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Cyclists “getting away with” breaking the law claims Sunday Times

Enforcement in London up against drivers, down against cyclists, but there is a very good reason for it due to police targeting those posing the greatest risk

“Some cyclists are really getting away with it” – the “it” being breaking the law – is the opening sentence to an article published in The Sunday Times yesterday, not from columnist Rod Liddle, whose own anti-cycling views are well documented, but by the newspaper’s own transport editor, Nicholas Hellen.

> Press watchdog rejects complaints over Rod Liddle “piano wire” column

Published under the headline, Police giving cyclists an easier ride, the article seeks to compare changes in the number of enforcement actions by the Metropolitan Police against cyclists during the first six months of 2020 compared to last year with those against motorists.

Of course, due to the coronavirus lockdown put in place in late March, it’s difficult to directly compare the first half of this year with the opening six months of 2019 – but the figures do show that from January to June, enforcement action was taken by the Met against 1,825 cyclists and 54,619 motorists.

While during the lockdown period there was a huge increase in people cycling – as much as 300 per cent on some weekends in England as a whole – and much less motor traffic on the road, The Sunday Times laments that “motorists were at the receiving end of an 18.5 per cent rise in fixed penalties and prosecution notices.”

That is based on comparing the six-month figures for 2020 against full-year 2019 and dividing the latter figure in two; by contrast, there was a reported 43.8 per cent fall in enforcement against cyclists for offences including riding through red traffic lights or riding on the footway.

The newspaper quoted Detective Superintendent Andy Cox, the Met’s lead on Vision Zero, who explained the principal reason behind the changes. “I’ve been really, really super-clear to our staff that our priority is to target the most risky issues and people. And that is about protecting the cyclist, not targeting the cyclist.”

When it was put to him that police might be going easier on cyclists, he reiterated: “I have told the team, ‘Your job is to target the highest risk’. My job has been to be resources onto the most risky roads, the most risky issues and, you know, way above the rest is speeding.”

The latter point is not addressed further in the article which, given the headline and that opening sentence, many readers might interpret as implying that cyclists are unfairly being given a benefit of the doubt not afforded to motorists.

One important piece of background that is missing from the piece, however, is that in April, the Met launched a Road Crimes Team, headed by DS Cox, to specifically target the most dangerous drivers in London.

> Metropolitan Police launches Road Crimes Team to tackle London’s most dangerous drivers

At the time, he told the website driving.co.uk – the dedicated motoring website of, yes, The Sunday Times: “The name is Road Crime team because there is so often a link between people that are dangerous drivers and people that are committing other forms of criminality.

“We did some research. As an example, uninsured driving — we found two thirds were active in other crimes within the last two years. It backed up the whole concept, which seems obvious, that there’s a link between dangerous driving and other crimes.”

One of the reasons the unit was set up was to target “extreme speeding” during lockdown as motorists took advantage of quieter roads – and the approach had immediate success, as these startling figures show.

Writing on Twitter yesterday, DS Cox – who announced at the weekend that he will be leaving the Met to take up a more senior role with Lincolnshire Police – made clear that despite the headline in The Sunday Times, the force’s approach is consistent with targeting those road users who cause most harm.

The rationale behind the Met’s approach is underpinned by Transport for London’s own road casualty statistics, which show that in 2018, for example, cyclists were involved in just 1 in 25 pedestrian road traffic collisions in Greater London.

In total that year, the latest for which statistics are available, there were 5,762 pedestrian casualties of all severities – killed, seriously injured, or slightly injured – across the city.

In the vast majority of those cases, a motor vehicle was involved – cars in 61 per cent, motorcycles in 11 per cent, goods vehicles in 9 per cent, taxi or private hire vehicles in 7 per cent, buses or coaches in 5 per cent and cyclists in 4 per cent.

The larger the vehicle, the more likely the incident was likely to result in death or serious injury. Of the 57 people killed during 2018 while walking, for example, almost one in five – 11 – died in an incident involving a lorry.

And returning to the issue of the safety of people on bikes that DS Cox highlighted, this tweet today from the Met’s Cycle Safety team provides evidence of the dangers cyclists face from motorists on a daily basis is

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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36 comments

Avatar
wtjs | 3 years ago
2 likes

I have to revise my moaning post below. Only this morning I have received a letter from a PC in Lancaster indicating a prosecution for a very close pass and unbroken white line crossing at a speed markedly above the 30 limit (BMW Gran Coupe, of course). The offence was dated 29.2.20, so I'm not sure how this prosecution can happen now. Maybe this is a 'con' and there's no real intention to prosecute, or maybe he just never replied to a NIP and they haven''t got around to doing anything about it until now. Maybe all that can happen to the driver is the comedy course- I'm reserving judgement.

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mitsky | 3 years ago
3 likes

Whilst I'm thanksfull for the brilliant job that they've been doing over the last few years (actually taking cyclists footage and issuing NIPs/points/fines to drivers or even taking them to court, compared to at best issuing warning letters), I am hesitant to say that drivers are actually feeling any "pain".
The fact that use of footage is becoming so common should alert drivers that their bad behaviour is far more risky now. But they appear to still be very un-worried about it.
This may be to do with the lack of serious punishment.
he small fines usually mean nothing to the owners of expensive vehicles, who can easily afford them.
he loopholes (hardship) that help drivers avoid being disqualified.
The single individual at the Met who appears to not want to do his job and rejects reports for frivolous reasons.
Untill the courts and governments issue harsher penalties that actually worry drivers into behaving, this will pretty much be a long uphill struggle.

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wtjs | 3 years ago
5 likes

In Lancashire, many offences largely committed by motorists have been rendered 'not real offences' by the Lancashire Constabulary policy of simply ignoring them: close-passing of cyclists obviously-LC has never prosecuted for this (Freedom of Information!); crossing of double and single unbroken white lines even in clearly dangerous situations; handheld mobile phone use while driving; gross crashing of traffic lights at red. These are the offences I have been concerned with. LC used to say "well it's your word against his"- they can't get out of it like that now because of cameras, so they simply refuse to respond to very well presented incident reports with indisputable evidence. All this tripe about 'cyclists getting away with lawbreaking' is indeed tripe: the vast majority of road traffic law offenders who 'get away with it' are motorists.

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Philh68 | 3 years ago
6 likes

Gotta love the way they interpret police enforcement of road rules catching more motorists as a reason to single out cyclists for blame. How more childish can you get than "yeah but they do it too"?

The real problem is the Times pretending to be a credible news company and getting away with it.

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Rick_Rude | 3 years ago
1 like

As we enter an age of increasing zombie walking maybe we do need some sort of jaywalking laws, maybe not strictly enforced but there in case of liability for causing a road traffic accident.

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brooksby replied to Rick_Rude | 3 years ago
5 likes

Not a chance!

Jaywalking laws would be an utter nightmare, impossible to enforce, and - frankly - I don't want to hand even more space and power in cities to the Big Metal Boxes. 

Before you say things like that, read up a bit on the early history of jaywalking laws in the US.

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Rick_Rude replied to brooksby | 3 years ago
1 like

Works in Germany.

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eburtthebike | 3 years ago
8 likes

Why is it that the media defends law breakers in cars, and only in cars?  They regularly produce articles like this, defending the right of drivers to put us all at risk, but for no other area of law breaking, when no other area kills 1,700 people a year and permanently injures many more.

It's almost like they're hypocrites.

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Awavey replied to eburtthebike | 3 years ago
2 likes

That or their ad department has a much stronger hold on their editorial line than we might think.

Maybe it was merely coincidental but I always used to bet within a week of a pro cycling article in a newspaper,it would be followed by at least 2 negative ones,theyd argue it was just balance in a complex and wide ranging subject,but it was kind of noticeable after a while the pattern kept repeating

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mike the bike replied to eburtthebike | 3 years ago
0 likes
eburtthebike wrote:

Why is it that the media defends law breakers in cars, and only in cars?  They regularly produce articles like this, defending the right of drivers to put us all at risk, but for no other area of law breaking, when no other area kills 1,700 people a year and permanently injures many more.

It's almost like they're hypocrites.

I read the article, twice, and found it to be almost completely neutral in the motorist versus cyclist argument.  The facts, and numbers, were presented fairly and prominence was given to the police view that cars presented the greatest risk to life.  It was certainly miles above the standard that we unfortunately see all too often.

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Awavey replied to mike the bike | 3 years ago
2 likes

Id argue the fact the article was a) written in the first place, and b) the subeditors chose that headline for it, is where the bias lies,whether the facts are then presented factually is arguably as inconsequential to that as the story itself was in the first place.

the Times dont commission their journalists to write articles about how people who dont murder other people are less likely to be arrested for murder by the police, and the police concentrate their time catching only people who murder each other.

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Simon E | 3 years ago
1 like
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David9694 | 3 years ago
0 likes
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Rome73 | 3 years ago
9 likes

I wonder why the media never print articles on lawbreaking pedestrians? The ones who cross on the red man, or cross without looking whilst on their mobiles. Or the joggers who run in the road. Or the groups of pedestrians who block ther pavement at bus stops or stand in cycle lanes and don't move. And Pedestrians have loads of dedicated infrastructure, absolutely loads. None of which they pay tax for. 

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alexls replied to Rome73 | 3 years ago
4 likes
Lukas wrote:

I wonder why the media never print articles on lawbreaking pedestrians? The ones who cross on the red man, or cross without looking whilst on their mobiles. Or the joggers who run in the road. Or the groups of pedestrians who block ther pavement at bus stops or stand in cycle lanes and don't move. And Pedestrians have loads of dedicated infrastructure, absolutely loads. None of which they pay tax for. 

Because none of the above is actually against the law?

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markieteeee replied to alexls | 3 years ago
6 likes

'None of which they pay tax for' was the part that gave it away.  Great spoof post.

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grOg replied to alexls | 3 years ago
0 likes

crossing on the red most certainly an offence..

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Hirsute replied to grOg | 3 years ago
1 like

Which offence do you believe this to be ?

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eburtthebike replied to Rome73 | 3 years ago
4 likes
Lukas wrote:

I wonder why the media never print articles on lawbreaking pedestrians? The ones who cross on the red man, or cross without looking whilst on their mobiles. Or the joggers who run in the road. Or the groups of pedestrians who block ther pavement at bus stops or stand in cycle lanes and don't move. And Pedestrians have loads of dedicated infrastructure, absolutely loads. None of which they pay tax for. 

Or demand that they wear helmets to protect them when an otherwise law-abiding driver happens to accidentally hit one of them.

 

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grOg replied to Rome73 | 3 years ago
1 like

Pedestrians pay tax..VAT, income tax and more.

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Hirsute replied to grOg | 3 years ago
0 likes

I think that was the point...

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handlebarcam | 3 years ago
15 likes

How anyone who works on a Murdoch-owned newspaper has the brass neck to use a phrase like "getting away with it" is beyond me.

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brooksby replied to handlebarcam | 3 years ago
0 likes
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Sriracha | 3 years ago
2 likes

"there is so often a link between people that are dangerous drivers and people that are committing other forms of criminality."

It may not be dangerous, but I'd suspect the same link with those who obscure their number plates - the new trend for dark tinted plates. I see them more and more every day. I can't think of any honest reasons for wanting to make your plate all but impossible to read. I did see one, parked on the pavement transacting business with a neerdowell type through a quarter opened window (also dark tinted).

Why are these cars not summarily removed from the road?

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The Aero Pharaoh replied to Sriracha | 3 years ago
2 likes

neerdowell type?

Careful, your prejudices are showing.

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joe9090 replied to The Aero Pharaoh | 3 years ago
1 like

eh?

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brooksby replied to The Aero Pharaoh | 3 years ago
4 likes

I think that "ne'er do well" is an equal opportunities description, to be fair.

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markieteeee replied to brooksby | 3 years ago
1 like

I think the prejudice comes in when you identify a ne'er do well through a quarter-open, tinted window.  What information are you basing it on when you can only see a tiny bit of face?  If I was being kind I would say they meant a scar, an eye-patch and an expression that looks like they'd just said 'shiver me timbers'. 

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Dicklexic replied to markieteeee | 3 years ago
0 likes

My interpretation is that the "neerdowell type" he is refering to is the one OUTSIDE the car, and hence in full view. Would it not then be fair to say that the prejudice only comes in when the person reading his comment applys the 'neerdowell' term to a person of a specific race or religion?

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markieteeee replied to Dicklexic | 3 years ago
1 like

I wasn't the one who raised the question of prejuduce - I added to the conversation, albeit seemingly, mistakenly thinking they were referring to the one inside rather than OUTSIDE the car. We all have many prejudices and assumptions based on all kinds of information, real or otherwise. For example, you assumed the person who made the original post is a man. And you'll find many car drivers are prejudiced against you merely for travelling on two wheels. 

I didn't mention race or religion. I just wondered what information it was based on.   You seem a bit touchy on someone else's behalf.  

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