Sunday 13 December 2009

The week that was

Law enforcement at the most basic level seems to me to leave something to be desired.  On my daily commutes last week I saw a woman cyclist pulled over by a 4x4 police vehicle who had stopped to hand out a fixed penalty for contravention of a traffic light.  Fair enough I suppose (always assuming she had not passed the line to be visible to an HGV) but I have never ever seen a motorist stopped for using a handheld mobile 'phone or for contravention of an advanced stop line or indeed for jumping a red light though I see scores of such offences every day.  The police are after all responding to the concerns of the popular press who almost daily call for a crack down on 'rogue cyclists'.

When Westminster councillor Angela Harvey spoke to The Times last week to support a proposal to allow traffic wardens power to fine errant cyclists she told them that:
“We’re always getting little old ladies who are knocked down and abused by a cyclist, who leaves them on the ground as they ride away.  The police are the only people who have the ability to enforce this issue, and they just aren’t taking this seriously enough. There are more of our officers on the street than there are police at any given time, so it is a sensible solution.”
Meanwhile BBC news reports a recent study which has confirmed what we all know, that mobile 'phone use amongst motorists is common-place.  Motorists now appreciate that the risks of a penalty are negligible and use hand held 'phones no less than they did before legislation banning their use.

Ms Harvey seems to me to be a bit like the sherriff in the lawless frontier town who does not dare to tackle the bandits with the shotguns, but instead urges her deputies to deal with the kids with the pea-shooters.  Let's exaggerate the harm done by the pea-shooters and turn a blind eye to the death and destruction threatened by the untouchables.


  1. Wholeheartedly agree. From a personal point of view I've lost count of the "mobile whilst driving" incidents.

    It would also be interesting to see Angela Harvey's "statistics" to support her claim of "We're always getting little old ladies who are knocked down and abused by a cyclist"

    Damaging soundbites.

  2. You are spot on! Here in Manchester my casual (but regular) observation is that, at peak traffic times, when it builds up and there's much stop/start, as many as 1-in-4 motorists are using a mobile phone - but when traffic gathers speed, not all of them hang up. Why, I've seen people reading the newspaper at the wheel (prob. some letter on the Daily Mail about rogue cyclists).

    Unfortunately, media and local politicos like the councillor in your story draw the battlelines around forms of transport (cars good, bikes bad) rather than around the real issue - good road use, ie enforcement. And it's not just local cllrs: take those like Baroness Sharples ("call me 'Sharpie' ") when she asked in the Lords "...can the noble Lord tell us how many successful prosecutions have been brought against cyclists who have jumped red lights?" (

  3. I've seen hundreds of car drivers pulled over in my time on the roads; a few motorcyclists, but never a peddle cyclist.