Greater Manchester Police under intense criticism as they host Twitter chat about cycling

Manchester police 'Operation Grimaldi' has been seen by some as heavy handed crackdown on cyclists

by Sarah Barth   January 26, 2014  

Operation Grimaldi (picture Greater Manchester Police)

Greater Manchester Police hosted a Twitter chat on cycling on Friday and found themselves under intense criticism for their cycling-related activity over the past year.

At the end of last year we reported how Greater Manchester Police issued 147 fixed penalty notices – the vast majority to cyclists – in an operation designed to encourage bike riders and motorists to share the road safely.

The initiative fell under the force’s Operation Grimaldi campaign and took place from Monday 18 to Wednesday 20 November, with activity centred on Deansgate, Trafford Street/Great Bridewater Street, Wilmslow Road/Platt Lane and Oxford Road.

In Manchester 125 cyclists were issued fixed penalty notices for offences including riding on the pavement or without lights and ignoring red traffic lights, although they could avoid having to pay a fine by attending a cycling awareness event.

Greater Manchester Police tweeted that “93 per cent of 754 cyclists stopped had no formal training since school.”

Under the hashtag #askGMP, the police spoke about cycle safety, but occasionally appeared to come unstuck. ‏@MadCycleLaneMCR said: “#askgmp seemed to be a display of ignorance of road traffic law from the very people who are responsible for enforcing the law!”

One twitter user, @Edwards80 agreed, writing: “The #askgmp thing would be funny if these weren't the people responsible for keeping folks safe on the road. Completely hopeless.”

One example of one area of apparent GMP ignorance was when @Ingatestonian asked: “#askgmp Why no enforcement of @ITV vehicles regularly illegally parking on cycle track outside their new Salford Corrie studios?”

GMP responded: “This is up to @SalfordCouncil to enforce.”

@Ingatestonian stuck to his guns though, saying: “ They can't, it isn't a decriminalised offence. Parking on a marked cycle track.”

The Twitter chat also repeatedly covered the same ground of cyclists reporting bad driving to the team, whose response was that all incidents should be reported by dialling the non-emergency number 101.

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has anyone who drives a car had any "Formal" training???

I'm pretty sure driving lessons don't follow any formal pattern either...

anyroad, I passed my driving test with only ONE lesson, and that was to get used to the clutch of the car I was using for the test. I'd been driving a three wheeler for a year beforhand on my motorcycle license...

posted by Paul_C [115 posts]
26th January 2014 - 13:46

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What "post school formal cycle training" are the greater madchester police referring to?

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posted by gb901 [137 posts]
26th January 2014 - 13:57

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I took part in the 'chat', then I had to ride home from work, and found a police van parked in the green ASL box on the way.

Perhaps more formal education of police drivers might be a start!

Above and beyond that, any publicised enforcement of bad driving has been on the A56 and other outlying roads, rarely if ever have they though to enforce bad driving on any area where pedestrians and cyclists may be found. reinforcing in my mind the tokenistic attitude toward enforcement, and their regard of city streets as either unpolicable (sic) or self policing.

posted by GREGJONES [90 posts]
26th January 2014 - 13:58

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Mind you your average police officers knowledge of law is ropey at best as they're taught rote just the definitions: that was certainly the case of my "training" at Norfolk in 2008!

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posted by gb901 [137 posts]
26th January 2014 - 14:00

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The debate polarised almost instantly. On one side the Police and a few people happy to use it a whip to beat cyclists with and on the other many cyclists trying to point out reasoning behind some offences (without condoning) and the stupidity of an operation about cycle safety that only really targeted the low risk parts rather than dangerous driving and ignored infrastructure.

It is quickly deserving it's unofficial hashtag #OpGrim

For those who have been following #OpGrim the insult that really revealed their attitudes was the uncovering of their submission to the Commons Transport Select Committee where they described 'cycle culture'. Information gleaned only from people they had busted was presented as a picture of general cycling behaviour and justification for it's approach to cycle safety. Red Light Jumping was described as being used just to 'get ahead and not lose momentum' for example with no reference to those who would wait or to the extremely poor infrastructure, lack of maintenance or their inability to police ASL that were the only 'safety' offered to the cyclists.

If GMPolice learn anything it should be to work with cyclists and campaign groups to get a fuller picture of what will really help cyclists (and pedestrian) safety within their remit of enforcement.

I understand Greater Manchester Cycling Campaign have been asking for this discussion but so far only been offered the opportunity to observe #OpGrim in action, something which has already been undertaken by some members. It will be interesting to see how this will develop but I believe the Grimaldi 'franchise' is somewhat damaged and consequently slightly harder to sell on to other police force.

posted by Cranky Acid [24 posts]
26th January 2014 - 14:03

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They can host as many chats as they like but if they don't realise or are not willing to admit what the REAL problem is on the public highways and actively address it everyday then it's a waste of time.

posted by northstar [936 posts]
26th January 2014 - 14:11

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I was folllowing some of the retweets and comments from the GM cycling campaign directly, and GMP were getting a deserved hard time as they were being quite moronic a lot of the time.

GMP, like many others, assume that people cycle as they can't drive when actually most adult cyclists have received formal testing and training as drivers. Are they possibly subtly suggesting inclusion of cycle training as part of driver training? Would help immensely.

It all seemed to me to be the usual mix of confrontational victim blaming approach some police adopt towards cyclists and other outgroups, and very disappointing in the way it highlighted GMPs dismal attitude towards cycling

posted by gazza_d [132 posts]
26th January 2014 - 14:59

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CTC Why don't you ask GMP to observe Grimaldi and then get an accurate description. I was stopped in November for having no lights, the officers explained the offence. They were even giving lights out to cyclists but looks like you've failed to mention that. I attended the presentation and yes it makes you think about your own riding showing clips supporting cyclists and also showing how stupid some of us can be. This again is police bashing at its highest without looking at the full picture you have based your views on one side. At the end of the meeting the trainer and PCSO knew there stuff and there was a police inspector in attendance also. I left with free stuff. Reflectors, high visibility jacket, the offer of 6 hours free training, safer route maps and it seriously made me think. So CTC this is one cyclist that gained something from it. I also saw drivers being stopped as well being given tickets for mobile phone use. And as they say cyclists don't have to pay anything, but the motorists has 3pts and £100 fine. Reading the Manchester evening news on Thursday Grimaldi has fined another 100 cyclists and 37 motorists in 2 days that's alarming for us on 2 wheels

posted by studmuffin75 [2 posts]
26th January 2014 - 15:06

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Over 98% of car drivers will have had no formal training since passing their tests. According to IAM anyway.

Really, though?

posted by workhard [293 posts]
26th January 2014 - 15:48

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studmuffin75 wrote:
Reading the Manchester evening news on Thursday Grimaldi has fined another 100 cyclists and 37 motorists in 2 days that's alarming for us on 2 wheels

You have to question GMP's priorities if they're issuing tickets at 3:1 cyclists:motorists ratio.

In London recently it was 1:3

Quote:
Since the beginning of Operation Safeway on 25 November, a total of 13,818 fines have been issued, with 4,085 given to cyclists.

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-25618915

Yet another (not that you need one) reason not to live in that grim northern hell-hole Wink

posted by VeloPeo [182 posts]
26th January 2014 - 16:19

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These sorts of on initiatives never work out well in the end. While I concede that some cyclists are complete and utter fuckwits the moment they get on two wheels, in the grand scheme of things cyclists are very much still vulnerable road users. Cyclists are easy targets for the Police because we are a minority group and there is less fallout and anger than had the initiative focussed on car drivers causing danger to cyclists.

I also wonder how many of those tickets issued for pavement riding were done so in circumstances where the cyclist was riding dangerously or in such a way as to cause a potential danger to others. The home office or DfT guidance says that discretion should be used and tickets not issued in cases where the cyclist is going slow, taking care and giving precedence to foot pedestrians (or as good as). I bet over 95% of the tickets were isssued purely because the cyclist was "riding on the pavement" which is not correct. The Police don't do themselves any favours and are constantly getting it wrong. I bet even area commanders who are responsible for tackling crime and providing a service to the people living on their patches dont even know about the home office guidance.

And before any of you object, none of you would tell an 8 year old child to stop riding on the pavement and get on a busy road. And a lot of them go hell for leather round corners with their heads down. They are the real dangers on our pavements not the guy or lass riding slowly and sensibly on a stretch of pavement because it is simply safer. To be honest I dont see how tickets can be justified with the abundance of shared use pathways. Its all getting silly.

posted by Critchio [95 posts]
26th January 2014 - 16:39

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The article describes intense criticism on twitter. Has that carried over into other forms of coverage, like the local paper and tv, I'm wondering? Or do most people know of this, if at all, as just an averagely-successful "crackdown on rogue cyclists"? There was mention above of this approach not now being sold on to other forces but I imagine they will pass this on as "successful education, bit of resistance from usual hardcore". Hopefully, I'm wrong!

posted by vbvb [166 posts]
26th January 2014 - 17:03

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Before the ITA pulled the plug we had established a hierarchy of users which quite clearly put disabled users at the top and cyclists at the bottom - we recognised that cyclists might on occasions have to wait for the next tram, or cycle to the next stop. A permit scheme would mean that cyclists who beached the hierarchy could be banned from using the service in future. We were looking at off-peak carriage and asking for a trial which would help us establish whether there were any problems, rather than pre-judging the outcome. - Simon, CycleSheffield

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posted by wildnorthlands [23 posts]
26th January 2014 - 17:25

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Critchio wrote:
Cyclists are easy targets for the Police because we are a minority group

I think half the problem is that we consent to and participate in this depiction of us being a group at all. I'm just a bloke who rides a bike. I'm not affiliated to anyone else who rides a bike, and I haven't joined a tribe by buying one.

People identify us as a minority group and vilify us in ways that would be illegal if their language was directed at any other group in society, but we are just individuals who happen to ride bikes. We should be breaking up this idea that we are a separate group. As long as we fail to do so we help the powers that be to distract society from its real troubles by providing another character in the great Punch & Judy show of public misdirection.

Critchio wrote:
And before any of you object, none of you would tell an 8 year old child to stop riding on the pavement and get on a busy road. And a lot of them go hell for leather round corners with their heads down. They are the real dangers on our pavements

Totally agree. Kids of ages up to hefty teenagers go tearing along pavements with wreckless abandon. They are an actual danger to pedestrians. But you can be sure their parents would go beserk if you criticised their kids, saying that they have to ride on the pavement because riding on the road "is dinejaras, innit?" It's only dangerous to ride on the road because we let people view us as an easily expendable minority tribe with no rights or value as human beings.

posted by Sanderville [192 posts]
26th January 2014 - 17:38

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we got similar police operations in London, I have seen a few boroughs using standing boddies at the lights to catch cyclists. When i say to catch cyclists, I mean their sole mandate is to catch cyclists and completely utterly ignores other road users.

for instance the recently introduced new law regarding the advance area at lights.

a row of cars blatantly parked in the area just because they cannot be bothered. 2 policemen standing there looking at me and wondering if i was going to roll my wheels over the solid white line instead of going over the cars and fining the drivers.

Police forces are proven to be institutionally racist. I also think they are highly discriminating against people who wear lycra or are on two wheel.

The reasons why i didn't go the police and say to them - what u doing about the drivers, they are breaking the law here. I believe they will most likely 1) give me a hard time for telling them how to do their job (to be fair no one likes that) 2) they probably won't do anything anyway 3) I might get arrested or randomly searched for no good reasons under some kind of mis-used terror law or anti-social behaviour

posted by ricky1980 [20 posts]
26th January 2014 - 18:29

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studmuffin75 wrote:
CTC Why don't you ask GMP to observe Grimaldi and then get an accurate description. I was stopped in November for having no lights, the officers explained the offence. They were even giving lights out to cyclists but looks like you've failed to mention that. I attended the presentation and yes it makes you think about your own riding showing clips supporting cyclists and also showing how stupid some of us can be. This again is police bashing at its highest without looking at the full picture you have based your views on one side. At the end of the meeting the trainer and PCSO knew there stuff and there was a police inspector in attendance also. I left with free stuff. Reflectors, high visibility jacket, the offer of 6 hours free training, safer route maps and it seriously made me think. So CTC this is one cyclist that gained something from it. I also saw drivers being stopped as well being given tickets for mobile phone use. And as they say cyclists don't have to pay anything, but the motorists has 3pts and £100 fine. Reading the Manchester evening news on Thursday Grimaldi has fined another 100 cyclists and 37 motorists in 2 days that's alarming for us on 2 wheels

Genuinely glad you got something positive from the experience and I'm also under no illusion that some of those stopped thoroughly deserved intervention from the police. Criticising #OpGrim does not also mean excusing and justifying dangerous cycling.

GM Police described #OpGrim as a safety and enforcement operation however they have only examined and engaged with a very narrow view of the issue and submitted evidence to government based on this blinkered view supported by evidence only gleaned though interview with people to whom they had issued tickets. They were in a position to comment on much wider issues of safety and the law, like the failure of ASL as an enforceable safety design, failure of mandatory cycle lanes to provide safe ways for cyclists or the influence of car speeds on cycle safety. All these things are far more important to actual KSI figures but the simplest response, conveniently creating 'we're doing something' headlines, is a cyclist clampdown around traffic light trouble spots.

The police are not infrastructure designers, nor are they responsible for encouraging healthy lifestyles but they are an important factor in progressing the cause of cycling safety and take-up of cycling as a form of mass transport that it could be. #OpGrim was not a positive ally but instead a negative voice that simply reinforced prejudices. If it also helped a few like yourself find better ways to cycle safely then we can at least be glad for that.

posted by Cranky Acid [24 posts]
26th January 2014 - 19:55

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Rather than all this heavy handed stuff, how about those 'concerned' (and it's obviously not the forces themselves as they have all started it together, even in Scotland, where policing has hee haw to do with the Home Secretary)

Here is a suggestion......set up some FREE training and advice sessions and put the details on spoke cards and put them all over the city centre bike parking points.

Personally if I was stopped on a cold wet day for nothing, I would find it difficult to be civil.

If I have done something wrong, fair enough, just like in the car, or if they are looking for someone escaping a crime reportedly on a bike, OK too.

Stopped because of a lack of a yellow vest.....not on.

All Campag

posted by Flying Scot [249 posts]
26th January 2014 - 20:41

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Sanderville wrote:
We should be breaking up this idea that we are a separate group. As long as we fail to do so we help the powers that be to distract society from its real troubles by providing another character in the great Punch & Judy show of public misdirection.

I partly agree with you - "cyclists" are not an organised, homogeneously group, they are, as you say, just individuals who happen to use a bike.

But there does seem to be a contradiction in the way you say it! Who is this "we" who should be breaking up the idea that there is a "we"?

And I don't, myself, see 8-year-old kids riding on the pavement as a problem. Youths, i.e. those of 16 or above, doing so are a bloody nuisance, but (unless one stabs me one day when I remonstrate with him), I don't see them as nearly such a danger as their older brethren in cars on the road.

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [503 posts]
26th January 2014 - 21:30

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Its scandalous how few pedestrians have had any “post-school formal training" in how to walk around the streets!

And what about the street furniture that recklessly manages to get itself crashed into by motorists? I bet none of it has been to bollard-school or taken evening classes in 'changing from red to green without being smashed into by an idiot'.

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [503 posts]
26th January 2014 - 21:31

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Seems to me that the Police have two slightly conflicting interests: public order and money.

They are almost certainly nervous of a cycling movement which has the potential to organise protest rallies consisting of intelligent non-violent people which could conceivably cause considerable disruption yet had no official organisation to which the bill (sic) could be sent, unlike, say, football matches. Thus the preferred approach is to try to pour oil on troubled waters, hence the twitter campaign. Trouble is of course that bloody great elephant sitting in the corner.

They are a police Force, the Service appellation is only a PR aphorism but lip service must be paid to it. It involves politics which is far removed from yoofs on street corners. Perhaps given time they might get the hang of it, but they are much more used to breaking doors down than picking locks.

posted by sidesaddle [63 posts]
26th January 2014 - 23:10

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What I would like to see is regular police intervention that is handled in much the same way as traffic enforcement is. For instance, the police are such huge fans of unmarked police cars and plain clothed officers to catch people breaking the law then why not have a portion devoted to other form of transport. Have officers on bikes in regular clothing and see the kind of abuse, harassment and danger they endure. And then penalise those drivers who not only flout the laws but do so to a dangerous extent.

posted by KevOH_Yeah [2 posts]
27th January 2014 - 0:27

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This seems to be badly biased in more or less the same way as Operation Safeway in London has been.

Essentially it is thoroughly biased, not so much against careless cyclists as in favour of careless, law and rule-breaking motorists.

Scarce resources are being used against those who pose relatively minimal threat to others whilst those who do have minimal law enforcement (and I would argue lenient sentencing when caught).

I explain this in posts on the RDRF website, the latest being http://rdrf.org.uk/2013/11/29/what-traffic-policing-could-be-like/

posted by ChairRDRF [62 posts]
27th January 2014 - 1:17

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Actually my experiences of GMP are pretty good.
I got badly cut up and then road-raged at a roundabout a while ago, the culprit drove off but seconds later I saw a passing patrol car. Flagged it down, explained the situation, gave the reg number and the officer said "I've just seen that car". Blue lights on, handbrake turn and the officer shot off after it, pulled the car over and by the time I caught up to them, was giving the driver a warning. Not a lot more that could be done - my word against his, no witnesses but a good response from them.

There's a couple of sections of my commute where I go the wrong way down a short one-way street and one dangerous junction where I ride round the corner on the pavement before re-joining the road further up. Police have seen me doing it several times - in fact once a police car actually stopped and flashed his lights to let me make the illegal turn!

But yes, these "crackdowns" always seem to be a heavy handed exercise in "focusing on the easy targets".

posted by crazy-legs [436 posts]
27th January 2014 - 10:49

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FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:
But there does seem to be a contradiction in the way you say it! Who is this "we" who should be breaking up the idea that there is a "we"?

"We", the individuals who are reading this. Or "you all", the individuals who are reading this. Take any appropriate pronoun you like, but it's not a sentence without one.

FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:
And I don't, myself, see 8-year-old kids riding on the pavement as a problem...I don't see them as nearly such a danger as their older brethren in cars on the road.

I live in a seaside area that is like a giant retirement home. The pavements are full of geriatric people. The comments you refer to were about about eight-year-olds going "hell for leather" on the pavement, not just pootling along. A collision with an eight-year-old going at full pelt is enough to put a pensioner in hospital with a broken hip. That is a real danger of a life-changing injury to many of the people round here.

The point of that conversation was that the police seem to target careful, slow-moving adult cyclists on the pavement while no one at all pays attention to speeding children on the pavement as though they don't matter. Just because I personally am unlikely to be hospitalised by an eight-year-old does not mean that I disregard the threat to people around me.

Maybe you do need a bit more "we" in your life.

posted by Sanderville [192 posts]
27th January 2014 - 13:03

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My tweets on this matter and others !

Am i the ONLY Cyclist that will speak out , to THOSE who SHOULD ACT ?

skippy mc carthy ‏@skippydetour
@PoliceChiefs @MayorofLondon @number10gov “institutionalised discrimination” mean Ur 2busy 4 http://buff.ly/1dIrhKz

skippy mc carthy ‏@skippydetour
@MayorofLondon @number10gov C this http://buff.ly/1dIklNw How LONG before YOU ACT? Want REPEAT fill Crystal Palace Stadium before ACTION?

skippy mc carthy ‏@skippydetour
MY Latest TWEET : " @MayorofLondon @number10gov READ http://buff.ly/1dIjQmr & http://buff.ly/1dIjNXR Think "Vision ZERO" 2 HARD?http://…

skippy mc carthy ‏@skippydetour 2h
@MayorofLondon @number10gov READ http://buff.ly/1dIjFHV & http://buff.ly/1dIjDj9 Think "Vision ZERO" 2 HARD?http://buff.ly/1dIjFHW NOW ACT!

Anyone else interested in VOICING their concerns ?

Skippy(advocate for "Disabled / Para Sport")@skippydetour. blogging as skippi-cyclist.blogspot & Parrabuddy.blogspot currently on the road with ProTour Grand Tour Events .

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posted by skippy [372 posts]
27th January 2014 - 14:03

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ChairRDRF wrote:

I explain this in posts on the RDRF website, the latest being http://rdrf.org.uk/2013/11/29/what-traffic-policing-could-be-like/

good post dude, the last point on your blog resonantes strongly.

Personally, all these police operations and crackdowns are pointless unless they tackle road traffic issues hollistically.

I mean isolating cyclists and car drivers singularly for one offence but ignoring the large majority of offenders on the roads doesn't send out the right messages. The kind of narrow visioned police only alliantes the small % of road users they are targetting and potentially stirring resentment towards the targetted group among other road users. Not to mention, it will give those who are committing more serious offences - such as hit and run drivers/dangerous driving more encouragement as the police is clear too busy to worry about them as they are busy chasing after people on push bikes and catching and fining uninsured drivers etc.

The result won't be dissimilar to the racial issues we have with the wider communities and their respective police forces.

posted by ricky1980 [20 posts]
27th January 2014 - 14:39

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skippy wrote:
Anyone else interested in VOICING their concerns ?

Looks like you've got it covered.

posted by farrell [1015 posts]
27th January 2014 - 14:46

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KevOH_Yeah wrote:
Have officers on bikes in regular clothing and see the kind of abuse, harassment and danger they endure.

Because when a Pc is affected it gets taken seriously:
http://road.cc/content/news/107764-taxi-driver-who-deliberately-swerved-...

Like others have said, I'm comfortable with officers stopping cyclists wilfully breaking laws but I do have a problem with them appearing to have a clampdown on cyclists in the name of cyclist safety (a box-ticking exercise?) yet no corresponding effort to target the many drivers that break the law and/or endanger lives.

Great article by ChairRDRF (http://rdrf.org.uk/2013/11/29/what-traffic-policing-could-be-like/), thanks for the link. The statement that "a 2008 estimate by the vehicle insurers’ body, thought there were 400,000 uninsured vehicles in London alone" prompts me to laugh at the frequent calls for cyclist registration as some kind of panacaea, the latest of these clowns being the West Mids MEP (http://road.cc/108669).

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posted by Simon E [1779 posts]
27th January 2014 - 14:59

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This is #OpGrim summed up in two photographs:

Crime wont crack itself:
pic.twitter.com/UNOknDvic4

Meanwhile, across the road:
pic.twitter.com/LjAxWlxaZJ

posted by farrell [1015 posts]
27th January 2014 - 15:25

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“93 per cent of 754 cyclists stopped had no formal training since school.”

And how many drivers have had training since their lessons? Stupid statement.

posted by kie7077 [354 posts]
29th January 2014 - 15:37

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