Essex police stop cyclists for riding without lights, high-vis or helmets

…Only one of which is illegal, Operation Bluenose aims to "stop and educate cyclists"

by John Stevenson   January 24, 2014  

Essex police logo

Essex police have stopped over 120 cyclists in a seasonal operation aimed at improving cycle safety in a number of bike accident blackspots around the county.

Since Operation Bluenose started on January 13, 120 cyclists have been stopped. Police have been advising those without lights to get some, but have also been suggesting riders use high-visibility clothing and helmets.

It’s not the first time this winter that Essex police have been trying to get that message across. In November last year, their ‘Let’s Look Out For Each Other’ initiative enlisted Movistar professional rider Alex Dowsett in a campaign aimed at encouraging drivers and cyclists to share the road.

In the launch press release for that campaign, drivers were advised to wait patiently and pass safely, while cyclists were advised not to ride two-abreast on narrow roads; never ride three-abreast; wear helmets; and not jump red lights.

Dowsett was once knocked off his bike by a van which overtook too close to him with a couple of passengers laughing and shouting abuse at him. On another occasion he ran into the back of a car that overtook him then jammed on the brakes to turn left immediately in front of him.

Alex’s mum, Jan Dowsett, has also been a casualty in a cycle-car collision. She took up cycling after being inspired by her son’s race and time trial victories but while out on her bike she was knocked over by a car towing a caravan that overtook her but pulled in too early. She fell off and shattered her shoulder. She has not been able to ride a bike since that collision.

An incident with a cyclist while driving his car that convinced Alex that both riders and drivers needed to change their ways.

He said: “I was driving through London when a cyclist tried to get through an impossible gap between my car and the kerb. I jammed my brakes on and the rider got through, but he turned and shouted abuse at me.

“Cycling is my life, I know that cyclists can be vulnerable and when driving I always give riders plenty of room. But when that rider made an impossible manoeuvre it made me realise that it’s not just drivers who need to be more safety conscious.”

Department for Transport statistics indicate that in the majority of car-bike collisions, the cyclist is not at fault. A 2009 report from the department said that riders jumping red lights, wearing dark clothing or riding at night without lights are to blame for less than 7% of crashes that result in a cyclist being seriously injured.

Nevertheless, the aim of Operation Bluenose, according to the police, is to find riders at risk and urge them to use more safety equipment such as lights, helmets and high visibility clothing. Officers are also using social media to ask cyclists to identify which areas and cycle routes should be investigated.

Essex police say that January, February and March are the months when road collisions involving cyclists increase, mainly during dark evenings when people cycle home from school, college or work.

In the corresponding period in 2013 there was a 50 per cent increase in recorded casualties in the Basildon District alone. Other districts such as Chelmsford and Colchester have also seen an increase, but to a lesser extent.

Sgt Graham Freeman, who is running the operation, said: “The majority of [cyclists] who had no lights or reflective clothing assured us that they would have some as quickly as possible. Only one or two people had to be reminded that there would be a £50 fine if they failed to comply and were stopped and warned for a second time.

“About 50 per cent had no lights and were given verbal warnings. About 50 per cent had no reflective clothing and 75 per cent had no cycle helmet.

“The approach was initially to stop and educate cyclists including those riding without lights, on footpaths, in pedestrian-only areas or riding the wrong way down one-way streets. We will also be handing out the ‘Let’s Look Out For Each Other’ literature when talking with people.

“We will also be showing riders a map which outlines where the cycle road collision have happened in their areas. Our stop checks will be at same of these collision sites so showing a map will have much more of an impact than just giving words of advice.”

“Obviously if further action is deemed necessary to drive home the need for improved safety, we will issue fixed penalty tickets.”

The operation will continue until the end of March.

46 user comments

Latest 30 commentsNewest firstBest ratedAll

lights between sunset and dawn maybe, but high viz and helmets... get stuffed...

posted by Paul_C [114 posts]
24th January 2014 - 20:32

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I get fed up EVERY DAY with cyclist who don't have lights on. Yes, I cycle 9 miles each way every day to work, I don't drive often. These idiots just don't realise that you cannot see them.
It should be compulsory to knock off cyclists with no lights as well.
A spot fine should be just that as well. Hand over the bike if you don't have lights and the Police keep it until you can collect WITH SOME LIGHTS. If you don't collect then the bike is sold or crushed.
Lights cost less than a tenner a pair from Wilkinsons and there is no excuse not to have them fitted.

posted by fret [16 posts]
24th January 2014 - 21:19

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Do you really that cyclists who ride without lights should be knocked off? Isn't that a bit aggressive?

posted by cjdavis [1 posts]
24th January 2014 - 21:25

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Hmm, "Don't ride two-abreast on narrow roads", as far as I am aware we shouldn't ride side by side on major (trunk) roads, but lanes...
I know that we always come off worse in a collision, but this whole 'incentive' reeks of "Why do you want to be in the motorist's way".
Just saying....

posted by stealth [148 posts]
24th January 2014 - 22:05

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Ah yes, Alex and his hi viz Movistar kit . . . .

posted by racyrich [81 posts]
24th January 2014 - 22:12

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Let them wear what they want its natural selection.

Join here and give me a hand getting rid of twat cyclist and twat car drivers.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/408115345981295/

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posted by tazo101 [8 posts]
24th January 2014 - 22:22

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Fines for no lights at night? Yes.
Compulsory hi-vis clothing? Yes, but only along with hi-vis cars.
Compulsory helmets? Yes, it would save the lives of many car passengers, but full face helmets would effect visibility for drivers so there might need to be a compromise there. Statistical evidence shows that there would also be benefits if pedestrians wore helmets.
By the way what now is the status of the Home Office minister's advice, given when on the spot fines were introduced, that police should use discretion when people cycled on pavements if they feared for their own safety due to motor vehicle traffic?

StevieG

posted by stevengoodfellow [36 posts]
24th January 2014 - 23:39

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fret wrote:
It should be compulsory to knock off cyclists with no lights as well.

If you wouldn't say it at a dinner party, don't type it when anonymous.

posted by jacknorell [167 posts]
24th January 2014 - 23:46

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So basically if they are stopping cyclists during daylight, then as they are not commiting a moving traffic offence, they actually have no grounds whatever for stopping them. This means it is straight forward harassment?

posted by Giles Pargiter [36 posts]
25th January 2014 - 1:59

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Do Essex Police carry out similar campaigns aimed at motorists whoa re driving illegal cars e.g. tyres not meeting required standards, lights not working properly, drivers not wearing seatbelts? What is the legal basis for the police to stop people who may not be doing anything illegal? The police, in my understanding, do not have the power to stop just anyone they fancy however 'noble' the cause.

posted by kittybag [1 posts]
25th January 2014 - 10:58

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Did they also stop all black and dark-colored cars and tell the owners to go by some reflective stickers?

How about cars not fitted with 5-point racing harnesses, bucket seats and roll cages, all of which have been clearly shown to increase safety during collisions?

If they are not doing these two things then why pick on cyclists alone for not wearing hi-vis clothing or a helmet?

posted by ChrisW [5 posts]
25th January 2014 - 11:08

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ChrisW wrote:
Did they also stop all black and dark-colored cars and tell the owners to go by some reflective stickers

All cars are fitted with reflectors, the same as motorbikes and the same is also a legal requirement for bicycles.

Too much bullshit on this for my liking, why do we always get in a flap when somebody tries to help us be seen or safe, why do we effectively say.. F**k-off and make the car drivers better whenever advice is given, just because car drivers are the worse offenders doesn't diminish the advice.

I see more bicycles without lights and more bicycles running red lights than cars, and there are more cars on the road than bikes, so who is worse... there... I can't wait to be shot down by all the experts on this forum... but a bike does less damage than a car... yea yea yea

Stuff doesn't have to be legal requirement to be good advice you know, sure you may not agree with the advice and fair enough, don't take it, however all this emotional response doesn't do the cycling community any good.

posted by mikeprytherch [173 posts]
25th January 2014 - 11:52

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Giles Pargiter wrote:
So basically if they are stopping cyclists during daylight, then as they are not commiting a moving traffic offence, they actually have no grounds whatever for stopping them. This means it is straight forward harassment?

Spot on, you have no obligation to stop for them.

posted by northstar [936 posts]
25th January 2014 - 12:25

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mikeprytherch wrote:

Too much bullshit on this for my liking, why do we always get in a flap when somebody tries to help us be seen or safe, why do we effectively say.. F**k-off and make the car drivers better whenever advice is given, just because car drivers are the worse offenders doesn't diminish the advice.

I see more bicycles without lights and more bicycles running red lights than cars, and there are more cars on the road than bikes, so who is worse... there... I can't wait to be shot down by all the experts on this forum... but a bike does less damage than a car... yea yea yea

Stuff doesn't have to be legal requirement to be good advice you know, sure you may not agree with the advice and fair enough, don't take it, however all this emotional response doesn't do the cycling community any good.

But its not 'advice', its stopping and bothering people in a public place going about their lawful business. That's not 'giving advice' its harassment.

And bicycles sans lights after dark is a separate issue to pestering people about helmets and high-viz. The former is already a legal reason for stopping someone (and therefore is fair enough), the latter two are not.

And if you see more bicycles running red lights than cars I suggest that's because you have the same selective blindness that affects most motorists who comment on that topic. I see far more cars crossing stop lines when the lights are red than I do cyclists. The trouble is people are so habituated to seeing cars do it that they just don't even notice any more (hint - its usually down to failed 'amber gambling' or ASL creeping)

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [497 posts]
25th January 2014 - 15:45

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"eg the helmet gets you 50 - 100 joules of impact protection. Get hit by a smart car doing just 22mph (10 m/s) and the impact is of a magnitude of 40,000 joules."

Just thought I'd point out that this is faulty physics.

Impact is based on inertia and is relative, so both objects' mass must be considered.

While 40,000 joules sounds like atom-smashing force compared to 50 joules, think what happens when a car runs into a feather. It floats away unharmed and is NOT pulverized into its constituent molecules.

Similarly, while the force of the car might be 40,000 joules, the mass of your head is *significantly* less than the mass of a car. If the relative speed is 22km/hr, and your 40,000 joules represents a 2000lb car, but your head weighs 10lbs, what you're actually saying is that the head impact is 200 joules. In order for the 40,000 joules to apply, your head would have to be able to completely stop the motion of the car. That would be a factor if your head was caught between the bumpers of two cars or something, but in most cases, your head will just bounce off, encountering only enough energy to modify the movement of your head.

Which sounds like a 22km/hr collision would cause heads to explode like watermelons all over the place *EVEN WITH HELMETS* and is clearly totally ridiculous.

There are so many other factors to consider such as how directly the force is applied to your head and if you had already started to change your movement by the time your head made impact. Plus the fact that the helmet's function is to cushion and that means to increase the amount of time required to affect the movement of the head.

A force of 200 joules might be enough to scramble a person's head, but if it resulted in a change of motion taking place over a period of time 4 times as long, it might be just fine.

It's true that helmets are not helpful if they are impacted with enough force to blow them into confetti, but they will still reduce the potential for damage even in those circumstances.

I've seen people have collisions that shredded their helmets but went otherwise unscathed. And speeds were significantly higher than 22 km/h.

posted by eschelar [21 posts]
25th January 2014 - 22:12

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All of the quotes from the Essex police say "reflective", not hi-vis clothing, which is fair enough, and more in keeping with the research road.cc publicised from an Australian university, just a few months ago. The only mention of hi-vis seems to be in the copy written by road.cc, not in the quotes from the police themselves.

The helmet argument will go on and on, but fair enough to get annoyed that they are stopping people for something that isn't legal. That is just draconian.

No lights - stupid and dangerous. To more than just yourself.

posted by Mikeduff [24 posts]
25th January 2014 - 23:59

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ranty ranty rant rant, no legal reason for pulling over non hi vis/helmets, rant rant....
Erm please re-read the article and tell us all where people were stopped for the clothing issues...
Reading it without the ranty glasses on it seems that when people were pulled over for lighting infractions they were given advice on the clothing too, sensible policing imo.

posted by Notsofast [20 posts]
26th January 2014 - 0:34

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zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

posted by northstar [936 posts]
26th January 2014 - 0:50

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@eschelar

You raise a very valid objection to the post you quote, but your own analysis is equally simplistic!

For starters, if you don't completely stop the movement of the car (as you likely won't unless you are obese enough to merit a Daily Mail hate-piece all of your own) then that energy will be transferred to your kinetic energy, and either the rapid acceleration will in itself do something very nasty (particularly if its exclusively your head that experiences it) or you'll then hit something stationary and absorb that energy in the end anyway.

And then there's the issue of the brain bouncing around inside the skull, even if the helmet reduces the impact damage to that skull.

Obviously the physics of helmets and impacts is very complicated but the original comment doesn't seem to be any worse a simplification than yours.

Anyway, I wear mine very much in the spirit of a lucky rabbit's foot. I remain convinced that the one time I set off without it will be the time something bad happens!

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [497 posts]
26th January 2014 - 15:18

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fret wrote:

It should be compulsory to knock off cyclists with no lights as well.

What do you think should be the penalty for drivers who break Highway Code paragraph 126?

"Stopping Distances. Drive at a speed that will allow you to stop well within the distance you can see to be clear. "

Fret, I was hoping for a reply.

posted by felixcat [167 posts]
26th January 2014 - 19:13

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jarredscycling wrote:
There have got to be better uses of police man power rather than messing with cyclists who aren't wearing a helmet

Don't ask them to enforce the law. Here in the Square Mile, the slight drop in tossers going through red lights (four wheels and two) which I noticed during the 'crackdown' has now come to an end, and we once more take our life in our hands crossing at the green man.

'Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling' (James E. Starrs)

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posted by cyclingDMlondon [138 posts]
25th February 2014 - 17:10

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fret wrote:
It should be compulsory to knock off cyclists with no lights as well.

I would support a change to the law which allowed pedestrians to kick cyclists who go through on a red light.

A boot to the side of the thigh would have the retard off and on the ground.

And I say this as a lifelong cyclist, whose sole means of daily transport is the bicycle.

'Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling' (James E. Starrs)

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posted by cyclingDMlondon [138 posts]
25th February 2014 - 17:11

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northstar wrote:
Giles Pargiter wrote:
So basically if they are stopping cyclists during daylight, then as they are not commiting a moving traffic offence, they actually have no grounds whatever for stopping them. This means it is straight forward harassment?

Spot on, you have no obligation to stop for them.

In theory. Fail to stop, however, and you will be pursued and knocked off by an area car, and then twenty-two officers (four of whom will have been on holiday in Lanzarote when you were stopped, and another sixteen will have been back at the nick tucking into sausage, bacon and eggs) will swear in court that you claimed to have a weapon and that you would 'fix you right, coppa innit?' if they didn't get out of your way.

'Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling' (James E. Starrs)

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posted by cyclingDMlondon [138 posts]
25th February 2014 - 17:22

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Which is all illegal, next piece of bullshit?

posted by northstar [936 posts]
25th February 2014 - 18:04

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eschelar wrote:
"eg the helmet gets you 50 - 100 joules of impact protection. Get hit by a smart car doing just 22mph (10 m/s) and the impact is of a magnitude of 40,000 joules."

Just thought I'd point out that this is faulty physics.

Impact is based on inertia and is relative, so both objects' mass must be considered.

While 40,000 joules sounds like atom-smashing force compared to 50 joules, think what happens when a car runs into a feather. It floats away unharmed and is NOT pulverized into its constituent molecules.

Similarly, while the force of the car might be 40,000 joules, the mass of your head is *significantly* less than the mass of a car. If the relative speed is 22km/hr, and your 40,000 joules represents a 2000lb car, but your head weighs 10lbs, what you're actually saying is that the head impact is 200 joules. In order for the 40,000 joules to apply, your head would have to be able to completely stop the motion of the car. That would be a factor if your head was caught between the bumpers of two cars or something, but in most cases, your head will just bounce off, encountering only enough energy to modify the movement of your head.

Which sounds like a 22km/hr collision would cause heads to explode like watermelons all over the place *EVEN WITH HELMETS* and is clearly totally ridiculous.

There are so many other factors to consider such as how directly the force is applied to your head and if you had already started to change your movement by the time your head made impact. Plus the fact that the helmet's function is to cushion and that means to increase the amount of time required to affect the movement of the head.

A force of 200 joules might be enough to scramble a person's head, but if it resulted in a change of motion taking place over a period of time 4 times as long, it might be just fine.

It's true that helmets are not helpful if they are impacted with enough force to blow them into confetti, but they will still reduce the potential for damage even in those circumstances.

I've seen people have collisions that shredded their helmets but went otherwise unscathed. And speeds were significantly higher than 22 km/h.

never read so much psuedo scientific voodoo in my life.

the reason why helmets spit and break apart is because they haven't worked not because they have. Just rto recap on how helmets are supposed to work. The styrofoam is designed to compress and therefore absorb some of the energy of the impact. That works up to around 100 joules on the very best brand new helmets. (the British, Euro and US standard is 50).

when a helmet is impacted by substantially more force than this it will fail. The strofoam does not compress properly and absorb impact it compresses much faster than 1/1000th of a second transferring the impact and spitting the styrofoam. This has happened to me crashing whilst mountainbiking.

Anyone that says they were protected by a helmet that spit or cracked doesn't understand how the helmet is supposed to work and therefore doesn't realise that their helmet just failed to protect their head and was overwhelmed.

And there some other junk in there as well. Your head my way 10lbs but it's connected to your body so doesn't bounce away independently.

Physics books are available from all good bookshops.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [363 posts]
25th February 2014 - 18:35

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cyclingDMlondon wrote:
northstar wrote:
Giles Pargiter wrote:
So basically if they are stopping cyclists during daylight, then as they are not commiting a moving traffic offence, they actually have no grounds whatever for stopping them. This means it is straight forward harassment?

Spot on, you have no obligation to stop for them.

In theory. Fail to stop, however, and you will be pursued and knocked off by an area car, and then twenty-two officers (four of whom will have been on holiday in Lanzarote when you were stopped, and another sixteen will have been back at the nick tucking into sausage, bacon and eggs) will swear in court that you claimed to have a weapon and that you would 'fix you right, coppa innit?' if they didn't get out of your way.

Yep, because all Police are like that aren't they!!

(hint, that was sarcasm)

posted by wwfcb [56 posts]
25th February 2014 - 19:22

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cyclingDMlondon wrote:
northstar wrote:
Giles Pargiter wrote:
So basically if they are stopping cyclists during daylight, then as they are not commiting a moving traffic offence, they actually have no grounds whatever for stopping them. This means it is straight forward harassment?

Spot on, you have no obligation to stop for them.

In theory. Fail to stop, however, and you will be pursued and knocked off by an area car, and then twenty-two officers (four of whom will have been on holiday in Lanzarote when you were stopped, and another sixteen will have been back at the nick tucking into sausage, bacon and eggs) will swear in court that you claimed to have a weapon and that you would 'fix you right, coppa innit?' if they didn't get out of your way.

So, you've met the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad then! Devil

posted by levermonkey [171 posts]
25th February 2014 - 19:24

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Coming from a cyclist, some of the comments are so over dramatic, ridiculous or people just get wound up over the slightest matter.
Yawn

posted by wwfcb [56 posts]
25th February 2014 - 19:26

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wwfcb wrote:
Coming from a cyclist, some of the comments are so over dramatic, ridiculous or people just get wound up over the slightest matter.
Yawn

People are getting wound up over continuous victim-blaming. In the last 3 months we've had Boris Johnson respond to 6 deaths in 2 weeks by complaining about headphones, Operation Safeway fining a much greater proportion of cyclists while ignoring drivers on phones, the Met stopping cyclists without high vis and helmets, and now Essex Police doing the same.

This is why people are feeling harassed. The police should focus on the cause of the actual danger, not those put into danger while acting perfectly legally.

posted by teaboy [121 posts]
25th February 2014 - 19:46

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levermonkey wrote:
cyclingDMlondon wrote:
northstar wrote:
Giles Pargiter wrote:
So basically if they are stopping cyclists during daylight, then as they are not commiting a moving traffic offence, they actually have no grounds whatever for stopping them. This means it is straight forward harassment?

Spot on, you have no obligation to stop for them.

In theory. Fail to stop, however, and you will be pursued and knocked off by an area car, and then twenty-two officers (four of whom will have been on holiday in Lanzarote when you were stopped, and another sixteen will have been back at the nick tucking into sausage, bacon and eggs) will swear in court that you claimed to have a weapon and that you would 'fix you right, coppa innit?' if they didn't get out of your way.

So, you've met the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad then! Devil

Heheh. Actually, in all seriousness.. I have seen it happen. There weren't so many coppers, and an area car wasn't involved, but there were officers who stood up to give evidence in court, and who had, at the time of the alleged offence, been on holiday abroad. They swore something happened, when they weren't even in the country at the time.

The police lie. Not all of them, sure. But too many of them.

'Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling' (James E. Starrs)

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posted by cyclingDMlondon [138 posts]
25th February 2014 - 20:20

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