Cycling UK has accused South Wales Police of ‘victim shaming’ after the force advised cyclists to avoid the Taff Trail following a spate of robberies in recent weeks.
The Taff Trail is a major cycle route into Cardiff and is also popular with walkers and runners. However, it is poorly lit in places and police are investigating seven recent robberies, all of which took place in the area between Sophia Gardens and the Tesco Extra near Western Avenue after dark.
Student accommodation for both Cardiff University and Cardiff Metropolitan University backs on to the Taff Trail and it is therefore a popular route for those travelling to and from lectures.
Last week Cardiff Metropolitan University informed its students that in light of the robberies, police had recommended using alternative routes in and out of the city.
South Wales Police’s Twitter account retweeted that message and added that patrols would be “stepped up.”
While the spokesperson didn’t explicitly recommend avoiding the Taff Trail, a follow-up message said: “We'd also urge everyone to take normal precautions whenever they're walking in unlit or poorly lit areas. In the hours of darkness, we always encourage people to stick to well-lit, busy roads.”
Echoing the thoughts of many cyclists who responded on social media, Cycling UK Wales' Gwenda Owen told the BBC that police should be addressing the crime rather than discouraging use of the trail in the evenings.
"The police message that went out is unfortunate," said Owen. "It's victim shaming – it's not addressing the problem."
Responding to the BBC article, a police spokesperson said: “Officers have stepped up patrols on the Taff Trail area of @SWPCardiff following a number of robberies.
“At no point are we victim shaming, this article is disappointing and unbalanced. We have asked the @BBCWalesNews to update it accordingly.”
While it could be argued that South Wales Police has stopped short of advising people to avoid the Taff Trail, its repeated advice to ‘take care and avoid dark unlit areas if possible’ is hard to interpret in any other way.
Cyclists who have expressed concern about riding on busy A-roads have typically received a variant of the stock response about ‘exercising caution’.
Anyone who witnesses any suspicious behaviour has been advised to phone 101, or 999 in an emergency.