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Mayor of London's 'idle words' about cyclists wearing headphones doing more damage than good, says lawyer...

The lawyer who won a landmark ruling in court forcing prosecutors to drop a fixed penalty notice has said Boris Johnson is ineffective despite his promises for cyclists.

Oliver Jeffcott, a solicitor who acted for a cyclist who challenged a police-issued ticket for crossing an advanced stop line into a red light in Fulham high street, managed to convince the CPS to drop the case a few days before it was due to go to trial.

As we reported late last year, the cyclist, Alex Paxton, was positioned in the cyclists’ box in order to turn right. In order to avoid having to cross three lanes of moving traffic, he decided to move ahead of the traffic and ahead of the advanced stop line.

A police officer saw Alex cross the line and radioed a colleague, who stopped the cyclist along the road he had turned into and gave him the fixed penalty notice. Having not seen the incident, the officer that issued the fine could not assess the greater risk Alex would have been in had he positioned himself behind the white line. Alex was unaware whether the car driver had also been given a fixed-penalty notice.

Alex took advice from the Cyclists’ Defence Fund (CDF) who confirmed they would help with his legal costs and a crowdfunding campaign raised over £2,600 toward them. He pleaded not guilty in an intial hearing and was excused the hearing on December 5 when the CPS concluded there was insufficient evidence to secure a conviction.

His lawyer, Oliver Jeffcott, an associate at Islington-based Bolt Burdon Kemp who also blogs as The Cycling Solicitor, had launched his firm’s cycling department with one other lawyer two years ago.

“Boris Johnson has not been a friend to cyclists to date,” he told The Lawyer, adding that he “lost the confidence of myself and many cyclists when, in the midst of the spate of cycling deaths in London in November, he commented on Nick Ferrari’s radio show that he was alarmed about cyclists wearing headphones. This was a transparent attempt to detract from his failure to take action to protect cyclists by seeking to blame the victim. 

“A few days after the show I received an e-mail from a cyclist who was hit by a driver on a roundabout, who had simply ploughed into her side when it was the cyclist’s right of way. The driver later tried to blame the accident on the cyclist wearing headphones, although the cyclist said she was not wearing any. 

“But whether or not she was is irrelevant as the result would have been the same. When you see the harm that can be caused by idle words by the mayor it is very disappointing.” 

He added that cyclists appeared to be easy targets to the police.

“The idea of stopping a cyclist as opposed to a car with blacked-out windows – even though that car might be causing much more of a hazard – is a lot more appealing to the police,” he said. “And they see it as causing a lot less disruption than stopping cyclists. You can understand the psychology, but it has led to a dangerous situation, where the people who are causing the real potential harm are being favoured.”

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

13 comments

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congokid [263 posts] 2 years ago
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I'm sure he meant distract rather than 'detract'.

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dbb [34 posts] 2 years ago
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he is a lawyer - he must be right  24
there was once a time when I could come to road cc and get updated on all things cycling - now it is reporting on just anything that has bicycle in it. i'm losing interest fast....  17

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SteppenHerring [328 posts] 2 years ago
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Looking at sentencing for various traffic violations, it's almost as if "riding a bicycle on a public road" counts as "contributory negligence" on its own. See recent case of texting lorry driver who killed a couple in a car given five years against typical sentences for equally negligent drivers who kill cyclists.

We've also had a couple of cases recently in the club where the police/CPS have said "no further action" despite witnesses, clear incompetence, identification of offenders and even admission of fault.

Maybe it would be easier if we just took justice into our own hands. Some of us have access to the DVLA database after all ...

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zanf [838 posts] 2 years ago
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dbb wrote:

there was once a time when I could come to road cc and get updated on all things cycling - now it is reporting on just anything that has bicycle in it. i'm losing interest fast....  17

No pleasing some people!

Maybe for you there is a big distinction between sports cycling and utility cycling and you want this website to be about the former with none of the latter. In short... tough shit mate.

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big mick [183 posts] 2 years ago
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It's the Clarkson effect .When people in the media say anything the public believe everyword and batter cyclist with it to suit there own ends,it's just the way it is.

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oozaveared [937 posts] 2 years ago
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I had a funny feeling reading this. Hats off to the solicitor that got the ASL case dropped but I just feel that there is something a bit more political to this than being a bit cross at Boris for stupid remark. I don't support Boris's party and I don't live in London anymore. But whatever Boris' faults as regards cycling he is a million times better than what went before as far as cyclists are concerned. Whatever the politics of it I will trust a person who rides a bike daily to be on the cyclists side rather than someone who confessed to not actually being able to ride a bike and travelled the streets in the back of a black cab.

Let's not make the best the enemy of the good.

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hairyairey [298 posts] 2 years ago
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I agree - it was a stupid remark by Boris Johnson because the ability to hear what is going on around you is not a necessity for riding down the roads (now the ability to recognise a deaf-blind person crossing the road is).

However, looking at the bigger picture Boris Johnson has cycled on London's roads, been nearly hit by a car flicked across the road and stopped a mugging. So I'd say he has a quite impressive cycling record. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8066461.stm & http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8340865.stm

If it were up to me I'd allow contra-flow cycling on one way streets unless the road was really too narrow.

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AlexStriplight [75 posts] 2 years ago
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Boris rides a bike. Yay. Other than that he's more of a hinderance than a help. His victim blaming is outrageous. He favours "smoothing traffic flow" over making our roads safer. 'Boris Bikes' weren't even his idea, although he likes to take the credit for them, while his mates at Barclay's don't even want to pay the full whack for the enormous advertising they've gained from them. As for headphones, it's yet another obfuscation on his part.

This sums it up nicely.
http://twowheelsgood-fourwheelsbad.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/victimblamingi...

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Paul M [360 posts] 2 years ago
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I imagine that he did actually mean "detract" - take away, remove etc the perception of the implications of Boris' failure - but distract also works well.

I wonder what world dbb lives in where the legal and physical framework in which we use a bicycle on a public road is not somehow part of "all things cycling" - whether you are a commuter, a racer/sportiver, or just someone who thinks it is the best way of getting around generally. I suppose if you are a pure mountain biker, who takes your bike on the top of your 4x4 to some forest track, or a velodrome track cyclist, you might not have much interest, but otherwise?

Boris' status as a regular cyclist is a red herring. It is certainly true that he is a "real" cyclist. He is famous for it among his staff and the people at the GLA. He is not a Cameron who only ever really rode a bike so he could be photographed to boost his bogus green credentials (while his paperwork followed him in an official car, as very quickly came to light). Unfortunately that doesn't translate into any real sympathy for the generality of people who would like to ride a bicycle but feel intimidated out of it by road conditions. He may not be a died-in-the-wool vehicular cyclist - he doesn't wear Lycra and he is notorious for being a fairly slow rider - but his attitudes are vehicularist: you don't need special provision, you should man up and keep your wits about you, cycle lanes etc are a bad thing and what you really need is training (copies of my book "Effective Riding"/"Cyclecraft"/[insert as appropriate] can be purchased for only £ at any good bookstore) etc. Worst of all, he is totally in thrall to the motor lobby - thus refusing to acknowledge that the centre of London is overwhelmingly populated by pedestrians (and a fair few cyclists) who didn't arrive there in a car, but mainly in a train or tube, but they are given a tiny fraction of the space and time available on the road network to move around, because pedestrian interests are not as rich or as powerful as the motor lobby.

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skippy [408 posts] 2 years ago
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Boris is NO FOOL !  37 He is busy seeking ANY means to make him popular with the electorate ! Too bad that from 2008 to 2012 , there were 15500+ Casualties on roads he is responsible for overseeing ! Enough to fill Crystal Palace Stadium , if you want a visual ?  41

How many of the " Cyclist hating Motorists " , have dusted off the bike in their backyard , knowing that it is going to be the only way to avoid the traffic chaos of the " Tube Strike " , today?  36

Wanting it both ways ? Those that normally Cycle should visit & " LIKE " :

https://www.facebook.com/groups/stopkillingcyclists

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Vision-ZERO-Worldwide/540123632761709

Even " motormouth JC " is riding London streets ! Going to show Cyclists , how YOU would like them to ride JC ? Including moving over , each time a Chelsea Tractor appears at YOUR rear end ? Can you just imagine that , on Top Gear or any of his Media outlets ?  19

Wonder why he doesn't do a programme with his Wife ? It would show him up for the self opinionated noneniety that he has become .  102

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oozaveared [937 posts] 2 years ago
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skippy wrote:

Boris is NO FOOL !  37 He is busy seeking ANY means to make him popular with the electorate ! Too bad that from 2008 to 2012 , there were 15500+ Casualties on roads he is responsible for overseeing ! Enough to fill Crystal Palace Stadium , if you want a visual ?  41

How many of the " Cyclist hating Motorists " , have dusted off the bike in their backyard , knowing that it is going to be the only way to avoid the traffic chaos of the " Tube Strike " , today?  36

Wanting it both ways ? Those that normally Cycle should visit & " LIKE " :

https://www.facebook.com/groups/stopkillingcyclists

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Vision-ZERO-Worldwide/540123632761709

Even " motormouth JC " is riding London streets ! Going to show Cyclists , how YOU would like them to ride JC ? Including moving over , each time a Chelsea Tractor appears at YOUR rear end ? Can you just imagine that , on Top Gear or any of his Media outlets ?  19

Wonder why he doesn't do a programme with his Wife ? It would show him up for the self opinionated noneniety that he has become .  102

You can blame Boris for not being as "right on" about cycling as we would all be as a London Mayor I think he has more issues than just cycling to deal with and more lobbyists than just us to listen to and deal with. But I (not a Tory) think that it's a bit of a stretch to blame him for car culture or for some idiot motorists hating cyclists. For all his faults, Boris isn't Clarkson. He actually does ride a bike round the city. He seems to enjoy cycling.

Philosophically speaking, You may be guilty, perhaps, of making "the Perfect the enemy of the good"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perfect_is_the_enemy_of_good

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VeloPeo [303 posts] 2 years ago
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Boris doesn't need to be popular any more (at least in London). He won't be standing for another term in 2016 - he's just a twunt.

They'll parachute him into a safe Tory seat where what he's done here won't matter.

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oozaveared [937 posts] 2 years ago
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Paul M wrote:

He is not a Cameron who only ever really rode a bike so he could be photographed to boost his bogus green credentials (while his paperwork followed him in an official car, as very quickly came to light).

Just out of interest. Did you know that all "Leaders of the Opposition" as Cameron was at the time along with all current and former PMs, Foreign Secetaries, Home Secretaries and Northern Ireland Secretaries have police protection details. Leaders of the opposition are also Privvy Councillors so they do see state papers of varying degrees of secrecy.

However much Cameron would have liked to cycle to work unaccompanied with his briefcase that would not have been allowed by SO1. They would have liked him to be in the armoured vehicle with them, it makes their job easier. The best they could allow was for the armed protection to follow him with any state papers locked in the car with them and able to get him into a protected car and away from any threats as soon as they could.

Our lot are very good at keeping this low profile, Just watch Obama going for a jog. He's got 40 vehicles, counter snipers on roof tops and a helicopter gunship on overwatch. Ok so we're not American and Cameron was only leader of the opposition so he only had two SO1 officers and a car.

Not necessarily his choice but much lower than that and the SO1 boys would have wanted a signed personal disclaimer from Cameron for his protection. They have jobs and careers to protect as well as prominent politicians.