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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.