Wednesday, 15 September 2010

"With children cycling on pavements, what happens when they get older?"

I posted last week about the City of London police safer wards meetings.

Last week I received a copy of the minutes of the most recent meeting in the City North area. That's roughly the area from the Barbican across to Liverpool Street and down to slightly below London Wall. For a detailed map of the policing areas, see here

The next meeting for the North Area is in October. I'll post meeting dates for all the City areas later this week and the current list of priorities in each policing area.

A group of us attended one of these in December. The policing priority at the time was to target cyclist offences. The feeling in the room was that the police should push the City to abandon its recently inaugurated two-way cycling streets. During the course of the meeting, we swung the priority from cyclist offences to all road user behaviour. We also swung the room in favour of the two-way cycling streets. In its initial minutes of the meeting, the police failed to even mention some of these changes. It simply noted 'Several people stated ...concerns for safety with the current trial where cyclists can travel in both directions on a number of one-way streets.' After some back and forth, the police admitted they had incorrectly minuted the meeting, acknowledged that more people supported the two-way for cycling than opposed it and then changed the minutes.

One big issue is that a significant bulk of the attendees have what I'd describe as a hatred of cyclists. The fact that 77% of people killed or seriously injured on the City's roads are pedestrians or cyclists hit by motor vehicles means nothing to them. Perhaps that's fair enough, given their experiences but it's a problem because the point about these meetings is that the attendees vote in the priorities for the policing area. They also hold the Police to account about how they implement those priorities. So if a bunch of people who don't like the idea of cycling turn up, then you get measures targeted at cyclists. Make that a bunch of people who don't like motorists using their mobiles while driving or don't like unsafe lorry operators then you get likewise. But you have to fight to keep that decision on message.

The next meeting in the North area will report back on the two policing priorities, namely:

"Address poor road user behaviour at Beech Street/Aldersgate Street and South Place/Moorgate.

Address anti-social behaviour in and around Gold Lane Estate and the Barbican."

And these are the sorts of issues that come up for discussion and which the Police are using to decide their priorities (quoted directly from the minutes):

"Cyclists take their life in their hands.

The policy is to increase cycling, especially with the Hire Cycles. We need to up the anti.

The Europeans will make it a free for all.

With children cycling on pavements, what happens when they get older? PC Worsfold said this was a good point and she would get back to the person concerned."


What's all this about: 'We need to up the anti'? Is this some sort of war against cyclists? Or, 'The Europeans will make it a free for all'? What about the terror of children riding on pavements? This is the level of debate that is happening in these meetings and it is these sorts of comments that influence how the police decide what their priorities should be in policing neighbourhoods in the City. It's not about cyclists jumping red lights (and by the way, 3,500 cyclists have been ticketed riding through red lights at Beech Street junction since last October). When you actually sit in these meetings, it feels more like a group of people almost at war with the idea of cycling.

Some residents of the Barbican are also pushing for the plain clothes police to catch cyclists committing offences:

"I was a casualty at this junction. Why don’t you catch them in plain clothes? PC Houghton explained that this has been done and she has taken part in such operations."

Perhaps this is all making a mountain out of a molehill. But what is happening is that the police agree to address poor road user behaviour and then this turns into an action point that is aimed solely at cyclists.

So, we have a policing priority to address poor road user behaviour. And when it comes to reality, that transforms into the following action point: "Address cyclists disregarding red traffic lights at the junction of Beech Street and Aldersgate Street EC 2Y8 specifically between 7:30am and 9:30am"

This post really isn't about asking the Police not to ticket red light jumpers. But it is about getting a sense of balance into local policing priorities. If you are happy to let things be as they are, then don't pitch up. If you think the police should be targeting road users committing other 'offences' (say, driving while holding a mobile phone, heaven forbid driving a car through a red light, speeding etc), the perhaps you should consider turning up to whichever area meeting is relevant to you.

This has rambled on long enough now so I'll post meeting dates in my next post but if you want to find out more in the meantime then take a look here, click on your area and then on current priorities or on meetings. In all but one area, you'll notice, cycling (represented as traffic offences) is top of the agenda.