‘Over-zealous’ Preston police officer put 26 cyclists in dock for using pavement
Local historian Keith Johnson looks at how the terrible state of a Preston road ensured cycling offences were thrown out by magistrates...
Cycling has been a popular pastime in Preston since late Victorian times and the creation of the Guild Wheel has increased its popularity even more.
Back in mid-November 1901 quite a stir was caused when 26 cyclists appeared at the Preston County Police Court summoned for riding on the footpath on Garstang Road, Fulwood.
The proceedings took place before magistrates Messrs. Park & Toulmin and a number of the defendants were represented by either Mr. Clemesha or Mr. Cockshutt.
The latter argued that the road was in such a bad state with one half being covered with uncut stones and the other half in a filthy condition that no cyclist who respected his machine would either ride or walk over it.
All of the accused had been charged in early November and amongst them was Mrs. Wilding who stated that on the day in question the road was wet and filthy and that she used the pavement as it was clear from pedestrians.
A number of the accused testified that on the day they were charged one side of the road had been rolled and was still wet, whilst on the other side a steam roller and a water cart blocked the highway, forcing them to use the pavement.
Police Constable Birchall, of the Lancashire Constabulary, who had charged all the defendants, stated that on the days in question other cyclists had used the road without a problem.
Although under questioning he admitted that the road was filthy and wet and that there were no pedestrians on the footpath at the time.
He then stated that following earlier complaints about footpath cycling he had been sent to watch the cyclists in plain clothes.
Mr. Clemesha addressed the Bench and was scathing in his criticism of the Fulwood Urban Council, remarking on their failure to proved a safe thoroughfare for the cyclists.
Pointing out that had a cyclist been thrown from their machine whilst travelling along the unfit highway they would have had a justifiable claim for damages.
The magistrates commented that through their surveyor the Fulwood Urban Council had instigated the action and felt that a great deal of over-zealous policing by the County Constabulary had taken place.
They concluded by stating that in their opinion riding on the footpath under the extreme circumstances that existed was not an offence and was not seen as a wilful act.
Consequently, all the cases with the exception of one were discharged on the payment of costs. John Richardson who had given a false name when arrested being fined 2s 6d.
Before the day’s proceeding ended Ellen Antonella was fined 1s for wheeling a barrel organ on the footpath on the first day of November.
That same month the Preston Cycling Club held their annual dinner at the Bull Hotel and the president Coun. W.F. Ord remarked on the increased popularity of the club that had prospered for 20 years.