Central London was today flooded with police in the Met has described as a major road safety operation involving 2,500 officers this week, aimed at making busy London junctions safer.
Around 650 officers were deployed at 60 major junctions in London today. The police presence is planned to increase to 2,500 officers in 166 locations during the week, and may carry on until Christmas.
There have been widespread reports of drivers being ticketed for stopping in advanced stop line ‘bike boxes’ and of cyclists being fined for running red lights and riding on pavements.
Superintendent Rob Revill of the Safer Transport Command, said: "Our aim is to reduce the appalling number of people who die or are injured on London's roads each year. Every road death is a needless tragedy that wreaks devastation for the victim's friends and family. Every serious injury is life-changing and distressing.
"We are doing this by enforcing traffic legislation robustly and at every opportunity. Traffic and Safer Transport officers will be out in force, and even officers who don't specialise in traffic policing will be watching and dealing accordingly with anyone they see breaking the law.
The police initiative, dubbed Operation Safeway, comes after the deaths of six cyclists in London in a two-week period earlier this month. Brian Holt, 62 was hit by a lorry on November 5, and hours later Francis Golding, 69 was struck by a coach; Mr Golding later died of his injuries.
On November 12 Roger De Klerk, 43 was hit by a bus in Croydon, and there were two fatal collisions the following day. Venera Minakhmetova, 24 was hit by a lorry at the notorious Bow roundabout, and hours after the roundabout had been the scene of a protest against the recent deaths in London, Khalid al-Hashimi, 21, was hit by a bus near the other end of Cycle Superhighway 2 in Whitechapel. On November 18 Richard Muzira, 60 became the sixth cyclist to die so far this month when he was hit by a lorry.
Tales from the road
Riders’ accounts of encounters with officers on patrol this morning have been a mixed bag, with reports of officers not quite seeming to know the rules around advanced stop lines, for example.
On The Guardian’s website, CallMeWhatever posted: “Lots of police on CS7 between Colliers Wood and Clapham Common this morning. I'm not sure if they were all there for bike watching though, or if something else was going on in the area. Some of them seemed to be using the cycle lane as parking spaces for their motorbikes, hence forcing all the cyclists out into the middle of the road.”
The Evening Standard spoke to 57-year-old Ben Watson who was stopped while taking his children to school by cargo bike this morning.
“This policeman called me over and said ‘is that bike legal?’ I thought ‘well you’re the policeman surely you should be telling me whether its legal or not’”, said Mr Watson.
“I think it seems a bit unfair as this operation is making out cyclists are the problem when it is actually cars that are the problem.
“I know where I’m going. I’ve been taking the kids to school on this route for four years, I know what I’m doing.”
On the Guardian, betweenarock12 said: “As I saw this morning, handing out fines to cyclists for stopping over the line or jumping lights versus them handing out polite leaflets to car and lorry drivers stopping over the line and stopping in the advance cyclist areas hardly sends the right message for the need for everyone to take responsibility for road safety.
That police seem to be targeting cyclists rather than even-handedly enforcing the law was a common complaint. On the Guardian’s site, andythatcham said: “Interesting chat with a police officer on my ride in this morning. 20 of them in Brixton watching cyclists on road junctions. As the PC said to me 'we're watching you lot'. Attitude and resourcing suggests Met (and Boris) blame cyclists for recent deaths.”
But it hasn’t been entirely a crackdown on cyclists. There have been many reports that just the presence of officers at junctions has prevents drivers from encroaching on bike boxes and jumping red lights, and Guardian commenter ID8688170 found officers helpful when he reported a white van that had crossed two lanes without signalling and almost hit another rider.
He said: “There was a police motorbike about 100 metres further down the road so I stopped and pointed out the van. The policeman was great about it and promptly chased after him and pulled him over to have a word. Sadly he hadn't seen it so couldn't do a lot but his attitude was great and he genuinely did his best and seemed thankful that I'd pointed it out to him.
“Hope fellow cyclists appreciate that most of the police are trying their best to help improve safety, they aren't out to get us. If you're polite I think they will take comments on board.”
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.