A pensioner has complained she is being treated ‘like a criminal’ as she faces court and a £395 fine for a second time for ‘cycling’ on a footpath on Hampstead Heath in London.
Barbara Massey said that she was aware of the strict no-cycling rules, having been convicted of the crime and fined £275 last year.
But she said she was using her bike “as a scooter” when she was stopped in March this year, and she should not face judges at Highbury Magistrates’ Court later this month.
The 68-year-old was on her way to the Ladies’ Pond to swim, which she does most days, and that she was using her bike due to knee pain.
She told the Camden New Journal that she was outraged at a system that “can allow such inherently unjust and disrespectful treatment of the elderly”.
“The young policemen were not taking into account that they are talking to somebody that is nearly 70,” she said.
“I’m not asking them to bow down to me, but I wouldn’t have expected to be treated like this as an older person.
“My swim at the pond is my main joy and comfort in life. It is non-weight bearing and therefore doesn’t hurt my knee and I get to see the glory of the Heath’s nature every day, if only briefly.
“Cycling is my only means of transport that gets me places without pain. I am the safest of riders and have never even hit a flea, let alone a dog or a child.”
She added that due to a pension of just £95 a week, she has only just managed to pay off her last fine.
She added: “I said I was walking and hadn’t been riding but they wouldn’t hear of it. I began to cry and begged them to leave me alone, as I’d been told a few months before that if this comes to court again, I’d have to pay the full £395.
“I am completely dismayed at this system of fines and sanctions,” Ms Massey added. “Why not fine us on the spot?
“Why send us to court for a very minor infringement of a 120-year-old law relating to horses and buggies. Why [are they] spending money bringing highly respected, educated, decent, older women to courts over infringements of a law the breaking of which is no real crime?”
A spokesman for the Heath managers the City of London said: “A female cyclist was found by the Hampstead Heath Constabulary to be cycling on a pathway that is not designated shared use. As a result she will appear in court later this month.
“We have a duty to protect the users of Hampstead Heath and will prosecute those who breach our byelaws.”
In 2012 we reported how 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.
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.