Wednesday, 28 April 2010

What a Nice Policeman

I had a nice experience with a policeman today, whilst out on my bike.

I wasn't far outside my house and was travelling down an off-road cycle path (and pedestrian path). I had stopped to post a letter and noticed the path ahead was completely blocked by a van doing a delivery or doing some work on the nearby house. All the cyclists I could see where sighing and making their way through traffic to the other side of the road. It was stationary on our side, then fast moving on the other, so quite awkward crossing over.

Then I noticed the police car in the stationary traffic between me and the parked van not 30 yards away. Clearly this car had passed the van without looking at it. As I got the other side of the road and set off on my way, I decided to say something, I'm fed up with just letting it happen. So as I passed, I asked the police driver whether he was going to do "anything about that", pointing the direction of the offence. He shouted back "About what?", but I was passed and now thinking about getting my ride on.

I have to say, I thought that would be it. I'm not sure why that was satisfying. After all if it ended there nothing is acheived apart from me saying something. Luckily, I had someone more thorough working here.

I got to the next lights and moved into the forward cycle box on the lane turning right. Within 20 seconds, in the lane turning left, the police car appeared next to me and the officer said "I'm sorry, did you want me to do something, I didn't know what was going on". I quickly explained about the van, but neither of us was in a good position, so we both parked up round the corner (me be very careful to not ride on the pavement or jump any lights to follow him!).

We discussed the issue and he asked me if I wanted to "report it", which always seems like a worryingly heavy statement. It has all the feeling of filling in vast pages of paperwork, having to attend meetings, confirm exactly what had occured. I refer you back to one of my orginal comments here. I was so fed up with having to deal with poor driving standards. So I said "yes".

Heavy with concern, but hearty with the noble ideal of doing something right I watched as he jumped back into his car saying "Do you think they'll still be there?".

"Er, yes, they're probably working on the house."

"I'm off to give them a ticket then."

"Oh, thank you."

Then he said something that immediately lightened my mood, but may not have added to his.

"Sorry, we've been spanked by burglaries today, I just didn't see them, I need to get my eyes on."

And off he went. Leaving me no option but to avoid all paperwork, meetings, hard thought through decisions about whether I really wanted to pursue them. And also, no opportunity to thank him for taking me seriously when I'd assumed he wouldn't.

So, the moral of this story is, if you have the police to hand, tell them about things you think are wrong. They may actually do something! It does need the police to hand, which is a trifle unlikely. And of course, I've no guarentee he didn't just wander off, giggling to himself that he made a cyclist feel like they were in control. As opposed to the other way round which always seems to be the case to me.

Later I did think about priorities. I'm not trying to belittle burglary, of course it's terrible. Burglary leds to losing things, poor driving standards causes accidents and injury. Sometimes it's just seen as inconvenient to motorists to follow the rules that we set ourselves but they are there for a reason.

I thought of this especially when I encountered further cars parked in cycle paths, all within 13 miles or 50 minutes of cycling. I did look out for my useful police presence then but, unfortunately, had my fill for the day, or probably the month! The worst one was a delivery van parked in a "against the one way flow of traffic" cycle path. This offense is a "3 points on your license" affair. The sad thing is that's not the first time I've seen that van in the same place. And even sadder, the business to which the van is delivering has an off-road car park with space literally 20 yards away.

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