CycleSheffield has been talking with South Yorkshire Police (Sheffield District) about cycling matters in general. The report of our meeting with Chief Inspector Richard Lambert is below this email. We have three officers who are keen to liaise with us or work with us in some way and topics like movement of cyclists in the city centre and bike security have been suggested as topics. We also have an officer who is willing to act as the SYP liaison on the city’s Cycle Forum.
This is good news; we have got past discussing specific incidents and can now build a relationship with the police.
We will discuss these developments and our next steps at the next meeting on Monday 4 November at the monthly CycleSheffield meeting.
Background: CycleSheffield wanted to talk with the police in Sheffield about cycling matters in general. We couldn’t get past talking to police provided unless we had a specific incident number. So we wrote to the SY Police and Crime Commissioner to ask if he could broker a meeting and explained that we had matters that covered a range of issues and not all the issues could be tagged to specific incidents. He was sympathetic to our arguments and said he would raise it with SYP (Sheffield District). We reported on this meeting at http://www.cyclesheffield.org.uk/2013/09/16/meeting-the-south-yorkshire-police-crime-commissioner-sypcc/
Consequently, CycleSheffield were invited to meet Chief Inspector Richard Lambert at Attercliffe Police Station on Monday 14 October. These are the issues that we wanted to discuss and that we had already flagged with the Police Commissioner.
Police attitudes to harassment of cyclists: We stated that we had spoken with officers from Safer Neighbourhood teams and their advice was to to report incidents where cyclists are harassed on the road including near misses using the 101 number. The SYP website also asks that we all report incidents no matter how trivial. However our members’ experience is that the consequent responses from PCs who pick up these reports can be dismissive. We understand that 101 data is aggregated and used by SNT to identify issues to target so we are confused by encouraging advice and discouraging responses.
Logging incidents by type of incident, location, and time create intelligence data that can could be used in identifying things like locations that cyclists find hazardous, or the types of driving that are problematic, or registration plates that keep recurring in incidents and so on. From this meeting we understand that, at the moment, if an incident report is not followed up with a statement that makes a complaint and/or if no action is taken then the incident is logged but the information in it may not progress and the data gets ‘lost’. Inspector Lambert saw this as a systemic issue of logging harassment, and said he would look into whether the information in these incident reports went through to crime analyses so that they could be used by SNTs in identifying where to target resources.
There is also the issue of making a statement that complains about a driver’s behaviour and the evidence that one has to support the statement. Lack of evidence other than one person’s word against another puts police in a difficult position wrt follow-up and consequent action. However that does not mean that one should not complain; it may mean that the consequent action would not lead to prosecution. We said we understood that and we felt that people wouldn’t necessarily be looking prosecution but in many cases we felt our members would appreciate it if a driver was rung up and notified that they had been cited in a complaint and the nature of the complaint.
We sought advice on how to effectively make such a report and it is at the end of this post. We had an interesting discussion about what kind of remediation could there be for persistent offenders and the idea of cycle awareness training (analogous to the speed awareness training that drivers currently get instead of a fine and points) was suggested. One for further exploration, we think.
Police attitudes to cycle facilities: We acknowledged that the police no longer park on the cycle lane outside Snig Hill. Incidents of police parking on cycle facilities can still be reported. The issue of police directing away supporters coaches to park on the Asline Rd cycle path still needs some follow up. Have the police spoken to the Council? Nobody knows.
Police advice on road design: We talked about the example of the junction of Minna Rd (side road) with Burngreave Rd (main road) has recently been redesigned. The police comments were: We believe that the inclusion of a short section of cycle lane across the mouth of the junction which ends at the rear of the bus stop, could result in cyclists coming into conflict with vehicles as they pull out to re-join traffic. I believe the thinking behind this short section which does not join any existing facility was to make it safer for cyclist to cross the junction, but as you are closing the junction down and taking out the slip road, I believe this already reduces any existing risk there was to pedal cyclists, and there does not appear to have been any incidents in this area to justify this.
We stated our case that we thought the officer writing this believes that cyclists (on the main road) will come into conflict with vehicles (coming out of the main side road) and that we thought the premiss of the situation is that cyclists on the main road have right of way and drivers of vehicles coming out of the side road are obliged to give way to all traffic on the main road, i.e. vehicles will come into conflict with cyclists. Our advice was contrary to the officer’s as we believe that a cycle lane would provide some infrastructural support for cyclists cycling up hill whilst having to negotiate a route with traffic both overtaking and waiting to come across the give way lines.
Inspector Lambert felt that police officers first thought is to reduce harm and that the people most likely to be harmed are the cyclists. Therefore the police comments would focus on the person likely to be harmed. We could see that but still felt that the focus was on victims not perpetrators. We were re-assured to be told that the police are now trained to refer to collisions and not to accidents. Road Traffic Accidents are now RTCs, Road Traffic Collisions. We were curious about how police officers keep themselves up to date with road design and cycling issues which is a hot topic in the UK right now. We also enquired about what kind of cycle awareness training there is for all officers, not just those that do cycle patrols. These are topics that we can return to.
Police not participating in democratic meetings: We explained that Sheffield City Council has a Cycle Forum, which is seen by the Council as the place where substantive issues of policy and practice, to do with cycling in Sheffield, can be openly discussed and progressed. The police have a standing invitation to this Forum but generally do not attend and that their advice and participation would be welcome, especially when the matters directly affect the police or could do with informed advice from the police. We stated that we would appreciate a consistent police presence at, or contact with, the Cycle Forum. This point was noted and will be followed up.
Police response to hit and run: We stated that we were concerned at the reports of police officers’ advice to pedestrians (and we presume cyclists) to wear bright, reflective (eg hi-viz) clothing to avoid collisions with vehicles. Our concern is that the stress is all on what the victim of a hit and run collision needs to do to avoid being hit by unsafe and negligent drivers. See http://www.greatgasbeetle.com/south-yorkshire-police-a-new-low-in-keeping-pedestrians-safe/