Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bobbies on Bicycles

Nothing portrays an image of the UK better than a British Bobby on a bicycle. Road safety is all about visibility, and believe me the police officers you see in the picture above were extremely visable.

It used to be a requirement in the British police that applicants be at least six feet tall; add the tall helmet to that and they would appear to be nearer seven feet. Then sit them on the good old British “Sit up and beg” roadster bike, that the average person would need a step ladder to mount, and they would stand out in traffic like a Willie Nelson tour bus.

Many was the time in the 1950s when I’d be out training at night with the local chain gang, and one of the group would be sure to have a dead battery in his tail light, the local Bobby would chase us down on his big old Raliegh "All-Steel" bike with a Sturmey-Archer three-speed hub gear.

You can imagine my dismay when I recently came across this image (Left.) of a modern British police officer on a bike.

My first reaction was, “WTF do you look like?” Everything I loved about my homeland is slowly disintegrating. The British Bobby has become “Euro-Fred.”

Gone is the authority figure; he looks like a Mall Food Court Janitor, or a Parking Lot Attendant on his way home from work. And where did they get the helmet? Wal-Mart or Halfords?

This is the British Police for Cris’sakes, couldn’t they design something purpose built that offers protection and a little dignity.

These images came with a story in the British, Sun Newspaper, about a young police officer, killed while on duty on his bike, when he was stuck by a lorry. (Heavy flat bed truck or box van.)

I do not want to make light of this tragic incident, but the reaction by the Manchester, UK police department, was to ban police officers from riding bikes, until they can receive more training. That pisses me off; how about banning drivers who don’t know how to overtake cyclists without running them over.

Britain is apparently spending millions of taxpayer’s money on promoting cycling in big cities to ease congestion and to fight obesity, both of which will cost taxpayers even more in the long run.

By banning police officers from riding, the Manchester Police are sending out a message that cycling is dangerous. If a police officer is not safe on a bike, what hope for the rest of us, is what most people must be thinking.

I just hope they don’t have a terrorist attack or an armed robbery in Manchester, because the police there might just say, “Hey, that’s too dangerous, we can’t handle that.”

I must agree with the Sun Newspaper, the police authorities are wrong on this one. There has been a tragic loss of a young life, one of their own, and they are not facing the real problem. A few sloppy, selfish, drivers who have a complete disregard for human life.

They should be using this tragic waste of a young life to arouse public outrage and awareness of bicycles on the road, and push for harsher penalties for reckless and inattentive drivers who kill cyclists. Like revoking their license and forcing them to ride a bike.


David Killick said...

No question. He really should be wearing gloves.

Anonymous said...

Yes we need more police (everywhere!) on bikes. In my small municipality, the police drive around with the a/c on and the windows roll shut (heaven help the screaming victim because the police would never hear them!). However, they do use mountain bikes with 2.5" knobbies to cruise the commercial parking lots... what insanity. Meanwhile, irresponsible auto drivers are given a free pass to kill road cyclists.

Anonymous said...

Nice rant.

Rich Gift Of Lins said...

Your comments were my sentiments exactly when I first saw the news, only I couldn't express myself so well as you have done

VintageSpin said...

What exactly are they supposed to learn?
And why are the Bobbies to blame, pulled from the street and put into reeducation?
You are right; appearance makes a person, as seen by others and how they feel about themselves, which may be more important.
They should have an imposing appearance: what kind of respect can they command looking like an overweight guest star on Baywatch?
Rather than disappear they need to make an even more commanding and continuance appearance on the street.
The bikes aren’t unsafe-it’s people driving vehicles. Most accidents are due to driver error, not the roads they travel on, and not the bikes that share them. But somehow drivers don’t get blamed and cyclists pay a heavy price.
Taking them off the streets only reinforces misconstrued perceptions that the bike's the problem.

John Natiw said...

That was a great rant Dave. Very nice. Couldn't agree more. Bass Akwards thinking if ever there was.

Anonymous said...

I write from London UK. Today I passed 8 (!) yellow-clad officers on a training ride. That should encourage us! And on Sunday I took my son on the Hovis Freewheel ride ( so things are looking up here.

I am happy to have found your blog. Have been riding all my life (40 years) but have never really learnd much about repairs and am going to try to adjust the side pull brakes on my new bike - found it on a skip - a red racer, only bike I've ever had that didn't hurt my back when I ride. I look forward to reading more. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Your comments are spot on. If a cop crashes a car they don't stop all other cops driving.
Just one point. The police cyclist who was killed was not a cop. He was a PCSO - police communtity support officer. Looks like a cop but has no powers of arrest and carrys out only limited tasks. But that is a whole other debate.

lee.watkins said...

Riding a bike as transportation, as re-education or for driving badly with regard to cyclists - or in general - that's a great idea!

Nothing has changed the way I drive a car through the city like riding my bike everyday down the same streets.

Imagine sending all the bad drivers on group bike rides with the bike police through the city. That would be fun! Maybe we could send them all out at the same time on a critial mass style ride. That would change their perspective!

daveches said...

The policeman on the photo has not been told how to raise the saddle. Perhaps he needs to go on a course.

I try to keep up with what's going on nationwide with police on bikes at force, district, station and PCSO level.

daveches said...

sorry the link went wrong. It should be

lep said...

Definitely agreed. To add to how nonsensical it is to ban police or anyone from cycling, even "after training", consider that: does any of the thousands of car-related deaths make us ban the police from driving? Or maybe we should ban lorries - because it's a lorry that killed the cop right?

the use of mtb's (or even worse, full suspension mtb's) in the city is another sad story, because they are really inadequate and just discourage people to cycle. Another cultural improvement from the US...