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“Rogue” wardens accused of “lying in wait” for cyclists riding on pavement beside busy roundabout, as two cyclists fined £100 for breaching anti-social cycling order at same spot

The wardens belong to the same agency that mistakenly fined a female cyclist for riding on a shared-use path in the city earlier this year

“Rogue” wardens working for a local council have been accused of “lying in wait” to catch cyclists riding on the pavement, after two riders were recently fined £100 for briefly mounting a footpath to avoid navigating a notoriously busy roundabout and its “thick and fast motor traffic”, a penalty described by one of the cyclists involved as “unjustified” and “a bit farcical”.

The latest controversy surrounding Colchester’s Public Space Protection Order (PSPO), ostensibly to prevent anti-social, nuisance, and dangerous behaviour, comes just two months after female cyclist Helge Gillmeister was also slapped with the £100 fine for, according to the warden who stopped her, “riding on the footpath” – when, in fact, the path in question has been a shared-use cycle route since 2011.

Colchester Cycling Campaign – which has recently adopted a policy of non-cooperation with the council over the PSPO – says the recent surge in cycling-related Fixed Penalty Notices in the city (Dr Gillmeister’s fine was ultimately quashed) indicates that wardens contracted by the council “have found a rich seam for fines” by targeting “law-abiding” people on bikes.

The campaigners also questioned how “careful cycling on the footway” to avoid heavy traffic in a “car-oriented” city can be judged anti-social or dangerous.

“Are you being serious?”

One of the two cyclists who found themselves on the wrong end of an overzealous warden’s ticket machine last month, Stuart Braybrooke was cycling on Colchester’s Magdalen Street, on his way back to his office on Wednesday 24 April, when he was stopped by a warden, an employee of the Waste Investigations Support and Enforcement (WISE) agency, subcontracted by Colchester City Council.

Much to the surprise of Braybrooke, who by this point had jumped off his bike, the WISE warden issued him with a £100 penalty for breaching the PSPO, an increasingly popular (and controversial) method used by local authorities to clamp down on what they deem to be dangerous cycling, and one active travel charity Cycling UK says has the effect of criminalising the act of riding a bike.

Another Colchester-based cyclist, Thomas Roper, was also handed the £100 fine at the exact same spot beside St Botolph’s roundabout days later, with Roper appealing the decision only to have heard “not one single thing” from the council or WISE.

Magdalen Street, Colchester (Google)

“I was riding down Magdalen Street, which is pretty hairy at the best of times as you approach St Botolph’s roundabout,” Braybrooke told road.cc about the bizarre incident that led to his fine.

“I crossed over at the lights by the bus stop, outside the courts, and rolled down the hill from there. I came up on the pavement by the bus stop, and there’s a dropped kerb outside the station and the court. I was riding on the pavement for about ten metres.

“And as I got to the other side of that, where the underpass for the roundabout is, the guys from WISE were stood there and put their hands out to make sure no one got past, and I jumped off my bike.”

> “Why pick on a lone female cyclist?” Cyclist slapped with £100 fine – for riding on a cycle path

He continued: “At the time, actually, they were dealing with somebody else, who was giving them what for, to be honest! I got off my bike and thought they’ll notice I’m not riding it, and they’ll say, ‘make sure you push it around the corner’, or whatever.

“But they didn’t! They, almost without warning, said, ‘put your bike to the side’, and took a picture of the ID around my neck and asked for my details. One of them was saying some stuff, but I wasn’t really paying all that much attention, because the other guy was ripping into them, shouting ‘I don’t care!’ All this sort of stuff.

“I told them I was on my way back to the office from the university. Then he asked me for my date of birth and address – and I was thinking why do you want that? – and then he printed out a ticket! He said it was an offence to ride your bike on the pavement anywhere and it comes with a fixed penalty notice.

“I had thought they were just going to tell me to be a bit careful – but then he said it was a £100 fine! And I said, are you being serious?

“[Like Dr Gillmeister], I got caught off-guard, I didn’t know what was happening. I was in disbelief, genuinely shocked. I’m a pretty law-abiding guy, and I just assumed they’d tell me to be careful and be on my way. But then they gave me a £100 fine. It was very weird, and a bit farcical.”

Causing a nuisance or just getting from A to B?

Last autumn, Colchester City Council consulted on renewing its current PSPO, which covers the centre of the city and states that “using a skateboard, bicycle, scooter, skates, or any other self-propelled wheeled vehicle, including electric scooters, in such a manner as to cause or is likely to cause intimidation, harassment, alarm, distress, nuisance, or annoyance to any person”.

At the time of the consultation, activists within the Colchester Cycling Campaign raised concerns that that the term ‘annoyance’ could be used against ‘wrong-way’ cyclists who “merely want to go about their business as quickly and smoothly as possible”, something Stuart believes he was doing safely when he was stopped.

Head Street cycle lane, Colchester (Essex Highways)

> New protected cycle lane – in city where cyclist was fined for riding on bike path – slammed as “accident waiting to happen for pedestrians” that will “cause carnage on the roads”

“I was riding pretty slowly and I would have jumped off my bike anyway, as it’s a bit of a blind bend around there,” he tells road.cc. “And the bottom of Queen Street is a one-way street, so you can’t ride your bike up it anyway.

“If the police issued you with a fine, and they’re allowed to use their discretion, for riding on the pavement, it would be a £30 fine. So where does this £100 come from? And the guy at WISE who I rang told me the council set the price, not the police.

“I also said, first thing, you need to tell me what you’re charging me with. And they told me the PSPO relates to people causing a nuisance or a disturbance – but no one cared that I was cruising along on my bike.

“No one actually cared at that point. Had someone gone ‘Oh shock, there’s someone on a bike and this is dangerous,’ then I’d have gone, fair enough, I’ve caused a shock and a nuisance. But I only caused a nuisance in the warden’s opinion, and they could have polled everyone on the street and no one would have thought that.”

In an email to WISE following the incident, Stuart said: “I used the pavement for safety because there were no safe cycle lanes and I had been knocked off my bike earlier this year. No damage or disturbance occurred, and the officer did not use discretion.”

Stuart also asked WISE for footage of the incident captured on a warden’s bodycam, but this request was declined, with the agency insisting that the camera is solely used to protect the safety of their officers.

WISE also told Stuart that they had reviewed the footage and deemed that the fine still stands. Braybrooke now plans to submit a data request to retrieve the footage and the officer’s witness statement, which he dismissed as “hearsay”.

“It is a criminal offence and a safety risk to pedestrians to ride a bicycle on the pavement,” a WISE staff member said in correspondence with Braybrooke, while also noting that there “are no formal grounds of appeal” against a Fixed Penalty Notice.

“Where’s innocent until proven guilty?” Stuart asks road.cc. “If we review the video, I can prove that clearly I wasn’t riding reckless or dangerously, or even really on the pavement at that point, because I was on the dropped kerb.”

“I wasn’t riding a bike recklessly or dangerously, or being anti-social. It appears I was charged with an anti-social order, it wasn’t anti-social! I don’t feel like this is a justified penalty notice.”

The dead-end nature of the appeals process for Braybrooke was also reflected in his fellow cyclist Roper’s experience.

“I have emailed multiple times and have heard not one single thing,” Roper says about his experience dealing with WISE following his fine. “Nothing regarding my appeal, and nothing regarding my fine either. I’m not really sure what I am supposed to do!”

“A rich seam of fines”

The discrepancy between the wording of Colchester’s PSPO and its implementation by WISE has also been highlighted by the Colchester Cycling Campaign, who criticised the fines dished out to Braybrooke and Roper, while pointing out that such targeted campaigns by wardens will do little to help engender a cycling culture in the city.

The campaign group also noted that the recent spate of cycling-related fines appears solely to be the work of WISE, with a recent Freedom of Information request revealing that wardens directly employed by Colchester City Council are yet to issue any FPNs related to the new PSPO. The same FOI request also found that wardens cannot issue penalties for “riding the wrong way up a footpath”.

Colchester.jpg

“We commented on the consultation for the second PSPO (we don’t believe there were any problems with PSPO1) and we raised a concern with the wording,” a Colchester Cycling Campaign spokesperson told road.cc.

“We were assured at the time that it would be used only for ‘anti-social cyclists who ride their bikes at people’ and those who ‘cycle over flowerbeds’.

“Instead, cyclists who ride on the footway to avoid thick and fast motor traffic on St Botolph’s roundabout are being penalised for using the path. Have these wardens not heard about the Boateng defence? Can't they tell the difference between nuisance and anti-social behaviour?

“The fact that the latest two offences that we’ve heard about have occurred at the same spot suggests that these wardens have found a rich seam for fines and are lying in wait.

“As Stuart Braybrooke says, even if he encounters a pedestrian it is at most a nuisance for them. We don’t understand how careful cycling on the footway to avoid motor traffic in a car-orientated city — and giving way to pedestrians — can be judged anti-social.”

The spokesperson continued: “It would seem these wardens, who work for a company called WISE, are contracted by the city council but are separate to the city’s own wardens who have not issued any fixed penalty tickets against cyclists.

“Colchester council is very supportive of cycling in many areas – backing our cycle centre that includes a bike kitchen and cargo bike hire, for instance – but this PSPO is doing harm.

“By all means stop dangerous and aggressive cycling but don’t penalise ordinary people trying to go about their everyday business in a city whose cycling network is many years from being complete, where using a short section of usually empty footway rather than a dangerous, fast road is a reasonable option.

“Trying to engender a cycling culture is like raising delicate flowers yet we have these overzealous wardens trampling through our garden in their size 11s.”

> “Obstacle course” cycle junction a “ruse to drive motorists out of the town”, claim drivers – but cyclists praise long-awaited layout change

Colchester’s car-oriented approach highlighted by the campaign group is also underlined by Stuart’s chequered past with the city’s questionable cycling infrastructure, which saw him struck by a motorist while riding in a cycle lane, breaking his bike, before very narrowly missing another collision with a right-turning driver on the same road just a week later (and in-between those two incidents his just-repaired bike was stolen, to rub salt in the wound).

“After that, I was like, I’m not loving riding down these roads anymore,” he says. “Having had that experience, there doesn’t appear to be anywhere cyclists are safe on Magdalen Road and St Botolph’s roundabout. So, it doesn’t sit with me very nicely cycling in that part of town.”

“A kick in the knackers”

The Colchester cyclist also agrees with the campaigners who argue that the city’s apparent anti-cycling culture – embodied in not just the trigger-happy actions of its contracted wardens but also its outdated lack of bike-friendly infrastructure and plethora of one-way streets – is only serving to discourage, not encourage, people from riding their bikes in the city.

“I’m a middle-aged guy, I’m not streetwise but I’m not an idiot. I cycle for health and environmental benefits, and my kids ride every day, rain or shine. We love riding bikes. So this feels a bit like a kick in the knackers,” he says.

“They can say, oh you’re doing right by your health and the environment, cycling is the best form of travel, but we’re going to be really unaccommodating to you.

“And funnily enough, I was doing the same route the following week. And I pushed the bike – because St Botolph’s roundabout is not one you want to do on a bike, because it’s so imposing – exactly where they were stood the previous week.

“And believe it or not, I pushed it around the corner and fell over my own bike! And I nearly knocked into this woman – so I was much more of a danger pushing it than riding it.”

Head Street, Colchester (Colchester Cycling Campaign)

Reflecting on the recent plethora of cycling PSPO breaches in Colchester, Stuart added: “I felt at the time like I’d been a one-off and that I was really unlucky. But it kind of feels like they’re placed on the narrowest part of the footpath, they let the guy who was swearing because he refused to give them any details. He was actually being incredibly anti-social, whereas I was being completely compliant. So that felt unjustified.

“Then you hear it’s been happening to other people, and you think they’re targeting those who look like they’re quite law-abiding. They’re issuing them with fines and using the scarcity principle to say ‘pay it quickly or you’ll go to court’ – that threat targets people who are risk-averse and law-abiding, and catches them confused about the whole situation, like I was.

“It’s like a scam almost, like you’ve been caught out on a scam on holiday. I didn’t know anything about these people, I didn’t know about the PSPO, I ride my bike every single day and have done for years. And all of a sudden, these guys pop up to put a sticker on me as I’m riding past. So I felt a little bit targeted.

“I’ve got a bike bell, I’ve goy my helmet, lights, mudguards. It’s not like I’m raring around, being anti-social, I’m Captain Sensible! I’m well aware I’m sharing an area with people.

“These are basically rogue officers targeting law-abiding cyclists, and once your wheel hits the pavement that’s you done for, unless you’re pushing it.”

> Two cyclists ordered to pay £500 for riding bike through town centre, as councillor says local authority “will not simply look the other way” and that cyclists “have been rightly punished”

When approached for comment by road.cc, Liberal Democrat councillor Martin Goss, who is raising the issue in the local authority on behalf of the Colchester Cycling Campaign, said: “At this stage the matter is under investigation and as with all fixed penalty notices these are part of a legal process, so it is not appropriate to comment until the investigation is fully concluded.”

Shared cycle path along Southway, Colchester (Colchester Cycling Campaign)

As noted at the start of this article, both Braybrooke and Roper can take some heart from the recent experience of Helge Gillmeister, who was cycling home from work in March, along a path located next to the city’s busy Southway, when she was also issued with a £100 fine by a WISE employee for breaching the PSPO.

Describing her punishment as “ridiculous”, especially due to the presence of signs indicating the path’s shared-use status 30 yards from where she was stopped, Gillmeister quickly and successfully appealed the FPN, with the council agreeing to waive her fine.

That particular debacle inspired the Colchester Cycling Campaign to adopt a policy of “non-cooperation” with the council, while urging cyclists to refuse to give their names or addresses if stopped by wardens for riding their bikes in what campaigners have described as a “city designed for cars”.

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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64 comments

Avatar
wtjs replied to hawkinspeter | 1 month ago
4 likes

If there's one thing that the police are guaranteed to respond quickly to, it's people who think that the authorities are acting against the people's interests and are willing to say it

In addition, they really hate people who waste police time by reporting offences accompanied by incontrovertible evidence, and they will put a lot of effort into nailing them if at all possible. I have to be pretty careful on the roads in Lancashire

Avatar
stonojnr replied to qwerty360 | 1 month ago
1 like

I'd not ride that road or roundabout, its another one of many roads in Colchester that's basically treated as a dual carriageway.

The Colchester cycle campaign should campaign for better cycle links or routes to the uni, and then people wouldn't have to cycle on such a busy road.

Avatar
Hirsute replied to stonojnr | 1 month ago
3 likes

The last bit of the road is dual. The only safe bit is if you come from the North to go due south as that bit is traffic light controlled.

They do campaign but ECC often back down due to the 'war on motorists'. There should be work on East Hill to link to the University via NCR51.

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Benthic | 1 month ago
6 likes

Cyclists need to behave themselves, but PSPOs are undemocratic and should be binned.

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Hirsute | 1 month ago
3 likes

There is a problem around there with cyclists and scooterists.

If you take the first photo, it is narrow to the right of the underpass, then as you go around the corner, it is not very wide and there are many pedestrians and pushchairs going to the car park.

If they were concerned about safety, the (un)WISE would have waited further along where it is much narrower and more of a risk to peds. As ever, these types of stop only 'catch' the people who are likely considerate and do nothing for the real antisocial types.

There is a fund of ~£12M to improve the roundabout but the proposals to benefit cyclists and peds were watered down. The rantyhighwayman was not impressed with the design.

https://www.essexhighways.org/highway-schemes-and-developments/highway-s...

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stonojnr replied to Hirsute | 1 month ago
1 like

When I've got off the train there it's surprising how narrow & congested that pavement area quickly becomes. Id imagine adding a few cyclists or scooterists, even for a brief moment can create problems.

Theyre the kind of interactions people will complain to councils about even if its brief & no harm done, and WISE are just told to stand there and ticket people doing it.

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rbrtribble | 1 month ago
5 likes

Why are you giving them your name etc, if they had a card reader and said you have to pay a fine now, would you? You need to be more American and less British. Say nothing turn around and walk away.

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Jakrayan replied to rbrtribble | 1 month ago
2 likes

Says in the article he had his ID around his neck, so the warden could just read it. Maybe that made him an easy target?

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hawkinspeter replied to Jakrayan | 1 month ago
7 likes

Jakrayan wrote:

Says in the article he had his ID around his neck, so the warden could just read it. Maybe that made him an easy target?

Seems like it's a bad idea having your ID on display to everyone - I'd slip it under my top if I had one and was cycling. Surely you wouldn't want it flapping around and possibly catching on something anyway.

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Sensible cyclist | 1 month ago
1 like

Serves them right - I am sick and tired of dodging cyclists when I walk on a pavement. The other day I was crossing on green man when I was forced to stop by a mob of cyclists jumping the red light. These people bring us all a bad name.

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AidanR replied to Sensible cyclist | 1 month ago
11 likes

Not really the same thing, is it?

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the little onion replied to Sensible cyclist | 1 month ago
18 likes

I am sick and tired of dodging cyclists  parked cars, reversing delivery vans and stupid school-run parents when I walk on a pavement. The other day I was crossing on green man when I was forced to stop by a mob of cyclists taxi driver jumping the red light. These people bring us all a bad name.

 

(these are all actually true, obviously)

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mctrials23 replied to the little onion | 1 month ago
17 likes

The number of times I get to a zebra crossing and at least one car blows through it at full speed is amazing. Quite often two cars driving close to each other will both completely miss the fact I am standing there. 

Cars etc are constantly parked on bike lanes or completely blocking the pavement. I have twins and half the time we can't walk them down pavements because people have parked so far onto them. 

These are the twats they should be fining but cyclists are an easy and popular target. 

How many people do you reckon they have fined who are actually riding on the pavements dangerously. 0, because the sort of person who does that will stick their fingers up at them and tell them to fuck off as they fly blindly round corners. 

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eburtthebike replied to mctrials23 | 1 month ago
6 likes

mctrials23 wrote:

Cars etc are constantly parked on bike lanes or completely blocking the pavement. I have twins and half the time we can't walk them down pavements because people have parked so far onto them. 

These are the twats they should be fining but cyclists are an easy and popular target.

Exactly.  Driving and parking on the pavement is demonstrably more dangerous for pedestrians than cyclists on there, so why hasn't the council passed a PSPO for it?  It would raise a lot of money and make the place safer.

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brooksby replied to Sensible cyclist | 1 month ago
7 likes

When you're walking on a pavement, or when you were wheeling your wheelchair and nearly got hit?

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perce replied to Sensible cyclist | 1 month ago
13 likes

Have you changed your name again?

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giff77 replied to Sensible cyclist | 1 month ago
7 likes

Is that you Martin? 

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Boopop replied to Sensible cyclist | 1 month ago
9 likes

Sensible cyclist wrote:

Serves them right - I am sick and tired of dodging cyclists when I walk on a pavement. The other day I was crossing on green man when I was forced to stop by a mob of cyclists jumping the red light. These people bring us all a bad name.

I'm sick of encountering people who follow this nonsense group responsibility theory. I don't give all cyclists a "name", good or bad, just like I don't give a good, bad, or somewhere in between "name" to:

  • Software developers
  • Northerners living down south
  • Music fans
  • People born in May
  • Human beings
  • Living creatures

Think with a bit more nuance pal, just because someone's part of a larger group, doesn't mean everyone in that group is identical.

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Backladder replied to Boopop | 1 month ago
2 likes

Boopop wrote:

 

  • Northerners living down south

Bunch of softies the lot of em!

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Clem Fandango replied to Backladder | 1 month ago
5 likes

Backladder wrote:

Boopop wrote:

 

  • Northerners living down south

Bunch of softies the lot of em!

 

Have they not been relocated to Rwanda yet?

Avatar
brooksby | 1 month ago
2 likes

First question - do organisations like WISE have some sort of target to meet? (edit) I mean, how many or how much fines they are contractually obliged to issue?

Second - as regards their refusing to hand over video footage, would a formal subject access request cover it?

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Hirsute replied to brooksby | 1 month ago
7 likes

Local group have asked the following

Without infringing on the GDP Regulation could you please let us know:
• how many cyclists have been issued with fixed penalty notices by city wardens since PSPO2 came into being?
• the circumstances in which the cyclists were penalised (for instance riding on footway or riding on footway and creating a nuisance to civilians)
• whether the wardens are employed by a third party?
• whether they have a target for the number of tickets they issue?
• whether their pay (or their employer’s contract) is dependent on the number of tickets issued?
• whether every warden is made fully aware of how and when to apply the Boateng defence?
• whether the wardens have the power to issue an FPN for the offences of riding the wrong way up a one-way street or on a footway where these do not fall under the definition and intentions of the PSPO?
• whether one particular warden is involved in more than a reasonable share of these cases
• whether the wardens are given bikeability training to help them to appreciate the subjective danger posed by motor traffic?
• whether there is any penalty for a cyclist who declines to give their name and address to a warden employed by the city council?

Avatar
Grumpy17 | 1 month ago
4 likes

These idiots have NO POWERS to detain you. Just give them a cheery hello and tell them you're not speaking to them.Bye  Bye. Nothing They can do .unless the police are there. which is highly unlikely.

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mctrials23 replied to Grumpy17 | 1 month ago
4 likes

I would give them a cheery fuck off personally. £100 for doing something with zero danger. 

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eburtthebike | 1 month ago
12 likes

Step 1: Design everything for driving cars

Step 2: Fine people who don't drive but value their lives

Step 3: Do not under any circumstances make it safe for those people in Step 2

Step 4: Evil chuckle

Avatar
the little onion | 1 month ago
7 likes

never, ever give your details to a private enforcement contractor. Just don't do it. Unless it's a police officer, just refuse

Avatar
Rendel Harris replied to the little onion | 1 month ago
7 likes

the little onion wrote:

never, ever give your details to a private enforcement contractor. Just don't do it. Unless it's a police officer, just refuse

You are within your rights to do that with a private enforcement contractor with the important caveat that some, along with some traffic and community wardens, may be granted warrant cards by the local chief constable under the Police Reform Act 2002 which confer most of the powers of a police officer on a civilian operative, and they certainly have the right to demand details from a person whom they allege has committed an offence, and it is a further offence to refuse to divulge them, so before you ride away it's worth checking whether they have a warrant card otherwise you could get yourself in further trouble. 

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Grumpy17 replied to Rendel Harris | 1 month ago
2 likes

Makes no difference. they still have no power to physically detain you

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Rendel Harris replied to Grumpy17 | 1 month ago
7 likes

Grumpy17 wrote:

Makes no difference. they still have no power to physically detain you

No, they haven't, but they can take your photograph and supply it, along with bodycam footage, to the police and they can call in any nearby officers to detain you. If you're on a route you use regularly, e.g. your commute, the likelihood is you probably will get pulled later and charged with both the original offence and refusing to give your details. If you want to take that chance, go for it, I'd rather not.

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andystow replied to Rendel Harris | 1 month ago
6 likes

Rendel Harris wrote:

No, they haven't, but they can take your photograph and supply it, along with bodycam footage, to the police...

But they said that the bodycam footage was only for their safety. They wouldn't lie about that, would they?

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