Sunday 19 May 2013

Small Victories

Its a rarity for Cambridge News to publish a cycling story that doesn't suck. Its rarer still when that story reflects on a victory for cyclists over the generally anti-cyclist organisations that run Cambridge and Cambridgeshire. And I genuinely can't remember the last time such a story was fair, well written and not dripping with anti-cyclist sentiment. Never thought I'd say it; well done Cambridge News!

As you can see, the article tells us that in Cambridge North Area we've got the local police priority of dealing with anti-social cycling dropped. In part I think thats because Police here are concerned that the previous priority was  increasingly getting them seen as anti-cyclist. I could well believe that they're embarrassed about the lunatic anti-cyclist ravings of the commissioner. I'd given up on reporting even the most serious incidents of being threatened with violence by motorists to the police here, but recently they've been reaching out to try to fix things. I feel that I must once again point out that when I've not been cycling all of the dealings I've had with Cambridgeshire Constabulary have been pretty good - the local police constables and sergeant are good chaps. But until recently I can recount no example of the police giving a damn even when being brought video evidence of insanely dangerous driving. I think that maybe, at last, they're wanting to correct that. I'm hopeful. We'll see.

I think we're getting through to them (the work of Cottenham Cyclist has been invaluable here). The acknowledgement from our local police officers that a cyclist using the pavement to avoid a terrifying road junction designed in such a way that we're likely to die if we obey the rules perhaps oughtn't be targeted is a small victory. It means that fixed penalty notices for cyclists will instead be used as intended when they were introduced. They weren't created to punish cyclists for trying to stay alive, they were created to deal with cyclists who pose a danger to others.

Its a damning indictment of Cambridge and the institutionally anti-cyclist attitudes taken by City and County Councils and usually the Police force that we have to campaign for the law to be used as intended and not in a way that is hostile to cyclists to the point where we've had the choice of risking our lives or being punished. But that small battle has, for the moment, been won. Now I wouldn't go so far as to say we're on a roll, because putting this in context its clear that what we HAVE won is merely that a specific law enforcement is no longer misapplied. But its also clear that now we've got a shoe in the door - its time to intensify efforts to change things for the better. 

The approach needed here is simple enough - not prosecuting cyclists for going on the pavement to avoid a possibly lethal junction is a damn good start, but this is Cambridge - why are there any junctions where confident adults (let alone children or pensioners) fear to ride according to the law? Why is it ever seen as better to ride 'antisocially' than, well, 'socially'? 

Its time to stop accepting bad design and half measures. Its time for us to demand what we deserve - we're supposedly the top cycling city in the UK. When will we get facilities to match? We've got allies on the County Council now, and in principle even the head of the Tory group ought to be pro-cyclist - Councillor Curtis was (still is?) cycling 'champion' at the County Council (although his bland support for the Catholic Church junction re-design tells us winning him over will still be a fight).

Bottom line? Its easy for out Councillors and Police to magnanimously stop using the law in a way in which it ought never have been used. Are they going to go further and start making our roads more cyclist-friendly, or is this just hot air? 

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