Police have responded to an incident involving a rider being “pulled over” when riding on a busy road.
Sue Gates shared her story on social media after a police officer asked her to pull into a lay-by while she was riding her 11-year-old Appaloosa Wonky on the A217 Tadworth Roundabout in Lower Kingswood, Surrey on 28 August.
Sue told H&H: “Our yard is on one side of the A217, which is a dual carriageway, and the heath where we ride is on the other side of the road. The only way we can get to it is by using the roundabout, which has traffic lights.
“We were on the way back from the heath at around 7.30pm and I saw the police behind us. When we were about to come off the roundabout he put his lights on and told me to pull into the layby.”
Sue understood the police officer asked her if there was a public footpath that she could use from the yard to the heath and advised against riding on the road, although the police said he asked whether there were any “paths” available, and that the officer’s aim was to “help the riders find a safe route”.
“I said to the officer we’re not allowed to use a footpath, it has to be a bridlepath and unfortunately there are no bridlepaths to take us over the A217. The roundabout is where we don’t have problems with cars because there are traffic lights – it’s side roads that we see the problems” Sue said.
“The officer was worried about my safety, but I felt he was just a bit ignorant about the situation. He said horses on the road cause drivers to be frustrated and use their horns and this can cause horses to spook and cause an accident.”
Surrey Police responded to the incident on its Facebook page.
“We acknowledge there is not always a dedicated route available to riders and, as such, roundabouts are sometimes an unavoidable part of going out for a hack,” said the statement. “With the knowledge of the Highway Code’s warning around usage of roundabouts for horse riders, and the officer’s existing experience with dangerous road users on that particular junction, it was with genuine concern that the officer chose to speak with the riders, as the riders themselves may not have ridden there before and could perhaps be unaware of the potential risk associated with this section of road.
“In the interest of increased visibility and advance warning to other motorists, the officer switched on the red lights on the reverse of the vehicle. These would only be visible to the motorists behind the vehicle, not the horses or their riders. This helped calm traffic from behind and reduce the risk of road users spooking the horses, whilst allowing the officer to safely approach and talk with the riders.
“A short conversation was had and the officer advised that, if possible, the riders should seek alternative ‘paths’ to avoid crossing the A217 in an area with a lot of vehicular activity. The officer advised that ‘paths’ could be used, intending this to be understood as those allowing access to horses and ensured that the term ‘foot path’ or ‘pavement’ was not used, to avoid confusion with routes not accessible to riders. The officer’s aim was to help the riders find a safe route via horse-friendly paths and, if possible, avoid the A217 Tadworth Roundabout with Dorking Road.”
The police added that it is legal for riders to use this route.
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“The officer’s experience with road safety, and incidents in this area, led them to be concerned for the safety of the riders and wished to help reduce the risk of anything happening to them or their horses,” the statement said.
“We appreciate that riding on roads is often an essential part of a hack and as such our officers wish to help any riders remain safe on the road by guiding them with advice from their experience of the borough and knowledge of potentially high risk areas. Reigate and Banstead is blessed with some very scenic routes and we want to ensure we do everything we can to help riders enjoy these routes as safely as possible.”
Sue said the aim of her online post was not to be a “witch-hunt” against the police and hopes that more awareness of safety on the roads can be raised.
“Hopefully we could look at getting a horse-crossing put up in the future to allow us to cross safely without using the roundabout,” she said.