Black Cyclists Network (BCN) founder Mani Arthur says that the incident on Sunday in which he was stopped and searched by a police officer in central London reflects “the negative attitude parts of our society have towards cyclists.” The Metropolitan Police is reviewing the incident.
As we reported on Monday, Arthur said it was a “degrading and humiliating experience” to be searched by the Metropolitan Police officer, who had claimed to have smelt marijuana when he had spoken to the cyclist shortly beforehand.
The officer had initially asked Arthur to move back from the line at a pedestrian crossing, with the cyclist replying that it was unsafe to do so because of a vehicle behind him.
The incident, at the corner of Woburn Place and Euston Road, was filmed by another member of BCN (the footage appears at the end of this article) and since road.cc covered the story on Monday it has been picked up by the mainstream media.
Arthur has received a great deal of support on social media, including from people who said they too had been stopped and searched by police because of the colour of their skin.
In a post on Twitter thanking people for their support however, he spoke of how he believed the incident was reflective of common prejudices against cyclists – something he said all riders face, irrespective of differences such as background or skin colour.
Thank you for all your support and understanding pic.twitter.com/paQ5SnF8C2
— Black Cyclists Network (@BCNtweet) November 19, 2019
“I want to express my sincere gratitude to everyone who has messaged me,” he wrote. “I am a bit overwhelmed by your support.
“Please forgive me if I have not replied to you. Your messages have confirmed something I already know. Cyclists are some of the best people in the world. I am not the slightest bit surprised by the solidarity you have showed.
“We may be from different class, cultural and ethnic backgrounds, but as cyclists, we are consciously aware that we are a marginalised group. We don’t need reminding because every day we have to fight for our right to exist on the road.”
He continued: “The headlines will say a cyclist was wrongfully detained by police for cannabis. Or something to that effect. Don’t get me wrong. It would be accurate. It would also be accurate to read that the officer lied that he smelled cannabis on me – but his colleagues lied to protect him nevertheless.
“However, the real issue for me is the attitude certain people have towards cyclists. The incident showed that we have a lot of work to do to change the negative attitude parts of our society have towards cyclists.
“I felt the same negative attitude from the police officer who approached me,” Arthur said. “He saw me in a precarious position but still insisted I put myself in harm’s way. At no point did he acknowledge that he was putting a vulnerable road user in a life threatening position – even after I politely explained the danger to him.
“When I refused to budge, he walked away grudgingly but then called me back and detained me under the suspicion of possessing cannabis. He found nothing and admitted, after the fact that he could not smell cannabis on me.”
He added: “In my opinion, the most dangerous thing we face as cyclists is a society that does not respect us or view us as vulnerable road users worthy of protecting.”
Yesterday evening, Superintendent Andy Cox, the Metropolitan Police Service’s road safety lead, confirmed on Twitter that officers are now in touch with Arthur and are reviewing the incident and the use of stop and search.
— Andy Cox (@SuptAndyCox) November 20, 2019
Here is the footage originally posted to Instagram on Sunday.
Today was supposed to be a historic moment for @blackcyclistsnetwork and @devercycles. . . This afternoon at around 2.39pm at the junction of Woburn Pls and Euston Rd. I was detained and searched by a police officer under the suspicion of "smelling" of marijuana. I was harassed and humiliated in a public space. . . To say that I am pissed off is an understatement. Luckily for me, fellow BCN members @schnappless and @urmyside were present and recorded the incident. . . In short, I was waiting in traffic for a green light. Three police officers were crossing the road. The one in the video told me to reverse my bicycle back behind the white line were vehicles have to stop. I was not blocking the pedestrian crossing. . . I told the officer that I would be putting myself in danger if I reversed because a small HGV was sitting directly behind me and I would end up in the driver's blind spot if I followed his instructions. I explained to the officer that usually there are cycle box lanes ahead of vehicle stop lines to protect cyclists and because there is a lack of one, I was using my common sense to avoid putting myself in danger. . . The officer tried again but I resisted and he turned around to join his colleagues as they were walking away. The lights changed to green. . . I was riding off to join Aaron and Hugo, who by that point were in the middle of the junction when I heard a call from the officer to turn back. . . I walked over to the officer on the pavement. He asked for my I.D. and informed me that he smelled cannabis on me during our exchange. As a result he needed to search me for possession. He searched me by the side of the road. Before the search, I asked him and his colleagues if they smell cannabis on me. They said yes. After the search. They conveniently said they did not smell cannabis on me. . . I am very annoyed at having to go through such a degrading and humiliating experience. It seemed to me like a gross abuse of power by an officer who tried to show off to his colleagues and made up a reason as retribution for his failed attempt. . . . @metpolice_uk . .
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.