A group from Bristol Cycling Campaign met the new Chief Constable of Avon & Somerset, Nick Gargan, appointed earlier in the year by the Police & Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens. Also present were Rhia Weston, who runs the CTC’s Road Justice campaign (www.roadjustice.org.uk) and Superintendent Matt Ayres, in charge of Traffic Management and head of the collisions investigations department. We met to discuss the results of Rob Harding’s Freedom of Information investigations, which have revealed that the police are rarely prosecuting motorists who injure cyclists (no-road-justice-on-gloucester-road); and to discuss reports we have received from members that victims, even when seriously injured, are sometimes treated in a dismissive manner both at the collision scene and thereafter.
The police seemed surprised that there are between 1 and 2 pedestrians and/or cyclists being killed or seriously injured in Bristol each week. Inspector Keith Rundle, also present, referred to the current operation against lawless motorists and cyclists, describing it as balanced. We objected that the operation is not balanced, since, of the collisions studied, 100% of the injuries were sustained by cyclists, and 0% by motorists; and since nothing is being done to address over 80% of the collisions’ causes (essentially motorists’ lack of care). We were surprised that they did not appear concerned that in the last year no cases of dangerous driving involving injury to cyclists were referred to the Crown Prosecution Service.
Generally, both Nick Gargan and Matt Ayres were concerned at the current state of affairs regarding the handling of cycling incidents and were willing to take steps to mitigate it. Their demeanor was concerned and collaborative, rather than defensive and accusatory, as had been expected given comments from civic leaders in recent months. In particular, Nick Gargan said that a lack of staff should not justify ignoring collisions where there is an injury, and undertook to look into a mechanism for online reporting of dangerous driving from the public. Rhia Weston described the CTC’s online reporting tool (previously called “Stop SMIDSY”), which is used by the Met. Police.
Matt Ayres runs a team which is skilled at investigating collisions. There arose, however, a disagreement as to what constitutes a “serious” injury, and we fear that Matt Ayres’s team would never have the capacity to investigate all collision injuries.
The meeting ran through the ten demands in the CTC’s Road Justice report “The Role of the Police”, which has been accepted by Sue Mountstevens. Nick Gargan can support perhaps half of the demands, some of which require national adoption, but will respond fully in writing to each of the ten points either accepting, declining or accepting with caveats each point.
Matt Ayres has not finished investigating the disturbing cases from some Campaign members, but has initial concerns and will respond in writing. Nick Gargan meanwhile will set out in writing what can be expected of the police, which could form the basis of a letter issued to all victims of cycling incidents. In the future, if victims are mistreated, he suggested, then perhaps procedures similar to those operated by SARI (Support Against Racist Incidents www.sariweb.org.uk ) could be deployed in order to ensure that complaints are addressed within a couple of days rather than a couple of months.
Nick Gargan wants to see the profile of cycling raised within the police. He applauds recent initiatives to have more beat bobbies on cycles. He undertakes to write about the cyclists’ perspective in his blog to his force. He requests BCyC to encourage more people to attend neighbourhood forums to raise the concerns of cyclists. He invites volunteers to visit to speak to teams at beat briefings. We discussed training for police officers. Nick Gargan was keen for officers to take up cycling road safety training and he appreciates that it is not only the fit and confident officers who should receive this training. We discussed the need for training to extend beyond on-the-road traffic handling training.
We requested that a monitoring mechanism should be put in place, even if only temporarily, to measure the extent to which these interventions are being adopted and having an effect. Nick Gargan is reluctant to commit to monitoring overheads, but agreed that something might be justified in this case.
Matt Ayres proposed calling together a working group to take forward the various initiatives discussed at the meeting. The first meeting will be mid January.
Nick Gargan summarised his actions and proposed a review meeting in April.
The meeting took place on 17th. December at the Bridewell offices. Eric Booth, Mark Brough and Rob Harding attended from BCyC.
BCyC urges cyclists to contact BCyC with details if they experience either a poor or an admirable response from the police when seeking help as a result of collisions or bad motoring, whether injury is caused or not.