A few weeks back, I was trying to become a little less pasty, by catching the sun near the Highgate Ponds in Hampstead Heath. Being a people (and bike) watcher, I observed the number of cyclists pedalling past. All of them were riding respectfully around pedestrians, but you could see it was frustrating for pedestrians. They had to perform that classic dance move, where they are not sure whether to walk left or to the right. All the cyclists, including the one in the picture above with his daughter, were breaking the law.
Later that day, I returned home and discovered that a cyclist had been arrested for pedalling through Hampstead Heath. They spent the night in jail, after refusing to give their details to police. The next morning, the judge told the City of London Corporation to drop legal action against the cyclist. A night in jail being punishment enough.
A reader also reported that £50 fines were being handed out by police to cyclists pedalling through Green Park, from Piccadilly to The Mall. This is a commonly used path by cyclists but once again, it violates Byelaw 13. The law, which has been in existence since 1933, forbids using a bike when there’s a no cycle zone sign.
Additionally, I’ve recently spotted signs in Primrose Hill, stating that plain clothes officers were patrolling the park and would be handing out fines for any cyclists pedalling through the park.
The Royal Park executive agency is responsible for many of London’s largest parks. The parks have the potential to provide safe routes through the capital. Hyde Park in particular provides a great North to South route, avoiding the busy Park Lane. The route that crosses Hyde Park from East to West is also excellent, providing a very different cycling experience than most are used to.
Unfortunately, the Royal Parks executive agency has been slow to respond to the growing demands of cyclists. A small step forward, such as the cycle route that runs through part of Regents Park, took many years of campaigning to be opened up to cyclists.
There’s an argument that this is a bad use of police time. However, the police force has to respond to what residents complain most loudly about. I was shocked a few years ago to discover that amongst the three most pressing concerns for my local police force in Camden, after guns and burglary, was cycling on the pavement. I recently heard that the house I use to live in less than 12 months ago, was burgled, after someone kicked in the front door. Perhaps the police should have focused more on catching burglars?
There is little use complaining about these issues on a cycling blog. It’s the equivalent of trying to scream underwater. Instead, I should be contacting my local police force about my most pressing concerns as a resident. I should be contacting the Royal Parks to request more cycling provision. I should be contacting my local member of parliament to provide better cycling facilities. In fact, that’s what I’ll do after I’ve hit the publish button on this blog post.
I can feel both the frustrations as a pedestrian and as a cyclist. It’s never nice while you are walking on the pavement, to be shocked as a cyclist zooms past you. In the same way, it’s never nice as a cyclist, when a vehicle zooms past you. It doesn’t seem like the most intelligent solution to the problem is to simply fine cyclists. Instead, I believe there should be improved provision in the parks and more widely on London’s roads.
Correction: The Royal Parks Foundation does not manage the parks. It is managed by The Royal Parks, an executive agency of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The Royal Parks Foundation is a charity that helps support the parks.
Thanks to London Cyclist reader Sophie, who reported the fines in St James Park.
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.