Support road.cc

Like this site? Help us to make it better.

Cyclist and granddaughter, 8, stopped for helmet "safety" advice by police who "sounded their sirens" and pulled pair over "because it's dangerous"

When asked for comment the officers' police force doubled down on their actions, insisting "road safety is a priority for us and we will always look to educate road users on how they can keep safe"...

When one Birmingham cyclist's Saturday bike ride with his eight-year-old granddaughter was interrupted by the sound of police sirens they carefully continued on their way for a few seconds, after all it seemed implausible the noise could be for the pair "not doing anything wrong", using a short stretch of cycle lane before returning to their preferred off-road routes for the remainder of the 12.5-mile ride.

"Can you pull over so we can have a word?" the voice behind the sirens asked, the police car, blue lights flashing, pulling alongside before coming to a stop at the side of the road. 

What followed was, in one officer's words, just "a conversation" about road safety, namely the fact that neither Joe nor his eight-year-old granddaughter were wearing a helmet, an incident which has put her off cycling.

"On getting out of the vehicle the driver made a comment about us riding in the road without helmets," Joe recalled, referring to his camera footage which he did not wish to be shared but captured the full incident. "I asked, 'Is that illegal?'... 'No' was the answer, so I followed up by asking, 'Why are you pulling us over then?'

"In reply to this the officer said, 'I'm not here to have a go at you, or tell you you've broken the law, I'm not doing that... neither of you have done anything wrong, I'm just saying, just be sensible, that's it. No trouble, I'm not telling you you've broken the law, I'm just having a conversation with you'.

"I then followed this up by saying, 'There's no need. You've stopped us on a hill... I can't understand why you've stopped us, if we're doing nothing wrong.' The reply was, 'Because it's dangerous'."

Wearing a helmet while cycling is not a legal requirement in the United Kingdom, as it is in some other countries such as Australia, but is recommended by the Highway Code.

Last December, the Department for Transport insisted that the government has "no intention" of making wearing one a legal requirement, with "the safety benefits of mandating cycle helmets for cyclists likely to be outweighed by the fact that this would put some people off cycling, thereby reducing the wider health and environmental benefits."

> Government shuts down mandatory cycling helmets question from Conservative MP

Continuing his account of Saturday's incident, Joe told us one of the officers talked "about the possibility of us being involved in a collision further on where he would have to attend and deal with the consequences of my granddaughter being hit".

"Hearing this, I did become slightly irate, but not shouty, as I didn't think it was a reasonable thing to say in front of an eight-year-old, implying I hadn't considered her safety myself," Joe continued. 

West Midlands Police officers pull over cyclist and 8-year-old granddaughter for riding without helmets (@FrankleyMan/Twitter)

"To make things worse, the officer then went on to say how he was thinking about looking 'after her' pointing to my granddaughter. I then asked, as I had a few times, 'Do you not think, I'm looking after her?'.

The officer replied: "Of course you are, I could see you were riding further in the road than she was, which is brilliant" before shortly after suggesting that "if a car careers in to you, not wearing a helmet, you're going to know about it".

As Joe again pointed out that nothing they had done was against the law, the officer said: "Just take my advice, that she should wear a helmet."

> Why is Dan Walker's claim that a bike helmet saved his life so controversial?

"Throughout this whole exchange I was continually calling my granddaughter over so we could carry on our journey, but she seemed so scared, she didn't move from the spot she was on," Joe said. 

"Also, neither of these officers tried to ease her obvious discomfort by talking to her directly, until they were about to get back into their vehicle. The final comments from the driver were, 'Just because it's not against the law, doesn't mean we shouldn't point out something that might save somebody's life', nodding his head towards me, he then added, 'Think about it... if it was against the law I'd be arresting you and detaining you'.

"My final comment was to ask, 'Do you stop every cyclist you see without a helmet?'. To which he replied: 'I do, when I see a little five, six, or seven-year-old girl'."

When contacted for comment on the incident, West Midlands Police defended the officers' approach and stated that "road safety is a priority for us and we will always look to educate road users on how they can keep safe."

The force has previously come under criticism for its response to camera footage of alleged dangerous driving, West Midlands Police this year admitting that it needed to review how reports were managed after reporting by this website, supported by an FOI request by Chris Smith, found that of 286 reports of careless, inconsiderate, or dangerous driving around cyclists considered by West Midlands Police in 2022, only one resulted in a prosecution.

> Police force criticised for one close pass prosecution from 286 submissions admits need to review how reports are managed

Saturday's incident also comes at the end of a summer when the force said it had undertaken a "relentless enforcement of the rules of the road" after multiple cyclists and pedestrians were killed in a series of hit-and-runs and collisions in Birmingham.

A father of a two-year-old boy was killed in a hit-and-run while cycling on 16 May, weeks before a 12-year-old riding a bike was also killed, and a driver arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving and being unfit to drive through drugs. On 29 May, a cyclist was killed in a further hit-and-run before a four-year-old boy was killed after being hit by a driver in Erdington a day later.

The deaths prompted the West Midlands' Walking and Cycling Commissioner Adam Tranter to call for urgent action to "turn the tide on aggressive driving in Birmingham".

Just yesterday we reported a step West Midlands Police had taken in the force's attempt to address aforementioned issues with the camera footage submitting process, officers celebrating "action taken against hundreds of careless and dangerous drivers" and calling for more public submissions.

The force increased resources in its Traffic Investigations Unit responsible for processing third-party footage and thanked the public for the "great response to the bolstering of the team" and said "road users who send us footage say they're pleased with the results and the feedback given".

> Conservative MP cites "safety" and attempts to reignite cyclist helmet debate

"We've got a vital role to play in keeping the roads safe, but we can't be everywhere all the time," Tanya Johnson said. "That's why it’s great that we're getting so many clips in. In more than 140 cases last month, we didn't need to issue points, fines or court action, but offered education and advice to drivers.

"That will make those motorists think twice about the standard of their driving, and that could well save lives."

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

Add new comment

89 comments

Avatar
Left_is_for_Losers | 5 months ago
0 likes

Really dont understand the issues raised in the comments about the police scaring these riders. If the police had to get to a separate emergency, should they not put sirens and lights to avoid scaring people?

Avatar
polainm | 5 months ago
8 likes

Policing like this, is all about misdirected 'danger'. It is not dangerous to cycle on the road, unless at speed among numerous pedestrians. Then, it can be dangerous. 

The danger is drivers - too many, too fast, too heavy, too ignorant. The ones on bike camera footage that the police very very rarely obtain a prosecution for. 

Following police rationale here, I should wear a stab-proof vest whenever I travel to London, because walking among violent criminals is dangerous. 

Avatar
Benthic | 5 months ago
3 likes
Quote:

The reply was, 'Because it's dangerous'."

Where is the danger coming from?

Avatar
perce replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 5 months ago
4 likes

I don't remember reading that the adult cyclist was scared. I can understand why an eight year old child would be scared though.

Avatar
HoldingOn replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 5 months ago
6 likes

I think it's the difference between being scared by a loud noise and being scared that you have done something wrong and are going to be arrested.

I wouldn't expect an 8 year old to know they have done nothing wrong and stand up to the police like her grandfather did.

I am older than 8, yet I would have a flash of fear if the police ran their sirens and pulled me over like this.

*Edit: I definitely clicked to reply to "Left_is_for_Losers", not sure why it has put it against "polainm"'s thread

Avatar
Benthic replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 5 months ago
0 likes

.

Avatar
Benthic replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 5 months ago
6 likes

There was no emergency.

Avatar
JLasTSR | 5 months ago
1 like

I have a cousin who in the 1990's told me that he would not ride a bicycle on the road as it was too dangerous. I never felt it was that dangerous. In those days I would not have dreamed of wearing a helmet because as a child in the 70's and 80's the helmets were minimalist and on my opinion useless. When I started cycling regularly again in about 2013 I wore a helmet. I do wonder why some say wearing a helmet would put them off cycling. It does not really make sense to me. I am sure their logic is sound but I cannot get onto their line of thinking.
I do think the police could have handled this better but I am not sure why lights and sirens would scare anyone, nor should the police stopping you to have a word be considered frightening. In fact the police should never be thought of as frightening.

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to JLasTSR | 5 months ago
9 likes
JLasTSR wrote:

... I am not sure why lights and sirens would scare anyone, nor should the police stopping you to have a word be considered frightening. In fact the police should never be thought of as frightening.

Should.

As for kids - they may pick this up from adults, or have bad memories of an incident requiring the emergency services (who may have behaved entirely properly).

In fact lots of different groups of people may find the police frightening, including those who have absolutely nothing to hide.  It doesn't take e.g. a mental health crisis or paranoia for this to be a concern.   See Baroness Casey Review, Stephen Lawrence Independent Review, Daniel Morgan Independent Panel report, ...

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to JLasTSR | 5 months ago
4 likes
JLasTSR wrote:

I have a cousin who in the 1990's told me that he would not ride a bicycle on the road as it was too dangerous. I never felt it was that dangerous. In those days I would not have dreamed of wearing a helmet because as a child in the 70's and 80's the helmets were minimalist and on my opinion useless. When I started cycling regularly again in about 2013 I wore a helmet. I do wonder why some say wearing a helmet would put them off cycling. It does not really make sense to me. I am sure their logic is sound but I cannot get onto their line of thinking. I do think the police could have handled this better but I am not sure why lights and sirens would scare anyone, nor should the police stopping you to have a word be considered frightening. In fact the police should never be thought of as frightening.

A sudden loud noise behind you is startling at the very least. Anyone with noise anxiety is going to unhappy too.

As far as I can tell, the main reasons behind not wanting to wear a helmet are comfort issues or not wanting the extra hassle of carrying a helmet around. I think it's more common with casual or commuting cyclists that are only going a short distance and having to have, find and wear a helmet just seems unnecessary.

With some roadies, it could be recognising that a helmet does next to nothing if you get driven into by a driver and that they otherwise never fall off. MTBers are much more likely to wear a helmet AFAIK as it's not unusual to fall off and hit trees etc.

Personally, I choose to wear a helmet and luckily it's only been of use against low hanging branches.

Avatar
wycombewheeler replied to hawkinspeter | 5 months ago
7 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

Personally, I choose to wear a helmet and luckily it's only been of use against low hanging branches.

No low hanging branches on my commute, so I don't bother with a helmet. Riding off road I wear a helmet, riding in a cycling group where there is a possibility of touching wheels, I wear a helmet. It's all about assessment of the risks, and I don't consider a 3 mile bike ride to be sufficiently risky to justify a helmet. Just as I do not don a helmet to cross the road or walk into town.

I honestly think more health expenditure would be saved by mandatory helmets for the over 70s than for cyclists. They are the group most prone to falling over and ending up in A&E.

Avatar
Hirsute replied to wycombewheeler | 5 months ago
1 like

If my MiL is anything to go by, they need hip, ankle and wrist protectors !

Avatar
Cugel replied to wycombewheeler | 5 months ago
1 like
wycombewheeler wrote:
hawkinspeter wrote:

Personally, I choose to wear a helmet and luckily it's only been of use against low hanging branches.

I honestly think more health expenditure would be saved by mandatory helmets for the over 70s than for cyclists. They are the group most prone to falling over and ending up in A&E.

Hoy, hoy! I yam over 70 and don't fall over. (Of course, the time may come ..... when I'm 103). I fell over a lot more in my teens and 20s than since although rarely from a bicycle. The chromed steel rims of me teenage years bike was a a bit of a bend-in-the-rain trap, see?

Agist, that then, wot you propose.  I would have reported you to the Greater Awoken One for inclusion in the re-education camps but there's no such person and no such thing, despite what Cruella says. Perhaps I will set up such things meself, just to annoy LifL and Phil the Stiffneck? (Or will it actually please them immensely)?

Avatar
wycombewheeler replied to Cugel | 5 months ago
1 like
Cugel wrote:
wycombewheeler wrote:
hawkinspeter wrote:

Personally, I choose to wear a helmet and luckily it's only been of use against low hanging branches.

I honestly think more health expenditure would be saved by mandatory helmets for the over 70s than for cyclists. They are the group most prone to falling over and ending up in A&E.

Hoy, hoy! I yam over 70 and don't fall over. (Of course, the time may come ..... when I'm 103). I fell over a lot more in my teens and 20s than since although rarely from a bicycle. The chromed steel rims of me teenage years bike was a a bit of a bend-in-the-rain trap, see?

Agist, that then, wot you propose.  I would have reported you to the Greater Awoken One for inclusion in the re-education camps but there's no such person and no such thing, despite what Cruella says. Perhaps I will set up such things meself, just to annoy LifL and Phil the Stiffneck? (Or will it actually please them immensely)?

I don't fall of my bike either, but still there are those that insist I should wear a helmet as it's common sense and it might save a life. But the figures from A&E show that the largest group of patients are the over 70s, not cyclists.

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to wycombewheeler | 5 months ago
4 likes
wycombewheeler wrote:

I don't fall of my bike either, but still there are those that insist I should wear a helmet as it's common sense and it might save a life. But the figures from A&E show that the largest group of patients are the over 70s, not cyclists.

I reckon they should make all patients wear helmets, because they've proved they're vulnerable.

Avatar
Benthic replied to JLasTSR | 5 months ago
2 likes
JLasTSR wrote:

I do wonder why some say wearing a helmet would put them off cycling.

Would mandatory wearing of a helmet on a train put you off from travelling by train, or not?

Avatar
JLasTSR replied to Benthic | 5 months ago
0 likes

The train puts me off quite enough thanks. I am against almost anything being mandatory. I still wear a helmet when cycling and having gone head first into a car a mile from home I can only say I am glad I did. 

Avatar
Vo2Maxi | 5 months ago
2 likes

Hmmmm...I'm slightly conflicted here.
Silly old grandad! What the hell is he doing, taking out an 8yr old without a helmet? Much as I hate to bring up the spectre of Savile, those old seatbelt ads, "clunk, click, every trip" were true. It's the one time you DON'T do the right thing that sht happens. If his granddaughter had fallen off and got a head injury, how would he feel?
Coppers pulling them over? It's a bit nanny state, but I can see where they're coming from. But no, let silly old granddad do his thing, it's a free country.
Matter of fact, maybe it SHOULD be compulsory for a child to wear a helmet, until 16, when they can make up their own mind?

Avatar
eburtthebike replied to Vo2Maxi | 5 months ago
7 likes
Vo2Maxi wrote:

Matter of fact, maybe it SHOULD be compulsory for a child to wear a helmet, until 16, when they can make up their own mind?

By which time they will have been fully conditioned and will believe that cycling is dangerous but a helmet will make them safe?
No.  Tackle the cause, not the symptoms.

Avatar
wtjs | 5 months ago
6 likes

"Can you pull over so we can have a word?"

The correct answer to this is 'No- cheerio', although I suppose you would have to wait through the first few words before it became obvious what it's about. The police are not the slightest bit interested in the safety of cyclists, although they are sometimes (as in this case) interested in pretending to be caring and sharing in a 'our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the deceased cyclist' kind of way. I was coming south down the A6 from the Lakes for a short distance yesterday and both lanes were packed with traffic travelling at about 40mph because of a serious roadworks bottleneck a couple of miles further south- nobody was paying any attention to any namby-pamby close passing 'advice', which is entirely non-enforced by Lancashire police. As far as FoI etc. is able to discover, LC has never prosecuted anybody for close passing a cyclist. These are my usual 2 examples, repeated for new readers:

https://upride.cc/incident/4148vz_travellerschoicecoach_closepass/

https://upride.cc/incident/yn67mvj_sainsburys44tonner_closepass/

The police claimed to be taking action for the first, but were almost certainly lying- to be continued...They refused to respond to the second, and now never reply to any reports. People proudly claim on here good results from their reports, but the police are probably lying about a lot of them and actually did nothing. They view themselves as 'too busy' to waste time on cyclist safety, or any other safety for that matter. I have been going on and on here, and at LC,  about WU59 UMH for a long time. This is the latest, but 3 1/2 years of No MOT, No Insurance and No VED, and a recent failed MOT with several Do not drive until repaired (dangerous defects) warnings has no effect on the driver, or the police who can't be bothered (even I don't think this is corruption- even the 80-or-less IQ police are not daft enough for that in a case like this. If only there was some way of tracing such drivers and vehicles from that mobile  07766 076612 -even if he has gone bust?

Avatar
grOg replied to wtjs | 5 months ago
2 likes

FYI; a bicycle is legally a vehicle and when ridden on a public road comes under the jurisdiction of police; ie, if plod tells you to stop, you have to stop.

Avatar
genesis | 5 months ago
2 likes

What a bunch of a**hats

Avatar
Sriracha | 5 months ago
10 likes

Why are the police wearing Hi-Viz? I'm guessing it's a nod to the dangers of being exposed to traffic whilst out of their vehicle. The same dangers the cyclists are exposed to. So why are the police not taking their own advice and wearing polystyrene helmets? Is it because they recognise that they offer negligible protection in collision with a vehicle, something well outside their design spec.

Avatar
wycombewheeler | 5 months ago
11 likes
Quote:

 "if a car careers in to you, not wearing a helmet, you're going to know about it".

Special things these helmets, if a car careers in to me wearing a helmet I can expect no broken limbs or ribs as long as I am wearing a helmet. I put it to the officer that I will know about it whether or not I am wearing a helmet, and if he could focus on stopping drivers from careering around out of control that would do a LOT more for my safety.

Avatar
mitsky | 5 months ago
14 likes

If the Birmingham police force are so OVER resourced that they can use their lights and sirens for this, can they share their spare capacity with the rest of the country's beleagured police units?

Or should they concentrate on the real dangers that vulnerable road users face: namely dangerous and ACTUALLY ILLEGAL drivers?

Avatar
CiroT | 5 months ago
1 like

A family member was hit by a careless driver last year and suffered brain damage. The solicitor tells us that the onus will be on him to get expert testimony that wearing a helmet wouldn't have made a difference for to the speed of the collision, otherwise the judge will likely rule 25% contributory negligence for not wearing one and reduce the payout from the insurers accordingly. I don't think it would be much of a leap from there to ruling contributory negligence for allowing a child to ride without a helmet so legal requirement or not, I think it's pretty good advice the police have given here.

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to CiroT | 5 months ago
15 likes
CiroT wrote:

A family member was hit by a careless driver last year and suffered brain damage. The solicitor tells us that the onus will be on him to get expert testimony that wearing a helmet wouldn't have made a difference for to the speed of the collision, otherwise the judge will likely rule 25% contributory negligence for not wearing one and reduce the payout from the insurers accordingly. I don't think it would be much of a leap from there to ruling contributory negligence for allowing a child to ride without a helmet so legal requirement or not, I think it's pretty good advice the police have given here.

That doesn't make any sense to me. Surely the duty of proof is on the insurers to prove that wearing a helmet would have significantly affected the result. I had a little look the other day for instances of helmet wearing affecting payouts and the only cycle related one was based in Ireland where the law is somewhat different. It might be worth getting a second opinion/solicitor as lack of non-essential PPE should have no bearing on a case where someone else causes the incident.

Do you think the police should go around high crime areas and advise the people that they should wear stab-proof vests to protect against knife crime? Would a stabbing victim be held to be 25% negligent for not wearing a stab vest? Obviously this is a facetious example as stab vests are specifically designed to protect against knife attacks, whereas cycle helmets are most definitely not designed to protect against being hit by a car.

Edit: found this page which details some relevant cases in case that helps your family with the court case: https://www.weightmans.com/insights/cycle-helmets-and-contributory-negligence-revisited/

Note that they state that the duty of proof is on the defendant/insurer.

Avatar
Rendel Harris replied to CiroT | 5 months ago
1 like

May I ask, out of curiosity, what the collision speed was?

Avatar
polainm replied to CiroT | 5 months ago
4 likes

And this is the real reason for cycle helmet wearing - contributory negligence. Thanks to the insurance lobbyists/donors that force ill conceived policy onto a society that ensures driver bias is thorough. 

There is no 'Plan for Drivers', nor war on motorists. The reality is carnage from drivers. 

Avatar
eburtthebike replied to CiroT | 5 months ago
2 likes

Unlikely that compensation will be reduced if they have competent legal representation.   https://www.mondaq.com/uk/rail-road--cycling/1380446/how-smith-v-finch-h...

Pages

Latest Comments