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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.