Thursday 28 April 2016

Cambridgeshire Cops - Disappointing

So this happened the other day.

Obviously not the worst event ever - but the overtake was far too close, and I'd say no one should be getting out of a car to yell profanities. 

So I tried to tell the cops about it - the combination of these events. You'd think it a simple enough matter, send them a link to the video and ask them if this is worth reporting. But even getting the right email address is hard, as you'll see in that link.

I got a call this evening, asking me to go in and make a statement. No one had looked at the video. I explained that the point of emailing it was that someone could view the vid and tell me if a report is worthwhile - not the first time I'd explained that, I'd had to go into that to get the email address in the first place. The lady hadn't seen it, couldn't see it, couldn't get a link to it and wasn't certain she could get someone to look at it. I waited for someone to call back.

And call back they did, but I think it took three calls this evening to get someone to actually look at it. The view of the duty sergeant is that the overtake isn't something they want to take action on but the swearing thing is. Whoopee do. 

The point of sending this to our local police service was to ascertain whether it was worth reporting - I'm happy to make a statement that someone drove way too close and their passenger then got for 'afters'. But you want me to go and make a statement about someone swearing at me? You want me, a grown adult, to go and report that someone used nasty words? You, our Police service, will police bad language but not bad driving? Nope. Its not worth my time reporting that. And frankly I'm offended that you consider public sensibilities more important than my safety.

But there's a bigger problem here than that - the problem of just how useless our reporting system is in this county. Its slow, cumbersome, not joined up, basically not operative. And if you want to complain about it in writing, I kid you not, you've got to do it in the form of a written letter, the complaints procedure here doesn't work by email. Electronic communications are meant to make our lives easier - I shouldn't be asked (as I was this evening) to give the details of a Youtube video over the phone when I've already emailed it and, besides, reading a link over the phone is never going to work.

Cambridgeshire Constabulary need a root and branch review of all aspects of incidents like this. 

Firstly, close overtakes of cyclists are a problem - if someone brings you footage of such an event you should, at the very least, have a word in the ear of the driver. Its not much to ask. If you want to gain the confidence of cyclists on the road then take reports of such overtakes seriously always agree to talk to the driver about it if there's any video evidence or any witness to a close overtake. I assume you'd like to visit fewer families to give them the bad news that someone they love has died on the road? Then police the behaviour that leads to it before drivers who take such risks with the lives of others kill.

Secondly, publicise an email address for reporting incidents. Seriously, stop telling us to phone 101 and hand over a web address with evidence of a crime that you've been sent information about on twitter. You're being silly. You genuinely had someone this evening who thought asking me about a youtube video over the phone a useful way to use her and my time. As an organisation you simply cannot be that stupid.

Thirdly, if someone is trying to make your life easier by sending an email with an informal request to determine if something is worth reporting, just reply to the flipping email and don't demand that someone comes in to make a statement and don't take four or more phone calls to be persuaded that I'm trying to make your life easier and use up as little police time as possible - don't waste your own time, don't waste my time.

Fourthly, its 2016. Get an email address for complaints. Whats the first thing you'd do with a letter of complaint anyway - scan it? Come on guys, take a bold plunge into the 1990's and embrace this new interwebs thing.

It is my belief that our police service here in Cambridgeshire intentionally makes reporting incidents time consuming, slow, difficult and, bluntly, irritating. Whether that is to keep numbers down or just because there are some categories of crime they're not interested in I don't know, but I can't find a way of interpreting how they respond any differently. I am, again, very disappointed with a police service that has no interest in the safety or welfare of cyclists, and no understanding of the role of dangerous or aggressive driving in making the lives of cyclists terrifying. That they're willing to consider someone swearing at me and not someone endangering me? Thats a messed up set of priorities there.

Tuesday 26 April 2016

Dear Cambridgeshire Constabulary - IT IS 2016!

Here's the text of an email I just sent to our local coppers. Its pretty self explanatory - their twitter team told me to phone 101 to share a youtube link, which I wouldn't personally call constructive.

Come on Cambridgeshire Constabulary - just put a simple contact page to facilitate easy, fast, sensible sharing of incidents with you. Honestly, are you trying to dissuade us from making reports?

Anyway, email below. Enjoy.

I'm trying to find out if its worth reporting this incident to you, recorded by helmet camera as I was riding to work. I've uploaded it here:

Briefly, at about ten to nine yesterday morning, while riding along Chesterton Road towards Chesterton Lane, I was cycling outside the coach-parking area towards two parked cars ahead. Obviously its important to give parked cars some space while cycling, a car door opening into your path can be deadly if it pushes you off into other traffic - I didn't deviate from my line to do so, I maintained pretty much the same road position I'd used when passing the coach parking zone.

A red car, registration AE04 HFG, passed me very close while I was going past the parked cars, within around 18 inches - I could see I was getting a pretty grim look from both driver and passenger. I almost caught up with the car at the red light ahead, where the passenger had got out and yelled a stream of ill conceived advice and obscenities.

Clearly the overtake was poor (I'd describe it as dangerous - a close pass while I'm going past parked cars is unacceptable), and clearly yelling at me afterwards was wrong. But I want to know, before making a report, are you guys interested in pursuing this or is it a waste of my time reporting it?

I'd also like to complain that despite years of bothering you about the fact that you just don't publicise an email address, you're still telling people (like me, for this report) to phone 101. With respect its the year 2016, to advise me to phone you with a report better emailed isn't even quaint any more, its outdated and silly. This email address (which you gave me on 101 today) is the same one I was specifically advised not to send messages to by one of your inspectors in October 2014 because its not for public contact - and that was only after kicking up a fuss because it was the address I was originally given back then and you weren't responding on it.

You really should put a simple list of appropriate contact email addresses on your website. Its not hard, its not controversial, and I just can't fathom any good reason why you haven't done so.

Bluntly your current system, whether by design or not, dissuades people from making reports. 

If I could request that in addition to reviewing the footage linked and me if its worth making a report that you also make a point of reviewing your email contact procedure, I'd appreciate that,


Thursday 21 April 2016

Positive Response from Stagecoach

Not the most world-shattering incident.  But troubling at the time...

I've claimed a good spot on the lane I'm in here - I'm approaching a constriction with a traffic island on the left roughly where the bus and cycle lane ends and the road narrows towards a bridge. And, of course, I've selected that spot on the road well in advance of passing the slower cyclist on my left.

The bus driver didn't agree with my decision.

So I tweeted at Stagecoach East and made them aware - and they called me this morning to tell me the driver will receive re-training and go through their disciplinary process. Thats as good a result as I'd have hoped for from this - I'm surprised it went as well as this, and happy about it.

Now if only the taxi companies were paying attention to this...