Thursday 10 July 2014

And that is how we get policing wrong...

Just popped out of work for a bit to pick up some lunch and caught a little montage that, for me, encapsulates almost everything wrong with policing cycling in the UK.

Trinity Street was effectively closed - a demo was due along any minute coming the right way down this one way street. It was also pissing it down. The result was that almost no one was around, I could see a dozen pedestrians, a PCSO, and a lady winding her way slowly the wrong way down the one way street on a bicycle, with one child on a kiddie seat on the back and a second with one of those little metal scooters (you know the ones, like a scooter used to be but blighted with wheels so tiny as to make it crap).

Inevitably the PCSO yelled at the woman to stop. Not getting why, she did't stop, so PCSO got in the way and stopped her. Bike Lady had locked up and re-mounted in a place that she might perfectly feasibly have not seen the one way sign - and the street was empty anyway (both good points I have some sympathy with). Oh, and there was something about todays strike and having to have her child with her or something.

Anyway, PCSO wasn't to be budged, so off storms bike woman and children still shouting angrily - needless to say, this being Cambridge, there was an Old Fart Man on hand to join the fray, chastising bike woman for being rude and on the wrong side of the law. This new encounter ran the risk of dragging on - I could hear the demo coming from round the corner by now, and it would certainly be accompanied by 'proper' police officers - so I asked both to chill out. Angry Bike Woman wasn't having any of it of course, so I copped an earful - and now it was the fault of the striking demo folk who got a some stick (which I rather think they didn't notice).

Every single part of this was needless. No one gained anything, no one COULD have benefitted in any way. I'd argue Angry Bike Woman oughtn't be breaking the law, but it really can be hard to know where such restrictions apply - signs are terrible. PCSO ought to have handled that better - informing ABW that she was in error was fine, but not done well. I might also argue that policing such as this on an otherwise empty road seems needless anyway, but once ABW was stopped its really a fair cop and she needed to just get off and stay calm.

But then there's Old Fart Man. There always is one, quick to pass judgement on the slightest indescretion of a cyclist. No doubt he's penning his irate letter to Cambridge News as I bemusedly blog. He didn't help, his interruption was never going to help, but these cyclists need to be told, you know.

Its easy to police minor faults by cyclists, it both plays well to the Codgers and reinforces their false perception that cyclists are child murdering monsters - but its not a good use of Police resources if our main interest is reducing harm (I defy anyone to tell me how this lady could harm anyone riding at shit-scooter speed). In fact to police this way reinforces a negative cyclist stereotype and we should oppose it. But, you know, sometimes, it ain't worth having a fight over - ABW would be better directing her ire at City and County Councillors to get them to put signs up saying which way you can ride out from our bike locking areas. 

Everything about this yells out to me how badly the UK, even Cambridge, handles cycling. Such a small event, but such a clear message.


  1. Well we already know the Police force & their minion PCSO's are more than happy to harass & fine cyclists for the most minor indiscretion. But get them to deal with real dangers on the road but dangerous driving, even when supplied with video evidence. Nah, nothing they can do about it...

  2. Well, it's enormously confusing that Trinity/John's street is one way to cyclists when pretty much nowhere else is... but on the other hand it is also very narrow, encountering a van whilst cycling the wrong way on it is far from fun.

    I don't think someone going at basically walking pace is going to hurt anyone; but had she actually cycled up to the front of the marching strikers she may have had some difficulty (and probably had to turn around, I'm guessing there were enough marchers to make getting past them hard-to-impossible).

    1. Well she would never have ridden past the march. Was room to walk round on the pavement, but if I recall correctly there were police officers on either side, so she'd never have managed on the bike.

      It just seemed, I dunno, needless. The whole thing.