Riding in today, I got off my bike in Storey's gate, and walked it along the pavement, as the road is currently blocked by roadworks.
There were two PCSOs walking in the same direction. As I passed them, one of them stopped me and said, "You can't ride on the pavement - you can get done for that". "I am aware of that", I replied. "You just jumped off," he responded. This was untrue. I'd got off at the start of the pavement. He couldn't have known whether I had or hadn't, as he'd had his back to me.
It so happens I'm not in the habit of breaking the law. I don't think society works too well when people pick and choose the laws they obey, and people doing that is one of the reasons the roads are as dangerous as they are.
This is not an anti-police blog. I think most police do a difficult job under difficult circumstances. But I don't appreciate being accused of something I haven't done. Unfortunately, minor though this incident was, it's illustrative of a pattern of behaviour in law enforcement that is not helpful. As a cyclist the perception is that on the one hand the justice system is very obstructive and dismissive when you're a victim of a crime (see Martin Porter's blog or this for details), and on the other hand you're disproportionately targeted for minor infractions (between January and November 2010, the Metropolitan Police Service and City of London Police together issued over 10,500 FPNs to cyclists) and in my case unjustly accused. I have no problem with the police ticketing cyclists, as long as the enforcement is not selectively targeting one group of road users over another, and the behaviour of all road users is subject to an equal degree of scrutiny. This appears not to be the case.
Law enforcement depends in no small part on the trust of the community. It's pretty easy to lose that trust if you don't treat every member of the community in an even-handed way. When that trust is lost, people are less likely to come forward as witnesses or co-operate with the police for fear of being accused, and they're perhaps more likely to take the law into their own hands. Those in charge would do well to remember that.