Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Is how we're treated based on the bike we ride?

I should start this by saying I've never, for a moment, believed the idea that close passes of cyclists are due to inattention. The very idea that a motorist is accurately judging a close pass at speed is farcical - its just not a feasible claim. Close passes are intentional, aggressive acts.

So I'm somewhat predisposed to believe that observations based on how I'm treated on different bikes are genuine rather than all in my head. And I'm finding that on my funky chunky new bike I'm getting rather more dodgy overtakes than I do on any of my others.

I don't commute on that one every day of course - its great fun to ride and can take a hell of a load, but I'd rather commute on something with a bit more zip to it unless I'm getting shopping - and yesterday I wanted to indulge my clementine habit with a couple of boxes from the market at lunchtime, so off I went to work on the bike with the big baskets.

There were four crazy overtakes on the way home. The most frightening for me was this one:

So I'm apparently not a bike, I'm a gap in traffic.

But its worse (for others on the road) than that - it would seem I'm big enough and slow enough to make it necessary to squeeze past at a junction and try to throw your taxi into a bus.

Now I get silly motorists no matter what I ride, but its so noticeable that if I'm on a 'typical' bike I get the occasional close pass or some hostility sometimes, whereas if I'm no the chunky bike I'm getting almost no verbal aggression but NO END of bad passes. And if I'm on a road bike I get no end of anger.

Much has been written on driver behaviour and how the drivers perception of the rider is important - but I've seen less attention given to what kind of bike we're riding. It seems likely to me (from my own observations) that motorists pay enough attention to what we're riding such that how they act towards us is significantly influenced by this - its more evidence that the way motorists act around us is not just one of those things, the dodgy passes aren't accidental, and that the negative experiences that put many people off cycling are caused by direct, intentional aggression of motorists. Its not just how we ride or what we wear that influences what form this hostility takes - its what we ride. 

Why ought a moton give a shit about what we ride? That's something to discuss another day.

Bidwells? Cambridge Police? #Badlyparkedbike? The plot thickens.

So you'll remember #badlyparkedbike, our police services comically inept social media campaign aimed at shaming cyclists into not locking their bikes in perfectly out of the way spots to divert attention away from the fact that most suburban pavements in this city are entirely impassable due to parked cars? You'll remember their clinging to that sinking ship no matter what was shown to them? And you'll no doubt recall how this escalated to the point where a cycling journalist was threatened with arrest for taking a picture of a police car obstructing a cycle lane?

Well, @cambridgecops twitter feed (from which a number of vocal but polite critics have been blocked) has stopped yammering on about it. Initially I assumed this was probably because the tag was hijacked by a gloriously sarcastic deluge of car-blocked pavements and perhaps someone at the constabulary had finally got the point - but then things seemed to be turning sinister as Bidwells (the owner of one of the sites chosen by the Police to hi-light this - not that you can readily discern this, it looks like a public space) threatened to remove bikes locked there. With very little notice. 

Well, they went and did it. 

And, quite understandably, I would expect the bike owners furious. And one of them has been digging to find out whats happening and is pursuing a complaint to get her bike back.

Now it would have been hard to accept the claim (in the link above) from someone at Bidwells that they've been collaborating with the Police to remove bicycles. But lets be frank, Cambridgeshire Constabulary have made a complete pigs ear of things with cyclists recently and it would surprise none of us were the same anti-cyclist elements at Cambridgeshire Constabulary who so unflinchingly backed #badlyparkedbike were to have given tacit approval for this - especially as this was the location for the first shared image of a bike allegedly thus parked.

Its obvious from this that both Bidwells and Cambridgeshire Constabulary have questions to answer if anyone from our police service is reading this, think about how you'd react were the person from Bidwells to have implicated any other organisation but yours. You'd be suspicious too - especially after #badlyparkedbike. 

To remove bicycles that (in this instance) had been in place for less than a day with only a few notices that are rather hard to find in the dark (and commuters at this time of year are arriving in the dark both in the morning and the evening) and give them to a charity isn't a proportional response to those bikes being on your property, and its certainly not good publicity. I urge the folk at Bidwells to sort this out and make things right with cyclists whose bikes they've taken, and to do so as quickly as possible. Guys, we're not just folk on bikes, we're a demographic that spends money and who make decisions who to work with. Right now do you really think this is good business? 

And in the mean time, if anyone has had their bikes grabbed, I wish you all success in getting it back. Keep us all informed how you get on - and if you've any information to add to whats in the complaint letter linked above then please share it. 

Monday, 16 November 2015

Roadside damage - who pays?

It always seems to the the case that another car ploughs through another hedge or wrecks another sign, and once the cars are dragged out backwards (causing more damage) its the rest of us footing the bill, if its public property, or a farmer/landowner if it isn't. Its like wrecking everything by the roadside is considered just one of those things - so I wonder, can we change that by embarrassing our highway authorities into giving a damn?

I mention this because after this rather shocking bit of road carnage I've just put this FOI in. My bottom line is that whoever did this should pay, and I (as someone who pays council tax) shouldn't. I wonder how far I'll get with it?

And I just wonder, if we ALL put in FOI to find out who pays whenever we see some road carnage caused by yet another motorist who 'lost control' etc. could we get to a point where its normal for motorists to pay for their damage?

Are the Police colluding with developers to remove bikes?

Some strange happenings in Cambridge have led me to ask the paranoid sounding question in the title of this blog post.

What started out with the badly thought out, disastrously naive #badlyparkedbike campaign (which backfired spectacularly, leading to cyclists taking pictures of cars blocking pavements across Cambridge and beyond, with one even threatened with arrest under protection from terrorism laws for doing so) has now taken a more sinister flavour with one of the first locations targeted by Cambridge Police being the site of a controversial bike removal scheme. The stubborn refusal of our police service to admit error, followed by blocking many prominent critics, has rather made a mockery of their claims to impartiality - are they colluding with the developers to remove these bikes?

Its not obvious down there near the station which parts of the development are public space and which are private. Indeed its a total pigs ear - there are insufficient bike spaces for commuters and residents, resulting in people locking bikes up all over the place. Such is the nature of Cambridge though - its not new, its the way things are and pretty much always have been - if something is not obviously private property you've really got no excuse for being angry at people using an out of the way location that won't block access to lock up their bikes.

The close proximity of Cambridge Police talking about #badlyparkedbike in the context of this? That takes this past obvious coincidence into suspicious. 

If I were to remove a car parked on my property and dispose of it I'd be breaking the law. But if its a bike? Well, it seems no one at our police service gives a monkeys about you. 

Friday, 13 November 2015


I've gained just a modicum of grudging respect for Ray Brown at the Cambridge News. A modicum.

He's picked up one of my youtube vids and built a nice little news story around it. This vid here:

I was riding out that way on Monday and I couldn't quite work out what had caused that kind of damage - a car or van must have rolled over or through the tree somehow, clipped the fence, hit a fence post (a big, solid, brick pillar affair) and come to a stop on a muddy verge. Must have been going at a hell of a lick - and it struck me as odd that it wasn't in the news so I uploaded a video asking what had happened. Turns out there'd been a police chase which ended thus - quite a dramatic event and I'd have thought newsworthy in the bloated fenland village of Cambridge.

And best of all its a simple, clear exemplification of why having rules on our road matters - there's a bus stop not far away on the other side of the road, and had it not been for a tree and a solid brick post the van could have ended up in a house - not all the homes along Mere Way are as well protected as this one was.

Rules on our road matter. I'm not saying slavishly follow every letter of every regulation, but the lesson here is very simple - motorised vehicles pack a hell of a wallop and handling them is a huge responsibility requiring attention to the detail of the rules.

But right next to that story in Cambridge News is this one. Its a bog standard 'cameras catch thousands of motorists blatantly, knowingly breaking the law and fine them for it, isn't it all so unjust 'affair. Claims that the 46,000 drivers who've hurled £700,000 in fines down the bog aren't throwing themselves like lemmings down the bus lane or are just making mistakes and not trying to queue jump the traffic are absurd - its well sign posted and its very easy to avoid these fines by not driving in the bus lane. I suspect many motorists there decide they'll chance the fine because they want to get where they're going a bit faster. 

Same journalist, two consecutive stories, one giving a graphic demonstration of what happens when motorists don't obey the rules followed by a exemplification of motorists breaking the rules - and this is tens of thousands of times - which has a very blatant 'its so unfair' slant. 

Same journalist. Same paper. Consecutive articles.

Raymond old chap, I've misjudged you. You've got brass. But I do wish you'd apply some more brain power to this - can you not see that the slant you put on article (b) is part of the problem that leads to the problems portrayed in article (a)? Or do you understand this, and you don't care?

Monday, 9 November 2015

Taking a picture of a police car? Terrorist?

Nothing much can be added to this direct account.

But if true, it would appear that our police service has gone completely mad.

We shall await results of FOI requests and complaints but, in the mean time, it really pains me to suggest being cautious around Cambridgeshire Constabulary.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Complaint to Cambrideshire Constabulary

What can you do when faced with this kind of recalcitrance?

Copy of the email I've just sent to the city centre police team and to the PCC. Why the hell has it come to this?

Dear Sir/Madame,

I must complain about the way your staff have acted on twitter recently. May I ask that you log this as an official complaint please?

In response to your widely mocked #BadlyParkedBike campaign, many people (including myself) have been sharing images of badly parked cars - the alternative suggested by your staff later, which was to use #DaftParking, came too late, and 'daft' doesn't have the same connotations anyway. I think that members of the public this sharing images of cars blocking the pavement with you is a very positive thing - this is surely precisely the kind of interaction you want with us? Isn't it good that people are sending you images of antisocial and dangerous parking, regardless of what hashtag they use? Why are you treating this as a failure and not a resounding success?

I posted just such images on Saturday, one of them linked here. From here you can see the main body of tweets in reply, showing the behaviour I'm complaining about.


You can see that the response from @CambridgeCops was petulant - an outright refusal to look at evidence of cars illegally blocking the path purely on the basis of the wrong tag being used.

It is inappropriate for anyone working for the police service to refuse to look at evidence of criminality on such spurious grounds - that your social media campaign has been lampooned to the point where it has backfired badly is not an excuse to ignore dangerous and obstructive car parking. #badlyparkedbike has become, more or less in its entirety, a catalogue of bad car parking, whether you like it or not, and #daftparking barely shows up at all -and your desire to reverse this trend not only seems fruitless, but it is clearly getting in the way of good policing and is bringing the police service into disrepute.

I asked for the badge number of person tweeting on multiple occasions, and was first directed to phone 101, then to email you, then finally told to 'mark it up for the attention of collar no. 440. I still do not know from that comment whether thats the person making these tweets.

I do not believe it is okay for a police employee to tweet anonymously and make it such a huge deal out of being asked identify themselves when interracting with the public, and I believe it is flat out wrong to refuse to look at something because its got a hashtag that annoys you.

Please, for the good of the reputation of Cambridgeshire Constabulary if for no other reason, reconsider how you handle social media. You've got some superb, hard working, competent police officers, and they are being entirely failed by how electronic communications are handled. Please process this as a complaint as described above.

Yours sincerely,