The Metropolitan Police: Then and Now

This from road.cc

‘….take a look at this video and read the account on our forum posted by the road.cc regular who was the victim of the assault, about both incident and the police’s attempt to bring the attacker to book.

Although the registered keeper of the car was easily traceable it seems that on the day in question the vehicle was left unlocked with the keys in the ignition, only for it to be taken without consent but somehow later returned to the owner by person or persons unknown.

…..In which the case the registered keeper will no doubt be keen to help track down the person filmed in the assault in order to thank them for seeing the error of their ways, at least in terms of the return of the car, if not the attack on a cyclist who was hardly in a position to defend himself…..

…Over to you tweeters, bloggers and off-duty coppers.’

Indeed, and again the full article is here. The cheeky chap is in this image below.

'Oi! Did YOU stop the News of the World?..'

I’d like to think he was on he way to an improvisational dance concert via a farmers market. Then again, I wouldn’t be writing this post if he had.

This clip and images have been doing the rounds on other excellent blogs and long may it continue until these idiots are caught.

As mentioned in the article, the Metropolitan Police are no strangers to criticisms involving corruption and institutionalised prejudice.

Indeed, when I first saw the article, the first thing that leapt to mind was the following sketch from Not The Nine O’Clock News, a satirical BBC sketch show from 30 years ago. By the way, when Rowan Atkinson refers to the S.P.G., he’s referring to this.

Let’s hope the word continues to get out until justice is done. Of course if it goes to court, we’ll have to totally reform what ‘justice’ is in this country for people choosing to simply get about by bicycle but one pedal stroke at a time.

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Fragile Thoughts

Funnily enough, the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain would be happy to not see segregation here..

For a while now I have been in a bit of a quandary as what to write about, not because I had run out of ideas but because at the precise moment I wanted to jot something down, someone else would write a jolly nice blog post or an incident would occur that made me stop to reflect and underlined what had been at the back of my mind already.

It started with Joe Dunckley and his wonderful blog, ‘At War With The Motorist’ when in this post he wrote the following;

‘There was a bit of a monkey fight over the nascent Cycling Embassy of Great Britain recently thanks to an article by Carlton Reid on Road.cc (since rebutted by Jim).  Given that the organisation in question has only had a preliminary meeting and has not even launched yet, I don’t think it’s worth responding to any of the speculation and fantasies that have been flying around.  But the episode revealed something fascinating about the way the minds of veteran British cycling campaigners work.

They are all constantly in a state of abject fear that cycling is just about to be banned.

I found it very difficult following all of the comment threads on and about the Road.cc articles.  Cycling Embassy supporters kept being accused of wanting cyclists to be banned from the roads, but I could never trace the accusation back to anything relevant that the accused people had actually said.  And then I stumbled upon a fabulous forum thread that started with a very simple two sentence post, and it all fell into place:

‘Cycling Embassy of Great Britain’ have it VERY wrong
IMO. Their way will lead to cyclists being banned from Britain’s roads.

The Embassy folk and other onlookers were as baffled as I when it came to the origin of this “ban” theme in the comments.  But I now realise that many of our venerable vehicular cycling campaigners are thinking about cycling bans every second of the day.  Everything they see and do, the first question they ask themselves is: will this lead to cycling being banned in any way?  They can’t get out of bed in the morning without first contemplating what effect such an action might have on the likelihood of a cycling ban……………..’.

Interesting thoughts indeed. From personal local campaigning experience I can partially vouch for this view. After being presented by the Council with a hilarious ‘safe route to school’ involving more dismounts than a Grand National for drunk jockeys, we would say how we would suffer abuse from motorists who would assume that that’s where we should be after this piece of infrastructure that owed more to abstract art than cycling was built. The Council would ignore everything we said as the work was already programmed and we were actually looking at the final ‘Signed Off’ design. But at least now they could claim that they had ‘consulted with cyclists’.

To me, this is creating an even greater nightmare vision portrayed than the recent naysayers – that cyclists get eventually shoveled off the roads onto the crap that has been built already and continues to be built whether CTC, LCC, Cycle Nation, the Cycling Embassy or the Abstract Art Appreciation Society want it or not. All this debate seems to be carrying on based on a premise that Councils have suddenly downed tools and stopped building this dangerous, unfit for purpose rubbish or that they could be stopped at any time, which is equally optimistic at best.

What the Embassy is hoping to create is a decent mix in more ways than one. It will never be an Embassy intention to cede a cyclists right to road and it’s not an Embassy ambition to see a fully segregated cycle path network everywhere either because that’s silly and isn’t happening anywhere else in the World, including the Netherlands. We do believe in Dutch, and other Global best practice, infrastructure standards being applied that supersede the current guidelines alongside new approaches to traffic planning & movement around towns and cities. We feel that this is just one measure but a fundamental one that needs to occur to lift cycling from something viewed as a dangerous and specialist activity by the masses to an everyday activity that also happens to benefit the masses.

The recent exchanges of words about the Embassy from journalist Carlton Reid and Cycle Nation ended amicably enough, and as Embassy ambitions slowly become clarified there should be no reason why a spirit of amicability and collaboration shouldn’t continue (especially as I own an ipayroadtax cycling jersey). However, it made me consider just how fragile the house of cycle campaigning seemed to me. As if by magic, a short article cropped up on Velo Mondial that ended with the following,

‘….The reason why Velo Mondial highlights this article is because the candidate in New York sends the strong signal that stand alone cycling policy is vulnerable. When cycling is not embedded in a wider policy of sustainable mobility politicians can easily use a cycle path in their negative campaigning. A path is easily destroyed so politicians can have a field day promising just that. Cycling policy needs to find itself in a framework of policy ambitions a city should have regarding economic growth, social cohesion and environmental objectives. As long as that has not happened, cycling policy will be under threat in the years to come’.

The BBC picked up on the £22 million spent in Bristol and the City Council are defending their record. I have no doubt that Bristol Cycle Campaign, along with CTC Right to Ride & Sustrans Reps did their damndest to get the money spent correctly. However, I think the whole premise was wrong. Let me explain, or rather I’ll let Geoff explain,

[from road.cc]

‘Conservative councillor, Geoff Gollop, said the new cycle routes had been created at the expense of motorists.

He told the BBC: “The Cycling City initiative brought in match-funding which has delivered new cycling routes but these have largely been achieved at the expense of the majority of road users – by reducing road space or capacity.

“Whilst we recognise the merits of promoting cycling as a leisure activity for the individual – delivering personal health benefits and helping to improve the environment for all – this form of travel is unlikely in the near future to be a major means of commuting.

“We do not believe the £22m project can be said to have been successful even in its own terms.”

This to me typifies the problem. Instead of the act of riding a bicycle being treated as transport getting a deserving share of the transport spend, £22 million is presented as a stand alone (but welcome nonetheless) boost to try and shoehorn cycle-specific projects around the car-centric infrastructure that already exists. Furthermore £22 million sounds like a lot of money. It is a lot of money. But as road.cc Editor Tony Farrelly commented,

‘Another comparison would be the £1bn overspend on widening the M25 I think the Public Accounts committee used the word “wasted” to describe that one. All the money spent on cycling over the past few years in this country doesn’t even add up to that one item in the roads budget.’

£22 million is just a headline grabbing figure in the great scheme of things. That anything was built and that new cyclists in Bristol were attracted at all should be considered a miracle when one considers, for example, the consultancy fees that probably leeched funds away.

Being a cycle campaigner in the UK is a bit like sitting in a game of poker where you know you are holding all the best cards and easily deserving of far more chips. However the opponents keep pulling aces out time and time again, barely concealing their cheating and changing the rules as they go along.

We all know that cycling is greener, more economic & healthier but we’re made to feel that this is somehow blocking the UK’s progress to becoming greener, more economic and healthier.

One of the aims I had when establishing the Embassy was to stick to Central Government and to point out and keep pointing out that riding a bicycle has implications and societal benefits that cover lots of departments beyond transport. If we don’t join the fray, then an activity that was commonplace in fairly recent memory will continue to be regarded as a stand alone pastime to be abused by Council Highways Departments and ignored by 97% of the population. And they barely know what they’re missing anymore.

That it has come to this

'Just riding to the shop for a paper, dear'

At half past one this morning, I finally finished the rough draft minutes for the start-up meeting for the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain. Please feel free to peruse/comment/laugh at them. When you’ve had your fill and informed me of any additions or omissions, I shall be turning it into a formal document (maybe with some pictures if you’re lucky). I haven’t included any snide comments or backchat implying that I drew anyone to the meeting under the false pretence of free Fererro Rocher.

Anyway, I had no idea this week was ‘Culture of Fear Week’.

On Tuesday, BBC Breakfast decided to run a feature on the use of cycle helmets to secure convictions.

‘Ben Porter, a stagehand from London, bought a camera to show incredulous friends and family just how dangerous his daily commute could be.

Like many others, he uploaded clips of the worst driving onto YouTube and would discuss them on cycling forums like CycleChat.

For most cyclists, “naming and shaming” drivers is as far as it goes. But Ben decided to take things further after one van driver overtook him too close and then jumped out to confront him, shouting abuse.

“I think he wanted to teach me a lesson. It wasn’t very nice, but he didn’t notice the camera,” he said.’

This may have been prompted by the story of Martin Porter QC, Barrister and writer of the sublime Cycling Lawyer blog

From the BBC Website

Martin Porter, 48, of Sunningdale, has been knocked off his bicycle and has had drivers threaten to kill him.

He says he is collecting evidence of serious incidents to hand to police.

He said: “Earlier on this year I had a man in a car force me to the side of the road and threaten to follow me home and burn my house down.”

Firstly I would like to say that I have nothing against helmet mounted cameras or people who use them. Cases like these are not everyday occurances, it must be said. I commute 24 miles a day with not much in the way of incident (touch wood). In both instances, they have publically highlighted not only the abuse and dangerous standards of driving that many cyclists have to face day-to-day, but also the ridiculous lengths people have to go to to get a whiff of justice. I urge you to read Martin Porters account (and indeed the rest of his blog) as he writes far better than I.

I simply find it very sad that we have arrived at a point where people have felt compelled to go to these lengths just because they choose to ride a bicycle for their commute. If grown men feel that they not only have to armour themselves with a helmet but put surveillance measures on it too, then what hope is there for our nations children that would like to cycle to school?

It would appear that Northern Ireland are also keen to follow Jerseys lead and let the Culture of Fear prevail by trying to make helmet wearing compulsary. I find it incredibly perverse that despite all the troubles that the Province has faced up to, the powers that be maintain the fearmongering by making all bicycle riders wear protective headgear for getting to the shops, work and school without looking at the bigger picture. It disregards the motorists duty of responsibility to vulnerable road users and will of course have a negative effect on cycling numbers – like everywhere else it’s been implemented.

Although I am staunchly pro-choice, to me a helmet already makes cycling look like an alien activity and a camera, to me, distances cycling even further from the everyday activity that it should be.  As I’ve written before, if we honestly believe that putting protective clothing such as helmets or high-viz tabards on people should be considered the best way forward for something as simple as riding a bicycle then we have collectively failed; The Government has consistently failed to deliver on sustainable transport policy, Local Councils have consistently failed by installing infrastructure that is always a poorly designed, dangerous insult to cycling, Highways Authorities have consistently failed by upgrading main roads to the point that they become effectively unusable for cyclists and pedestrians whilst providing no decent alternative, Road Safety experts have consistently failed to address what the real issues are regarding road safety, motorists have failed with their scant regard for other road users in the self-important delusion that they own the roads, cycle campaigners and campaign groups have all consistently failed by entering a protracted dog fight that is ultimately doomed to failure. The ‘War on the Motorist’ is already over without a meaningful shot being fired and yet still produces thousands of dead and injured each year. As I look at an AA road atlas, I still note that one can drive to all points of the British Isles without let or hindrance. Cycling to all points is a different matter.

Another treat, launched this week to increase society’s sense of fear was a website pinpointing where crimes are being committed in your area (I tried to look up Midsomer but the place doesn’t exist apparently).

As stated earlier, these are very sad days indeed where, despite being rare incidences, people are facing abuse and intimidation on the roads to the point that they are compelled to wear protective clothing and cameras. Where the act of doing something so deliciously simple is made to look complex to the point of an extreme sport, just to pop out to change a library book or buy a pint of milk. Where people have to check a website to see what crime is occurring around them thereby increasing their sense of fear and keeping them behind locked house and car doors as opposed to getting out on foot or by bicycle and actually being a part of the community and realising that it’s not all bad.

The answer really is as easy as riding a bicycle and providing the infrastructure for the general public to do it.

I’m just glad all this didn’t happen during Bike Week.