Where do I start...

General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
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Where do I start...

Postby New.to.this » 10 Oct 2016, 9:56pm

Hello! I have recently started cycling. My daughter started school this year, and I don't drive, so I bought a bicycle and trailer and get her to and from school (2.5 miles each way, there and back twice a day...50 miles a week).
I am incredibly scared of the roads here (I am native to the US), and have tried to build confidence driving here for a few years now, and I honestly cannot.

I get really anxious behind the wheel, hence the cycling. Having not been on a bike for around 15-20 years, and also being overweight and out of shape (have lost 30 pounds in the last 5 months, but still have a long way to go, so I'm quite looking forward to the benefits of all this exercise!), I don't get anywhere very fast, especially with a 4 year old in a trailer behind me.

The only route to her school is along a busy (VERY busy in the mornings) A-road, so my plan was to cycle along the pavement. My husband informed me that cycling on the pavement is illegal, but that no one would be upset as long as I was courteous and safe (I always dismount and walk when there are pedestrians around, and never expect anyone to get out of my way). I spoke to a police officer friend about this before I bought the bike, and she said that while it is technically illegal, she can't imagine anyone would be upset if I have a child on the back, and in fact, said she would recommend the pavement for safety reasons. With that in mind, I bought the bike and have been cycling with my daughter the last few weeks (although the road is busy, the pavement is always pretty empty. We see on average about 2 pedestrians per trip).

Today, one of the other school mums told me off for cycling on the pavement. She and her 2 children were the only people walking the pavement the entire journey. They were walking ahead of me, and in the same direction. I literally cycle so slowly (especially as its slightly uphill) that there was no need for me to even consider passing as she was walking slightly faster than I could cycle. I now feel terrible and don't know what to do. I really don't feel comfortable having my daughter in the road (I force myself in the road when she isn't with me because I feel too guilty to be on the pavement, despite all the fear I have about being in the road), yet I can't see any other option. Buses are infrequent and unreliable around here, and my little girl has a mild physical disability and wouldn't be able to walk that far each day. Besides cycling, my only option is to make her go in a pushchair and walk there myself...but she would feel so embarrassed to be made to ride to school in a pushchair.

I would like opinions, please. I appreciate that I am not meant to cycle on the pavements, and that many of you will probably say that to me...but please say it kindly as I am feeling very upset at the moment.

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Re: Where do I start...

Postby gaz » 10 Oct 2016, 10:39pm

Welcome to the forum.

I will not condemn you for choosing to ride carefully on the pavement for both your daughter's and your own safety. As you already know neither will your family. The official guidance on the issue of fixed penalty notices by the police/pcsos for pavement riding supports discretion.
The introduction of the fixed penalty is not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of traffic and who show consideration to other pavement users when doing so. Chief police officers, who are responsible for enforcement, acknowledge that many cyclists, particularly children and young people, are afraid to cycle on the road, sensitivity and careful use of police discretion is required.

If someone does complain and they are willing to converse with you, assure them that you ride with care and courtesy and only use the path because the road is dangerous, in accordance with advice you have received from the police.

However it remains illegal and I can offer little advice on how to handle anyone who, after such a discussion, feels the letter of a law written in 1835 before the bicycle was invented is more important than it's spirit and your daughter's safety and mobility.
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Re: Where do I start...

Postby geomannie » 10 Oct 2016, 10:50pm


I offer the following and I hope that you find it encouraging. That is spirit in which it is intended.

As someone who works in the oil industry I well remember well the North Sea Piper Alpha disaster when the production platform went on fire and flames engulfed the structure. As part of their safety training, offshore workers are routinely told that you must not enter the water under any circumstances, basically as you will die from hypothermia and if still alive would be very hard to locate by rescue boat/helicopter.

Paradoxically, some of the Piper Alpha survivors were those who ignored their training and jumped into the water. I will never forget the survivor who when interviewed on TV and asked "why did you jump when the the others didn't?" replied, "you are your own safety officer".

With your story I would suggest to you that you too should should be your own safety officer. Despite be a (very) experienced cyclist I would hesitate to carry a young child 10 miles a day on a very busy road. Yes, it is technically illegal but your daughter must get to school and from your words you feel that the exercise will be good for you. On those grounds you should cycle on the pavement and as far as you can, ignore the possible criticisms from others.

At the end of the day the decision is entirely yours, but your child's safety comes first. If a safe cycle route/way were available. then I would advise you to use it, but as the only route is a busy A-road, then I think that you are doing the right thing.

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Re: Where do I start...

Postby meic » 10 Oct 2016, 10:51pm

I would suggest making sure that you keep a good distance from this family while you are on the pavement. I am talking like 100 yards. That way even if she objects, she cant tell you so.

There is a difference between somebody who objects to an illegal action because it directly affects them and somebody who objects to an individual committing an action which doesnt affect them. That is pretty much the Police's job.

Possibly your presence was near enough that she felt she had to apply extra vigilance in her child control. People will not be rational in acknowledging the control demands due to cars far outweighs that of a slow moving bike.

If it cheers you up at all, I have had a fair bit of abuse because I rode my bike with child trailer on the road but never for riding it on the pavement!
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Re: Where do I start...

Postby eileithyia » 10 Oct 2016, 11:04pm


you are exercising extreme caution when cycling on the pavement.. so I would continue. As cyclists you can never win... even on official shared use paths there is always someone who will dislike you for cycling.

Have you explored the area? Is there a parallel series of roads you can use instead?

Can you look on the British Cycling website for Bikeability courses, there are some designed for adults to learn to cycle / gain confidence with cycling on the roads.
Also look in libraries etc., to see if there are any local cycle groups aimed at the less confident or newer rider..... I know there are schemes within my area.

The roads / traffic is really not as unsafe as it is often portrayed, or because we highlight the bad it appears to be very top heavily biased to the dangers. Never the less if you are not confident then you are being sensible and well done for the progress you have made so far.
I stand and rejoice everytime I see a woman ride by on a wheel the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood. HG Wells

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Re: Where do I start...

Postby Roadster » 10 Oct 2016, 11:22pm

"Today, one of the other school mums told me off for cycling on the pavement"

There's always one! :roll:
I agree with previous posters: continue what you're doing - it's not a hanging offence.
She'll soon get used to your presence and recognize that you pose no threat either to her or to anyone else.

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Re: Where do I start...

Postby Philip Benstead » 11 Oct 2016, 10:36am

To the Topic starter :
Where abouts in the UK do you live?
Philip Benstead | Life Member Former CTC Councillor/Trustee
Organizing events and representing cyclist in southeast since 1988
Bikeability Instructor/Mechanic

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Re: Where do I start...

Postby thirdcrank » 11 Oct 2016, 11:12am

I always appreciate a streetview so I can put something like this into some sort of context. I'm amazed that there are footways wide enough to accommodate a bike trailer allowing for street furniture, wheelie bins and indeed parked cars. I'm no pavement cyclist and one of the biggest deterrents, even where it's been legalised by the creation of shoddy farcilities is the bumping up and down kerbs at junctions. I should have thought it was bordering on intolerable with a trailer, especially for any child being carried. Also, with a trailer it cannot be easy to re-join the carriageway briefly to allow room for a pedestrian, especially a pedestrian with a pushchair and a toddler or two in tow.

Pavement cycling is one of the things that everybody knows is illegal, even in places where it isn't and people who would not mind many other offences, especially driving offences, can get very hoity-toity about it. That's aggravated if they perceive any risk of damage to the bodywork of their car parked with two wheels on the footway. Feelings often run high at school run time.

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Re: Where do I start...

Postby Threevok » 11 Oct 2016, 11:15am

Many of the cycle routes around me, incorporate pavements - and even on the ones that are clearly signposted - I still get such responses

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Re: Where do I start...

Postby savagehk » 11 Oct 2016, 12:29pm

Please do keep cycling with your daughter, it sounds like it is by far the best solution for you.

Cycling on the pavements is technically illegal, but as has already been posted the official guidance is to overlook the illegality provided that you are riding considerately and doing so out of concerns for your safety.

I wouldn't want to cycle on a busy A road either, despite riding daily to/from work for about 8 years now - and especially if I was carrying a child on the bike or in a trailer.

I should add the only time I've been complained at for cycling on a pavement (by a pedestrian) was when I was doing so (courteously, and at walking speed) at around 7 months pregnant; and the reason I was on the pavement was because I was so slow cycling I was concerned for my safety making a busy right-turn which I normally do. So people may complain, but please try not to let it get to you.

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Re: Where do I start...

Postby ArMoRothair » 11 Oct 2016, 12:58pm

Welcome to the forum.

In this country you will find that cyclists are always:
too slow, they hold up 'real' traffic; too fast, they are whizzing though villages;
too noisy, they are shouting and ringing their bells; too quiet, they never ring their bells and sneak up on terrified pedestrians;
too much on the pavement, they should cycle on the roads; too much on the roads, they should get on the pavement;
too darkly dressed, impossible to see; too brightly dressed in horrible garish colours;
too poorly lit; too brightly lit.

You can't win. I've had drivers blaring their horns at me and my 7 year old daughter because we had the audacity to ride on "their" road.

Just keep doing what you are doing. From what you have explained, it sounds like you are consideration personified.

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Re: Where do I start...

Postby Mark1978 » 11 Oct 2016, 1:33pm

Welcome to cycling, and, sorry.

You'll come to the realisation that when your cycling everyone hates you, if you're on the road motorists hate you, if you're on a shared use path pedestrians hate you, if you're forced onto a normal footpath pedestrians hate you even more, not because you're causing them any problems but because you're breaking the 'rules'. And if you're on a dedicated cycle lane motorists still hate you for 'causing' congestion.

What we all have to learn eventually with cycling in all it's forms is that other peoples opinions of us are completely irrelevant and should be given the attention they deserve, that is, none.

Keep doing what you're doing, keep getting fitter, keep taking your daughter to school, and forget about the haters - for they will always be there.

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Re: Where do I start...

Postby Vorpal » 11 Oct 2016, 3:47pm

I would recommend getting a Bikeability course. Ask your local council. They may offer them for free. Even if you don't want to take your daughter on the roads, it will give you more confidence when you use the roads. It may be worth getting a copy of Cyclecraft, as well, or checking it out from the local library.

Next, look for some alternatives. Most people start out cycling where the roads go, but sometimes there are alternatives that you may not be aware of because you don't use them. They may go through residential areas, include a short-cut across a playing field, etc. Go exploring by foot or bike and try all the little cul de sacs and footpaths and what have you, even if you don't think they go anywhere, they might. You may be able to find an alternative for some or all of the A-road part of the route. I know that some schools are really poorly situatated with absoluely no alternatives, and if yours is one of these, I am sorry. But even if you think it is, try first. And consider that even if you have to approach the school from the A road, you may be able to find alternatives for other parts of the journey, even if they are longer.

Thirdly, contact some other organisations. There is a 'Safe Routes to School' programme that may be of some use. There are also other initiatives by Sustrans, Cycling UK, and local campaigns groups.

http://www.sustrans.org.uk/our-services ... rk/schools

You can often find local groups by googling <place name> cycling or <place name> cycling campaign search for them on social media, such as Facebook, as well.

In addition to things like 'Safe Routes to School', other cyclists often know about routes that other people don't. I have learned new routes form other cyclists sometimes for areas where I thought I knew every route and had been riding there for years.
“In some ways, it is easier to be a dissident, for then one is without responsibility.”
― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

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Re: Where do I start...

Postby Mark1978 » 11 Oct 2016, 4:12pm

In addition to what Vorpal said, if you feel comfortable telling us where you're starting from and where you need to get to, there are many on here who will be more than happy to advise on a suitable route - as said, it might be something that has never occurred.

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Re: Where do I start...

Postby Mistik-ka » 11 Oct 2016, 6:40pm

Much good advice here. I would also add the observation that there are times when there is value in being 'made an example' by over-officious officials. I can picture my eager young self in my days writing for a local newspaper, gleefully penning the headline:


Don't panic; good sense will serve you well.