Monthly Archives: January 2015

I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike!

Today we’ve reached an incredible Twitter milestone… the @trafficWMP account gained its 10,000th follower! We’d like to say a huge thank you to everybody who follows. We hope you find our updates informative, interesting and useful.

To mark the occasion, we thought it best to share another blogpost, featuring a team of Traffic officers you may not be aware of…

It's not just traffic officers who have access to police cycles. our neighbourhood policing teams use them too.

It’s not just traffic officers who have access to police cycles. our neighbourhood policing teams use them too.

Welcome to the WMP Traffic Safer Cycling blog. It runs alongside our normal blog but is just centred on cycling matters. Don’t think though that if you don’t participate in our two wheeled obsession it won’t be of use or interest to you… As you read on you will see that there is plenty of advice for motorists as well as cyclists.

Why have a separate blog you might ask? Well it’s not intentionally separate, its additional if you like, brought into being by the demand for discussion and debate on matters of cycling safety that often get more than a mention on our social media streams. The input for the blog will be from the WMP Traffic Safer Cycling Team, so what better place to start by introducing the team and what we are about.

The Safer Cycling Team – what we do

Well for start it’s fair to say we do a fair bit of cycling. The team is embedded in E unit who are dominated by some very fanatical cyclists. By day we are normal WMP Traffic officers but due to our personal love of cycling we have brought about a small team who take it upon themselves to give the department a cycling safety dimension. With the increase in those looking for a cheaper healthier commute and those who have joined the legions of existing recreational cyclists, the demand for cycling road safety advice has seen a greater demand than ever for our services. Thus we have a team of very dedicated officers led by PC 3505 Mark Hodson and PC 5815 Steve Hudson.

Many of our officers cycle in their free time, as well as when on duty.

Many of our officers cycle in their free time, as well as when on duty.

We, in partnership with Birmingham City Council’s Cycle Revolution Team and our local corporate partner Jaguar Landrover, who provide truck cabs and drivers for our “Exchanging Places” scheme where cyclists and heavy goods drivers get the chance to change places, attend the regions cycling events spreading a safety message and advice both for cyclists and drivers, and a result help keep all road users safer as a result.

So what do Traffic officers know about cycling & what keeps cyclists safe?

Some know nothing, some know a little, as with all things in life experience is the key.

Those who have attended some of our events will know us well, those who have actually taken the time to meet us and engage us in conversation or debate will know that we base everything we say, advise or suggest on personal experience, not statistics, or what’s best to comply with the general consensus or current transport policy rhetoric.

Our conversations over the briefing table are dominated by heart rate training zones, cadence rates, route planning, road position, light setups, group sets and cleat position, junction safety, and the like.

Don’t get me wrong, like most Traffic officers this is combined with coffee and donuts, we just enjoy the fact that ours are guilt free as we spend most of our days in a calorie deficit after our commutes.

Over half of the unit from which the Safer Cycling Team is taken commute by cycle, which is above and well beyond the average for a team in any profession in the UK.

This isn’t a recent thing either; most have been cycling for many years with well over 146 years commuting and cycling experience between us. The total daily mileage for our combined commute is somewhere between 345 and 500 miles, depending what training the sportier members of the team have built into their commute that day.

Our commutes are varied, combining all the extremes that inner city Birmingham and its rural outskirts can offer, and its accompanying challenges.

Some of us compete (when we say compete we join in! To compete we would have to trouble the points positions!), some tour and some just spin the pedals for recreation, but all members of the team prefer pedal power to any other form of transport.

This, combined with our road traffic experience and accumulated road craft, gives us an ideal position from which to perfectly understand the needs of cyclists and motorists alike when it comes to keeping everyone as safe as they possibly can be on our regions transport network.

And as we deal with all fatal and life changing collisions involving cyclists in our region, we have a vast accumulated knowledge of how, why and where cyclists find themselves endangered.

Without sounding smug or conceited, “we do this for a living” so we know a thing or two when it comes to keeping all road users safe on the road, and our Safer Cycling Team know how cyclists can give themselves the best chance of staying safe whilst enjoying their two wheeled passion.

One very important thing to remember is that we are, at the end of the day, police officers in the employ of the West Midlands Police; we are not a campaign or pressure group. We can advise various bodies, councils and support the fantastic work of organisations such as CTC, BRAKE and Sustrans but at the end of the day we stick to enforcement and prevention in the here and now.

More on helmets

In an earlier blog we did the whole helmets thing. We were supported in our views by those we expected to be supported by, i.e. other emergency services, coroners, those who have experience of helmets working for them or others and those who have lost friends and loved ones to head injury.

We were lambasted by a few, and again we expected the usual social media participants to come out to play.

It was a quite intentional social media poke in the ribs, because you can’t beat a few “screamers” to engage the general public and draw attention to what is a very important subject, that being the safety of cyclists.

We are police officers after all. We are used to those who vehemently dislike and disagree with everything we do and say; we like them for it. When they stop disagreeing we’ll start worrying!  We do encourage those who have an interest in what we do and say, both negative and positive, to come and meet us in person at one of our events, or if you can’t make it and feel you have a vital to play in what we do we can arrange to meet with you over coffee and cake and maybe a turn of the pedals.

Now a quick response to those who criticised our view…….what did you really expect ?….. We are after all a police Traffic Department, and as a result we are charged with reducing the amount of killed and seriously injured cyclists on our regions roads. Did you really think we would say any different?

We deal with seriously injured and fatally injured cyclists all too often, anything that would save just one of them we are going to promote.

We did say the subject would be discussed in the blog in isolation, without influence of infrastructure, liability or blame, but still people failed to see the reasoning behind this.

You see we don’t care much for Australian statistics regarding helmet use, we don’t care much for statistics in general, being intrinsically involved in the collating of some, we know how misconstrued they can be and the illusions they can paint.

We much prefer personal experience – what we see on a daily basis, the verdicts and statements of coroners, the anguished looks of despair of trauma staff as we tell them that the unfortunate soul before them wasn’t wearing a helmet as they are placed into an induced coma.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some in these groups that will tell you different, but take a group of 100 people and show them a picture and one will always see something different. Such is life. Are they right? Depends if you’re unfortunate enough to fall from a bike for whatever reason and bang your head, doesn’t it. This is the reaction to the helmet blog we wanted and got. Thank you for your feedback, both negative and positive, it is appreciated.

For those who shout “why don’t you recommend pedestrians wear helmets ?” well if there comes a time when the government of the day abolishes pavements and makes pedestrians mix it up on the roads with lumps of steel and plastic moving at an average of 32mph like the majority of cyclist currently have to, then yes we would recommend pedestrians wear helmets.

And for those who shout, “People in cars, all dying of head injuries, why not recommend they wear helmets?” we whisper, “Seatbelts, they don’t wear them, that’s why they get head injuries, they slammed into an A or B post or get ejected from the vehicle. If they ever abolish the seatbelt law then we would recommend a crash helmet in cars also.”

As you can see, as Traffic officers we are the world’s greatest realists, we live daily in the “self-preservation society”. We see the selfishness and greed on our roads daily; most are not looking out for you so please look out for yourself.

Three last things that came up in the helmet debate we just need to mention. A helmet that breaks on impact “is” doing its job, it hasn’t failed. A helmet is there to absorb kinetic energy, it is a crumple zone for your head, it absorbs, fractures, distorts, all instead of your skull. Secondly helmets won’t prevent rotational brain injuries but they will prevent cranial fractures. We see this all the time, and for those that like them there’s some Australian science that proves it somewhere in web land if you’re that way inclined. Lastly, we are not and would never be in favour of a helmet law, sometimes even some of our Safer Cycling Team don’t wear a helmet on some cycling occasions, shocker I know but true.

What next then ?

In 2015 we will be attending a variety of events in partnership with Jaguar Landrover and Birmingham City Council.

Events include the NEC Cycling Show, local Sky rides including the now huge Coventry & Birmingham Sky Rides, events organised by local cycling clubs, some Bikeability inputs and many other events in conjunction with Birmingham Cycle Revolution.

That’s it for this one, in upcoming Safer Cycling blogs we will discuss why the problem with motorists is pretty much the same as the problem with cyclists, the use of headphones whilst cycling, cycling offences and how they are dealt with, the Exchanging Places scheme, on board cycle camera footage and its use in prosecutions, standards of liability, victim blaming, and our views on cycling infrastructure and the continental “dream”.

For those now chomping at the bit, your 140 Twitter characters await, have a coffee and cake first though, feed the cycling soul.

Safe journeys all.

The Safer Cycling Team