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Children threatened with £60 fines for cycling in London park
31 March 2021, 16:27 | Updated: 31 March 2021, 16:43
Children as young as 10 have been threatened with £60 fines for cycling in a London park, parents have told LBC, leading them to return to their games consoles even as the government pushes for the nation to get fit after lockdown.
On Monday, Boris Johnson told the nation he hoped the public would use the easing of lockdown as an opportunity to “build our national resilience” through taking exercise.
But LBC has learned some “overzealous” council security contractors have been threatening children who cycle in a south London park with fines, despite the local council saying cycling is permitted on designated paths.
Diana Akiko Narducci said her 12-year-old son and a friend were riding their bikes over natural jumps on Sheen Common, Richmond, this weekend when they were stopped and threatened with £60 fines for cycling in the area.
"My son said they also stopped a little child on a pushbike,” Diana said.
She claims the Parkguard officers told the family “they have received a lot of complaints from dog walkers about the kids cycling”.
“The park patrol said we have had so many complaints from dog walkers but nothing counterbalancing from the other side. We were saying how can a 10 or 12-year-old send an email to the council?"
The mother said her son had been left “really, really upset” after the incident and his friends “are afraid of going back” and being fined.
Instead of riding their bikes, Diana says her son is now “staying at home, playing on the Playstation and watching TV”. She added: “It is not acceptable.”
'A year of childhood on pause'
James Milnes told LBC he had a similar encounter with the Parkguard officers on Saturday, while out riding his bike in the woods with his 10-year-old daughter.
“I actually thought they were police at the time,” he said. “They basically put their hand up to stay stop and said you’re not permitted to ride your bike anywhere here, away from the main paths.”
But, he added: “I would be amazed if this area is not considered a main path. It has all the hallmarks of a path, it has logs laid down on either side.”
“These kids have just gone back to school, a year of childhood on pause and even if there are a few walkers who don’t want bikes flying past then there should be a bit of ‘live and let live’. This doesn’t feel like the time to take away some of the simple fun.”
'The kids are 12'
Richmond Cycling Campaign have asked the council to look into the matter, writing that officers “should not be actively discouraging children from having fun in a safe way”.
Campaign Coordinator Tim Lennon told LBC: “We are hoping it is just overzealous wardens because obviously the government supposedly wants us all to be more active.
“You can hardly ask kids to be more active if you take away areas where they are active can you?”
He added: “The kids are 12, what is the actual problem on this one?”
The natural dips and troughs on the common have been used by children on bikes for well over 40 years, Mr Lennon said.
“We know someone who is in his 50s who used this as a BMX pump track when he was 12, so it is a long established use of the area.”
The council say they are clamping down on any digging in the park, however Diana says her son was not doing this and only used what was there in the park already.
Similarly, James said he and his daughter were just cycling, adding: “We are not shovelers - it is too much like hard work.”
He told LBC that he "absolutely agrees" with the council that the digging has gone too far, but said: “I’m not sure it requires a blanket cease and desist on the whole area”.
“It is something that has been going on here for 20 plus years without any need for this heavy-handed approach."
Richmond Council response
A spokesperson for the Richmond Council Parks Service told LBC: “Responsible cycling on designated paths is not only allowed but is a great form of exercise, however there has been a recent issue with some users digging in the woodland area of Sheen Common to create off-road trails with ramps and dips.
"This activity is damaging to this important habitat and presents a risk to other users and is therefore not permitted. Anyone causing damage to the common could be fined as a result.
"Parkguard patrol are responsible for making sure park users, including children, know that cycling is only allowed on designated paths and ensuring that the public are aware of any fines that could be enforced under the council’s PSPO.”
Parkguard declined to comment.