Wednesday, 22 December 2010

An open letter to the Home Secretary

I have written to the Home Secretary, Theresa May MP.  If you live in her constituency she can be contacted at, otherwise it may be more appropriate to contact her at the home office if you have your own views.  I would rather she did not think I was an isolated malcontent.

"22nd December 2010

Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Home Secretary
2 Marsham Street

Dear Mrs May,

Treatment of offences affecting cyclists

I am a keen cyclist and secretary of a cycling club, Thames Velo, which is based in your constituency. In the last couple of months I have had two interactions with the police after I reported circumstances in which I had been, in the first case, threatened and, in the second case, actually assaulted by a motorist.

I write, not to detail my individual cases (though I would be very happy to furnish details if you wish) but because my experiences chime with those of a large number of cyclists who find that the commission of criminal offences which endanger or intimidate them are not taken sufficiently seriously by the prosecuting authorities, the first stage of which obviously is the police.

Relevant Home Office guidance has been issued to Chief Constables in the past. Specifically, in relation to cautions, Home Office Circular 30/2005 addressed to Chief Constables and copied to Crown Prosecutors refers to a gravity factors matrix and also requires that the victim’s views about the offence and the nature and extent of harm are taken into account.

My understanding is that the gravity factors matrix does include the vulnerability of the victim as a specific aggravating feature.

My experience in the case of the assault on me was that existing Home Office Guidance was not complied with before a simple caution was administered. In the case of the threat I have had to battle against a total lack of enthusiasm on the part of the police and the CPS to take my complaint seriously.

When cases get to Court there are sentencing guidelines which indicate that harm to a vulnerable road user is an aggravating feature but there is a problem in that too few cases where cyclists are harmed or threatened are taken to Court.

On a practical level could I ask your department please to consider issuing clear guidance to Chief Constables and to Crown Prosecutors that the endangering of vulnerable road users is a specific aggravating feature in the commission of a criminal offence?

At the moment the Government correctly encourages more active lifestyles. An increase in the level of cycling is obviously of direct interest to both the Department of Health and Department of Transport and relieves public expenditure from both those departments. Unfortunately there are a small minority of motorists who resist with aggression what they see as an invasion into ‘their’ road space and justify their malevolence towards cyclists with misunderstandings about ‘road tax’, safe cycling techniques, use of cycle paths, condemnation of all cyclists as ‘lawless’, and other misconceptions. Mass cycling will never become a reality while so many people are afraid of cycling on the roads because of inconsiderate, and even hostile, motor traffic.

May I suggest to you that it is a completely false economy, and wholly unjustified, to ‘go soft’ on motorists whose conduct tips over into criminality that endangers or threatens those using a form of transport that the Government is seeking to encourage?

I am not suggesting that a ‘soft’ policy has been directed from the top; rather it has emerged from the bottom and now needs to be tackled from the top.

I would be very happy to meet with you or your officials in your constituency or in Westminster (perhaps with representatives of relevant cycling organisations) to explain further the concerns which I know are now shared by a very large section of the cycling community.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Porter"


  1. Here Here. I will write to her at the Home Office. Great work.

  2. My Letter to Mrs May

    "Mrs May

    As Home Secretary you have responsiblities towards cyclists amongst other vunerable road users !

    Martin Porter is an articulate advocate of the jeapody that most cyclists endure each time they use the streets.

    Please take the time to research his background and blog postings and you will see the reasons so many people rely on his advice.

    I also blog as Parrabuddy & Skippydetour but whilst i have my own ideas to add to his it is clear why his efforts strike a chord with more people.

    No doubt there will be many more wishing to back up his polite request for your intervention on behalf of the cycling community

    With best wishes for the festive season

    Skippy M. "

    No doubt others will join me in putting out the word that in Martin Porter , we have a true friend and champion advocate ! Things will not happen overnight but the letter to Mrs May is a fine way to start a campaign which if supported by the cycling community will in the end achieve results !

    Best wishes to all for the festive season and safer cycling in the New Year !

  3. I’m not a political animal, but I do wish you well with this. I just put up with aggression from motorists and say nothing to them. They can retaliate with their metal boxes, and I’ve been run over once too often. Literally.

  4. On 18 August I was knocked off my Brompton as a result of what can only be described as an act of driver aggression. Like most cycling commuters I frequently suffer from the lack of consideration and bad driving of car drivers. This was of a different order, I was struck by an up-market people carrier, probably driven by a professional chauffer. He had already cut me up once, the second time he swept me off my bike causing me to fall across one lane of the carriageway. He then sped off, leaving the scene. Despite my relatively minor injuries, I jumped back on the bike and chased after him. I photographed his number plate with my phone, and told him that I was reporting the incident to the police. Whilst stuck in traffic he denied everything, until I told him to ask his passengers what had happened, and then went into the usual stuff about how I should have been at the side of the road etc. When able to do so, he then drove off again.
    On arriving at work, I made a note of all the details, rang the police, who subsequently called me back and told me that I needed to report the incident at a Police Station. That evening after work I went to Bishops Gate Police Station, and filled out all the appropriate forms, drew the diagrams etc.
    On 15 September I received a letter from the City of London Police, stating that they had been unable to trace the driver of the other vehicle. I queried this, on the basis that I had photographic evidence and the registration number of the vehicle. Following this I got a phone call to say that there had been a misunderstanding and that they would now pursue the driver.
    Prompted by your letter to Mrs May, I sent a follow-up email to the police asking if there had been any progress. Today I received a reply, stating that they had only just established who the other driver was and were now trying to make contact with him.
    The wheels of justice do indeed grind exceeding slow!
    The Home Secretary is my local MP and indeed a near neighbour.

  5. I was sat in my parked car this morning on North End Rd., London NW11 when a large van deliberately veered left to squeeze a cyclist between my car and the van. I was shocked. The cyclist pursued the van but I don't know the outcome.