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Young girl left in tears and father forced to carry her - and her bike - on rest of journey to school

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.”

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.