"INCONSIDERATE RIDING: If a person rides a cycle, on a road, without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road, is guilty of an offence. [sic] £1,000 FINE"
This generated a tirade of angry comments on the Cycling Weekly site from riders such as Kevin Blackburn:
"This smacks almost of harassment of cyclists - the Police have obviously had some complaints from held-up motorists, and decided to intimidate/encourage cyclists to stay away. £1,000 fine for cycling inconsiderately - how many times could that be applied to every car driver that cuts us up, doesn't indicate, gives us less than the EU regulation 1.5m passing, infringes the 'cycle advance' box at junctions, parks and drives in cycls lanes - I've complained and taken photos of cars in cycle lanes, and had it explained that they are only adbisory - no, any continuous white should not be crossed on a road!....and so on. Its not until a cyclist is hit that police do anything about car drivers, but here they appear to be being pro-actively undermining cyclists rights to ride as per the highway code."
Scroll down the comments, and Inspector Terri Poulton, writes:
"Hello, I am the local Neighbourhood Inspector for the Mole Valley area and thought it would be a good idea to touch base with you all about this.
I would like to apologise about the wording of the attached card which was produced by a local officer who genuinely thought it would be helpful. We live and learn!
Whilst I support the message about road safety - this extends to all road users; I have been very clear through the Cycle and Drive SMART initiatives in the local area that we want to support everyone in enjoying our area â€“ cyclists, drivers and pedestrians. You can hear me speak about Cycle SMART at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhBgVst2944
An increase in cyclists is putting more pressure on the local roads network but I want to focus my efforts on targeting the minority of poor drivers and cyclists. I hope this message is received as intended - an apology for the blunt, inappropriate card - but also a plea for understanding. Safety and tolerance is the key message and, above all, we want everyone to enjoy our beautiful area."
Tolerance - and grammar - are clearly not the strong suits of the "local officer" concerned. It's quite interesting to click through the YouTube link, because there's rather more talk in the piece about inconsiderate driving than cycling. Kay Hammond of Surrey County Council says, "It all started about 10 months ago...one of the biggest issues facing Surrey residents was antisocial driving." Tom Arthur of Surrey Police continues, "We need people cycling sensibly, we need them being considerate, but we also need drivers to be tolerant, and realise that it's a road for everybody." Andy Wright of the National Trust cousels against overtaking on the hill: "If you're following some cyclists up the hill, it literally takes you another 3 or 4 minutes to get up...it's [about] tolerance on all sides."
Fast-forward 2 months, and the BBC reports :
"Tensions between drivers and bike riders using the 2012 Olympic cycling route through Surrey have prompted extra police patrols...Residents near Box Hill, which will form part of the London Games' cycling road race course, said the extra riders were causing a nuisance...Surrey Police said there had been a "significant" increase in cyclists along the A25 and at Box Hill. 'We are taking any community concerns very seriously,' said Sgt Andy Rundle."
I wonder if Sgt Rundle is taking any compaints by cyclists seriously? What happened to "drivers being tolerant" ? It so happens I have been known to venture outside the smoke down to the Surrey Hills. And I can confirm that there are a lot of cyclists down there. I've not personally seen much inconsiderate cycling, although I'm sure there's the odd incident: the clubs don't tend to cycle in large pelotons and tend to break rides down into smaller groups. However, I'm not sure why there is such a difference in some peoples' minds between a group of cyclists and a line of traffic. It's all traffic, it's a pain, it's in front of you, and the only way of getting it behind you is by overtaking it, which should only be attempted when it's safe to do so. Some motorists don't think that way. These aggressive types believe that common sense requires them to overtake all cyclists, whether alone or in a group, immediately, regardless of blind bends, speed limits, narrowness of the road or oncoming traffic. This kind of behaviour can be seen regularly, is highly dangerous and illegal. But you won't hear of the police clamping down on it or educating motorists as to the finer points of the Highway Code in this regard. As the report says:
"Residents told the BBC some cyclists...were aggressive to drivers trying to overtake."
Aggressive's generally what you feel when someone storms past forcing you to swerve into a pothole or a hedge. And bear in mind the Box Hill zig-zag road has traffic calming. From the highway code [my emphasis]:
"153Traffic-calming measures. On some roads there are features such as road humps, chicanes and narrowings which are intended to slow you down. When you approach these features reduce your speed. Allow cyclists and motorcyclists room to pass through them. Maintain a reduced speed along the whole of the stretch of road within the calming measures. Give way to oncoming road users if directed to do so by signs. You should not overtake other moving road users while in these areas."
The BBC didn't interview any cyclists about dangerous overtaking. Maybe they were afraid they might be too aggressive. Anyway, the report continues "Many [riders] are from local organised clubs whose riders cycle frequently around Surrey but there are also thought to be many from out of the area."
Outside the area? They're probably illegal immigrants. Better let the Daily Mail know.
"Mr Rundle said there had been a dedicated car and bicycle police patrol at Box Hill for a number of weeks.
'This isn't an issue solely of cyclists but an issue of increased visitors to Box Hill full stop,' he said.
'We are stopping motorists and cyclists and making sure that all road users are mindful that they are likely to encounter increased numbers of cyclists. It is a challenge the local police have to rise to and make sure that everyone is considerate of every other road user.'"
Goodness me. That sounds almost as if cyclists have an right to use these roads, and equal treatment under the law.That could actually encourage cycling...and then where would we be?
Alright, enough joshing around. In general I welcome more police, particularly if they're on bikes as they'll quickly find out what us civvies have to put up with. And there are a fair few coppers who are leisure cyclists. Hopefully the enlightened PCs outnumber the dinosaur officers like the one whose leaflet is at the top of this post. But there's something seriously wrong when an increase in cycling is greeted as if it's mainly a problem with cyclists, rather than a problem with drivers not tolerating cyclists and ignoring the Highway Code's guidance about how to drive when there are cyclists in front of them. If I write to my local police compaining about an increase in drivers or speeding and aggressive driving, I know the response won't be increased police patrols. It will be incredulous laughter, or protests that the police don't have the resources to enforce 20MPH limits. And probably a proposal to widen the road, legalise parking on the pavement, and a host of other measures to ensure traffic flow. While there are some cyclists taking risks and riding inconsiderately, they're very unlikely to kill anyone except perhaps themselves. If only the same could be said about risk-taking, inconsiderate drivers.
If it's a nice day this Sunday, I might just make a nuisance of myself and see if I can beat my PB up Box Hill. That'll show 'em.