CTC to deliver damning report on Devon and Cornwall police attitude to cyclists

Officers fail to attend cyclist crashes and assume cyclists at fault

by John Stevenson   July 5, 2013  

Devon and Cornwall police cone (copyright Flickr user roogi)

Want to drive like an idiot with little fear of the consequences? Head to Devon and Cornwall, where the force disbanded its traffic unit in 2011, and where the number of fines for motoring offences has since halved.

That’s the background to a report about to be submitted by the national cycling charity CTC to the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall, Tony Hogg next week.

While the report comes in the wake of the deaths of two cyclists on the A30 in Cornwall earlier this week, CTC says the report has been planned for a long time and its delivery is coincidental.

The report claims that Devon and Cornwall police fail to attend crashes involving cyclists and assume that cyclists are at fault.

The report says: “There is good evidence that fear of detection and prosecution is a highly effective deterrent to bad driving – more so than the severity of sanctions.

“There is also evidence that, when police enforcement of road traffic law is relaxed, driving standards and adherence to the law deteriorate.”

Report welcome

Police and Crime Commissioner, Tony Hogg said he would welcome the delivery of the report.

He said: “I am aware of the public concern about road safety in Devon and Cornwall and this is an area that I am seeking more clarification and detail from the Chief Constable.

“Clearly this week’s tragic event in Cornwall has brought this issue into sharp focus, but it would be wrong of me to make any detailed comment at this stage.

“This is one of many areas that I am working with the Chief Constable as we consider the best balance of resourcing in the future and more strain on already limited resources.”

A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall police told This Is Cornwall that the the changes to traffic policing had been part of a restructure aimed at saving £40 million between 2011 and 2015.

Police response

The spokesman said: “Changes in the way we police have had to be made and this is probably the biggest shift in many years. Roads policing officers were absorbed into the Response function, however they do retain their skill sets.

“The force still has a number of roads-policing skilled officers. The role of Response officers does require those who had previously been solely roads policing officers to attend other immediate calls, but again, this is making the best use of officer’s skills and time.

“Our 30,000 miles of roads in Devon and Cornwall mean roads policing remains a critical and dedicated area. We have and will continue to maintain this area of business, when many other forces across the country are not.

“We are actively involved in plans to best target those officers with roads policing skills to collision hotspots and areas where we know they are most needed.”

"No strategy for preventing deaths"

When This is Cornwall reported on the dismantling of Devon and Cornwall’s traffic police unit last year, Sergeant Nigel Rabbitts, chairman of the Devon and Cornwall branch of the Police Federation told the site: “Officers feel there is no strategy to deal with preventing deaths on the road because there are no dedicated resources for it.”

“Instead of going out and targeting those drivers who are causing problems on our roads, officers are having to spend most of their time responding to other incidents. There is obviously a debate going on that it was probably a mistake to get rid of the roads policing unit and that it should be re-introduced in some form.”

21 user comments

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While I have no evidence to support this—other than a feeling about how incidents that I have been involved in have been handled by both the police and ambulance services—but I believe that incidencts involving cyclists are not treated as seriously as they should do and there seems to be a culture of victim-blaming where cyclists are blamed for the incident even though it's entirely not their fault.

After stopping to help an injured cyclist after an incident a while ago we waited for an hour for the police who didn't turn up. The ambulance eventually did but the paramedic constantly went on about "idiots on bikes".

Time for a complete shift-change in their attitudes, would be my opinion. Luckily there is Roadsafe in London who at least understand what you're talking about but general attitudes are poor.

posted by velobetty [54 posts]
5th July 2013 - 13:34


In their defence, on the two occasions I contacted Devon & Cornwall Police about dangerous driving (one near miss and a bus driver who cut me up) the police tracked down both drivers and had a word, which is more than I'd expected. That was before they disbanded the traffic unit though.

Rob Simmonds's picture

posted by Rob Simmonds [257 posts]
5th July 2013 - 14:45


I've been done for speeding by them but on a clear sunny afternoon up a dead straight overtaking lane close to it turning into a motorway. I was over the limit and deserved a ticket, but what erked me was the fashion of just shooting fish in a barrel rather than tackling a dangerous stretch of road...

posted by georgee [154 posts]
5th July 2013 - 16:51


well we don't pay road tax.


posted by timothy [33 posts]
5th July 2013 - 16:51


I live in Cornwall and have to say it's not just a policing problem. There is a cultural hatred of cyclists by a large proportion of motorists. I hear it every day. I could write pages on it. I had someone tell me a story today, with pride, how their father pushed their 4x4 as close to a cyclist as possible, with the intention of the cyclist hitting the kerb. Motorists down here enjoy bragging rights for how much they intimidate cyclists. The sad thing is that Cornwall is a beautiful place to ride a bike, we've terrible roads but stunning scenery for the tourer. Cycling could be a massive boom to the county's economy. But attitudes have to change.

dolomedia's picture

posted by dolomedia [8 posts]
5th July 2013 - 17:49


If they want to get that close sounds like it's time to 'go equipped'.

posted by mbrads72 [151 posts]
5th July 2013 - 18:55


interesting. am holidaying in cornwall this year. probably will leave the bike at home after seeing some of these comments. i ride london streets every day, but know them.... it's a shame because a bike is often the best way to get the lay of the land....

Falling off my bike since 1977

posted by elvisonwheels [28 posts]
5th July 2013 - 18:58


Perhaps the thought of the many cyclists who holiday in Devon and Cornwall* taking their business elsewhere might provoke those county councils into putting pressure onto the police authority to reinstate traffic patrols.
* I don't just mean "bike-riding" holidaymakers; I have enjoyed many wonderful driving holidays in both counties but I'll spend my holiday money elsewhere until I hear this stupidity is revoked. I will not venture over their borders until that time.
Perhaps I am part of a minority here, but didn't little David slay Goliath??

K Stand Ken

posted by K Stand Ken [54 posts]
5th July 2013 - 19:11


"well we don't pay road tax."

There is no road tax to pay anymore Big Grin

posted by Sportive_Anders [5 posts]
5th July 2013 - 19:16


The Police commissioner speaks! And does exist (I hope). I have just spent a lovely day on Exmoor so nice I was going to comment on it! There are some knob-heads round here but I did not come across any today.
Nearly all road users are OK round here, but the minority of dicks really take the biscuit.
Most dick-heads seem to infest the North Devon link road, it is a complete free for all! Drive how you like and at whatever speed you want, no Policing at all! An average of one person per year dies on it and all anyone says is, "The road is dangerous and should be a dual-carriageway!"

posted by SideBurn [906 posts]
5th July 2013 - 20:29


In my experience of driving in North Devon i find the london plated(look at the dealer stickers)expensive Audis and Beemers etc to be the most aggressive drivers.

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1697 posts]
5th July 2013 - 20:47


I have ridden in most cities and areas in this country and for the last five years have been in Cornwall.
It is easily the worst place I have ever ridden in terms of careless and dangerous driving. Every ride has some sort of near miss or incident. The attitude and shear lack of care by drivers in this area towards other drivers as well as cyclists is unbelievable.

posted by VeloCake [4 posts]
5th July 2013 - 20:54


I spent two months on the Lizard last year - cycled most evenings that it wasn't actually a monsoon (OK- that's almost every other day) and was met with nothing but courtesy on the roads.

This summer we're in Totnes, Devon and again I've not had any 'incidents' but it's a whole lot more scary as traffic levels seem higher and roads narrow.

Have yet to see any traffic cops - but often see an ambulance car parked up a side road.

Just anecdotal wiff-waff I know.....

cheers m'dears

2011 Rose Pro-SL 3000 Road
2006 Lemond Alpe d'Huez Broken
1997 Marin Sausaulito Urban bimbling/shopper
1980 Orbea project

daviddb's picture

posted by daviddb [127 posts]
5th July 2013 - 21:00


Devon resident for 8 years now. Exeter now Plymouth no significant personal incidents to date, touch wood. I feel safe cycling Devon's roads but like everywhere there are a minority of aggressive drivers. Our cycle club has met a few on occasion. Will be interested to see the CTC details as we are an affiliated club.

Rigobear's picture

posted by Rigobear [82 posts]
5th July 2013 - 21:16


Poor or none existent policing isn't just reserved for Devon & Cornwall, we too have crap police here in Yorkshire. I was hit by a van in January this year as he came out of a junction to my left, I had right of way he just didn't bother looking. The driver did not stop, but returned to the scene some 40 minutes later, presumable after he had time to check his vehicle for damage and then realising his number plate was missing, luckily the accident was witnessed by a motorist at the other side of the junction. When the van hit me the witness said I was thrown around 15ft in the air and thrown from one side of carriageway to the other, approx 25 feet, landing face down, the witness actually thought I was dead. Now for the ridiculously inept police officer who attended the scene half an hour so after the incident after the witness had called 999 reporting a hit and run. Because it took so long for the police to attend, witness had left, leaving contact details with ambulance crew. Policeman tried to get to speak to me at hospital, staff wouldn't let him due to work they needed to carry out. I went home next day, police did not get in touch with me; I had to get in touch with them after 5 days of silence, even then I had to go to the officers station as returned calls were none existent. When I did speak to him, his levels of stupidity became very quickly apparent, at first he said that there were no witnesses, but he could not explain how or why he didn't know that when the accident was reported as a hit and run, one can only assume he thought the driver must've dialled this in himself. So he then finally realised that the van driver, and not me, might actually have done something wrong. Although, his next line of questioning was, was I wearing a helmet, was I wearing something hi-viz, did I have lights. Yes I had a helmet, yes I had lights, and I was wearing fairly bright cycling clothes, had he got there in a reasonable he would've seen what I was wearing before it was all removed in the back of the ambulance!!. So policeman gets witness details, I tell him what witness told me and he then disputes the witnesses account by saying that I couldn't have gone so far or high on impact otherwise my injuries would have much more severe, not knowing that I am not a mountain goat and carry some additional padding. The doctors said that as I was knocked out on impact, this probably saved my from serious injury due my body being relaxed when I landed, so, idiot policeman know thinks he is medically qualified to say what my injuries should be. Couple of days later, go to collect whats left of my bike from local garage, woman there says policemen spoke to her to see if she saw anything, she says not, but he then goes on to suggest to her that 'maybe I had hit a grate or something' yes mr plod, I hit a grate and it through my 30 feet across the road, you pillock! Basically shows this officer was really looking at ways to find me as the 'guilty' party rather than the driver who didn't give a toss who he hit or what happened to them as a result

Anyway, 6 months down the line, I have heard nothing from the police since. So I think I shall be sending a formal complaint to ipcc and same letter the the chief constable who really should know that the quality of some of his officers is a joke at best, and is probably the same in most forces

posted by Xrecymech [10 posts]
5th July 2013 - 21:29


You have my sympathy Xrecymech; very frustrating when the plod think they are some sort of universal cop with psychic powers. I suppose cynicism goes with the job. I would be interested how your complaint goes.
I was once told (after being knocked of my bike by a wing-mirror) that I had not been hit! I had simply been startled by a passing car! He and his colleague just got back into their car and left me injured and on my own by the side of the road. That is Surrey Police for you, useless...

posted by SideBurn [906 posts]
6th July 2013 - 10:15


Firstly to Xrecymech...

Please could you get in touch with my colleague Rhia Weston (rhia.weston@ctc.org.uk)? This is exactly the sort of evidence we need for CTC's "Road Justice" campaign:

BTW we'll be delivering the Road Justice booklet mentioned in the above article to police forces throughout England and Wales next week - not just in Devon & Cornwall. So...

To all road.cc readers...

If you have similar experiences of the legal system failing to respond to incidents of bad driving, please report them on www.roadjustice.org.uk. And do pass this on to anyone else you know who has had similar experiences.

Also, if you'd like to get actively involved in the Road Justice campaign, again please contact Rhia Weston: rhia.weston@ctc.org.uk. Policing is very decentralised, as is the CPS. So we will be looking to work with people locally who are able and willing to put some time into liaising with their local police forces and CPS divisions to hold them to account for their performance and help them improve.

Roger Geffen
Campaigns & Policy Director
CTC, the national cycling charity

posted by Roger Geffen [48 posts]
6th July 2013 - 12:35


It's is tragic, what happened in Cornwall and my sympathy goes to the families.
Something needs to be done about ignorant drivers. They moan and groan, try to cause injury and feel safe when they can drive off rather than discussing situations face to face. Stricter laws are required to clamp down on such lunacy and an ad campaign to educate the ignorant.

posted by Craie [1 posts]
7th July 2013 - 9:54


I'm seriously consisdering going to Cornwall and taking my bike in the back of the car. In light of the general view and experiences expressed above I'll take my cash elsewhere.

My wfe doesn't cycle and worries about me when I go out. I have to convince her that it's not a jungle out there, but when the police back away from a dedicated traffic unit and only respond to an incident after the event I begin to wonder...........

posted by Posh [46 posts]
8th July 2013 - 12:55


I haven't heard from the police at all so far, insurance company has paid out via solicitor, I guess that just shows how inept West Yorkshire police and in particular the 'investigating' officer really are; beaten to a resolution by an insurance company, must be a historical first. Anyway, I have contacted police to give jobsworth a chance to explain the situation. Good or bad, either way letter will be sent at end of September. I think 9 months is ample time to update me.

posted by Xrecymech [10 posts]
9th September 2013 - 18:53


Apologies for the late addition to this thread, but I've just found this article online, so hope it's ok for me to add my experience. I live in Devon, and drive (and cycle!) these narrow roads routinely. You take your life into your hands on some of these lanes, and the paucity of cycle lanes in the towns is a joke, as they start and end in the most surprising places. Road a bit narrow? Let's cut out the cycle lane then. That'll solve the problem. D Oh

In respect of D&C police, several years ago I driving to work along a narrow lane, when a boy racer behind me pulled out and overtook dangerously. In doing so he didn't notice the cyclist coming in the other direction, causing him to swerve and fall off his bike. The cyclist was shaken up but ok, fortunately.

I managed to get the car's number and reported him to D&C police. I was called to the local police station and gave a statement; they also tracked down the cyclist because he'd mentioned to me where he worked. I found them to be supportive and proactive. The boy racer was prosecuted and found guilty, so a positive result there, thanks to the steps taken by local police.

posted by Mandragora [1 posts]
18th November 2013 - 10:00