Cambridgeshire Police yesterday launched a clampdown on anti-social cycling in the university city, issuing on-the-spot fines to people riding without lights, jumping red lights or riding on the pavement. In Cambridge as in other university towns and cities this is pretty much an annual event at this time of year. However, this year's clampdown has attracted extra attention after a so-called 'bike rage' attack in the city centre.
While police campaigns against cyclists riding without lights, particularly in university cities, are as sure a sign of Autumn’s arrival as the clocks going back, it does appear that the relationship between cyclists and the authorities in Cambridge is particularly strained right now.
And that situation won’t be helped by news of a so-called “bike rage” incident that took place on the city’s Garlick Row last week in which a cyclist allegedly rammed a car containing a mother and her child, reported in the Cambridge Evening News.
The newspaper quoted a police spokesperson who said that last Wednesday’s incident occurred when the driver “was going to turn left but had to stop to give way to other cars when she heard a loud bang,” adding “a cyclist had deliberately rammed his bike into her car causing damage. She looked in her mirror and saw the cyclist speed off back along Garlic Row. He was angry because he had to stop and cycle around her car."
If that’s what did happen, then no responsible cyclist would condone it. However, police are appealing for witnesses to the incident – the statement doesn’t clarify whether anyone actually saw what happened – and from the spokesperson’s comments it does appear that a rather rigid interpretation of events may have been applied; the "loud bang" the driver heard after she stopped could just as easily be caused by the cyclist being taken by surprise by the car stopping as by a deliberate attack. That’s ignoring the question of how much damage one could do to a car with a bike and then ride off on it.
Police Sergeant Gordon Morganthaler told the newspaper: "We will not tolerate people acting that way whether cyclists or motorists. There are collisions but that is no excuse for causing damage or attacking people. They need to be calm and aware of what is going on around them. Getting angry can lead to serious consequences."
Meanwhile, the annual police blitz against anti-social cycling will last for seven days, with officers out in force to issue £30 fixed penalty notices to transgressors, who will also be offered free cycling lessons or lights.
And tomorrow night, they will be joined by TV cameras from ITV1’s Tonight show, which is filming a documentary regarding bike rage. Hopefully it’s not expecting to much that the finished programme will include footage of pedestrians stepping out without looking, aggressive bus and van drivers, cars stopping suddenly or turning without warning or any of the other regular incidents that can cause cyclists’ temperatures to rise in the first place.
Cambridge has among the highest levels of cycling of any town or city in Britain, but cyclists there have come increasingly under the spotlight in recent weeks as the police and council target those who flout the law, with the local Conservative party getting in on the act too, as reported on road.cc last week.
The issue of perceived anti-social cycling has also been on the national news agenda this month, following the publication of a House of Commons committee’s response to a National Audit Office report on pedestrian and road safety that contained an anti-cyclist tirade by MP David Curry.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.