By RAY MASSEY
Last updated at 3:34 AM on 09th November 2009
Prosecutions of cyclists who run through red traffic lights has plummeted dramatically – with fewer than half as many ’lycra louts’ facing a ticket, damning new Government figures reveal today.
They show that just 55 cyclists were prosecuted at magistrates’ court for the traffic offence in 2006. But this dropped to just 22 in 2007, the latest year for which figures are available.
But while motorists who run a red light face being filmed by camera, prosecuted and having points on their licence or worse – cyclists can ’ignore the law with impunity’ said Labour peer Lord Lipsey who obtained the figures from the Department of Justice in response to a parliamentary question.
He recently witnessed a pregnant woman knocked to the ground by a cyclist and said even MPs and peers walking near the Houses of Parliament are victims of ’aggressive’ anti-social cyclists who put lives at risk.
It follows a damning report by MP watchdogs who said ministers were failing to curb the so-called lycra louts’ described as being like ’Darth Vader on two wheels.’
But investigation by the Daily Mail shows this is just the tip of the iceberg.
The figures supplied to Lord Lipsey relate only to cyclist prosecutions under one section of the Road Traffic Act concerning ’neglect of traffic direction’.
Separate figures obtained by the Daily Mail reveal that just 147 cyclists across the whole of England and Wales were prosecuted in court for cycling on the pavement in 2006 – at a time when cyclists travelled nearly 2.5billion miles a year between 2002 and 2006.
Just 17 court prosecutions for cycling on the pavement were made in London, according to figures in response to a separate parliamentary question to Justice Secretary Jack Straw. Yet Transport for London estimates around half a million cycle journeys are made in the capital each day.
Short of court action, police issued 665 fixed penalty notices to cyclists riding on the pavement in 1999 and 821 in 2000. But for the past nine years the Government has declined to collate these figures.
But in 2005 there were 856 accidents involving cyclists riding on the pavement, compared to 778 in 2003 and 961 in 2000, Transport Department figures reveal.
By contrast, more than 2million motorists a year face speeding tickets, of which 1.8million are the result of speed-cameras and 200,000 are taken to court.
Deaths and serious injuries among cyclists have fallen overall since the mid 1990s a, but have risen by 11 per cent between 2004 and 2007.
Cycling on a pavement is an offence under section 72 of the Highways Act 1835 (as amended by the Local Government Act of 1888). Enforcement is an operational matter for the police. The maximum fine is £500.
But since 1999 the offence can also be dealt with by a fixed penalty notice of £30. Careless cycling is not an imprisonable offence, though cyclists can be jailed for ’wanton and furious driving’.
Lord Lipsey said:’Though the majority of cyclists are law-abiding, a minority of aggressive riders are bringing danger to our roads by racing through red lights to avoid the inconvenience of stopping.’
He noted: ’Recently, Lady Sharples, a member of the Lords, had a confrontation with such a cyclist. But near-misses are occurring every day between peers and cyclists outside the House of Lords. I also recently witnessed a pregnant woman knocked to the ground by such a cyclist.’
Lord Lipsy added:’The present figures mean that just two cyclists in a million are caught and prosecuted for this offence. Meanwhile, drivers who shoot red lights are rightly taken to court and accumulate fines and points.
’There is a clear difficulty for the police in that bicycles, unlike cars and motorbikes, do not have to carry number plates. They can thus ignore the law with impunity. It is high time the government and the police formulated a strategy to halt this, before more people are injured or even killed.’
AA president Edmund King said: ’A small minority of cyclists regularly flout the law with impunity. They should not be allowed to get away with it. Traffic police numbers have been reduced by 20 per cent over the past decade. That should be reversed.’
Last month the Commons’ watchdog Public Accounts Committee said anti-social cyclists were a road safety menace on Britain’s highways but that Government was turning a blind eye to their ’irresponsible’ antics.
Tory MP David Curry asked the Transport Department’s permanent secretary Robert Devereux:’Why are cyclists such irresponsible and arrogant road users?
’The only time I have been knocked down in my life was by a cyclist going like a bat out of hell outside the House of Commons, dressed like Darth Vader, as they all do.
’Many people think that cyclists are hugely irresponsible. They do not take any notice of red lights, they think traffic cones are not for them.’
Mr Devereux denied the Government regarded cyclists as ’living in some sort of superior moral category.’
The Department for Transport said: ’The vast majority of cyclists ride safely and responsibly but we are fully aware that a small minority put themselves and others at risk.