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"Check the Highway Code": Police officer claims cyclist shouldn't ride "in the middle of the road"

City of London Police officer told the cyclist "you shouldn't be cycling along in the middle of the road [...] there's a cycle lane [...] I know the Highway Code"...

Over the weekend we reported how Greater Manchester Police apologised and promised all officers would be made aware of Highway Code rules after a video surfaced showing a "shocking level of ignorance" from one officer who told a cyclist he had to ride single file next to the kerb.

Well, the video prompted another reader to send us their recent frustrating police encounter, this time with an officer from the City of London force who told him he should not be riding in the "middle of the road".

"When you get back, check the Highway Code," the road.cc reader told the officer, who responded... "I know the Highway Code"...

The reader said it was a "disappointing interaction", but stressed the only aim of sharing the footage is to highlight the "scale of the challenge that cyclists face in public understanding of what is not only perfectly normal and legal cycling, but what is in fact recommended in the Highway Code as good practice and to be safe on the roads."

"I'm not in any kind of righteous steaming fury here — this is just someone who thinks they know the Highway Code but doesn't, it isn't the end of times," he said.

"I've blurred their face because it's not really important who the individual is, and because we all make errors in our jobs that we wouldn't necessarily want to define us."

In response to questions about if he had reported the incident to City of London Police, the reader told us: "I'm really not interested in doing that, or singling out an individual here for what I would perceive to be an institutional gap.

"I'm far more interested in knowing what, if any, systems the police force has in place for ensuring officers who go out on the road are aware of and promote public understanding of the very valuable guidance in the recently clarified Highway Code.

"If anything is going to change in public attitudes on the road, the police forces really have to lead the way and be positive champions for the hierarchy of road users."

What does the Highway Code say?

Rule 61 of the Highway Code:

Use facilities such as cycle lanes and tracks, advanced stop lines and toucan crossings where they make your journey safer and easier. This will depend on your experience and skills and the situation at the time. While such facilities are provided for reasons of safety, cyclists may exercise their judgement and are not obliged to use them.

Pointing out the danger of crossing the junction by bike, the road.cc reader explained there was "almost no motor traffic on the road, and certainly none preventing me from reaching the advance stop box — so using it would not make my journey any easier or safer."  

City of London police officer tells cyclist he shouldn't ride in the "middle of the road" (credit: Velodrone/YouTube)
City of London police officer tells cyclist he shouldn't ride in the "middle of the road" (credit: Velodrone/YouTube)

He continued: "On the contrary, with pavements busy with pedestrians who may step out at any point, several traffic islands on the approach to the junction — and at one point a pedestrian walking down the middle of the road towards me — the safest position is absolutely to be centre of the lane."

"You shouldn't be cycling in the middle of the road"

Contrary to what the officer said, Rule 213 of the Highway Code is as follows:

On narrow sections of road, on quiet roads or streets, at road junctions and in slower-moving traffic, cyclists may sometimes ride in the centre of the lane, rather than towards the side of the road. It can be safer for groups of cyclists to ride two abreast in these situations. Allow them to do so for their own safety, to ensure they can see and be seen.

Rule 72 adds:

 Ride in the centre of your lane, to make yourself as clearly visible as possible [...] at the approach to junctions or road narrowings where it would be unsafe for drivers to overtake you.

"I was on the approach to a large and complex junction with a dual set of traffic lights on the approach," the cyclist explained. "There is considerable risk to cyclists from motor vehicles wanting to turn off to one of the side roads while they go straight ahead or to an opposing turn off.

"There is almost no conceivable situation in which it would be more appropriate to be in the centre of the lane on the approach and in the advance stop box for when the light goes green. 

"Unfortunately this officer, rather than knowing or recognising any of this, is determined that he 'knows' that the Highway Code says 'I should be in the bike lane'.

> Why don't cyclists stick to the left of the lane?

"This is a common misconception by the general public, and one which contributes often to cyclists receiving verbal abuse and even 'punishment passes' or other deliberately dangerous road behaviour when they are in fact acting entirely in keeping with Highway Code recommendations for their own safety.

"I'll be the first to admit that some of the recommendations are counter-intuitive. Believe me, they are counter-intuitive to many cyclists too — but they are thoroughly researched and proven to be the best way to stay safe, especially at and on the approach to large and complex junctions with a history of cyclist fatalities.  

"The police should absolutely be at the forefront of communicating and demonstrating to the public that they understand this — and, dare I say, not confusing lines from tabloid agitators with what the Highway Code actually says."

road.cc contacted City of London Police for comment and to raise the cyclist's wish for wider education on the Highway Code within the police force, but did not get a response at the time of publishing this story.

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.

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83 comments

Avatar
Velo-drone replied to wtjs | 1 year ago
5 likes

Not worth a formal complaint.

If I'd e.g. been arrested or detained that'd be a different matter.

But do I want to unleash the bureaucracy of a complaints process over what was ultimately an unfortunate conversation?

Not really.

Avatar
ChrisB200SX replied to Velo-drone | 1 year ago
4 likes
Velo-drone wrote:

Not worth a formal complaint. If I'd e.g. been arrested or detained that'd be a different matter. But do I want to unleash the bureaucracy of a complaints process over what was ultimately an unfortunate conversation? Not really.

I disagree. This was needless harassment and should be stopped, the process could stop further needless harassment of cyclists by uneducated professional police drivers.

Avatar
Hirsute | 1 year ago
5 likes

If you don't make some sort of complaint, how will they address the educational needs required for a basic understanding of the HC ?

Avatar
Velo-drone replied to Hirsute | 1 year ago
5 likes

Preferably via improving force-wide training and information on HC and cycling, rather than focusing on one officer in order to tick a "complaint resolved" box.

Avatar
Hirsute replied to Velo-drone | 1 year ago
3 likes

And why will they start that process if they are given no reason to?

The complaint could be worded to suggest a wider range of training and education than just this officer.

Avatar
Velo-drone replied to Hirsute | 1 year ago
4 likes

It's the decision I made based on my view of the situation.

I feel that formal complaints against the police are really for rather more serious things than this.

I could be wrong. It's a risk I'm willing to take.

Avatar
mark1a replied to Velo-drone | 1 year ago
3 likes

I think you're right, best not to get marked as a vexatious complainer.

I've recently started uploading close passes, etc to Dorset Police Operation Snap, and I've only done the really bad ones, as I don't want to be "that cyclist" filling their service with stuff they'll ignore.

Although that said, I'm sure they've implemented an automatic delete function as I've had nothing since starting in June.

Avatar
NOtotheEU replied to mark1a | 1 year ago
2 likes
mark1a wrote:

Although that said, I'm sure they've implemented an automatic delete function as I've had nothing since starting in June.

If they are anything like West Midlands they will only contact you if it goes to court (or after you upload 100 or so with extra photos and maps they don't want or need to ask you just for the videos, so a friend tells me, . . . ahem. 🤣)

Avatar
mark1a replied to NOtotheEU | 1 year ago
3 likes

OK thanks that's worth knowing. They do say keep the original video for 3 weeks and if you haven't heard anything, delete the video. 

I was just imagining a real-life Dilbert scenario along the lines of:

Pointy Haired Boss: "Dilbert, our AWS S3 bills are through the roof and we're wasting too much time watching these damn video clips, can't you do something?"

Dilbert: "Leave it with me..."

#!/bin/sh

inotifywait -m -r --format '%w%f' -e create /home/opsnap/uploads | while read VIDEO
do
        /bin/rm -f $VIDEO
done

A month later...

PHB: "I don't know what you've done, but close passes are now down to zero and we can lay off the entire Op Snap team."

 

Avatar
NOtotheEU replied to mark1a | 1 year ago
2 likes

An officer who emailed me to apologise they didn't have the funds to provide outcomes on each case suggested I keep them for at least a year. Went to court in August 2022 for an offence in May 2021 but that was due to lockdown and Birmingham Magistrates Court being closed over the summer for fire safety reasons.

Avatar
AlsoSomniloquism replied to NOtotheEU | 1 year ago
1 like

My potential court case for an incident recorded in Jan was canned as he never turned up for the plea and was found guilty in absence. PC mentioned it could be still on if the perp advises "they hadn't recieved notice of the court date" but not heard anything since. 

I have only had contact for that one, and a couple of times by the team if the upload had screwed up (or  when I accidently entered the wrong reg on the form). 
So I at least know that they are reviewed, but surprised only one went to court AND that one was also for driving without a license which is a surprise as the driver couldn't have been seen on the camera. I do wonder if the "nominated driver" was actually the driver. 

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to mark1a | 1 year ago
3 likes
mark1a wrote:

OK thanks that's worth knowing. They do say keep the original video for 3 weeks and if you haven't heard anything, delete the video. 

I was just imagining a real-life Dilbert scenario along the lines of:

Pointy Haired Boss: "Dilbert, our AWS S3 bills are through the roof and we're wasting too much time watching these damn video clips, can't you do something?"

Dilbert: "Leave it with me..."

#!/bin/sh

inotifywait -m -r --format '%w%f' -e create /home/opsnap/uploads | while read VIDEO
do
        /bin/rm -f $VIDEO
done

A month later...

PHB: "I don't know what you've done, but close passes are now down to zero and we can lay off the entire Op Snap team."

I'd've just piped it to /dev/null instead. Also, your script doesn't quote the $VIDEO, so an uploader could craft a filename to gain control e.g. 'file.txt; rm -fr --no-preserve-root /'.

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
5 likes

Excellent pedantry!

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
1 like
chrisonatrike wrote:

Excellent pedantry!

Why thank you.

If you enjoy some pedantry and are writing a shell script, then I can recommend checking scripts with https://www.shellcheck.net/ - you can install it locally and use it as a linter.

If you want full on pedant mode, that script also suffers from not handling filenames that contain newlines or backslashes properly, so a better version would be:

#!/usr/bin/env bash
inotifywait -m -r --format '%w%f%0' -e create /home/opsnap/uploads | while IFS= read -r -d $'\0' VIDEO; do
  rm --force -- "$VIDEO"
done

That should use a NULL character (the only invalid character in unix filenames) to terminate the filename so that it can handle multi-line filenames.

Avatar
mark1a replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
2 likes

Thanks, and I bow to your ninja shellery skills, although I would also say mine was just a quick thing to illustrate a humorous thought I had in my head!

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belugabob replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
1 like
chrisonatrike wrote:

Excellent pedantry!

More like lintantry  3

Avatar
IanMSpencer replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
3 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

I'd've just piped it to /dev/null instead. Also, your script doesn't quote the $VIDEO, so an uploader could craft a filename to gain control e.g. 'file.txt; rm -fr --no-preserve-root /'.

I don't think I've ever seen "I would have" double apostrophed before. At least no "of".

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to IanMSpencer | 1 year ago
3 likes
IanMSpencer wrote:

I don't think I've ever seen "I would have" double apostrophed before. At least no "of".

I  hain't seen much use of "fo'c's'le" (forecastle) on these forums neither.

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
1 like

Well that could change with this thing I just found out about (thanks, Cycling UK).  However I bet some boat pedant will be on to say that it's not fully decked or something.  Warning - people trying to sell their bright idea:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHpCEUSWt7Q

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
1 like
chrisonatrike wrote:

Well that could change with this thing I just found out about (thanks, Cycling UK).  However I bet some boat pedant will be on to say that it's not fully decked or something.  Warning - people trying to sell their bright idea:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHpCEUSWt7Q

That's pretty cool, but I'm disappointed that the cycling parts don't provide propulsion when boating.

Avatar
wtjs replied to Velo-drone | 1 year ago
0 likes

I feel that formal complaints against the police are really for rather more serious things than this

That's what the police think as well- the trouble is that they think any offence against a cyclist which doesn't result in death of/ or serious injury to the cyclist is non-serious by definition. There will be no response from the despised and loathed OpSnapLancs to this attack by the driver of Archway of Fleetwood bus AR12 WAY on 29th September

Avatar
belugabob replied to wtjs | 1 year ago
1 like
wtjs wrote:

I feel that formal complaints against the police are really for rather more serious things than this

That's what the police think as well- the trouble is that they think any offence against a cyclist which doesn't result in death of/ or serious injury to the cyclist is non-serious by definition. There will be no response from the despised and loathed OpSnapLancs to this attack by the driver of Archway of Fleetwood bus AR12 WAY on 29th September

They obviously spend more on cherished number plates than they do on driver training

Avatar
ChrisB200SX replied to Hirsute | 1 year ago
2 likes
hirsute wrote:

And why will they start that process if they are given no reason to?

The complaint could be worded to suggest a wider range of training and education than just this officer.

Exactly this^

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