Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Operation Pedalo 2

Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright made an appearance on the Andie Harper show on BBC Radio Cambridge on 1st November 2013.

The entire 3 hour show is available for the next few days (ends 8th Nov?), here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01jq7vh

The introduction (starts 37m00s) is from a window cleaner who has been hit for the second time by a cyclist. He describes the cyclist getting up and leaving the scene. He also explains that there was CCTV nearby, he reported it to the Police but they were not interested.

At 38m05s the introduction to Graham Bright begins.

Andie: How do you define anti-social cycling? What did you crack down on originally? 
GB: We cracked down on people being reckless, and in particular people riding in the dark without lights. [states Operation Pedalo 2 will start next week]
We are going to have mostly the Specials out, looking for people riding without lights, putting their own lives in risk, and obviously giving motorists a nightmare, but also those that ride on the pavement; those that jump red lights; those that ride through the pedestrian shopping area; those that just don't care, and that's what anti-social cycling's about.  
And of course, now we've got a new issue. Now that we've got a 20mph limit in the city, it's more than possible, infact I've seen it myself, by driving at 20 you get cyclists overtaking you. We've just got to get the cyclists to understand they have to obey the law like everyone else does. Cyclists texting on their phones when they're riding is not good news and its absolutely dangerous and if a car driver does that and I've asked my level best for the Police to start pulling that in and they are, pulling in drivers who are texting. It's all anti-social behaviour. 
[discussion of Police manpower. About to have a concentrated effort, a 'blitz']. 
It's not just cyclists, its cars aswell.
My first concern is that our PCC appears to be on a personal crusade by ignoring evidence of danger compared to use of lights. It is illegal to ride without lights, but he is misguided and playing politics to use the word reckless to describe unlit cyclists. It is simply not true, infact the opposite is true, Cambridge cyclists are safer at night, despite so many being unlit.

Secondly he mentions those who ride on the pavement. We've already had a Police Sargent report that the signage is a mess. It is very hard for Cambridge cyclists to stay 100% legal whilst following shared use paths in Cambridge.  If the priority is that woolly, too many innocent people will be caught and fined.

It is unbelievable that Graham Bright has started to think about targeting cyclists who cycle at more than 20mph when we have had so much inaction on 20mph for motor vehicles. For anyone who walks around the city it is very clear where priorities should be on 20mph. What we have here is a throw away comment to try to garner some support. Realistically it would be a waste of Police resources because: few Cambridge cyclists can cycle over 20mph for more than a few seconds; and there is no general speeding law that applies to cyclists. The Police would have to ticket for an alternative offence that would require some evidence.

Again, to ticket cyclists who are texting or using their phone, because it is not illegal, officers will have to gather supporting evidence.

Outside broadcast from Peterborough.

A later set of clips from Peterborough shine a light on the thoughts of the general public, how they view cyclists, and are likely to be how they get complained about to our PCC.

1h37m42s Outside broadcast from Peterborough begins, voiced by Jonny D.

JD: I'm at Bridge Street, Peterborough, a hotbed of anti-social cycling ... [describes sign indicating no cycling during the day]
See Google StreetView of Bridge Street
Gentleman: We've got those cyclists who are responsible and get off their cycle and we've got those I'll describe as Lycra Louts who really do cause the problem, so I think something needs to be done. 
First up, Lycra Louts is a term the public use to cast cyclists as an out-group.  I know many road cyclists who dress in lycra, it is rare for someone who enjoys racing their bike to attempt to do this in a shopping centre. More truthfully, the people observed on bicycles near shopping areas are everyday people in normal clothes. As proved by the next line:
JD: I've seen 4 in the last 5 minutes go past and I admit to you, not very fast. Look there's another one behind me now. He's on a mountain bike not going very fast, I'd say he's in control of his bike, he shouldn't be on it should he?.  
Gentleman: No, no, it does cause a danger to everybody in the pedestrian area and at this time of year when we're getting a high incidence of pedestrians both adult and during the school holidays they are a danger. 
Jonnie D has just described a cyclist going slowly and in control, yet he is still described as a danger. When Graham Bright talks of reckless cyclists, this is the sort of rider who will be caught by the Police. Technically they are breaking the law, but doing any harm? Well, it is not said how busy it is but nobody in the clip is alarmed by the cyclist's behaviour. Risk appears to be low. But on the ground, Police would have to ticket this cyclist and we have seen that happen. We should not forget that cyclists are used to sharing pavements with pedestrians on shared-use paths, often footways made into shared-use by a TRO and putting up signs even if not very appropriate.
JD: Does it mystify you that laws are made, regulations are made but there's nobody to police them? 
Gentleman: I think it's a matter of priorities. The Police have different priorities, but I think it's nuisance value to the general public. 
Spot on. If prioritising, this is low level in Peterborough.
JD: Do you know anyone who's been injured along Bridge Street?
Gentleman: To the best of my knowledge, no, but I would say its only a matter of time before it does happen.
Confirmation that there have been no injuries witnessed by the Gentleman. I'd question why we've gone from nuisance value to injuries being only a matter of time. It's a mixed message.

A second selection of clips from Peterborough includes:
1h51m10s [discussion of no-cycling sign] 
JD: Do you see a lot of cyclists along here? 
Female 1: Yes 
JD: So they are ignoring it, aren't they? 
Female 1: They are very annoying. And its dangerous when you've got young children. 
JD: Have you had any near misses, close shaves? 
Female 1: Not personally, no, not yet anyway. 
JD: Seen any? 
Female 1: I have actually. 
JD: You've seen anyone knocked over? 
Female 1: Not yet. 
JD: Only a matter of time. 
Female 1: Yeah.
Again, confirmation of no injuries witnessed. This time, the lady has witnessed a near miss. Unfortunately we learn nothing about the circumstances that lead up to this or the type of person or their age. Without that, the out-group of cyclists will be blamed.
Female 2: No bikes between 9 and 6. 
JD: What are we now, about 10 o'clock. 
Female 2: Everyone's cycling. 
JD: Everyone's cycling. 
Female 2: And they knock us down, and do everything. 
JD: Have you been knocked down. 
Female 2: Not really, but nearly. Because I can't hear properly and they don't have a bell on their bicycle. 
Male: They come flying out. 
JD: They come flying out, do they? 
Male: They come flying out of here. Then they come flying out of Rivergate.
There are some genuine concerns here from vulnerable and timid pavement users.  I doubt that the complaint applies just to the shopping area. These are a class of user who suffer when cyclists are shifted inappropriately from road to shared-use on many routes, typically where there is little room to pass each other.

Thankfully, they knock us down is interrogated further and we discover it is not true. Unchallenged anecdotal stories are very common in the press and spread prejudice.

Their description of flying [fast] cyclists, if true, does sound like anti-social cycling without due consideration to others. Worthy of a ticket.
JD: So I've got a gentleman who's actually riding a bicycle along Bridge Street. So I've stopped you here.  Did you realise what you were doing?  Because you're breaking the law technically. 
Male Cyclist: I rode the bike up to here. You can ride the bike up to the other bit there, to the Square I think, then I came here, and I just realised there was no cyclepath with all these people and I looked around and though yeah I'm doing wrong.
[short exchange about hearing BBC Radio Cambs were on location here]  
Male Cyclist: I was just daydreaming basically.
[discussion of £30 fine he would receive] 
JD: You've got an argument, you weren't going at a fair speed. 
Male Cyclist: No, I was going slow, in-fact when I was up there I saw somebody with children and they was running around, and I was barely staying on my bike because I was going that slow. I was going round them.  
JD: You could argue the case, it's a big wide area, 50ft across. 
Male Cyclist: As I said I was just daydreaming ...
This is a description of a normal person on a bike who is not doing anybody any harm, quite the opposite. He drifted from shared-use into a pedestrian area. This is very easy to do but doesn't change how carefully someone looks out for others.  If he received a ticket, he would not be able to challenge it.

I support ticketing anyone who endangers others, but when it comes to Policing cycling on pavements, it requires discretion. Ticketing pavement cycling by technicality is not a route to happy safe communities.

One of my concerns is how motoring offences are rolled into general every day policing, but cycling issues are dealt with by means of very public crackdowns. It's a political football that gives the impression of cycling being far more harmful than can actually be observed or proved. When you get on a bicycle and others see you as a scofflaw - even if you are not - it breeds contempt, a justification for treating you badly on the roads. We saw this with the slowly dying [mythical] Road Tax argument.

And for the window cleaner who was hit by a cyclist who then left the scene, it doesn't matter to me if it was on a pavement, shared-use or on the road, if you hit an easy to see stationary object you were careless, possibly dangerous. It's worth noting that the complaint about not being able to identify the cyclist is also true of pedestrians who injure, and also of vehicles - the plates are difficult to read at speed, try it.  I have sympathy with his attempts to get the Police to investigate, they do that with all but the most serious of cycling incidents too.


  1. I'd point out that it's a myth that you can always identify the *operator* of a car from its numberplate event if you can read it, given the number of unregistered and stolen cars on the roads...

  2. It is quite astonishing that while Cambridgeshire Police are/were against 20mph because they didn't want to enforce it Cmr Bright has time to chase the very few cyclists exceeding 20mph who are not breaking the law!

  3. Bright sees his personal crusade against anyone cycling as an easy option to garner the support of the county tory voters. A simple count of the pedestrian casualties caused by reckless/dangerous driving would show anyone with even a moderate intelligence where the priorities should lie. I expected this deliberate waste of Police resources when I heard the hypocrite had been elected. I feel sorry for the people of Cambridge who wouldn't vote for such an imbecile. Meanwhile, the councils who put cyclists on the footway in the first place escape without censure or ridicule. As with computing, so it is with politicians - put garbage in, get garbage out.

  4. It also completely ignores the question of how would someone on a bike know what speed they are travelling at since bikes don't have speedometers and aren't required to be fitted with one. I'd venture that any attempted prosecution would be thrown out of court on that point.

  5. The offense that is used is, "peddling furiously." It is an offense that is long past it's use by date and cyclists should only be prosecuted/charged etc. if they are dangerous or inconsiderate to others. The last time I heard of it's use on national radio, the cyclist concerned wasn't even breaking the speed limit for motorised vehicles. The problem with the offense is that the definition of it is more or less whatever the police bringing the charge want it to be.

  6. Regarding indentifying people who have demonstrated poor driving, you need to add in that not all cars are owned by individuals. Police can find it very difficult to trace drivers when companies own the cars. I have experience of this.

    Second, it ought to be noted that when the fining of people cycling on the pavement was introduced by Paul Boateng in the late 90s he instructed police to only act when someone was causing danger to the public and not just proceeding along the pavement.