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Talking to Surrey Police – Mole Valley Beat

September 27, 2011

Today I spoke to Terri Poulton, the Police Officer who is behind the @MoleValleyBeat twitter account, about the PR disaster that they are having after Cycling Weekly published an article about their clamp down on inconsiderate cycling.

Firstly I made the point that law enforcement and the Police in particular don’t have the greatest reputation with many cyclists. Driving standards with respect to cyclists are atrocious and any complaint to the Police seem to fall on deaf ears. Motorists who kill cyclists often receive small fines and a few points on their licenses. They seem to have a way of misunderstanding the law around cycling and what is a safe way to cycle. It is that context that their crass calling cards that I thought were offensive. Terri did not disagree (I’m sure she will correct me if this is not the case) with much of what I said. They recognise that the calling cards were a huge mistake and she has apologised for them but how can they get their message across? Obviously I now asked what was the message they wanted to get across and to be honest I was surprised by the answer. She described behaviours I don’t recognise from the cyclists I ride with or the cyclists I see on the roads. There were three specific things:

  1. A group of cyclists urinating the front garden of a house.
  2. Cyclists spitting at residents
  3. A group of cyclists blocking the road to a Police car with it’s blue lights and siren on that was responding to an incident (the Police were trying to get to an incident involving and injured cyclist).

I’m pretty sure no one would find any of those behaviours acceptable and that is the problem for the Police. Instead of saying it is not acceptable for people to Urinate in gardens or spit a people the message they choose was to label them cyclists. Thus tarring all cyclists with the brush of a few badly behaved people. I wonder if when burglars arrive by car and break and enter whether they would refer to motorists breaking into cars and houses?

The blocking of a Police car if deliberate would be serious but here I can see both sides of the picture. On a narrow road if the cyclists simply stop the Police car would not be able to pass as they bunch up so finding a safe place to stop could be an issue, just as it can be when driving. I can’t think of any group of cyclists who would not get out of the way as quickly as possible. Equally I can think of motorists, including Police drivers, that would not understand the situation.  So suggesting that the problem is widespread is not particularly helpful.

I’m left thinking that my advice from earlier today is still right. There is no problem with cyclists, there is a problem with a very small minority of people visiting Box Hill, some of who arrive by bike and also a problem  of prejudice against cyclists, all be it not conciously. amongst some of the residents of Box Hill and the Police.

Overall the situation is cock up, not conspiracy.


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One Comment
  1. I’m astounded at the three behaviours you relate – how can *anybody* think they are acceptable, in any part of the world? You’re right about the labelling, too – a totally idiotic response from the police.

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