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Police left red faced when we were stopped in tandem

Ken Renshaw

You asked for "brushes with the constabulary".  Way back in the early 1950s my then girlfriend (later my wife), had a tandem cycle which we rode to work each day (in hilly Sheffield) and at weekends Youth Hostelling.  Contemplating a holiday in Torquay (which we planned to make on the tandem!) we decided to purchase a (popular then) "add on" petrol engine which drove by friction on the rear tyre.

Whilst using L-plates on a motorcycle, the rider is not allowed to carry an un-licenced person, and being assured that this didn't apply to these engines attached to cycles, I thought that a tandem may be an exception.  However, a letter to the Motorcyclist Magazine, assured me that I could carry my unlicenced girlfriend before passing my driving test.  The reason being apparenily that the rear tandem passenger was needed to engage the motor with the wheel.  Fortunately, I carried this letter with me.

Incidentally, I could not carry any passenger when taking my driving test and therefore on the day of the test I couldn't use the engine at all and pedalled the tandem round the test circuit, and passed the test!

However, before this, the inevitable occurred one night when that rare breed today, a foot patrolling policeman with his sergeant, thought it was their birthday when they found this 20-year-old and his 17-year-old girlfriend on a motorised tandem with L-plates!

Neither of them believed my explanation and so out came the letter and with red faces they said, "Sorry sir, we didn't know that, carry on".  That was my only alleged offence in 53 years oflicenced driving.  It is ironic and stupid that passing that driving test on the tandem licenced me to drive a 1000cc motorcycle and a three-wheel car!

First published, June 2003 in "Lets Talk!", a monthly magazine produced by the East Anglian Daily Times

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