Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Policing by Consent or Dissent or Priorities?

Saturday, 24th May 2014: Whilst I am slowly catching up with a backlog of cycling and picture-taking (I am 3 months behind!) I came across in today’s Cambridge News (my time – 1st September 2014) two items that were interesting.

The first is easier to comment on, the revamped website now has a link to cycling stories. I feel that this reflects a change in the way that cycling stories are being presented in the Cambridge News – which can’t be bad and I feel better reflects what goes on in Cambridge. Given the level of traffic if fewer people cycled then the place would be a congested nightmare.

The second item is worthy of a look in that we can see how cycling is being portrayed in the Cambridge area. The article has the headline “‘Anti-social’ Cycling crackdown ordered in north Cambridge as safety debate rumbles on”. Apparently councillors have heard from residents who have wanted action against cyclists who rode on the pavements and without lights. (So they aren’t bothered if their a cycling on pavements with lights then!)

One person quoted seems to feel that the worst time for cyclists on pavements is during school hours. Which suggests that it is kids cycling to/from school.

At the end we hear from the Police  suggesting that they “deal with everybody equitable” and that rule-breaking cyclists were intimidating, just as bad as motorists”. Although he then goes on to say that they use more discretion with cyclists than they would with motorists.

The very last sentence of the piece is “Drug dealing and the 20mph limit would also be priorities.

So a positive way of looking at the piece is that it devotes more space to cycling issues, but I can’t help feel that it completely fails to explore the issues. I guess that is what you get in a local paper.

To me the issues are:

  • Motor vehicles are far more dangerous than bicycles in the event of a collision. An encounter with another cyclist might scare me once in a blue moon (alright once every year or two). However I have encounters with motor vehicles that scare me probably once every two weeks, maybe even once a week. That is despite the fact I tend to avoid unpleasant roads and traffic if reasonably possible. (Here is some TfL data for accidents on the footway in London which indicates that from 1998-2007 whilst cycles were involved in only 2% of pedestrian accidents on the footway motor vehicles were responsible for 98%.

Mind you thanks to the preponderance of shared-use paths this means the Cambridgeshire County Council is habituating me to the use of pavements – where there doesn’t appear to be any obvious rhyme or reason why one pavement becomes shared-use and another does not. In my experience the signage to indicate shared-use paths is also pretty haphazard in Cambridge as well, despite what we might be told.

Strangely enough the “data” that the Councillors seem to support their decisions is anecdotal (or not data).

"The introduction of the fixed penalty is not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of traffic and who show consideration to other pavement users when doing so. Chief police officers, who are responsible for enforcement, acknowledge that many cyclists, particularly children and young people, are afraid to cycle on the road, sensitivity and careful use of police discretion is required."

In the past I have noted several quotes of either prominent policemen of a PCC have mentioned that they would not feel safe cycling in traffic.  Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police – “I would not cycle in London”
Sir Graham Bright – PCC Cambs – “I used to be a keen cyclist but am not happy in traffic

It seems that we either are misusing our Police Force or pointing them at the wrong problem.


So what are my gripes, well the news item seems to lack any critical analysis of the issue – and maybe that’s my fault for setting my expectations to high.  What annoys me more is how little data of any type seems to be taken into account by our elected Councillors when setting priorities and even worse a failure to get to grips with the underlying issue of why people cycle on the pavement – because of the crap infrastructure  and dangerous roads – which is a Council issue.

Which is why for leisure I try to stick to the byways, bridleways and country lanes!

Low Fen Drove Way

Two Trees – Low Fen Drove Way

White Fen – Lodes Way

Poppies in the Hedgerow – courtesy of auto-awesome

Poppies in the Hedgerow – Lodes Way

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