Thames Valley police have started stamping receipts for bike lights to stop people undermining an initiative meant to keep them safe.
The ‘Lights on Bikes’ scheme is seeing officers issue fines to anyone caught cycling without a white light at the front or a red light at the back of their bikes. The fine will be revoked if the cyclist can prove to police within seven days that they have purchased lights for their bike by producing a receipt at the police station.
But some people have then asked bike shops to refund their lights once the fine has been removed.
Neil, manager of Bike Zone on Market Street, said that he has not seen as many incidences as last year. “It hasn’t been so prevalent this year, but in previous years we’ve had people coming in, looking shifty, and asking for a bike light refund,” he continued.
“People think they need lights to avoid a fine, but they actually need them to be seen. That’s the main point,” he said.
So far, there have been six such cases at Bike Zone since the clocks went back, but Neil stressed that the majority were not students.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a student problem,” he said. “It’s just human nature.”
Managers at Walton Street Cycles and Cycle Centre said they would refuse point blank to offer refunds on lights.
Ali Pearson of Cycle Centre said: “If a customer ever asked I’d say ‘no’. There are too many people riding without lights, just asking to get run over.
“Lights are cheap,” he said. “Is it worth risking your life for the price of a couple of pints?”
Third-year Ellen Robertson agreed: “they’re only £5; you may as well keep them once you’ve bought them.”
A second-year student at St Hilda’s was stopped a fortnight ago by officers on Cowley’s Bullingdon Road as part of the campaign.
“At the bottom of the road was a blockade of at least three police officers standing on either side of the road,” she said. “They asked me if I knew why they had stopped me and I said it was because I didn’t have a front light. They didn’t seem to listen when I told them that I had a working back light.”
The student was told she was to be fined £30, and that she had to wheel her bike home along the pavement.
Officers withdrew the fine when they realised that she did have one working bike light. “I really wasn’t happy that they made me walk home alone in the dark,” the student said.
As of last week, police had issued 130 Fixed Penalty Notices for cycling without lights across Oxfordshire.