Monday, 25 October 2010

Plod Going the Wrong Way on Sidney Street

In a rush today are we, Sir?
October in Cambridge. Novice boats move crab-like down the Cam; College sommeliers dust off their Ch√Ęteau Ducru-Beaucaillou; and PC Plod makes us all safer by stopping cyclists going the wrong way along Sidney Street. Soon followed by an article in the CEN proclaiming a "Cycle Crime Crackdown". The pantomime season has started.

The latest ritual of catch-a-cycling-criminal took place on 7th October. Twenty cyclists were stopped and ten fixed penalty notices were issued in a two hour period for cyclists contravening the one way system.  Now if you know the area you might be wondering, how come they only stopped twenty cyclists in two hours?  Isn't cycling the wrong way along Sidney Street much more common than that?

Well of course it is.  This montage was created over a twenty minute period and gives a better idea of the scale of the problem.  And it's not only students - or even the much-maligned foreign students - who are breaking the law.  Lycra-man is in there as is a mother with an attached trailer for kids.  Forty cyclists an hour must be going the wrong way at certain times of the day.  For many it has become an accepted norm by default.

So how has it come about that so many people are choosing to ignore the one-way regulation? Well, for a start, the road use signage is poor and could certainly do with an upgrade.  Many cyclists are probably unaware that they're committing an offence.   It would certainly help if colleges gave out copies of the Cambridge Cycle Map to all new students and emphasised the importance of cycling according to the rules of the Highway Code.

Then there are the police.  Their tokenistic efforts such as the 7th October operation do little to serve the public good, but discriminate against an unlucky few.  For in case you thought that the small number of cyclists stopped was due to the presence of the mystery woman the real answer is more prosaic.  While the two police officers were questioning cyclists and taking their details, they simply didn't have time to observe and stop the many other anti-social cyclists who continued to travel the wrong way. 

If Cambridge really wants to tackle the problem of anti-social cycling - and there are many reasons why it should - then it will require a concerted and coordinated effort from all parties concerned.  That includes the Councils, cycling organisations, universities as well as the police.  Step forward if you would like to take the lead on this.