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"Politcal correctness gone mad" - £50 fines issued to anti-social cyclists in Bolton

Two-day operation last week part of wider campaign aimed at improving safety among all road users

Nearly 40 cyclists were issued £50 on-the-spot fines in Bolton last week as part of a police operation designed to encourage all road users to share the roads safely. One of those fined, who seemed unaware of the law he'd been consistently breaking over the years, described it as “political correctness gone mad.”

A series of initiatives undertaken last week by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) included tackling illegal and stolen caravans, dangerous driving and uninsured vehicles, and ensuring drivers are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or distracted by mobile phones.

They also carried out ‘Operation Grimaldi’ in Bolton town centre, targeting cyclists riding on pavements or in pedestrian zones such as Victoria Square.

That specific operation was billed as being aimed at reducing the number of collisions involving cyclists, as well as reminding them about the laws applying to riding bicycles, with 38 cyclists issued with fixed penalty notices – 27 on Friday, and a further 11 on Sunday, according to The Bolton News.

Riders caught breaking the law were given the option of avoiding the fine by attending a 45-minute cycle safety awareness course at Bolton Central Fire Station, with 13 attending a session on Friday, the newspaper adds.

Attendees were shown CCTV film with examples of dangerous riding, given advice on how to ride safely, and provided with a hi-viz jacket.

Officers taking part in that operation stopped and fined three motorists for illegally using mobile phones at the wheel. Each was fined £100 in accordance with the new fixed penalty rules introduced last week.

Each will also have their driving licence endorsed with three penalty points – something that is likely to result in them have to pay increased insurance premiums.

Ahead of Operation Grimaldi, Inspector Andy Sidebotham of Bolton Central Police Station, explained: “There’s a lot of people getting into cycling but they might not have had any training or been on a bike for years.

“It’s about challenging the behaviour. Most cyclists are really considerate but a small number are unaware of the law. And some don’t pay any attention to the law – they are the ones who will be targeted.”

Jim Battle, Greater Manchester’s deputy police and crime commissioner, said: “It’s really important that we improve road craft for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. The worrying figure is 90 per cent of cyclists have no training whatsoever.”

Transport for Greater Manchester committee member Councillor David Chadwick added: “We at Bolton Council are always getting complaints about cyclists. I am a strong believer of education, it is the same for people in two wheels as it is for those on four.

“It might come as a shock to some of the people that they are being taken to task.”

One of the cyclists fined in Victoria Square on Friday was 45-year-old Alan Mulraney, who complained: “It’s political correctness gone mad, I’ve been riding my bike for 30 to 35 years and nothing like this has ever happened.

“I must have gone through the square countless times. A policeman came up to me and said you’re not allowed to ride your bike here, that’ll be a £50 fine. I’d never heard of this scheme I must admit and I thought it was wrong that they didn’t warn me at all.”

Following the end of the operation, traffic PCSO Gareth Walker was quoted by The Bolton News as saying: “We are pleased that we have enforced the road safety message for cyclists that don’t necessarily know what they are doing is wrong.

“It’s their choice whether they go to the road safety presentation or pay the fixed penalty notice.

“At the road safety presentation, there have been people upset that the fine was £50, but they did have the choice to listen to the presentation and try to change their cycling habits and get the ticket cancelled.”

According to GMP, there were a total 46 deaths in its area as a result of road traffic collisions in the 11 months from June 2012 to May 2013, compared to 59 in the same period in the previous year, a statistic they say is down to ongoing clampdowns on illegal road behaviour.

Since March last year, those have been co-ordinated under the umbrella of Operation Dice, and speaking about last week’s initiatives, Inspector Matt Bailey-Smith said: ““This week is about highlighting the dangers of using the roads illegally and irresponsibly.

“We want to educate drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists about checking their speed, making sure seat belts are always worn, ensuring drivers are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs and they are not distracted by mobile phones or other electrical equipment.

He added: “We will be out this week clamping down on uninsured drivers, who are a risk to themselves and other road users, illegal or stolen caravans, plants and trailers being used on our motorway network and we will also be talking to and educating cyclists about riding safely, not running red lights and wearing the correct safety equipment.

“Our main objective is to see the number of killed and seriously injured on our roads continue to fall and to ensure the roads are safe for everyone.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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