The Metropolitan Police says that it has seen a change of behaviour among road users as a result of its Operation Safeway campaign, which saw 2,500 officers deployed at 170 junctions throughout London following the deaths of six cyclists in a two-week period in November.
The campaign, which has seen nearly 14,000 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) or reports for summons issued, was due to end last Friday 3 January but has been extended further into the new year to reinforce the road safety message.
Detective Chief Superintendent Glyn Jones of the MPS Road Traffic Unit commented: “The public’s response to the operation has been really encouraging.
“We've noticed that road users are generally behaving in a much safer manner, and we have issued fewer fixed penalty notices as the operation has progressed.
"However, a lot of people have taken time off over Christmas and we’re really keen to remind them to stay safe on the roads as they resume their journeys to and from work today.
“This week, officers will be out again at key junctions, advising road users and enforcing the law where necessary. We want 2014 to be a safe year for all road users.”
In his regular Ask Boris radio show on LBC this morning, Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: "Can I pay tribute to the Met Police and their safety initiative in the past few weeks. Many fines have gone out, many to motorists. There are two sides to the problem."
There were mixed views among people interviewed for a BBC News London report about whether the change in attitudes that DCS Jones claimed had happened as a result of the operation reflected the reality, however.
One female cyclist, wearing a helmet and hi-visibility jacket – during Operation Safeway, some riders were stopped by officers and advised they should be wearing such safety equipment, as recommended in the Highway Code – said: “I always take the same amount of care and it hasn’t affected me personally but I’ve seen cyclists being pulled over.”
Asked if she thought it had affected the behaviour of some cyclists, she replied: “I hope it’s affected the more reckless ones.”
A taxi driver said: “At every junction you see more police around, especially cyclists, you can see them riding a lot proper [sic].”
A male bike rider was asked whether he believed the operation was having an impact. He said: “Not yet. I haven’t noticed it. I think it’s too soon to tell.”
Detailed figures released by the police show that three in ten of the FPNs or reports for summons were given to cyclists, the remainder to motorists, and also show the variety of offences involved:
Cyclists (4,085 FPNs or reports for summons)
Contravening traffic signals = 1,225
Using a pedal cycle without lights at night = 1,598
Cycling on a footway = 988
Other = 274
Motorists (9,733 FPNs or reports for summons)
Contravening traffic signals = 1,056
Using a phone while driving = 2,424
Failing to wear a seatbelt = 2,437
Driving without due care = 87
Driving in a cycle lane = 42
Other (can include driving without insurance and faults with vehicle) = 3,687
Police say that around 900 of those 1,598 FPNs issued to cyclists for riding without lights were cancelled after the riders in question went to designated locations to show that they had fitted lights to their bikes.
As for as the almost 1,000 cyclists given FPNs or reports for summons for riding on the footway is concerned, according to Bikehub’s Cycling and the Law article, official Home Office guidance to the police issued in 1999 and repeated in 2004 (and not, as far as we are aware, rescinded) is:
The introduction of the fixed penalty is not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of traffic and who show consideration to other pavement users when doing so. Chief police officers, who are responsible for enforcement, acknowledge that many cyclists, particularly children and young people, are afraid to cycle on the road, sensitivity and careful use of police discretion is required.
The Metropolitan Police added that as well as the FPNs and reports for summons issued, more than 200 people were arrested – there is no breakdown between cyclists and other road users – for a variety offences, many of them unrelated to traffic laws. Police said:
Additionally, 209 arrests were made for traffic offences including dangerous driving, driving while disqualified and drink driving, immigration offences, having an offensive weapon, drugs offences, public order offences, handling stolen goods, assault, criminal damage, theft of bikes and cars, illegal entry, shoplifting, burglary, outraging public decency, failing to stop, malicious communications, child neglect, drunk disorderly, failing to appear at court, sexual assault and breach of an anti-social behaviour order.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.