The Metropolitan Police is reportedly refunding fines paid by cyclists after they were given fixed penalty notices (FPNs) in error as part of an operation against people riding their bikes, quite legally, through an area of Bloomsbury last month. Those who have been issued FPNs but not yet paid fines have been told they may disregard them.
The police operation was revealed in a forum post on the CTC website, started by a cyclist who was walking his bike past the location in question, outside the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), which falls within the London Borough of Camden.
The witness said that eight police officers were involved, and added that the only signage in the area directed at bike riders was a sign, only visible from one direction, saying ‘Cyclists Dismount’ – although such signs are advisory, rather than compulsory.
As one poster on the CTC forum thread pointed out, the location where the FPNs were handed out was formerly a road, before being paved over and pedestrianised; while that doesn’t change the status of the FPNs, which remain invalid, it does perhaps help explain why the police decided to carry out the operation at that specific site.
Yesterday, Jean Dollimore of Camden Cyclists, the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) affiliated group in the borough, posted to the forum thread to confirm that Inspector Dave Dixon of the Metropolitan Police had been in touch to clarify the status of the FPNs.
“He says that the tickets were issued by the local SNT team in response to complaints from locals about cycling behaviour on that path,” she explained, “and that the Dismount signs are only advisory so the tickets should not have been issued.”
“He asked me to pass on his apologies and to say that if you have a ticket, you should contact him at stt.camden [at] met.police.uk
“If you have already paid the fine, he will arrange for it to be repaid.”
Ms Dollimore told road.cc: ""Full marks to Inspector Dixon for his support and for personally seeing to the repayment of fines. This makes up for the error by the Safer Neighbourhood Team who did act in response to complaints although they shouldn't have targetted cyclists in this way "
The issue of cyclists riding on the pavement (in legal parlance, ‘footway’) or in pedestrianised areas is an emotive one that police say is often highlighted by local residents, although instances of pedestrians being killed or seriously injured in a collision with a cyclist are rare.
With the coalition government pressing ahead with plans to introduce elected police commissioners despite concerns raised by the Association of Chief Police Officers, it could be that pressure from local electors will lead to police forces stepping up campaigns against anti-social cycling.
If that does turn out to be the case, it is to be hoped that police will target those who are actually breaking the law – something that by Inspector Dixon’s own admission was not the case in last month’s operation in Bloomsbury.
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.