LCC condemns heavy-handed policing and poor safety advice being given out to cyclists

The London Cycling Campaign is calling on the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe to provide better guidance for police officers who've been encouraged to hand out poor safety advice to cyclists in central London.

We're also calling on the Commissioner to revoke any numerical targets for fining cylcists that have been set for officers to fine cyclists, because they encourage poor police decision-making.

In the wake of the six recent cycling deaths, hundreds of police officers have been sent on to London's streets as part of 'Operation Safeway'.

Officers are monitoring major junctions like Elephant & Castle and Holborn, and stopping many road users in an attempt to reduce law-breaking and increase safety.

However, there are reports of officers are stopping many cyclists solely because they're not wearing helmets or high-visibility clothing, even though they've broken no laws and are not putting themselves or others in danger.

And today The Times revealed that police officers on the ground have been given targets by senior management to fine a certain number of cyclists, which we regard as inappropriate and likely to contribute to poor policing.

LCC's road danger expert Charlie Lloyd said, "We've heard of numerous examples of inappropriate advice being given to cyclists by police officers who appear to have a poor understanding of what actions by cyclists genuinely pose a danger to other people or themselves.

"In order to reduce casualties police officers should be able to distinguish between road behaviour that is: 

  1. Illegal and anti-social
  2. Illegal and careless
  3. Illegal and dangerous.

"Setting targets encourages the police to focus on the first at the expense of the last two which are harder to recognise.

"Dangerous and careless behaviour by people driving fast or heavy vehicles is much more likely to result in serious injury than annoying or anti-social behaviour by people on bicycles."

Examples of poor advice given to people on bikes

  • A parent was stopped by a police officer in Kings Cross and told he shouldn't be carrying his two young children in his Dutch Bakfiets cargo bike. The officer appeared baffled by the type of bike and was convinced it was unsafe. LCC is calling on officers to only be given traffic duties if they have a minimum level of cycling knowledge.
  • Along with many other cyclists, journalist Simon Usborne was stopped and told by an officer that he should be wearing a helmet and high-visibility clothing. There is no legal requirement in the UK to wear any specialist clothing to ride a bike. Our concern is that a cycle helmet offers little or no protection against the injuries suffered in a crash with a large lorry or fast-moving car, while the effectiveness of fluorescent and hi-vis clothing is doubtful.
  • Police officers are also handing out fines and cautions to motorists at junctions, but there's concern that groups of police standing in uniform at junctions will fail to identify the type of threatening driving that London cyclists encounter every day. We're calling for more on-bike police officers, including those in plain clothes.
  • The current action follows on from recent police action to educate drivers and enforce the rules about access to Advanced Stop Lines. Some police attempted to be 'even handed' by giving the same number of tickets to cars who drove into the ASL and to cyclists crossing the second white line. That 'even handedness' ignores the relative danger created by the illegal behaviour.
  • Cyclist Alex Paxton objected to a fine when he crossed the white line to avoid the danger of a car that had driven into the ASL. Today we learnt that the Crown Prosecution Service have dropped all charges against Mr. Paxton.