Anthony Gueterbock, Lord Berkeley, is today tabling amendments to a new law that will give Police Community Support Officers the power to impose fines on cyclists who don’t have British Standard pedal reflectors on their bikes.
The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill introduces a raft of new powers including the replacement of ASBOs with IPNAs (Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance) and the introduction of Public Space Protection Orders which can be used by the police to exclude people from an area (there is no size limit), whether or not they have done anything wrong, according to journalist George Monbiot.
As the law currently stands, bikes are supposed to have pedal reflectors, even though they’re difficult or impossible to fit to most clipless pedals. The British Standard, originally drawn up decades ago has failed to keep up with technology.
It’s unlikely that most police officers even know they’re supposed to be looking out for pedal reflectors. In recent years, during ‘crackdowns’ on cycle safety, the emphasis has been on whether or not cyclists are using lights, and in many cases riders have been given the chance to dodge a fine by turning up at a police station with lights on their bikes.
The CTC’s Campaigns and Policy Director Roger Geffen thinks it’s still unlikely that police and PCSOs will be trying to spot riders who have lights but not reflectors.
“In practice, I think it would be difficult for either a police officer or a PCSO to stop a cyclist for not having reflectors,” said Geffen. “By the time you can see the cyclists’ reflectors, they’ve gone past you!”
But Geffen is concerned that adding this power to the PCSO quiver gives them another stick to beat cyclists with.
He said: “The risk is that this power simply gets used when a local police force decides to have a politically-motivated crack-down on cyclists: stop them, fine them for anything you spot that they are doing wrong, then tell the local media that you’re clamping down on unsafe cyclist behaviour.
“That risk isn’t limited to the issue of reflectors – it relates to all the powers that this Bill is now proposing to give to PCSOs.”
Geffen points out that regular police could also use these new powers in a politically-motivated way, but PCSOs are likely to have an even poorer knowledge of cycling-specific law than officers.
Therefore, he says, there’s “a greater likelihood that cyclists will simply be stopped, and sometimes fined, on completely false pretexts.”
Geffen concedes that a few riders being stopped for lacking reflectors is “not a huge issue in the wider scheme of things. After all, a key aim of CTC’s Road Justice campaign is to call for increased roads policing.”
But, he says, there’s a serious issue about roads policing here. Cyclists have been charged for completely false or misguided reasons, such as the Daniel Cadden case where a rider was stopped for riding on a road rather than a cycle path, or the case of Alex Paxton, issued a fixed penalty notice for riding through a red light when he had crossed a stop line because the advanced stop box at a junction was occupied.
“It’s important to put down a marker about the need for traffic law to be enforced with genuine road safety objectives in mind, and not make it any easier for PCSOs (or police officers for that matter) to simply fine cyclists to satisfy demand from (primarily local) politicians and/or the media,” said Geffen.
That seems to be the aim of Lord Berkely’s amendments. According to cycle campaigner and executive editor of BikeBiz.com, Carlton Reid, Lord Berkeley will be seeking:
* To persuade the Government not to bring into effect the power for PCSOs to fine cyclists for lighting/reflector offences until the relevant regulations have been updated;
* To seek an assurance that PCSOs who are given powers to enforce lighting offences can still do what ordinary police officers do in many areas, namely to give out a fine that can be rescinded if the cyclist without lights turns up at a police station with a working set of lights within (say) 5 working days of the offence being committed;
* To make a wider point about the need for PCSOs to receive cycle-awareness training - and preferably actual cycle training - if they are to be given powers to enforce cycling offences.
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.