This short article is an update on the progress of my police complaint, which I first reported in this article.
Two weeks after I posted my complaint to the Professional Standards Branch of Greater Manchester Police, I was informed that it had gone to an Inspector in Bolton for investigation. Then last Thursday, I received a phone call from that Inspector to discuss it and I received a letter today to summarise and conclude that discussion. We had quite a long discussion which, although the Inspector was very professional, did confirm my views on the level of knowledge and attitudes that are prevalent in the police force. I won’t try to relate the discussion word-for-word, but will summarise the positions of myself and the Inspector as best I can.
The Inspector was quite open in acknowledging that his knowledge of good cycling practices as recommended within the Bikeability training scheme is extremely limited, and that he had never before heard of the terms primary position and secondary position. He also asked me to confirm that cyclists are recommended to ride in the centre of the main traffic flow when moving at the same speed as the traffic. When I did confirm this, he expressed great surprise, saying that the officers he had spoken to were also unaware of this. He went further than this and pressed the view that, since drivers would also be unaware of such a recommendation, it might be better to cycle next to the kerb, saying of the incidents that there “are two sides to this”. I, again, found this view very alarming and objected quite strenuously to it. I pointed out as an example that, in the case of the driver that was tailgating me and sounding the horn when I was following just 2 seconds behind the car in front, if I had moved over to the gutter, the driver would have come alongside me and I would have ended up going round a right-angle bend through a traffic light controlled junction, sandwiched between his car and the kerb, whilst negotiating broken tarmac and other obstacles. He didn’t seem to have an answer to this. In the letter that arrived today, the Inspector stated: “The general consensus from each officer is that these incidents would not have occurred if you had not been cycling in the centre of the carriageway.”, but he did mention my earlier response to that point.
I have so far found these interactions with the police to be quite disappointing and dispiriting. As I am having these discussions with the police, I am still experiencing incidents like this dangerous close pass a week ago, and this dangerous driving by a truck driver yesterday. Today, I was reading about this disgraceful case in which a cyclist was hit from behind by a car driver and killed, and the verdict of the coroner was “accidental death”. It is clear that the justice system in relation to road violence is simply not fit for purpose, and that this extends from the police right up to the courts.
Anyway, to finish on a positive note, in the letter that the Inspector sent, whilst he did not believe there was any conduct issue on the part of the officers dealing with the cases – a view with which I always agreed anyway – he did acknowledge that my concern was about educating staff [generally] about “driving standards associated with cyclists”. He stated that, whilst the matter is now considered closed as far as any local resolution is concerned, he has referred it back to the Professional Standards Branch for consideration of allocating the complaint to the Traffic Department for their attention, adding that if nobody gets back to me within two weeks I should contact him and he would follow it up. He also added that he will advise staff locally to consider Section 59 of the Police Reform Act 2002 when dealing with similar incidents.
On the whole, despite the frustrating debates that seem to be the norm, I am very happy with the way the police (and this Inspector) have handled the matter so far, and am looking forward to seeing some real progress as the journey continues.
There seem to be three key messages that need to be put across very strongly to all police officers:
- The belief, by anyone, that a cyclist should ride in the gutter is not a point of view, it is ignorance and needs to be changed through education.
- Irrespective of any belief about where in the road a cyclist should be positioned, it is not acceptable to put their safety in danger at any time, and that needs to be dealt with through strong enforcement.
- Driving that would be considered just “below par” when it affects another car, bus or truck should be treated far more seriously when it affects a cyclist (or motorcyclist or horse rider or pedestrian for that matter) and dealt with through a combination of education and enforcement.
I really do hope we will start to see a change of attitude as we move forward. The story continues …