Wednesday, 30 January 2013

All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group

It was a privilege to appear at the APPCG's Inquiry into 'Get Britain Cycling'.  It was hugely reassuring that 8 Parliamentarians (including as it happens two of the brightest legal brains of their generation) were willing, together with other MPs who attended last week, to devote their time and energy to this important subject.  Much good sense was talked about bringing bikeability into driver training and in reducing speed limits in urban areas with a virtual consensus on what was required (if you leave aside the thorny question of strict liability).  There was a discussion of HGVs and the Police/Mineral Products 'Exchanging Places' initiative which I experienced first hand in November 2011.  One aspect of this that struck me was that it is not only cyclists' behaviour that we should be seeking to influence, but we really need to knock on the head the idea that it is acceptable for lorries to manoeuvre around our streets with blind spots.  The technology is there for all round visibility and we must place the vast bulk of the burden of responsibility on the operators and drivers of such vehicles.  Happily the Inquiry has the written evidence of Kate Cairns with her important 'See me, save me' campaign.
I was a bit of a wildcard as the only witness there to represent myself rather than an organisation and I used (possibly abused) this freedom.  Clearly though, I was invited as a voice on law enforcement and I repeated the line I have often taken on this blog that I would like to see a tougher approach taken by the police against those who endanger cyclists.  Chief Inspector Ian Vincent took my lambast well and assured the Inquiry that roads policing was a priority.  However I found myself unable to understand, still less agree with, his view that action could only be taken against a motorist who had endangered (rather than actually run down) a cyclist if the careless (or dangerous) driving had been witnessed by a police officer.  It is almost as odd as Ms Davenport of ACPO's assertion that she had legal advice that criminal proceedings based upon video evidence were unlikely to succeed.  Mr Vincent did say that original unedited footage would have to be available, which is fair enough, and I am sure generally is available if called for.  By way of conciliatory gesture I was very happy to acknowledge that the I have always found the police to be very receptive when my property rights have been infringed by a thief.  Mr Vincent did inform the Inquiry that Roadsafe had appointed a dedicated officer to review video submissions with a view to prosecution, a step that I certainly applaud (even though it is surely the very least that we could reasonably have expected at the outset) and I acknowledged to be a modest shift in the right direction.  The proof though will be in when a regular stream of bad drivers find themselves with points on their licences.
One thing that did occur to me is that perhaps I should have been there representing the non-cyclist who has the sort of Pauline conversion that we would like now to see in others.  For half my adult life I have been a non-cyclist.  I was rare at my University in not owning a bike, I preferred to walk everywhere.  In my mid 30s, I took up cycling.  Looking back at what induced that; I had a more senior colleague at work with whom I shared a room who cycled and I began to become concerned that I was getting fat.  It finally dawned on me that if my colleague could cycle from Greenwich, reliably arriving in one piece,  I could surely cycle from Kensington.  I tried it in normal clothes on the quietest roads I could find.  Government exhortation one way or another would not have made any difference to this start.   What did make the difference was that I found it a preferable way of getting around than the alternatives.  Having tried it I was surprised at how effective and practical it was as a means of transporting myself around London.  A desire for greater speed and, once I moved home, greater distance and then participation in charity rides led me incrementally to adopt better equipment, clothing and more direct routes and to morph slowly into the cycling/racing nut that I am today.
We really just have to seek to ensure that cycling is a more convenient, more enjoyable, more reliable and cheaper way of getting around than other modes (particularly the car).  For me, the evidence from my very knowledgeable fellow witnesses today reinforced my perception that there are a large number of ways to achieve that.  I am convinced it would be a mistake to focus on one solution to the exclusion of all others.
This is not a report of today's proceedings, I would not be able to do that as well as the journalists and organisations present whose material is already available online.   I  leave with this irreverent thought: looking around Committee Room 12 it was clear to me that the average BMI of the occupants was substantially lower than that of the population at large (and possibly of other Committee Rooms though I did not investigate that).  Lately I am finding that I can hardly turn on my television without seeing the gory detail of another unfortunate person getting a gastric band fitted.  That alone validates my decision 15 years ago to get a bike.  In hindsight of course my deep regret is that I did not do it sooner.


  1. Martin,
    My spies report back that your intervention was well made. Chief Inspector Vincent is a nice fellow, but I think the word "priority" when applied to the activities of the MPS is not qyuite appropriate,
    Dr. Robert Davis, Chair RDRF

    1. Thanks Bob,
      They are always nice and he probably would like to do more but there is no getting away from the fact that the reluctance to prosecute bad motorists is not helping to make our journeys attractive.

  2. Thank you for this summary, Martin. Excellent to get an insider's view of the proceedings.

    Re: "I would like to see a tougher approach taken by the police against those who endanger cyclists."
    1) I hope that includes negligent street designers.
    2) What do you make of this recent footage from here in New Zealand? (includes police response below the video) -

  3. Martin, an excellent post as always. Thank you for this summary, and indeed taking the time to go to the APPCG.

    I am in the habit of posting your blog to if you are interested in joining the discussions there.

  4. I was surprised when Ms Davenport's letter was used by the TCJU in catford for dismissal of footage, especially as they had already used mine and others in south london for prosecutions.
    The turn around in roadsafe and what you've mentioned above most certainly gives me something to look forward too in the future. Keep up the good work :)

    1. Thanks Gareth. I did acknowledge yesterday that the appointment of a dedicated officer to look at videos with a view to prosecution was a(small) step in the right direction. Your comment has reminded me to amend the above text to reflect that. I have seen many clips taken by you that would fully justify a careless driving charge and some a dangerous driving charge. I intend to keep the pressure on until we see a steady stream of prosecutions.

  5. Hello Martin, the APPCG article on website prompted me to revisit your blog, a very interesting report. I also found your response to the tragic death of Tom Ridgway clear-minded and very informative. The commentary of Mr.Ridgway's aunt and mother was very moving. Thanks for posting,


  6. In my limited dealings with the Bristol Police I have found the police response to cycling problems worrying. The road rage episode was dismissed because we were cycling two abreast in the early morning on a road from a small housing development which rarely saw a car whilst we were on it at that time, and I had to engage my MP before a senior police officer acknowledged there was a problem, I submitted a video of a driver on their mobile phone approaching a roundabout and they only looked at it when I did a web chat with the chief constable.

  7. Very good - thank you. One way to influence HGV drivers is to get 'em while they're young. If the Driving Standards Agency made it mandatory for all HGV training vehicles to be fitted with sufficient mirrors or other cyclist safety devices then drivers would get used to them and, it is hoped, press their employers to fit them.