Published: 09:50, 31 August 2017
Mobs of young cyclists have been riding on pavements, verbally abusing drivers and pulling dangerous stunts, sparking fears someone will be seriously injured or killed.
Multiple reports to our sister paper, the Gravesend Messenger, and on social media, suggest children in their very early teens, and adults in their 20s, perform dangerous manoeuvres on push bikes throughout Gravesend.
Riders have been spotted performing wheelies, riding on the wrong side of the road and shouting and swearing at anyone who criticises them in the town centre, near Woodlands Park, on the one-way system, close to the riverfront, along Wrotham Road, in the Overcliffe and in The Hill in Northfleet.
One person who has witnessed the apparent new craze first hand is Woodlands ward Cllr Mick Wenban (Con), who lives in Whitehill Road.
He said: “It is a problem. It’s getting bad. It’s dangerous and without a shadow of a doubt someone is going to get hurt. If two cyclists are riding along talking to each other and don’t see someone they’re going to knock them over.
“I’ve seen it manifest itself in the last six months. I was driving near Echo Square the other day and I had one in front of me who kept riding and stopping, riding and stopping. He was a school boy, probably aged about 15 or 16.
“On more than one occasion I’ve stopped people in the town centre and told them to get off their bikes. They just wait until you’ve gone and get back on again. It’s not just kids, I’ve seen a chap about my age riding through the town centre.”
Residents have also reported seeing mopeds, scrambler bikes and quad bikes being driven erratically in the town, including in Woodlands Park.
Numerous people say they have witnessed the dangerous riding but many are afraid to get involved for fear of repercussions.
A 64-year-old New House Lane resident, who asked not to be named, said: “You often see groups of boys - and girls - of varying ages on their bikes, goading car drivers by using the wrong side of the road, going up on one wheel, moving from road to pavement, and vice versa, ignoring traffic lights and, if drivers warn them with a toot of the horn, giving them a mouthful of abuse.
"If it continues, there will surely be an accident and I would feel sorry for the driver affected.”
"It’s dangerous and without a shadow of a doubt someone is going to get hurt," - Cllr Mick Wenban
A woman, who asked only to be identified as Maria, was reversing slowly when two youngsters on bikes “shot” behind her vehicle.
She said: “All of a sudden the proximity alarm went off. I slammed my brakes on as they just appeared and then they were near the driver's side window.
"I shouted to one of them ‘do you do maths at school?’ he was like ‘yeah, why?’ so I said ‘I’ve got four wheels, you’ve got two, if I’d have squashed you like a bug who do you think would be better off, me or you?’ He just looked at me completely void of any intelligence and shrugged his shoulders.”
Graham Andrew Macfarlane told the Messenger his car was damaged when a cyclist hit the vehicle on the Lion Roundabout in Rochester Road.
He said: "I have had cyclists pull out on me at Lion Roundabout. There were two cyclists, both on racing bikes, who were very competitive, hence not paying attention and giving way.
"They were both in their own bubble, completely unaware of others. I avoided one, but I couldn't stop the other one who hit the side of my car, damaging the side panel."
Mr Macfarlane said his insurance premiums went up as a result of having to claim for the damage.
He added: "I take issue with many cyclists (although not all) contravening the rules of the road and acting stupidly. For example, no lights, no hi-vis, no crash helmet, listening to music, cycling in the middle of the road, trying to pass lorries and buses on their blind side, and the list goes on."
"If it continues, there will surely be an accident and I would feel sorry for the driver affected," - 64-year-old New House Lane resident
Acting Chief Inspector for Gravesend and Dartford, Gary Woodward, said: “Kent Police is aware of local concerns regarding young people riding bicycles in and around Gravesend town centre, however, no criminal offences have yet been identified.
“As with all genuine concerns raised with officers, Kent Police will look to work with partners such as the town centre management and the borough council to see if a solution can be found to make sure all those who visit Gravesend can enjoy the area feeling safe.”
Cyclists were banned from riding through largely pedestrianised New Road in Gravesend town centre last summer following a public consultation, which was responded to by more than 650 people.
Gravesham council can issue a £75 fixed penalty notice to anyone cycling in the area between 10am and 6pm, seven days a week.
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