Why cyclists really do need the police to step up

Cyclists know that the police are stretched and that Bobbies are hardly ever seen on cycles these days but police forces across the UK turning what amounts to a blind eye to the antics of some drivers is unforgiveable. Sadly, it seems dangerous drivers who put cyclists at risk are only really tackled when they have done some harm rather than them being targeted when seen driving dangerously near a cyclist.

The link below from Cycling UK is about using video evidence to help prosecute dangerous drivers but whilst being quite specific sadly it shows how UK police forces are reluctant to take dangerous drivers to task when they threaten the safety of cyclists:-

www.cyclinguk.org/article/roads-policing-review-failures-video-evidence

And sadly as if we needed reminding why the safety of cyclists needs to be a priority the Liverpool Echo put this article on its website only yesterday.

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/woman-cyclist-critical-condition-after-19006592

Let’s hope the injured woman survives and gets well again but let’s also not forget that a cyclist (a retired policeman) was killed on Wood Ln/Causeway Ln in Great Altcar only weeks ago as was former Melling Parish Councillor Alison Doyle a couple of years ago in Aughton’s Bold Lane. That’s 3 serious road accidents involving cyclists in a small geographic area and there will be others with non-life threatening consequences that go unreported. I blogged about Alison’s accident at the time:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/08/20/aughton-fatal-accident-on-bold-lane/

Speeding and close passing of cyclists are often the cause of such accidents that’s why it looks like the Highway Code is about to be changed to say that at 30mph drivers should give 1.5m of space when overtaking a cyclist. Another related issue is drivers overtaking cyclists who then see vehicles coming towards them on the other carriageway. Their reaction is to swerve back into their lane as though the cyclist whom they are overtaking has just vanished! If pulling a caravan or trailer this can hit the cyclist but even a car on its own swerving back into the lane can have a similar consequences. The massage is don’t overtake a cyclist if you’ve not got room to do it safely. Anything else is not unfortunate its dangerous driving!!!

Some drivers, a very small minority, don’t only drive dangerously around cyclists but they do it deliberately to intimidate them. I’ve been shouted at to ‘get off the road’, I’ve been all but run off the road by drivers passing within a coat of paint of my handle bars. I’ve even had drivers overtaking me and then slamming on their brakes! I’m told that some drivers hate cyclists, well if they do they really shouldn’t have a driving licence should they.

I’m a driver myself although I try to use my car as little as possible for environmental reasons on short journeys. And yes of course there are terrible cyclists out there swerving in out out of traffic, jumping red lights, riding on pavements etc. I saw one near Meols Cop Station a couple of days ago in Southport. But of course it’s probably the case that a poor driver is also a poor cyclist.

All we want is UK police forces to target bad drivers far more than they do and yes persecute the illegal cyclists too; I don’t have a problem with that. And remember the dangerous driver that knocks a cyclist off may well hit a pedestrian or crash into your car; they’re not just bad drivers around cyclists.

My thanks to Andrew Blackburn for the lead to this posting

Policing – When it goes badly wrong

The BBC has the article on its website – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-52932611

I have thought for many a year that some people recruited to police our laws are fundamentally unsuited for such sensitive jobs. And I’m talking here about what is probably a world-wide problem across most if not all democracies.

Militaristic organisations like policing will always tend to attract people who enjoy being controlling, authoritarian, in charge, able to enforce etc. etc. but often of course some of them are actually the very last people a society would want in such sensitive jobs. Yes police forces across most societies have to be able to tackle hardened criminals in uncompromising ways, indeed we expect that of them. But and it’s a BIG but those very same officers are also expected to exercise discretion and to sensitively deal with other policing matters. It has long been clear to me that some officers can’t do both as it is not in their make up.

Some of the scenes from the US have been heartbreaking following the killing of an African American man at the hands of the police and the legitimate protests are no surprise. Yet the police seem not to be able to handle the need to try to keep public order whilst ensuring that legal public protests are given the freedom required in any democracy. Yes the looters need stopping/arresting but what on earth is going on when innocent protestors, by-standers, reporters etc. are in effect attacked by the police!

For policing to work it has to be by consent not by force and communities need to have confidence in it. If some sections of any society feel that policing is biased against them or even actively aggressive towards them then the police become a part of the problem not a part of the solution.

America is a violent society where guns are seemingly valued above life itself. An armed police force, which draws guns far too often, will be a job very unsuitable people will apply for and sadly get. We like to think that our society is not as racist or violent as the US but I fear that just leads to a complacent approach. I am absolutely sure that in the UK there are some unsuitable police officers out there and the fact that they are not armed we must be grateful for.

And don’t get me wrong, I’ve met some great police officers in my time in public life especially those involved in community policing. However, I’ve met others whom seemed to lack the diplomatic skills and empathy required to deal with sensitive community matters. This is an issue which needs to be resolved during the recruitment process and via continual training.

Community policing was the first major issue I took an interest in back some 40 years ago as a fresh faced trainee Liberal politician and it was the work of John Alderson (former Chief Constable of Devon & Cornwall) which I saw as a piece of policing fresh air – see link below –

www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/oct/11/john-alderson

That the progress made via community policing across the UK has all but been put in full reverse due to austerity and changing policing policies/priorities is a matter of great regret to me as Alderson was right all those years ago and he’s still right now.

Policing – Those joining the Police need to be widely respected

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/pc-apologises-after-tweet-arena-14109414

Throughout my presently 32 years in public life I have had numerous encounters with police officers. The vast majority of those encounters have been really positive and I grew to respect many police women and men as a consequence.

But I have also encountered police officers who have struck me as being simply the wrong type of person to put on that uniform. I refer to personality traits such as controlling, self-important or remote from the communities they are meant to be serving.

Yes police officers have to be tough and unwavering as they try to keep us safe but they all also require good diplomatic and interpersonal skills despite the challenges of their job.

I don’t know about you but I sighed when I read the Liverpool Echo article above. It’s all well and good apologising but the bottom line is the remark should never have been made in the first place by a police officer. OK the officer has been given ‘management advice’ but surely the officer’s managers must be thinking that this seeming lack of judgement is far more serious than an apology can put right.

Maghull – Police in, youth and CAB out in Town Hall shake up

Work has now started on remodeling the former youth facility in Maghull Town Hall to turn it into a Police Station and Maghull Town Council seems to think this is worth celebrating. But is it? My letter to the Champion newspaper puts the matter in context:-

Dear Sir,

Is there really much to celebrate because part of Maghull Town Hall is to become a Police Station soon?

In my view what we have lost far outweighs what we are going to gain. The accommodation that the Police are moving into was specifically remodeled into a youth facility from its original use as a sports changing room not so many years ago. What’s more that accommodation was shared with the Citizens Advice (CAB). So whilst gaining a Police Station within the Town Hall we have lost the last publicly funded youth facility in the area and the CAB.

What’s to celebrate, the match has sadly been lost 2-1.

Yours sincerely

Tony Robertson

Poster on Maghull Town Hall noticeboard recently

Having campaigned to bring a CAB facility to Maghull and backed the establishment of the innovative Youth Coffee Bar I am rather saddened by this turn of events, indeed it angers me.

These are the plans (above) that ensure that the youth facility can never be reopened. Surely using this space for a Police Station to serve the Sefton East Parishes part of the Borough (Lydiate, Maghull, Melling and Aintree Village) is a wrong-headed priority. Of course the area needs a Police Station but we also need a youth facility and a CAB.

There are plenty of vacant shop/retail units locally so why take the space that had been specifically converted as youth facility and occupied for that use until recently – it could have and should have been revived.

And to put the tin lid on it we are told that there are concerns about the rise in anti-social behaviour as though having a active attractive youth offering would not be part of the solution to that problem!

Click on the photos and the plan to enlarge them

Gun crime in Sefton – Let’s move to bring it under control

I have lived in the Maghull and Lydiate communities since I was 10 years of age so I know how crime free our area has always been. Yet in the past year we have had 3 shootings, one at the Recycling Centre, one outside Maricourt High School and one in Rufford Avenue. This is unprecedented in Maghull history as far as I know and deeply worrying for the folks who live here.

I have also worked in Bootle since I was 17 and the worrying trend towards gun crime there, which seems to be associated with gang culture, has to be a big concern for both Bootle residents and the many public sector workers who are employed in its mini-Whitehall quarter.

My objective is to ensure that Merseyside’s new Police and Crime Commissioner knows how concerned Sefton residents are to rid our streets of guns. I am looking for a clear strategy to achieve that and am pleased that Sefton Council Leader Peter Dowd has agreed to pursue the matter following my raising it at Sefton’s full Council meeting last Thursday.

It is vital that we try to rid guns from our communities before we end up with someone wanting to set up a branch of the National Rifle Association locally. It is essential that this battle with guns is given the very highest priority in Merseyside.