Five-year-old threatened with prosecution for riding bike on Weymouth prom says his mum

Council insists that issue of proesecuting child would not have been raised, but story highlights continued tension

by Simon_MacMichael   May 18, 2012  

Weymouth Seafront.JPG

The mother of a five-year-old boy cycling on Weymouth promenade last Saturday has described her shock at being told by one of the local council’s beach enforcement officers that her son would need to get off his bike or face being prosecuted, although a council official has put forward a different version of events.

The Dorset Echo reports that Harry Besant of Weymouth, whom his mother says enjoys cycling to school as well as at weekends while she walks alongside him, was among the cyclists warned for riding on the prom last weekend.

The incident happened close to the Jubilee Clock, and Mrs Besant described how she had seen a Beach Patrol Officer tell an adult cyclist to get off their bike.

“The man headed towards us and said: ‘He needs to get off his bike.’ “I was in a bit of shock. I said: ‘He is only five.’ His reply was: ‘It doesn’t matter. If he continues he will be prosecuted like anyone else.’ I was just like: ‘I can’t believe it.’ I was so cross.”

Legally, a child under ten cannot be prosecuted in England, and a spokesman for the council denied that the Beach Patrol Officer had threatened the youngster with prosecution.

Mrs Besant revealed that her son had been “quite upset” at receiving the warning and that he had not wanted to cycle “for the rest of the day,” including when they returned along the prom later in the evening when it was quieter, since he was afraid he would get into trouble.

While she accepted that the Beach Patrol Officer was carrying out his job, she maintained that steps should be taken to ensure that the promenade could be enjoyed by all.

“I just feel it’s unfair,” she explained. “Don’t get me wrong, there are irresponsible cyclists as well as responsible ones, but I think it’s unfair that there is a land train, which has a motorised engine that can go on the promenade but a child can’t ride a bike.”

She pointed out that while there is a cycle path on Preston Beach Road away from the town centre, there was no provision for cyclists closer to town.

“There’s a massive Olympic campaign to get people walking and cycling,” she said, adding: “I don’t think we are catering to people on bikes or children to be able to get into town on bike.”

“I really feel it’s an unfair bylaw,” concluded Mrs Besant.

In 2009, the council revealed that following consultation with parties including local residents, it planned to work with Dorset Police to take action against anyone found cycling along the prom, saying in a written statement: “We are trying to make it absolutely clear. Cycling on the seafront is banned and anyone caught after August 1 will be prosecuted.”

It subsequently backed down from that hardline stance, but not before the issue had hit headlines locally after 29-year-old Lucy Horwood, a coach for the Great Britain windsurfing team, described how police had threatened her with prosecution and a £500 fine for riding along a near-deserted prom at 7.30am.

Local cycle campaigners had warned that continuing to ban cyclists from the prom meant that they had to ride along roads with busy traffic instead, but the council has continued to enforce the ban, mainly through warnings although it has said that it will seek to prosecute those who are riding in such as way that they may endanger others.

Weymouth and Portland Borough Council’s spokesman for Leisure and Tourism, Andy Blackwood, apologised for any distress the incident may have caused but pointed out that the council had a duty to enforce rules regarding cycling on the prom.

“The Esplanade is enjoyed by thousands of people every year including pedestrians and those using the land train,” he said.

“We do our best, working in partnership with Dorset Police, to make the Esplanade a safe and pleasant place for all to enjoy.

“We certainly do not want to upset children or their parents whilst carrying out our duties and, if this has happened in this particular case, we would like to apologise.

“However, we have a statutory responsibility to administer the by-laws governing cycling along the Esplanade,” he continued.

“Whilst we have no formal record of this event, we would like to point out that our beach patrol officers face many situations where they may exercise discretion, and whilst it is possible one of them may have been over zealous, generally they do try very hard to do their job in a responsible and proportionate way for the safety of all who use the Esplanade.”

The story appeared on the Dorset Echo’s front page, with the online version prompting dozen of comments and causing Councillor Blackwood to write to the newspaper to provide further clarification.

In that letter, which also appears as a comment to the online story, he said: “At no stage in dealing with the case of a child riding along the promenade would any kind of prosecution have been mentioned or “threatened”. The beach attendant’s role is to advise members of the public about the byelaws relating to the seafront.

“A common sense attitude is taken when dealing with young children both by the police and ourselves,” he went on.

“The cycling issue is a very contentious one within the local community which is why a complete review of the relevant byelaw was undertaken throughout 2005 (including widespread consultation with the community) with full council debating the matter in 2008 resulting in relaxing the byelaw along Preston Beach but voting to retain and enforce the no cycling byelaw along Weymouth and Greenhill Promenades.

Councillor Blackwood pointed out that both the council and the police had “been under constant pressure from the community and some sections of the media to enforce the no cycling byelaw,” highlighting an incident last year that left a pensioner with a broken leg after he was hit by a cyclist on the prom.

“At no time would the prospect of prosecuting a 5 year old child have been mentioned – my understanding is that the mother asked the attendant if we would prosecute a 5 year old child and the attendant said “no – only adults are considered for prosecution,” he added.

19 user comments

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What a surprise, Victorian throwback town in Victorian throwback bylaw shocker.

Needs an Olympian cyclist intervention!

posted by acjim [29 posts]
18th May 2012 - 9:21

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Are they really that myopic and pathetic? it looks a perfectly wide and safe place for anyone to ride a bike.

posted by northstar [1083 posts]
18th May 2012 - 9:36

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I thought, that while it was illegal in general law to cycle on a pavement you also couldn't be prosecuted for it before you turned 16?! Maybe bye-laws overrule that, but it would make an interesting case, not sure the council would win that one...

alotronic's picture

posted by alotronic [247 posts]
18th May 2012 - 10:44

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... and we wonder why we have problems in this country ..

"Great Britain" ... MY F•••ING BACKSIDE!!!

If you child is riding on a pavement, thats great in my book, we did it, our parents did it, our grandparents did it, tell the Nazi's where to get off and reclaim your lives people ... because all of your rights a human being in this country are slowly (drip drip) being taken away from you..

You go Harry!!! Smile

Me, Myself and I

posted by phax71 [299 posts]
18th May 2012 - 12:13

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“At no stage in dealing with the case of a child riding along the promenade would any kind of prosecution have been mentioned or “threatened”.

I'm not sure I believe this knowning how ill-informed such officers can be. Liar

I had a look a the Weymouth promenade on streetview. The road is so wide that you could put a proper sized segregated cycle lane between the road and the promenade, which would peobably stand a better chance of resolving these issues than enforcement officers. Thinking

posted by thereverent [296 posts]
18th May 2012 - 12:52

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If the prom is that wide why doesn't some bright spark in the council simply turn it into a road? That way there will be more space for all the cars.

It is pathetic that the council is enforcing a stupid law that is of no benefit and even more so that the law was reviewed back in 2005 and continued. That the bylaw continued after 2005 does say rather a lot about the dimwits on the council.

As for the jobsworths employed to enforce those stupid bylaws, this incident doesn't speak well of their average IQ.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
18th May 2012 - 14:27

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OldRidgeback wrote:

As for the jobsworths employed to enforce those stupid bylaws, this incident doesn't speak well of their average IQ.

Hear Hear - well said that man !

Whilst i appreciate the job probably only offers 1p above the minimum wage the type of people who get the jobs are a bunch of numbnuts, a bit like MP's and traffic wardens Rolling On The Floor

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2674 posts]
18th May 2012 - 18:48

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It's a pity these are so expensive - 10mins late at night, and you've a guerilla cycle path.

http://www.flashpark.co.uk/Product-View.aspx?pid=107

posted by localsurfer [160 posts]
18th May 2012 - 18:55

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Nice is nicer (promenade des anglais) boycott stuffy weymouth

onward ever onward

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posted by bikecellar [224 posts]
18th May 2012 - 19:18

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I'm cyclist like everyone else here but its begining to look like cyclists are developing a massive chip on their shoulder. Its his mums word there is no real evidence and its complete non-story anyway, so a jobsworth had a go at a kid on a bike (supposedly) big effing deal why is that even on this website? Complete trivial crap

errbud's picture

posted by errbud [2 posts]
18th May 2012 - 19:34

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I know Weymouth very well - born and bred there, and revisit when I can. The promenade does get astoundingly busy in the summer months but I would have thought out of season (and, with the weather we have had lately) we must still be out of season, there must be room for safe cyclists on the promenade. Having said that I think cyclists are now permitted on the extension of the promenade further east. The sort of thing that can only add to confusion!

posted by CotterPin [64 posts]
18th May 2012 - 21:11

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the kid was 5 ... what the F... was the AS.... hole
thinking .... gods I'm ashamed to own a GB passport Sad

still on the 3rd switch-back of Bwlch !

posted by therevokid [679 posts]
18th May 2012 - 21:35

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stumps wrote:
OldRidgeback wrote:

As for the jobsworths employed to enforce those stupid bylaws, this incident doesn't speak well of their average IQ.

Hear Hear - well said that man !

Whilst i appreciate the job probably only offers 1p above the minimum wage the type of people who get the jobs are a bunch of numbnuts, a bit like MP's and traffic wardens Rolling On The Floor

Given the level of joblessness in the UK, you'd think they could choose someone more intelligent.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
18th May 2012 - 21:55

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errbud wrote:
I'm cyclist like everyone else here but its begining to look like cyclists are developing a massive chip on their shoulder. Its his mums word there is no real evidence and its complete non-story anyway, so a jobsworth had a go at a kid on a bike (supposedly) big effing deal why is that even on this website? Complete trivial crap

Quite right, as soon as you start a them and us argument then, hey presto you create "them and us" situation which does nothing but entrench stubborn beliefs on all sides. btw the other day, I cycled through Gammon Walk, Barnstaple(as the name suggests a pedestrianised street) past two police officers who didn't bat an eyelid. I was cycling at walking speed with my three year old in a trailer. We never hear news stories of the every day good decisions made by those in authority Thinking Why is that?

posted by 37monkey [143 posts]
19th May 2012 - 1:08

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A five-year-old on a bike is harmless compared to my incompetent mother-in-law fighting with the steering of her mobility scooter through a crowd of fleeing tourists along the Prom last year. Yet she wasn't prosecuted. There is no justice. Wink

Circular rhythms, yeah.

posted by Janh1 [2 posts]
19th May 2012 - 10:51

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Daily Mail readers will love this story

I am only as insane as the insanity around me (Jens Voigt)

posted by alronald [58 posts]
19th May 2012 - 12:50

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I was once told to get my 7 year old off the pavement, on to a very busy road in our village. In fact two cop cars turned up. I later found our from the Metropolitan Police bike team that in fact it is legal for a 7 year old to cycle on the pavement as long as he does it in the proper way. What got me was the two cop cars and 5 coppers descended on me. I pointed this fact out and after a little polite discourse (ho ho if you believe that) they went off and came back late that night saying they would not prosecute me, I was pedalling next to him on the road for the record.

I do wonder if common sense exists today. If its busy and is a problem then some control is needed but if its not and cyclists especially a 5 year can coexist at the time why not. It must take an idiot to be this unreasonable in applying the bye law. You do wonder why they employed them in the first place.

posted by Ciaran Patrick [117 posts]
19th May 2012 - 16:28

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Strange. Common sense does indeed exist in some areas. I frequently complaining this site about my local area, the slow progress on getting more people on bikes and the general maliase and stupidity of my local politcians and council - but at least the seafront has no problems at all. Our sea front here in Crosby has just a 15 foot wide path over 2 miles long which is split between pedestrians and cyclists by a white line and marked with a few signs. You have to ride sensibly as there is a bit of drift into the cycle lane by walkers and their scatterbrained dogs and there's a bit of drift of cyclists into the walkers half of the path when the sand banks up in the cycle lane. It's busy - especially at weekends - but everyone gets along just fine and danger to pedestrians from cyclists sharing the same piece of tarmac just isn't an issue.

Silly me. You're probably right....

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posted by MercuryOne [1031 posts]
20th May 2012 - 13:34

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2nd'd !

posted by yenrod [100 posts]
20th May 2012 - 17:40

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