Dogs and cyclists

PUBLISHED: 07:00 23 March 2013

Further to our previous letters, I've consulted the Road Traffic Act 1988/1991, for guidance on the issues raised. I also found some very interesting information in other parts of the Highway Code.

Firstly, if Mr Beed has an issue with the guidance about dogs off-lead on the Buzzard path, he is welcome to call EDDC in person, as I did.

Secondly, the Highway Code (rule 62) states regarding cycle tracks: “Take care when passing pedestrians, especially children, older or disabled people, and allow them plenty of room. Always be prepared to slow down and stop if necessary.”

Again, the Buzzard Path signs state “give way to pedestrians”, which is inarguable.

I found more in the code about cyclists. Apparently riding two abreast is an offence “when on narrow or busy roads and when riding around bends”. Cyclists who ride more than two abreast can be guilty of causing an obstruction of the highway. I have seen up to five cyclists crammed abreast on the Buzzard Path.

Mr Beed is right in that a bell is not a legal requirement after point of sale, but the Highway Code states: “Be considerate of other road users, particularly blind and partially sighted pedestrians. Let them know you are there when necessary, for example by ringing your bell.” In other words, approaching silently is inconsiderate to other people.

Moving to the Road Traffic Acts, they make clear that if a cyclist injures a dog or a person they can be convicted of causing bodily harm, or be sued for damages.

In our legislation “roads” have a very broad definition, so cycling offences apply on most shared facilities, including roadside pavements and most tracks which are away from the road.

Mr Beed is only partly correct – the path is considered a “road” for some legal purposes, but not all legal purposes.

For example, cycles are allowed on it and must comply with legislation, but cars are not allowed on it.

The matter of dogs off-lead is, I suggest, a local variation and cyclists must allow for that, just as they allow for wheelchair users on the path.

It is unfortunate for cyclists that bicycles are mechanised vehicles, and the law regulates vehicles more heavily than it does pedestrians. There are some obligations on cyclists which don’t apply to pedestrians.

Most relevant is the requirement to ride carefully and considerately. If you cycle carelessly, or without reasonable consideration for others, you commit an offence for which you can be given a £1,000 fine.

EDDC may have made a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) concerning dogs, cyclists and horses on this shared-use path, which would explain why dogs are allowed off lead and horse-riders (who live on farms adjoining the path) use it frequently. Wheelchair users, ramblers and unsighted persons also use the path, so any considerate cyclist will be prepared to give way as the signs request.

Again, I must state that a dog is not “out of control” if the owner doesn’t know you are approaching and you give no warning.

I’ve spent two years training my dogs to recall from cyclists, so I’m doing my “bit”, but those cyclists who ride silently, carelessly or angrily don’t seem to care if they are injured. One would think they were encased in armour.

Mr Beed can make a Freedom of Information request to EDDC about any possible TRO or bylaw regarding this path, which would affect the implementation of the Highway Code. However, nothing changes the requirement of cyclists to behave with consideration while riding a mechanised vehicle on a Public Way. I’ve been told that dogs will remain off-lead for the foreseeable future, so I recommend Mr Beed re-directs his questions to EDDC.

Chloe Fox

Address supplied

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