Tuesday 28 October 2014

Why can't Cambridgeshire Constabulary make things easy?

Below is a copy of the email I just sent to Cambridgeshire Constabulary, the PCC (Graham Bright, about whom I have been less than complimentary) and to Cambridgeshire Constabulary complaints department. How do you think this'll go down?

With bewildering advances in technology allowing people to commit quite new crimes, in new ways, I don't find it quaint or endearing that Cambridgeshire Constabulary want me to do the equivalent of shout in a tin can on the end of a bit of string to report an incident...

Dear Sir/Madame, 
Firstly, I would like to draw your attention to what I believe may be evidence of the use of a mobile device while driving, in Cambridge, in a tweet. This can be seen here:  


For convenience I have also included a scree-grab.
Obviously it is illegal to use a mobile device while driving, even if the vehicle isn't moving at the time. The tone and content of the tweet show a certain aggressive tone, which for me makes this seem really rather sinister. The perspective from which the image is taken appears to be the drivers seat. 
Could you please investigate this, and respond with an appropriate incident number and a rough idea what (if anything) you plan to do.
Secondly, I have to comment on how silly your procedures for reporting such things are. I initially tweeted a link to @cambscops, which I would hope ought to bring this to the attention of police staff to make a decision on whether it should be pursued. I was directed to phone 101, which would of course necessitate reading a long URL down the phone, a procedure likely to result in errors and a waste of time. After waiting around 5 minutes to get through first time, I was then cut off, and the second call took 14 minutes to get hold of someone, who took a long time to find an email address to make the report to. Said address (xxxx@xxxx.xxx.xx.xx) could very easily be shared on your website to facilitate rapid, easy communication but it is not. 
Bluntly, if I report something I think is illegal to the Police by any means, at all, it is surely beholden on the police to take that report and do something with it, rather than respond that it is being reported in the wrong way? It appears that you are trying to minimise the number of incidents that are reported by making it needlessly hard to report. 
I have copied in Cambridgeshire PCC, Cambridgeshire Constabulary Complaints department.
Yours Sincerely,
My name
My address

Monday 20 October 2014

Perne Road and Cambridge Cycling Campaign

Reams of blogroll devoted to this awful new scheme are already being flushed down the information supercarsey. Many of us predicted it would be awful. It is awful. It is already the site of people getting hurt.

So I don't need to add much in the way of criticism to a scheme that was obviously bad from the outset and which has entirely lived up to our low expectations - the blogs listed above already adequately rip this to shreds.

But I do want to remind everyone that Cambridge Cycling Campaign quite inexplicably gave grudging support to this scheme. It appears that doing 'something' was seen by them as sufficient reason to support yet another crap installation at enormous expense to the cycling budget. They supported this to demonstrate that 'Dutch' geometry is right, that its not dangerous, despite the fact that dreadful off-road shared facilities would undoubtedly make said geometry dangerous to cyclists as we're squeezed off in less space than we were previously, with confusing on/off road signs putting us and motorists in each others collective blind spots just where we'd all like to accelerate away. Its almost like the campaign thought Perne Road was taking one for the team so we get a better facility later - despite there being no evidence that this would be the case.

And Camcycle have been tetchy with the way bloggers and cycling journalists have covered this.

Guys, I know, there are some good folk at the Campaign. But you need to chill out and accept that you got this wrong - through your irritable criticism of those covering this story you look like patsies for the County Council, apologists for hazardous infrastructure.

You never, ever answer the simple question - if cyclists don't hold out for genuinely top quality cycling infrastructure here, in Cambridge, right now, then where and when will we? If you keep supporting schemes like this then we will keep getting schemes like this

Bluntly, when will you learn?

Thursday 16 October 2014

Victim Blame (again)

Its that time of year again. Nights drawing in, a new academic year, and we're bombarded with messages telling us to have bike lights, hi-viz, helmets, etc. All the stuff we get every Autumn, ignoring the reality that every safety measure we as cyclists can employ won't add up to a hill of beans next to the carnage wrought by motorists - and many of us will be asking ourselves how much victim blame amounts to an acceptable word of caution, and how much is too much?

Again, this coincides with the emotive subject of victim blame in rape being in the news, this time from Judy Finnegan. I gather she's a daytime television presenter married to Alan Partridge.

We'd all agree that suggesting not getting so drunk you're vulnerable to assault (of any kind) is good advice. And minding your drink so no one slips you anything you don't want is a wise precaution. We might go so far as to recommend not wearing something or acting in such a way as to send a message you really don't want to send while at a location in which you may be exposing yourself to risk. But I also hope we'd all agree that none of this is in any way a valid excuse for a rapist - while its fair to advise taking care in a hostile world, we don't any longer absolve the criminal from responsibility for his or her actions based upon the behaviour of a victim.

Ms. Finnegan rather made a mess of things in her brief foray into the area. She's not the first and she won't be the last  to try to say something uncontroversial (rape is always wrong, punishment must reflect the specific crime) and make a pigs ear of it due to brevity/language/no brain buffer between the idea and vocal chords. I get why people are offended by what she said, and from the rapidity and tone of her apology so does she.

So lets compare that with how journalists and 'celebrities' regularly cover cycling. Here in the telegraph for example:
From what I observe, a fatal combination of poor riding skills, a complete disregard for the Highway Code, and the temptation of turning a gentle ride to work across Battersea Bridge into the final stage of the Tour de France, are just as equally to blame for the number of accidents on Britain’s roads as careless drivers.
Of course, we know this isn't true - cyclists are not to blame in 93% of their deaths or serious injuries on the road. That means if we changed our behaviour and got nothing wrong, ever, we'd see very little change in cyclist injury in the UK. The above statement from the Telegraph is an example of horrifically wrong victim blame - and this is a paper with a strong pedigree of vile cyclist hate. 

Lets turn to the good old Daily Mail. Well, lets give a link where one of the articles therein is dissected. I wouldn't wipe my arse on that piece of shit 'paper', I'd feel dirtier afterwards. Noreasoned thought there - the article contains collective blame, stereotyping, 'some of my best friends are...', etc. Prejudice based wank without a any sense or integrity to it.

Maybe local journalists, with a penchant for communities being better places by being quieter, less polluted, cleaner, fitter places might be less obviously frothing at the mouth anti-bike loonies? Oh. Maybe not. In fact we see the victim-blaming mantra writ large, trollumnism with the entire focus being on cyclists. 

How about the 'quality' peridicals? No? 

Stereotyping, and blaming cyclists for others harming them, is so common as to be unremarkable. No one challenges it. You can start a conversation with 'bloody cyclists'.  It has perfused every part of our culture and society. It infects our legal system (I refer you to the Cycling Lawyer blog for all too many examples of people killing cyclists and getting away with it because the cyclist who was right in front of the driver 'came out of nowhere' or 'the sun was in my eyes', or even 'because its a dangerous road').

As a society we try to have it both ways, and we fail - either victim blame is bad, or victim blame is good. We can't sub-divide based on whether the victims are doing something that we don't do - if they're acting within the law (or even outside of the law) and get hurt or killed due to the actions of others, which is the case with the vast majority of cyclist injuries, then this remorseless victim blaming has to end. And we'll only get there if we make all of the crass, lazy, downright offensive stereotyping of cyclists that we see in our media a thing of the past.

By all means, advise cyclists to have lights. Spend about 2% of your effort or bile relating to cyclist safety on this, about the proportion of deaths and serious injuries this causes. Anything more? You're victim blaming scum.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

The Telegraph vs. Cyclists?

The cycling twittersphere is rather in a tizz about this article here, followed by the events described in this rather one-sided version here

To summarise - the Telegraph opinion piece didn't get past basic trollumnism. I can pretty much  (and cruelly) paraphrase the entire article with 'as a cyclist myself, with no reference to recorded accident cause statistics, I'd like to associate with negative, stereotype based generalisations about cyclist behaviour being the cause for their untimely but deserved deaths at the hands of more virtuous drivers - how DARE any of them use helmet cameras to record incidents where they're forced from the road and waste police time on those who intimidate them with their cars'.

There was, understandably, quite a bit of online response to this ugly, victim blaming, clumsy anger-piece. I've covered victim blame before, and little more needs to be said other than that Critchlow is both demonstrably wrong and indefensibly lazy in his portrayal of cyclists. His article will be interpreted by those who already hate us as an endorsement of mistreating cyclists on our roads, and I can't condone any part of it. It doesn't even make sense - does he think helmet camera riders have some sort of death wish, that they go looking for trouble to have some kind of confrontation to post online? Does he believe that cyclists seek to encourage motorists to use their vehicles as weapons against us? Its very hard to dismantle his article without feeling that his writing comes more from prejudice than rational, impartial observation. And he's not just a trollumnist, he's a cyclist himself. Two unremarkable kinds of cyclist hate rolled in to one unpleasant mess.

The Telegraph is rather robust, on occasion, with how it discusses cycling. Or, to put it another way, it occasionally revels in irrelevant, petulant cyclist hate, and while there are some decent articles this kind of pandering to moton-angst is the baseline to which the this rag tends to return, and this encourages precisely the kind of behaviour that cycle helmet cameras are worn to protect us from. Bluntly, the Telegraph encourages anti-cyclist hate with this kind of writing.

Considering how low these blows strike, its rather a surprise to me that John Stevensons comment was taken so to heart - especially as coverage of the incident in the Telegraph seeks so hard to stress how fearlessly their man has served his country and reported from war zones. I wouldn't condone Stevensons tweet - but come on Telegraph, sort your life out - can you not put more effort into resolving this and asking that the two gentlemen shake hands? You need to accept that this kind of article, inciting hate against any group, including cyclists, is flat out unacceptable, and that even people who ordinarily show impeccable judgement may not strike a good balance in responding to this kind of pathetic slur. You need to raise your standards above basic rabble rousing.

So, gents, on the remote chance either or both of you read this, can you call truce and settle this? Here, now. Accept that the article was misguided and offensive and that the response over the top. Both of you apologise and move on?