London police have been pretty darned busy in the last year on behalf of bicycling safety. A UK article (referenced at the end) says they issued nearly 15,800 citations to cyclists for running red lights, riding on the sidewalks, and other unsafe riding.The cyclist in their photo, however, was riding legally since they ride on the left side of the road in the UK.
Interestingly, the article says they issued tickets for riding on the “pavement”. I wondered what was wrong with riding on the pavement, until I came across this sentence: “Americans – and UK civil engineers – consider ‘pavement’ to be the road. Sidewalk is a good, descriptive word but deemed too American for UK usage.” Hahahaha The writer prefers our term but it is “too American”.
Starting in November of 2013 after six cyclists were killed on London roads in just two weeks, the police began Operation Safeway. They said: “There are so many road users, we have to respect each other. We need to tell cyclists that they have to follow the rules like everyone else.”
If you have read my past blog postings, you know I’ve been critical of cyclists who do not follow the road rules. Far too many ride through red lights, stop signs, ride on the wrong side of the road, don’t signal their turns, and pass cars on the right. Even if they are not hindering a motorist when they run a red light, they still cause the public to lose respect for us when they see us flaunting the law. I wish our police would take the time to ticket cyclists (and motorists) more frequently. As the London policeman said, “It is not about punishment or persecution, it’s about creating awareness.”
Although it was about creating awareness, the article also notes that the fines totaled £789,000, which equates to $1,279,442. So, I would think the police have an incentive to continue Operation Safeway!
After watching the movie Premium Rush, which is about a bicycle messenger in New York City, I wonder how a policeman would even catch and stop one of those guys who breaks every law in the books while riding through Manhattan delivering packages and mail. (And most do it on bikes with a fixed single gear and no brakes!) But I regress…they are a different breed and story.
The London police could also have cited about 200 cyclists for speeding last July 7. Just a joke, but that was the day the Tour de France finished their Stage 3 in downtown London. These elite racers were going over 40 mph, but of course the streets were cleared. Riding through a city with police stopping traffic and clearing the streets for you is something I have gotten to experience a few times, and it feels pretty cool to be speeding through red lights legally. In the Solvang Century that had thousands of participants, the police cleared the intersections as we rode out of town. However, my favorite time was when I rode 60 miles through the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles in 2003 with Lance Armstrong and about 500 others, as part of a Tour de Hope fund raiser. The entire 60 miles was under police control, and we felt like real racers getting to ride without the usual city hazards and stop lights. This event is mentioned on page 13 of my book, Head Over Wheels.