A video posted to Twitter shows a Metropolitan Police officer accusing a cyclist of “anti-social behaviour” because, among other things, he was not wearing a helmet, hi-viz clothing or displaying a licence plate on his bike, none of which is a legal requirement – leading Twitter users to question whether he may have been stopped simply because he is black.
police getting more bored by the day, whole bully van parked cos a black yute riding his bike🤦🏽♂️ pic.twitter.com/Io6GRbbAkn
— dimi (@7dimii) June 30, 2020
The officer told the cyclist he had been stopped for “Anti-social behaviour, okay?”
The cyclist asked, “Does this look like anti-social behaviour to you?”
In reply, the officer said: “Well, the way you’re cycling around, at the moment you’re in and out of the road, on the pavement, on the road, not wearing a [mumbled], not wearing a helmet, not got your licence plate, not got your hi-viz … ”
“So everyone who’s not wearing a helmet, it’s anti-social behaviour when riding a bike?” the cyclist responded.
That last point seemed to throw the police officer, who seems to say, “Did I say that?” with the camera zooming in on her rather perplexed face before the footage cut out.
While the Highway Code recommends that cyclists should wear a helmet “ a cycle helmet which conforms to current regulations, is the correct size and securely fastened,” and “light-coloured or fluorescent clothing which helps other road users to see you in daylight and poor light,” there is no legal requirement to do so.
Calls for cyclists to be licensed have consistently been rejected by the government, and where such systems have been tried, more often than not they have been abandoned due to the cost and effort involved in implementing them – especially when resources are better directed to policing motorists, who are responsible for the vast majority of road traffic casualties.
And while pavement cycling is technically illegal, official guidance for more than two decades now is that police should exercise their discretion, and not take action against those who do not endanger people using the footway.
On a street on which the only other people present appear to be the half-dozen or so police officers, it’s unclear who the cyclist has put at risk here.
A number of people replying to the tweet suggested that the reason the bike rider was stopped had nothing to do with the way he was riding or what he was wearing, and was down to the colour of his skin, with these being a couple of the responses.
I have the same bike, I don't wear a helmet, I travel on and off road. Never been stopped by the police, but I'm white....
— Cray Mac (@CM_Manc) July 1, 2020
Did this really need a riot van and 5 police officers because a young kid was riding a bike? Oh sorry a IC3 as the police like to put it
— OnlyBuilt4CubanLinx🇯🇲 (@OnlyBuilt4CL) July 1, 2020
I do all the things she listed almost every day of my life on a bike, you can guarantee they wouldn’t be stopping me. #WhitePrivilege
— Tobias Zeidler 🌹#BLACKLIVESMATTER (@tobyzeidler) July 1, 2020
Earlier this week, it emerged that a black 13-year-old boy undertaking a charity bike ride in east London with his father was pushed off his bike by a plainclothes police officer.
Both father and son were handcuffed before being released, with officers having incorrectly suspected them of having been involved in a stabbing in a nearby park.
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.