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“Can’t the police use Google?” Cyclist mistakenly pulled over by police and threatened with ticket for “using phone” – and then gets lectured by officer for not wearing helmet or hi-vis

The cyclist, who was spotted by the officer saving footage of a lorry driver’s close pass on his bike camera, was told that not wearing a helmet or hi-vis could lead to him being “killed or smushed”

A cyclist who complained to the police after he was mistakenly pulled over by an officer for “using a mobile phone” while riding on the road – when, in fact, the cyclist was attempting to save footage of a close pass from a lorry driver on his bike camera – was later told that, though there is no specific offence for using an electronic device while riding a bike, his actions could still be deemed “careless and inconsiderate”.

During the incident, after stopping the cyclist the officer erroneously argued that it was illegal to use a phone or electronic device while cycling, telling the rider to “look it up”, said that he would have received a ticket – or been arrested or charged – had she not been on her own, and advised him that not wearing a helmet or hi-vis clothing could lead to him getting “killed or smushed”.

Aberdeen-based cyclist Liam was riding a bike fitted with a cargo trailer, loaded with recycling material, on the city’s Berryden Road when he was close passed by a lorry driver, footage of which the cyclist posted on X, formerly Twitter, this week.

“You can clearly see from the footage how close it was to my bike, so it was even closer to my wider trailer,” Liam told road.cc.

“I was trying to navigate the rough road but a bit further on, once I’d pulled over into the correct lane for going round the roundabout to enter Sainsbury’s, I had a second to press the button on my Cycliq Fly 12 to prevent the video footage from being overwritten.”

However, that brief action led to him being pulled over by a lone female police officer shortly after the roundabout for “playing with something” on his bike.

“As I was exiting the roundabout I heard a siren, looked behind me and saw a police car following me,” Liam says.

“I didn’t think it was for me but I pulled over to let it past, but it pulled in behind me. The officer asked me if I knew why she had pulled me over. My first thought was there was an issue with the trailer or a strap had come loose or something.

“She then proceeded to tell me it was because I was using my mobile phone whilst cycling. I couldn’t believe what she was saying until I realised it was about the camera.”

“Do you want to get killed and smushed?”

In the video of the incident posted to X, the officer can be heard saying: “Do you know why I stopped you? I’m on my own and I’m on my way to a job, so you’re not getting a ticket, but I saw you on your phone… You were playing with something on the front of your bike – you need to be concentrating on the road as much as everyone else.”

After being informed by the “dumbfounded” cyclist that his phone was in his pocket and that he had instead pressed a button on his camera, the officer replied: “Don’t start pointing in my face. I’m here to give you a bit of safety advice – you’re also not wearing a helmet, with no hi-vis on. Do you want to get killed and smushed?”

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

Liam then pointed out to the officer that there is no law requiring the wearing of helmets or hi-vis, to which she replied: “And that’s why you’re not getting arrested or charged. I’m trying to give you a bit of safety advice. You need to take care of yourself – you should be wearing a helmet and hi-vis.

“It’s safety advice, so you don’t get injured when you’re cycling on the road. I’m not saying it’s a requirement, but in order to be safe on the road you should be wearing a helmet and hi-vis, and concentrating on the road, and not looking down at a camera.”

> 'Police' scold cyclist riding with pet cat in basket for not wearing a helmet after moped rider knocks them off bike

Liam, who was again accused of “wagging” his finger at the officer, also asked if she had witnessed the close pass committed by the lorry driver, arguing: “If you saw me touch that, you saw the close pass.”

“I didn’t see the [driver] pass you,” the officer responded. “I was looking at you, because your lack of hi-vis caused me to look at you, and I noticed you had no hi-vis on and no hat. If you’re to be safe on the road, you should do so. It’s concern for you on the road.”

Liam then asked: “Do you pull lots of cyclists over and tell them about hi-vis and helmets?”

“If I have the time to do so, and I see them doing something else, yes I do – because I’m concerned, I’ve seen cyclists suffer car accidents on the road without helmets.”

Finally, Liam informed the officer that it is not illegal to use a phone while cycling, prompting her to respond: “Yes it is, look it up.”

> No plans to introduce specific offence of using mobile phone while cycling, says minister

According to Police Scotland’s website, “using a handheld mobile phone whilst cycling is not illegal. However, you could commit an offence of careless riding or riding without due care and consideration. It is also not advisable for the obvious safety reasons.”

In April last year, transport minister Baroness Vere told the House of Lords that the government currently has no plans to introduce specific legislation banning cyclists and e-scooter riders from using mobile phones while riding, while telling her fellow politicians that “is s really important that we do not demonise all cyclists”.

“Careless and inconsiderate”

Following the incident, Liam took a photograph of the back of his cargo trailer which, incidentally, was carrying a brightly coloured yellow box. He also filed a complaint with Police Scotland later that day, claiming that the officer “falsely accused me of using a phone whilst cycling and how there’s no such charge”.

Cargo bike trailer used by cyclist pulled over by police for phone use (Liam)

“Months passed and I was contacted for further info,” he says. “Whilst being seriously unwell I provided this to the best of my ability. Then about five days ago the result of my complaint came through the letterbox. As I read it my jaw got lower and lower to the floor as they refused to uphold any of my complaints.”

In a letter sent by Police Scotland’s Professional Standards Department, responding to Liam’s complaints, an inspector dismissed the cyclist’s assertion that the “officer falsely claimed that [he] was using his mobile phone while cycling”, and that the officer “falsely claimed that it was an offence to use a mobile phone whilst cycling”.

Two other complaints, alleging that the officer who stopped the cyclist and those who later attended his home were “rude”, were also dismissed.

> Police ask pedestrians to wear hi-vis following spate of road deaths in Scotland

Referring to Liam saving the recorded footage of the close pass on his camera, the letter said: “While I appreciate the need for this, it perhaps would have been safer for both you and fellow road users if you had pulled over at the earliest opportunity to capture the footage, rather than doing so while continuing to cycle on a busy road.”

The letter also says that it “would have been reasonable for the officer to have assumed the device was a mobile phone” until the matter was clarified by the cyclist, before noting that “the device in question has not been inspected, and its capabilities and functions have not been determined. Hence, I cannot definitively rule out the possibility that it may have also functioned a mobile phone.”

> “Victim blaming garbage” – Police Scotland slated after sharing “cycle safety” video of HGV driver left-hooking cyclist

“While there is no specific offence for cycling whilst using a mobile phone or other electronic device,” the inspector added, “these actions may be deemed careless and inconsiderate, and therefore punishable by law.”

“For those charges to apply one would have to be riding like a lunatic swerving in and out of people and traffic and causing damage or accidents,” Liam told road.cc. “But then those charges apply whether a mobile phone is involved or not.

“Simply riding along texting and being in full control of the bike and obeying all laws and traffic lights is not illegal and there’s no offence. This is what the officer was essentially accusing me of.

“The video shows that at no point was I riding like an idiot. I’m not even going fast on account of the weight of the trailer.

“They also try to claim that it’s possible my device was a phone. I provided Police Scotland with the video footage that clearly shows in the bottom right corner of the video that it’s a Cycliq camera. Can’t they use Google at Police Scotland?”

When contacted by road.cc, a Police Scotland spokesperson said: "We received a complaint which has been investigated and the complainer has been responded to.

“Anyone not satisfied with the way in which a complaint has been handled can request a review by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC).

“It’s the responsibility of every driver to help protect vulnerable road users like cyclists and drivers should understand how their actions can impact the life of that person riding a bike.

“Safety is the main priority for all road users and we encourage every road user to conduct themselves responsibly on the road. Weather can be unpredictable. Be prepared. Be Safe. Be Seen.”

The spokesperson also directed us to the force’s safety page for cyclists, which informs people on bikes that “bright and fluorescent materials should be worn in the daytime” and that “wearing a helmet may help protect your head if you are involved in a collision”.

Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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52 comments

Avatar
VeNT | 1 week ago
0 likes

ACAB. Simple as.
They are not here to protect you.

Avatar
Dogless | 1 week ago
2 likes

"Am I free to leave? Right, see ya."

Power tripping police don't deserve your time.

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muhasib | 2 weeks ago
4 likes

The latest annual statistics for dismissal of police officers are here:

https://www.college.police.uk/ethics/barred-list/police-dismissals-2022-...

394, of which 227 resigned before dismissal

Only covers Home Office forces though

Avatar
jthurber80 | 2 weeks ago
5 likes

If an officer "threatens" you with arrest say, "That's fine.  We can let a magistrate inform us of the proper law."

This places the officer in a dangerous position, with possible false arrest chargest being lodged against them.  I've used this tactic with California officers and, in every single case, they either offered a warning or contacted a supervisor (Sergeant) who informed them that an arrest would be inappropriate (and legally liable).

Avatar
RobD | 2 weeks ago
3 likes

I hope she just as frequently stops motorists that don't have their daylight running lights on to "advise" them on safety issues.

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the little onion replied to RobD | 2 weeks ago
4 likes

or just black, grey or dark blue cars....

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quiff replied to RobD | 2 weeks ago
7 likes

Of course, much more common is a motorist who has their DRLs (and no rear lights) on at night. 

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wtjs | 2 weeks ago
12 likes

My present state of despising the police began with someone hitting me while I was stationary waiting to leave the Sainsbury's exit road onto the main road. The driver leaving the main road turning right came down the wrong side of the exit road-'cutting the corner'. The police response to this was that the Freelander driver was excused by it being dark and rainy. The PC said it was 'only a momentary loss of concentration'. That was nearly 5 years ago when I didn't have a GoPro- I soon got one, and my opinion of the police, as if you didn't know, has been decreasing monotonically since then. This was one where I went right through the police complaints process to no avail

https://upride.cc/incident/md68fwc_apcovernight_whitelinecross/

What the joke Professional Standards Department dreamed up was that they had to have confirmatory video from the (alleged!) offending vehicle, and because there wasn't any, they "couldn't do anything".

Avatar
chrisonatrike replied to wtjs | 2 weeks ago
3 likes
wtjs wrote:

What the joke Professional Standards Department dreamed up was that they had to have confirmatory video from the (alleged!) offending vehicle, and because there wasn't any, they "couldn't do anything".

I don't know which came first - Scotrozzer's "well the driver said they can't remember that, so ..." or this one?  Perhaps some fruitful exchanges of professional knowledge between Lancs and Scotland have occurred?

Avatar
wtjs replied to chrisonatrike | 2 weeks ago
1 like

I don't know which came first - Scotrozzer's "well the driver said they can't remember that, so ..." or this one?

Lancashire Constabulary was well in the vanguard in lying to the punters- you will see this APC delivery van incident was December 2019, whereas we have only heard of the 'Scottish Dodge' in the last year or so.

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mitsky | 2 weeks ago
4 likes

If the police actually do proper job appraisals then this officer should be called up for not sounding their siren and flashing their lights at the lorry driver and at least having a word if not actually issue a fine and points.
An inherent failure to do their job and keep vulnerable road users safe by not going after the ones putting them in danger.

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eburtthebike | 2 weeks ago
17 likes

So this officer ignores the obviously criminal behaviour of the driver, but invents a law to blame the cyclist?  Flabbergasted.  Such utter incompetence should be called out and appropriate action taken by her superiors, but no.

Then to add insult to injury, her colleagues defend her indefensible actions in ignoring the crime and having a go at the victim.  My flabber has never been more gasted.

Clearly the officer needs considerable education, in the law and in the actual effects of helmets and hi-viz, as do her superiors and fellow officers.

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brooksby | 2 weeks ago
13 likes

It seems that the police, more than 'normal members of the public', will refuse to back down if they are wrong and prefer to 'double-down' on their error.

Liam could had pulled out the appropriate legislation hand-written onto vellum by the original lawmakers and the police officer would have come up with something else...

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Secret_squirrel replied to brooksby | 2 weeks ago
16 likes

Some members of the force seem to join it for the power trip and constitutionally incapable of admitting they have made a mistake.

Seems particular prevalent among ScotRozzer, who are institutionally biases against Cyclists and non driving road users in general.

Here's a horrible thought for a Friday - what if the Met is one of the best forces the UK has to offer? sad

Avatar
brooksby replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 weeks ago
5 likes

<shudder>

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brooksby replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 weeks ago
1 like
Secret_squirrel wrote:

Here's a horrible thought for a Friday - what if the Met is one of the best forces the UK has to offer? sad

<shudder>

Avatar
dubwise replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 weeks ago
4 likes
Secret_squirrel wrote:

Seems particular prevalent among ScotRozzer, who are institutionally biases against Cyclists and non driving road users in general.

Not just cyclists and non driving road users but anyone going about their daily routine.  Or pointing out the truth, or reporting the facts.

I could go on and on and on...

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the little onion replied to brooksby | 2 weeks ago
4 likes

Yes, absolutely. From multiple, bitter experiences, it is near-impossible to get police officers to hold their hands up and say "you know what, I messed up". I'd respect them a lot more if they did this. After all, no one is right all the time.

 

Also, I'd note that this extends to the complaints procedures, which sadly are all about shutting things down. It's amazing how in every expereince I had with them, the reviewer of the cases wrote down the police officers' view points, but only verbally informed me of counter evidence, and then denied that they ever said it. 

Avatar
P3t3 replied to brooksby | 2 weeks ago
4 likes
brooksby wrote:

It seems that the police, more than 'normal members of the public', will refuse to back down if they are wrong and prefer to 'double-down' on their error.

Its the first rule of Authority: Authority never backs down.  

Avatar
Steve K | 2 weeks ago
17 likes

I've got a great plan, lads - I just need your help and we'll split the proceeds.

I'm going to rob the Bank of Scotland, and I just need you all to distract the police by riding past not wearing hi viz whilst I make my getaway.

Who's in?

Avatar
Rendel Harris replied to Steve K | 2 weeks ago
11 likes
Steve K wrote:

I've got a great plan, lads - I just need your help and we'll split the proceeds.

I'm going to rob the Bank of Scotland, and I just need you all to distract the police by riding past not wearing hi viz whilst I make my getaway.

Why do you need our help? Just rob the bank wearing dark clothing and even in daylight nobody will be able to see you, especially not police officers, apparently.

Avatar
Browsie replied to Rendel Harris | 2 weeks ago
11 likes

May be even better to make the getaway in a large truck as apparently the police are even less likely to spot it! 🤔

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Matthew Acton-Varian | 2 weeks ago
14 likes

I have experienced dangerous close passes whilst wearing a jacket that is ENTIRELY flourescent yellow. Hi vis means fuck all.

Also, a large commercial vehicle will crush any and every bicycle helmet on the market, as the safety standards do not entail they must survive being run over by a 7.5t vehicle. Nobody's surviving that if such a freak accident were to occur. Only a motorcycle helmet faces such tests. Helmets mean fuck all.

Avatar
eburtthebike replied to Matthew Acton-Varian | 2 weeks ago
1 like
Matthew Acton-Varian wrote:

Also, a large commercial vehicle will crush any and every bicycle helmet on the market, as the safety standards do not entail they must survive being run over by a 7.5t vehicle. Nobody's surviving that if such a freak accident were to occur. Only a motorcycle helmet faces such tests.

No, motorcycle helmets aren't tested by running a 7.5t truck over them, and neither would they be effective in such a case.

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hawkinspeter replied to eburtthebike | 2 weeks ago
4 likes
eburtthebike wrote:

No, motorcycle helmets aren't tested by running a 7.5t truck over them, and neither would they be effective in such a case.

I don't know - I once saw Teller being driven over by a big truck

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIOy48KlgQ8

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Pub bike | 2 weeks ago
14 likes

And people say you can't trust the Police?

Of course you can trust the Police...to make up laws as they see fit to justify their prejudices, to blame victims, and to ignore actual crimes being committed.

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BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 2 weeks ago
1 like

'Smushed', never heard that one before; what a lovely verb. I shall be using that henceforth. 

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Surreyrider replied to BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 2 weeks ago
0 likes

Watch videos of Casper the talking border collie on Facebook - his favourite game with one of his toys is 'smush face'! 

Avatar
Rendel Harris | 2 weeks ago
11 likes

I like "you had no hat", smacks of the days when a gentleman wouldn't dream of leaving home without his titfer. I trust Police Scotland will also start pulling cyclists over for not wearing spats and for not leaving the bottom button of their weskit undone.

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chrisonatrike replied to Rendel Harris | 2 weeks ago
4 likes

What we need in these times of straitened circumstances* are more sumptuary laws. Obviously though they shouldn't apply to the wearers of large electric vehicles though, but those outside them.

* relatively, and particularly, and not compared to almost all of recorded history, as usual.

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