The proposal, by Baroness McIntosh of Pickering, would align the law for cyclists with that for car drivers. The former minister expressed the need for tighter rules after, on her way to the Houses of Parliament, in London, she recently encountered a bike rider with “one hand bicycling, one hand on the mobile phone, on the wrong side of the road”.
As Baroness McIntosh was crossing the road, she said, it “wasn’t clear whether he was going to stop or not”.
Highway Code changes designed to protect pedestrians and cyclists came into force on January 29, with rule 149 requiring motorists to “exercise proper control of your vehicle at all times” and banning the use of mobile phones while driving.
Baroness McIntosh, 67, questioned why the same rule does not apply to cyclists and other road users.
Alleging that some cyclists and e-scooter riders use their phones “inappropriately” on the road, she said the Government should “create criminal offences relating to dangerous, careless and inconsiderate cycling for those users of pedal bikes, electronically assisted bikes and e-scooters”.
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Though there is no specific offence for cyclists using their phones, they can be fined up to £2,500 for careless or dangerous cycling – and the Transport Minister said existing laws already banned bike and e-scooter riders from using mobile phones.
Baroness Vere of Norbiton argued: “It is not a specific offence to cycle and use a mobile phone or headphones, but cyclists and e-bike riders can be prosecuted by the police for careless and dangerous cycling with maximum fines of £1,000 and £2,500 respectively.”
According to Baroness McIntosh, e-scooters are even more worrying.
The Transport Minister clarified the regulations in the Government’s current e-scooter trial already state using a handheld mobile phone as an offence.
She said: “Just to put the record straight, in terms of e-scooters, it is the case that a user of an e-scooter does fall under the regulations and… it is an offence to use a handheld mobile phone on an e-scooter.
“They can be fined and they could also get six penalty points.”
Baroness McIntosh, who withdrew a motion to express regret that the changes to the Highway Code had not included cyclists and e-scooters, made the comments after it emerged a lack of understanding of the code is causing confusion among road users.
A survey of more than 2,000 members of the public by the National Accident Helpline found the majority — 73 percent — are unsure if the recent changes are improving road safety at all.
Meanwhile, 34 percent admitted they found the rules too hard to follow.
When it comes to cyclists, the study found 71 percent of people think bike riders have complete right of way as opposed to priority over cars on the country’s roads.