that the work that we are doing in Government will encourage people to take to cycling, both to get to work and for leisure purposes. It can be a pleasurable activity but only if people take the appropriate steps to ensure that they are cycling safely, and not putting themselves, pedestrians or, indeed, motorists at risk by creating conditions in which accidents can occur.