It's not a time of day you imagine too many cyclists - or pedestrians - will be out in the street, but in Spalding police officers chose 5am as the moment to launch a dawn raid on cyclists riding on pavements.
Operation Oatmeal, as it was known, was designed to target regular offenders in the hotspots of Pinchbeck Road towards Pinchbeck, Winsover Road towards Spalding, Hawthorn Bank and Halmer Gate - and 100 were spotted over the course of the activity.
59 of them receieved fixed penalty fines of £30, netting the force £1770 in total.
Sgt Stuart Brotherton, who led the operation, told Spalding Today: “The facts don’t lie – it was a shocking result. Cycling on the pavements is the second biggest concern in Spalding after street drinking.
“While the operation was taking place, one resident came out and shouted ‘bravo’.
“Of course, some were tweeting asking what we were doing – and I am sure many will think there are more important things we could have been dealing with.
“But whenever we attend community panels, pavement cycling is the one people are always complaining about.
“It is a serious crime. As soon as a rider takes to the footpath they are putting pedestrians at risk.
“This operation is sending out a clear message - when people ride a cycle they are riding a vehicle.
“There’s no excuse for the people who were caught and no point saying why can’t we be more lenient because we have been out before and they know they should not be doing it.”
During the operation, 10 cars were stopped for breaking the 30mph speed limit among other vehicles stopped.
According to Bikehub, police have been encouraged to take a common sense view when it comes to pavement cycling.
On 1st August 1999, new legislation came into force to allow a fixed penalty notice to be served on anyone who is guilty of cycling on a footway. However the Home Office issued guidance on how the new legislation should be applied, indicating that they should only be used where a cyclist is riding in a manner that may endanger others. The then Home Office Minister Paul Boateng issued a letter stating that:
“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.”
I should stress that the issue is about inconsiderate cycling on the pavements. The new provisions are not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of the traffic, and who show consideration to other road users when doing so. Chief officers recognise that the fixed penalty needs to be used with a considerable degree of discretion and it cannot be issued to anyone under the age of 16. (Letter to Mr H. Peel from John Crozier of The Home Office, reference T5080/4, 23 February 2004)
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.