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Hampstead Heath police make arrest, but judge takes dim view of action

A judge told the City of London Corporation to drop legal action against a cyclist who spent the night in police cells after being caught cycling in a no-cycle zone on Hampstead Heath.

The cyclist, who did not give his name or address at any point during the incident, was stopped on the Heath by officers just before 8pm on August 9.

He was thought to have broken Byelaw 13, a rule in place since 1933 which forbids using a bike, as well as other vehicles, in a sign-posted no-cycle zone.

When he refused to give his details so that he could be issued with a formal warning, he was taken to Kentish Town Police Station to spend the night.

The next morning he was brought before a magistrate at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court in Islington, but refused to enter the courtroom, instead shouting from behind the door. Eventually he was handcuffed and brought into the dock.

District Judge Robin McPhee said that a night in the cells was punishment enough, and invited the City of London Corporation, which manages the Heath, to withdraw the legal action.

Richard Gentry, the City of London Corporation’s constabulary manager, told London24 after the court hearing: “There are very clear areas on the Heath where cycling is permitted and where it is not.

“Those who flout these rules endanger the safety of other Heath users and we will continue to take legal proceedings against them.”

Jean Dollimore, spokeswoman for Camden Cycling Campaign, told the New Camden Journal it was “extreme” to arrest a cyclist using an empty path when “there are not nearly enough cycle paths on the Heath”.

She added: “I imagine this man wasn’t trying to be a rogue cyclist, he just thought it was 8pm, no one was around, and it was safe to do so.

“There is no way to cycle all the way across the Heath on a network of paths without having to get off and walk some of the way, and that needs to change.”

Eddison Joseph, a 50-year-old who was fined £330 for cycling in a no-cycle zone last year, said that he had been made to look like a “hooligan who runs down old ladies”.

He said: “I know it was probably a bit stupid but to say that it is dangerous is ridiculous. I often get off my bike to pass old ladies and I have a lot respect for the environment."

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

13 comments

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bikeandy61 [500 posts] 3 years ago
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But was he detained for failing to co operate with the police or the cycling. Maybe if he'd given his name he could have spent the night at home? He could then surely have appealed against any fine?

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sm [369 posts] 3 years ago
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Agree with the comment in the article from CCC - the Heath needs to do something about allowing cyclists in the park. As do some of the pavements in the royal parks.

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antonio [1103 posts] 3 years ago
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Thousands of illegal immigrants, many out and out criminals yet can't be deported, prosecutions a waste of police time, now then, a cyclist riding his bike in a no cycling area is a different matter all together.

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Jerm [39 posts] 3 years ago
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He was arrested as he failed to give any details. If he had, they wouldn't have arrested him, they would have given him a ticket.

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Angelfishsolo [132 posts] 3 years ago
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bikeandy61 wrote:

But was he detained for failing to co operate with the police or the cycling. Maybe if he'd given his name he could have spent the night at home? He could then surely have appealed against any fine?

Yes if he had given his name then that would have been that!

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Sam Saunders [26 posts] 3 years ago
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It doesn't really help the cause when cycling campaigners offer excuses for clear violations. If the park regulations are unreasonable, efforts should go into persuading authorities to change them.

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OldRidgeback [2554 posts] 3 years ago
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Yep, stupid bit of policework. I remember taking a short cut years ago across the no-cycling bit of Hyde Park rather than go the long way round the cycle path. I was following another cyclist on a road bike. Two cops popped out and shouted at us and told us to get off the bikes and walk. There was no-one else around so it was pointless. That same week I rode my motorbike up Park Lane and 45mph in the middle lane while being overtaken on the inside and outside lanes by other vehicles going faster. I admit I was speeding in a 30mph limit (I was young), and the others were speeding even more, and no-one gave a toss.

The police do have to be very careful with these utterly pointless acts of petty bureaucacy. It helps no-one, and themselves included.

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downfader [203 posts] 3 years ago
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Interestingly, to put this in perspective - he got the same fine/punishment as a local HGV driver who pulled out and over a Southampton cyclist some 7 years back. The cyclist there died.

I think we need to have a bit of a dig into this, are the Camden Cycling Campaign wrong? Or is there a number of other factors that lead this man to ride where he shouldn't?

Looking at some of the local off-road routes in my home town I can sometimes see gangs of teens/lads loitering around in the evenings. Other routes end and force you back into the road - a road that although 40mph tends to suffer from some atrocious speeding. Some routes are even poorly signposted.

If this is not the case then yes, he deserves punishment. If these are factors that scare local cyclists on to other routes then a workable solution needs to be brought about.

But £330 for not giving details to an officer does seem quite steep.

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Luv2Cycle [6 posts] 3 years ago
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Unfortunately it often takes some brave people to break rules in order to bring the stupidity of the rule to the attention of the fools that create them.

We have a very over grown path across our local common. I have passed both cyclists and pedestrians using it with no problem, we all politely give way to each other often stopping for a chat with those we are passing. It's all very civilised.

On entering the common only last week, I noticed for the first time a "No Cycling" sign.

Why now after all these many years, in a time that we are meant to be encouraging more to cycle, has this common now become a no cycling zone?

This will not stop local cyclists using this path as they have always done. It will however start to cause aggression towards cyclists from pedestrians where previously there was a comradery between all those out enjoying the countryside.

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Lacticlegs [124 posts] 3 years ago
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They haven't caught the psychopath who attacked that family with a knife on Hampstead Heath recently, neither have they arrested the rapist (at least two attacks in the past year, assuming its the work of the same person)...

BUT they got the guy who cycled in the wrong place! Go go gadget policemen! Your bravery, integrity and tireless work for the community at large allows me to sleep easy at night. Bet you all had a few beers to pat yourselves on the back for that one eh?

Hurry now - probably still got time to kettle a few protesters and murderously assault a few innocents before closing time.

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Lacticlegs [124 posts] 3 years ago
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yes and no Sam - I mean, you're right, but I've been cycling across Hampstead Heath for years - it's only now that there is a concerted campaign to dissuade and prosecute cyclists.

Seriously - for years it has been a live and let live situation, Everyone got on very well. This is rather like what's been happening on box hill in the lead up to and since the olympics - someone has taken the decision to raise the stakes and actively go after cyclists. I guess it's easier than going after hard criminals.

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Henz [50 posts] 3 years ago
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I have been stopped for riding a bicycle on the Heath, by police taking up the entire path with their squad car.

I had entered the Heath by a route which gave no indication of the 'No Cycling' rule. The police put the lack of signs down to "vandalism". Perhaps they should be dealing with the vandals?

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downfader [203 posts] 3 years ago
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Henz wrote:

I have been stopped for riding a bicycle on the Heath, by police taking up the entire path with their squad car.

I had entered the Heath by a route which gave no indication of the 'No Cycling' rule. The police put the lack of signs down to "vandalism". Perhaps they should be dealing with the vandals?

Its ironic really, given how many motorists get off speeding and parking offences for the vandalism reason.