People cycling were on the receiving end of 91 per cent of tickets by the Metropolitan Police on a major cycleway corridor into London, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed – despite the fact 90 per cent of casualties on the route the previous year involved motor vehicles.
According to the Metropolitan Police response to an FOI, of 697 road offence tickets given by police this year on Cycleway 2 (CS2), a 3.8-mile kerb-protected cycleway along a busy dual carriageway from Stratford to Aldgate in East London, 636 were to people cycling while “failing to comply” with a traffic sign – i.e. jumping red lights.
Although enforcement of cyclists on the route more than doubled from 310 in 2018, enforcement of motorists during the same period dropped by almost two thirds, from 174 offences to just 61. In 2016 and 2017 10 cycling tickets were given each year. London-wide, the Mayor's office says, 1.5% of offences were recorded against cyclists.
Cyclists "an easy target", says campaigner
The London Cycling Campaign’s (LCC) Simon Munk expressed concerns the Met Police is going after an easy target, rather than the cause of danger on the roads. “It’s difficult to tell exactly what’s going on,” he said, “but it doesn’t look like a proportional policing in terms of road danger.
“What this looks like is that it’s much easier to catch and ticket cyclists than catch and ticket motorists.”
The FOI was submitted by the chair of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, Mark Treasure, who called the findings “quite alarming”. All of the 636 cycling offences in the response contained identical wording: “ride a pedal cycle on a road and fail to comply with the indication given by a traffic sign”.
It found police had enforced offences over four years as follows:
2016 - 10
2017 - 10
2018 - 310
2019 - 636
2016 - 199
2017 - 177
2018 - 174
2019 - 61
90 per cent of collisions involve motor vehicle drivers
A road.cc analysis of all collisions on the CS2 corridor found 90 per cent of all injuries in 2018 involved collisions with motor vehicles. Of 52 casualties slightly less than half of the total, 23, were pedestrians, two of whom died of their injuries. Three pedestrians were seriously injured when they collided with people cycling – less than six per cent of the total. The remaining 20 pedestrians were injured or killed after being hit by drivers of motor vehicles. Meanwhile 12 cyclists were injured in collisions with other vehicles, two of which were other cyclists, and 12 motorcyclists were injured in collisions with other motor vehicles, along with four car occupants, one bus occupant and a taxi occupant.
Observations by road.cc suggest this cycling enforcement is carried out by Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) positioning themselves beside signalised junctions such as Bow Roundabout and pedestrian crossings, stepping out to stop people who have cycled through a red light. PCSOs don’t have the necessary powers to stop drivers.
Munk adds while the police have done good work on dangerous locations like the A10 in Enfield, there are significant improvements needed in other areas. “It’s not OK that a dangerous and confusing location for cyclists [like Bow Roundabout] is the location the Met Police are choosing to crack down on cyclists, while they aren’t cracking down on drivers or known dangers on those roads.”
“We keep seeing the Met stopping cyclists all over the place and I would be all for them stopping red light running cyclists if they were doing so in proportion to motorists running red lights, or using mobile phones, or in proportion to the numbers of each road user," he said. "This doesn’t look like that, and I’m very curious to see what the Met has to say.”
Munk adds: "We are regularly contacted via LCC’s legal advice helpline by cyclists who have been knocked off, threatened, really badly treated on the roads, and where the police don’t follow CCTV up." He gave a high-profile incident on Swains Lane as one such example, where the victim of dangerous driving had to source his own CCTV footage to secure prosecution for the driver.
The Met's Cycle Cops come under fire intermittently for what some feel is an excessive focus on cyclists.
@MetCycleCops enforce on all road users, on average about half our enforcement is on cyclists.
— Cycle Safety Team (@MetCycleCops) September 16, 2019
Targeting cyclists "not the way to achieve Vision Zero"
London’s Vision Zero action plan was launched in July 2018, with the aim of reducing all road deaths and serious injuries in the capital by 2040. The most successful Vision Zero cities target the cause of the greatest danger which, in London, is speeding drivers, involved in 37 per cent of road deaths.
In 2018 the ticketing of cyclists on CS2 increased by 31 times, while ticketing of drivers dropped. Munk says though the Met are "buying into Vision Zero", targeting cyclists won't achieve road safety goals.
A Mayor of London spokesperson said: “The vast majority of traffic offences in London are committed by motor vehicles. Across the capital in 2018/19, Met figures shows that 310,936 offences were recorded against motor vehicle drivers, while 4,628 offences were recorded against cyclists – around 1.5 per cent of recorded offences.”
They added police enforcement across London tackles the greatest dangers, including speeding, and using a mobile phone while driving, adding "officers will take appropriate action against cyclists if they put themselves and others at risk."
London Green Assembly Member, Caroline Russell, raised concerns over enforcement of the route in relation to Vision Zero, during Mayor’s Question Time in September, after a week-long blitz of cyclists at Bow Roundabout and pedestrian crossings. She asked whether a focus on cycling was “fair and proportionate” to the danger those on two wheels posed.
Proportionate response needed, says Assembly Member
In response to the latest figures, Russell said: “I’ve asked the Mayor twice to explain the disproportionate policing focussed on people cycling and not on people driving cars too fast or making dangerous turns over the cycleway through red lights. It is motor vehicles that are the overwhelming cause of danger on our roads and that is what policing should be focused on.”
In 2017 Karla Roman was killed cycling on CS2 when a coach driver entered an advanced stop box at traffic lights in Whitechapel, before turning left across her path. Prior to construction of the protected cycle route several cyclists died along its length, including two at Bow Roundabout.
The Mayor's spokesperson added: “Reducing road danger is a key priority for the Mayor and TfL, which is why we’re investing record amounts in making cycling and walking safer, and transforming London’s most dangerous junctions. We are lowering speed limits in central London, directly tackling unsafe driving through Operation Close Pass and our world-leading Direct Vision Standard – which will remove the most dangerous lorries from our roads - started in October.”
The Metropolitan Police were contacted for comment.