A police officer in Lincolnshire reportedly threatened to confiscate a bicycle that was being ridden on the pavement by a four-year-old girl, leaving her in tears and forcing her father to carry both her and her bicycle to school.
According to the Grantham Journal, Sophie Lindley was riding her bike, which has stabilisers fitted, on a pavement on Trent Road last Monday morning as she headed to West Grantham Academy St John’s.
The youngster was accompanied by her father Dale, who was holding her by a lead.
He told the newspaper: “A police car pulled over and told me she had to get off her bike as it is against the law to ride on the footpath.
“He then drove off but said he’d be checking his mirrors, and if he saw her riding the bike again he would confiscate it.”
With his daughter in tears, Mr Lindley carried her and her bicycle, as well as other items, for the remainder of their journey.
Sophie’s mother, Emma Lindley, and her grandmother, Margaret Stephenson, both rang the town’s police station to complain – and were given conflicting responses.
“One said the law applied to everyone – no-one can ride a bike on the pavement,” explained Mrs Stephenson. “But another said it shouldn’t have happened, as it’s different with children.”
Mrs Lindley said: “You can’t expect a four-year-old to ride in the road, it’s not exactly safe. And she has the lead and wears a helmet.”
Her husband added: “We don’t have a car, and it’s almost two miles to the school. She can’t walk that with her little legs, which is why she’s always had the bike.”
The Grantham Journal says Lincolnshire Police have so far been unable to identify the officer who told Sophie to get off her bike.
A spokesman said: “Safety is our priority and cycling on the pavement is illegal. However, common sense obviously prevails and in the case of young children, officers would use their discretion and offer the most appropriate advice for the circumstances.”
Cycling on the pavement is illegal under section 72 of the Highway Act 1835, amended by Section 85(1) of the Local Government Act 1888 and is nowadays punishable by a fixed penalty notice, although the law does not give police officers powers to confiscate a bicycle.
However, official guidance issued by then Home Office minister Paul Boateng in 1999 is that police officers should use their discretion.
In a letter to senior police officers, Mr Boateng said: “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.”
Last year, transport minister Robert Goodwill, who is responsible for cycling, confirmed that Mr Boateng’s guidance remained valid.
The Association of Chief Police Officers subsequently issued a statement which said: “We welcome the re-issued guidance from the Minister for Cycling in respect of cycling on the pavement and have re-circulated this to all local forces.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.