If there is one thing which gets my goat, it is the increasingly common use of signs near road works saying “Cyclists Dismount”; usually this is accompanied by the exhortation to use the footway.
It may seem perverse if this is the first time you have heard it, but bicycles count in law as “carriages”. This is as a consequence of a legal judgement way back in 1879 in the Taylor v Goodwin case. Technically, roads are “carriageways” and carriages should be on carriageways. Section 85 of the Local Government Act 1888 extended the definition of a carriage to include “bicycles, tricycles, velocipedes and other similar machines”.
Given the way some people get hot under the collar about cyclists riding bikes on footpaths, it is also odd that these civil engineers should direct cyclists to the footway. Indeed, section 72 of the Highways Act 1835 is still in force and it this section which protected footpaths by the side of a road. Part of this section says “If any person shall wilfully ride upon any footpath or causeway by the side of any road made or set apart for the use or accommodation of foot passengers; or shall wilfully lead or drive any horse, ass, sheep, mule, swine, or cattle or carriage of any description, or any truck or sledge, upon any such footpath or causeway; …”
It has been ruled in the highcourt that a bicycle is still deemed to be a carriage. There are no exceptions for children’s bikes in the legislation, so technically even a child riding on a footway is breaking the law; however, a child under the age of criminal responsibility cannot face prosecution.
So why do some road works contractors now feel that some carriages should be excluded from using the carriageway? Would it be stupid to put up asign to request car drivers to get out and push their “carriages” around the same roadworks? Yes, of course it would. But it is just as stupid to require a cyclist to do so.
Oh, and by the way, the same law that says that bikes should not be ridden on pavements also says that other carriages (cars were classed as carriages in the 1903 Motor Car Act) should neither be driven on them nor parked on them. Parking on pavements now seems to be acceptable behaviour. One rule for the motorist and one for the cyclist?