pounds 20 fines for `Lycra louts' who pedal on pavement

Cyclists face pounds 20 fines for riding on pavements as a result of a government strategy to double the number of cycle journeys by 2010.

Ministers have been quick to trumpet the need to get people to substitute short car journeys with cycling jaunts as a way of reducing congestion and pollution.

Already planned are more cycle paths as well as well a nation-wide cycle network. But with the carrot comes a stick - that of fixed-penalty notices.

Endangering pedestrians by taking to the footpath on two wheels has been illegal since 1835.

Offenders face two months in jail or a pounds 2,500 fine but cases are rarely brought to court by hard-pressed prosecutors.

News of the new deterrent came to light after a parliamentary answer from Alun Michael, a Home Office minister, which confirmed that fines for offending cyclists would be part of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1998.

The move did not please the Cyclists Touring Club, which campaigns for cycling rights. It attacked the development as "unfair and unnecessary".

A spokesman said: "Bicycles on pavements is a symptom of generally poor facilities for cyclists. Fines will only force riders back on to dangerous roads or put them off using a bicycle, full stop."

The move was described by the Daily Mail as a crackdown against "Lycra louts", cyclists who plough through red lights or use the pavement to avoid busy roads.

In fact, it is a recognition by the Government of the problems they will face handling more cyclists.

In 1995 more than 350 pedestrians - the most recorded - were hurt or killed by cyclists.

Last year two people were killed and nearly 90 injured.

Other measures being considered include forcing cyclists to carry bells so that pedestrians can be warned of danger and, more controversially, coaxing bikers to wear helmets.

- Randeep Ramesh

Transport Correspondent