A sunny morning does little to brighten up grim Bow roundabout, in East London. It’s rush hour, it’s cold and officers have been deployed along Cycle Superhighway 2 following a spate of deaths, three between Bow and Whitechapel in only two weeks.

When I arrive near where a cyclist was killed on November 13, there’s already a police officer and cyclist chatting on the pavement.

“To be honest, it’s really confusing,” the cyclist says. “I just went through the first green and almost went across the roundabout. I saw the fatality sign and slammed on my brakes just before the traffic came across from the right.”

There’s an early start cyclist light as you are approaching the roundabout, which puts riders ahead of the traffic until the main lights change.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” he adds. “You see a green light and think it’s OK to go.”
The officer says he’s seen plenty of cyclists miss that second red light.

“My personal opinion is that with motorbikes you get a CBT [compulsory basic training], and cyclists should do the same. It’s for 
their own safety,” he says. “People don’t help themselves; you see a car indicating left 10 feet away and the cyclist still thinks its alright to go down the inside.”

This officer, like the next one I chat to, advises me to wear a helmet and hi-vis. “If a driver doesn’t see you he isn’t going to stop for you, is he?” he says.

Chatting to officer three on Whitechapel Road, we watch a silver sports car edging forward until it covers the advance stop line, before a young guy on a bike sails across the junction on a red light, no hands, moments before traffic gets a green from both sides.

I ask the officer how many tickets he’s issued and he points out he (like the other two) is a Police Community Support Officer (PCSO), so he can only advise people on their behaviour and give fines for pavement cycling.

Even cycling in uniform he tells me drivers act recklessly around him: a van nearly hit him recently as he tried to turn right. These PCSOs are helping educate drivers and cyclists, something sorely needed to improve safety. The mayor announced 2,000 more officers deployed on London’s streets “giving advice and stopping badly driven lorries, dangerous lorries and also bad cycling”. Let’s hope this education offensive works.

This article was first published in the November 28 issue of Cycling Weekly. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!

  • Cliff

    … and on what authority are they “advising” cyclists to wear helmets? Given that the Law doesn’t compel people to wear helmets, why are they advising it? What ‘safety’ data lie behind this advice?

    In any case, a helmet may mitigate the effects of an accident but presumably the wearing of a helmet doesn’t make a cyclist more visible or a collision less likely for any other reason – so what’s it got to do with the police whether or not cyclists wear helmets?

  • Adrian

    “My personal opinion is that with motorbikes you get a CBT [compulsory basic training], and cyclists should do the same. It’s for 
their own safety,”

    Or don’t design junctions with the potential to confuse like that.

    “you see a car indicating left 10 feet away and the cyclist still thinks its alright to go down the inside.”
    Likewise, you see a cyclists approaching the turning you want, yet you still think its OK ot half overtake them and then turn left. Licensing drivers & testing them doesn’t seem to be particularly effective in preventing the killing does it. Why would it be any more effective if the victims of the killing were licensed? :-/

  • Robert

    It is a pity that those supposedly deployed to make the roads safer for cyclists ‘buy in’ to many of the myths that surround the road safety debate as much as anyone else. It is nonsense to claim that motorists ‘can’t see’ cyclists unless they dress in high visibility clothing, and anyone who ‘can’t see’ something as large as a cyclist simply shouldn’t be driving. The reality is that a motorist who cuts up a cyclist is far more likely to have seen the cyclist perfectly well, but to then have claimed priority regardless. The myth that cyclists ‘can’t be seen’ by motorists is at times taken to ridiculous levels, as in those cases where a court has accepted that a cyclist (and in one case a ‘lollipop lady’) ‘couldn’t be seen’ because they were wearing bright yellow high visibility clothing that rendered them ‘invisible’ against bright yellow sunlight………………………….. I also wonder if the PCSO’s here actually enforce the power that they do have in accordance with the relevant Home Office guidelines, or just fine anyone who they see cycling on a footway? For example, John Crozier of the Home Office in a letter dated 23/02/04 (Ref T5080/4) said the following with reference to the use of Fixed Penalty Notices by Community Support Officers……………….”The Government have included provision in the Anti Social Behaviour Bill to enable CSOs and accredited persons to stop those cycling irresponsibly on the pavement in order to issue a fixed penalty notice. I should stress that the issue is about inconsiderate cycling on the pavements. The new provisions are not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of the traffic, and who show consideration to other road users when doing so. Chief officers recognise that the fixed penalty needs to be used with a considerable degree of discretion and it cannot be issued to anyone under the age of 16.”