A small minority of drivers have been using the Green Wheel/Route 63 Cycleway which is an illegal act except in exceptional circumstances as detailed below. Thus far, cyclists and pedestrians have reported that they have been confronted by cars, lorries, motorcycles and quad bikes which has led to some verbal unpleasantness and one incident where a cyclist was hit by a car.
The actions of this minority and the removal of a gate, which was designed to make the route safer for the public to use, have caused concern and are now the subject of a working group.
Most people just want to use the routes in the way intended as a safe means of travel away from the risk of motorised traffic. If you want to help to keep the Cycle Way safe for yourself and others then please report examples of illegal use. It is easy for someone with the right to use a motorised vehicle on the route to show they have that right and they will not be penalised.
If you believe a vehicle was using a right of way illegally, causing damage or putting wildlife at risk, or if you felt threatened or at risk by their behaviour, then please report it.
Make your report by calling 101.
When making a report, try to make a note of the following incident details:
- Details of the suspected offence
- Descriptions of those involved
- Any registration numbers of any vehicles involved
Where is this problem in Whittlesey?
The Green Wheel / Route 63 Cycle Way runs in part from the ‘Field of Dreams’ at the Stonald Road end to Funthams Lane, near to the Millennium Bridge, and the section between Funthams Lane and Stonald Road is a Public Footpath and Cycle Way.
What constitutes Illegal use?
A few landowners have legal right of access via Stonald Road, however most people who drive their vehicles along this Cycle Way do not have any right to do so. The only exceptions would be where lawful authority is given (eg with the permission of the landowner), in vehicles modified for use by the disabled, or in certain circumstances detailed in the relevant acts of law.
Anyone driving a mechanically propelled vehicle, for example a motor car, on a road that is a footpath, bridleway or restricted byway is guilty of an offence unless it can be shown that there is a private right in place for people to use the accessway to gain vehicular access to their property. The burden of proving that there is such a vehicular right of way in place rests with the defendant. The prosecution does not have to show that there are no vehicular rights, but rather the defendant has to show that there are such vehicular rights in place.
Signs which show whether the path is a footpath, bridleway, restricted byway or byway open to all traffic (BOAT) have been vandalised possibly in an effort to avoid prosecution by using the absence of signage as a means of avoiding prosecution. This vandalism makes no difference as the routes are clearly marked on the definitive maps therefore the lack of signs does not provide a loophole for avoiding prosecution. Authorities have to mark the route so the signs will enventually be replaced at ratepayers’ expense.
What are the Penalities?
The first method of serving a penalty uses the courts which can take some time and incurs expense. If caught and prosecuted, the drivers face a fine and possibly points on their licence depending on the charges brought. An often overlooked aspect of conviction is that convicted drivers would carry a criminal record, potentially something that has to be declared to employers and other officials.
An alternative to the courts is available to deter unauthorised use of motor vehicles. Essentially, a constable in uniform has certain powers if someone is driving without any permissions on any road being a footpath, bridleway or restricted byway OR is driving on a road without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other users, and is causing, or is likely to cause, alarm, distress or annoyance to members of the public. The powers are also available if the constable has reasonable grounds for believing that a motor vehicle has been used on any occasion in a manner just described. That means he can act following a report by a member of the public.
The provisions in the Road Traffic Act allow the police to give a warning to the offender that if the offence is repeated the vehicle may be seized. Subsequent seizure is usually but not necessarily dependent on such a warning having been given. The regulations say nothing about the form of the initial warning but it seems that a written notice is used by some authorities.
After a vehicle has been seized, written notice must be served as prescribed in regulation 4 stating where it is, the date by which it must be recovered and what it will cost. In default of recovery, the “the authority may, in such manner as they think fit,” dispose of the vehicle. That includes crushing.
Although there is no appeal process, the offender cannot be penalised until commission of a second offence. Furthermore, there are escape provisions if the owner of the vehicle can show that he was not responsible at the time.