Tuesday, 30 August 2011

My etape and Roadpeace - An update - £1,000 raised.

Many thanks to those who have so generously supported my etape this year by providing sponsorship for Roadpeace.  With all contributions presumably now in, the donations with tax relief have come to £1,000, which I am hoping the Charity will find a useful addition to their resources.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Riots

There has been considerable media interest in the reaction of the Criminal Justice System to the summer rioting that broke out in many major cities this month.  This morning on the radio I heard a representative of magistrates argue with a representative of prison governors over whether there had been  a frenzy of disproportionate sentences meted out to those involved in the riots.  I am not particularly qualified to comment -it has been many years since I regularly attended the criminal courts.  Some of the sentencing does strike me as tough, but no more so than on other occasions when the Establishment is under threat.
Also on the radio over the summer I heard a senior London Crown Prosecutor indicate that no cautions had been given to offenders involved in the riots.  A document leaked from the Metropolitan Police to The Guardian appears to confirm that as a matter of policy no cautions have been considered by the Police for such offenders either.  I will keep to myself thoughts on whether all this is a good or a bad thing; happily I blog my views on cycling not rioting.
What all this does suggest, however, is that the 'Gravity Factors Matrix' used by the police before issuing a caution , is no more than a fig-leaf to cover a police assessment of what the public interest requires.  It is naive in the extreme to suppose that these decisions are not influenced by political, media and public pressure.  We need to send out the message that the public interest requires the prosecution of those guilty of harming a cyclist, whether using a motor vehicle or fists.  Such people may never be at the receiving end of the iron fist, as if they were in on a riot, but if we make enough fuss, the kid-glove treatment may at least cease.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

(Yet) Another Assault on a Cyclist and musings on The Establishment

Another cyclist using the roads in a lawful manner, and negotiating a roundabout in precisely the way that is recommended and taught on training courses, is subjected to a violent assault.  The consequences could well have been even more severe if the cyclist did not have the presence of mind to adopt a submissive apologetic attitude (something I am totally incapable of doing in similar circumstances).

Only a small minority of cyclists are equipped with helmet cameras, yet this type of assault is recorded on a regular basis.  What we see on youtube is the tip of a very unpleasant iceberg.
I understand that this assault occurred in Essex so it is now the turn of the Essex Police to reveal their attitude.  I hope they do not share the approach of my own home force, Thames Valley Police, who would not even countenance the possibility of a prosecution unless the thug was either daft enough to deny it or had done it before.
I cannot resist musing upon why a leniency is extended to those who attack cyclists that would never be extended to a comedian who attacks a media moghal with a harmless plate of shaving foam or, still less, somebody committing an offence in the course of a demonstration.  Many years ago I worked, as a very junior barrister, with a senior wily old QC for a client who sought to take on the Government and (quite wrongly) lost.  The QC explained to me quietly that the decision could be explained by The Establishment closing rank.  At the time I thought he was being preposterous; and I sure some who read this will think the same of me.  However as I now approach becoming a wily old QC myself I see the wisdom of his words.  When I put on a wig and a silk gown, I am a member of The Establishment and enjoy the respect, privileges and (I have no doubt) full protection of the law should I require it.  In contrast when I get on my bicycle, I step outside The Establishment.  Despite the fact that the Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Mayor of London are all more or less cyclists, The Establishment still expects travel by limo, taxi or jet.  Threaten the Duchess of Cornwall (say) through the plate glass of a limo window and you can expect trouble.  Had she been threatened by a motorist for taking a line through a roundabout on a bicycle of which he disapproved then The Establishment reaction would be confused ('Royalty on a bicycle, don't be absurd!').
The last Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, for all his purported enthusiasm to promote cycling, declined to cycle himself, claiming to fear the targeting and abuse he might get from other roadusers.  As Mayor he could expect to, and did, get the full protection of The Establishment, but he could not be sure he would get it on a bicycle.  Whether the current Mayor gets abused and threatened on his bicycle and whether if he does he would wish to make that public, I do not know.
I have now for several years been pressing for a sea-change in the attitude to cycling and to cyclists.  The Establishment is certainly encouraging cycling (particularly for outsiders) but I want The Establishment to embrace cycling to such an extent that I step down from its protection no less when mounting a bicycle than were I ever to step into a limo or be required to account for my actions before a Parliamentary Select Committee.  With the advent of the internet I am prepared to speak less softly than the wily old QC.  Do I risk being thrown out altogether?  Possibly, but it is worth it, and if Mr Murdoch's place within The Establishment is still secure, there must be hope yet for me.