James Daley: I was handed a £30 fine for riding on the pavement

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The Independent Online

A few weeks ago, after I wrote in this column that I was prone to jumping a red light or two, I received an e-mail from a reader demanding that I turn myself into the police. Although I naturally wrestled long and hard with my conscience before deciding to ignore my correspondent's advice, karma soon came to get me.

Having been back on my bike for no more than 15 minutes after a two-week holiday in the United States, I ended up being handed my first cycling ticket – a £30 fine for riding on the pavement.

I have to say that I felt rather unlucky. As it happens, I rarely ride on the pavement. But in this instance, I hopped up for no more than 10 seconds after being squeezed off the road by an aggressive driver. Sadly, this very stretch of pavement happened to be just the place where two young coppers were spending their morning ambushing cyclists.

By the time I saw them, I was already back in the road. But alas; I'd already been spotted, and was ushered to pull over.

I think even the policeman who fined me knew that ticketing cyclists was a waste of his time, so he was very nice to me (not nearly as sanctimonious as most of the people who write me e-mails in reaction to this column).

And so, perhaps because he was so friendly, or perhaps because it was my first day back from holiday, I didn't even bother trying to argue – even after I noticed that his colleague was letting a pretty female cyclist go on her way without a fine.

However, once I got into the office, I remembered that I had a very good case for appeal.

You see, while riding on the pavement is technically illegal, the Home Office was careful to issue guidance about how and when cyclists should actually be penalised for doing so. And in a letter written back in 1999, Home Office minister Paul Boateng said the following: "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." In other words, it was not designed to fine people like me.

So I'll be taking Mr Boateng's letter down to court in a few weeks, in the hope of overturning my fine. Hardly worth the time for a £30 fine. But it's a matter of principle.