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Motor Cycle Crime……………..Don’t become a victim!

 

Ennis and Wheaver are back again, as guest bloggers, this time around talking about motorcycle crime….read on if you own or are thinking of owning a motorcycle to learn how to protect yourself from becoming a victim……

Just to introduce ourselves, we are commonly known as TB 97 and TB 98, 2 motorcyclists currently with the Road Harm Reduction Team, as part of the CMPG family based at Perry Barr. We are both trained to a national standard, in the identification of stolen vehicles.

 

Our main focus within the team is the prevention and detection of stolen and cloned vehicles, with the aim to prevent dangerous and sometimes fatal incidents of driving, by depriving the criminals the vehicles in the first place.

 

Motorcycling in the UK has had a large enthusiastic following in the UK for many years, in recent years there has been a rise in criminal activity around motorcycles which has had a negative effect for law abiding motorcycle riders, society in general and the motorcycle industry.

 

Very loosely, and not exclusively the criminal activity can be broken down into the following areas.

  • Theft of machines
  • Subsequent sale of stolen machines ( cloning)
  • Breaking and subsequent sale of parts  within UK and abroad
  • Finance and insurance fraud
  • Antisocial use and criminal activity using motorcycles

There are strong links between all of the above, criminals will often branch out into other areas in order to maximise profits.

 

Thanks to the technology available to us all, the world has become an accessible market place to willing customers with cash to spend, a distinct lack of due diligence when purchasing items off the internet  will often be in the favour of criminal gangs.

 

Social media has also had its part to play in fuelling anti-social use of machines, video clips of antisocial and dangerous riding can give the riders a real sense of celebrity, with thousands watching on line and subsequently carrying out copycat behaviour.

Bikelife group 281217

Events are advertised on social media, with some organisers even going as far as to sell clothing and other branded goods, riders are buying in to a lifestyle choice with a degree of notoriety thrown in for free!

Bikelife wheelie 281217

What is very evident is that many of the bikes used for anti-social behaviour, dangerous riding  and criminal activity are not purchased via legitimate sources, it goes without saying that if you have to work hard to save for the machine of your dreams, the chances are you are not going to want to damage it. Easy come easy go springs to mind!

 

Perceptions on Police Pursuit Policy are steeped in rumour, incorrect interpretations and untruths, it is not correct to say that if you don’t wear a helmet or ride on the footpath, the Police will not pursue, many of the riders believe they are in a win/ win situation, they have an overestimation of their skills and abilities and a belief that they are above the law.

fts 101117

It goes without saying that officers have to strike a balance, yes they want to apprehend offenders but not at all costs, innocent members of the public must be protected from the thoughtless and dangerous actions of a small minority, there are several tactical options including the use of stinger and DNA sprays to identify offenders and remote aerial monitoring with high quality video capability.

 

Antisocial, dangerous, illegal riding and criminal behaviour will not be tolerated.

DT bike 080817

In the UK in 2017 there were around 27k thefts of machines; both on road and off road, a large percentage of these machines are never recovered.

 

Many of the thefts relate to the London area, not surprising due to the amount of machines used for commuting, many of the London thefts relate to smaller machines and scooters, but the issue is not exclusive to London, the whole of the UK is victim to this area of vehicle crime.

 

By their very nature, motorcycles are an attractive proposition to criminals, they are easy to steal if left unattended and insecure, poor physical security and a lack of social awareness can make motorcycle theft a high gain low risk occupation, with financial restraints imposed on Police forces, this area of crime may not be high on Police Chiefs agendas.

 

In Birmingham, August 2017, Police Officers attend an area known to be used by commuting motorcyclist and over a period of two weeks noted which motorcycles were parked in the allocated parking bays, this was also an area where motorcycle thieves were known to operate.

 

What was discovered was that many of the motorcycles had little or no security devices fitted, only 40% of the bikes had any meaningful security, some of the machines did not even have the steering lock activated, one had the keys in the ignition and even removable items such as sat- navs were left in plain view.

 

Evidence from officers and CCTV showed that machines were being selected by criminals and then were ped- pushed away, a method where two thieves arrive on a high powered scooter and, then simply push the machine away by the rider of the scooter placing his foot on the rear footrests of the selected motorcycle and using the scooter to power both machines away. The machines can be pushed to a location some distance away or loaded into a van, out of view.

scooter cut down

The criminals were able to have their choice of machines with faces covered to hide from CCTV, no security to slow them down and no social interventions from the public.

 

To raise the issue within the motorcycle community Officers devised what looked at first glance like a parking ticket. Any machines that had no security fitted had a ticket placed on it. The idea was to give a shock response and encourage riders to improve security, in addition all the local motorcycle dealers were visited and a significant social media campaign was launched.

lockit 3

The effect was significant, after 4 weeks the return on motorcycles with meaningful security had risen to over 90%, the general consensus from the bikers was that they appreciated the reminder to lock their machines, especially because the officers were motorcyclists as well.

 

It would be wrong to say that this exercise has halted the theft of motorcycles across the city, it was only conducted in a small area to test the concept, it is fair however to say, although strikingly obvious, that if you lock your machine with some meaningful security, it is less likely to be stolen, not exactly rocket science!

 

Our security advice for Motorcyclists would be:-

  • Always lock your machine and remove any unsecure valuables
  • Use a quality lock and chain, preferably lock the machine to something secure
  • Consider where you place the chain and lock to guard against cutting and attack
  • Try and park in well-lit busy areas utilising any CCTV that may be available
  • Report any unusual or suspicious behaviour to Police, don’t assume someone else will do it
  • Don’t become part of the problem, only buy spares or equipment from reputable sources, if something appears to be too good to be true, it probably is!

 

If you wish to report any suspicious activity, most Police forces will allow for this to be done on line or call 101 unless it is an emergency

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Can You Hear Me At The Back ?

The Headphone Headache

Oh dear, here we go again, this may ruffle a few social media feathers but those who follow us on Twitter and read our blogs in full will know that we do and say everything for the right reasons, we don’t expect everyone to agree, infact we’re happy that some don’t, just read and then constructively try to save life and limb on our roads as we do. So let’s jump right in at the deep end as usual, and tell vulnerable road users, not just cyclists, just why they leave themselves at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to being safe on the road if you wear headphones.” Victim blaming you are” I hear you say in a Yoda like fashion as all the Jedi Masters of Social Media Road Safety all utter. Well no, hopefully the wise can see past our uniform and see that from our investigative experience we are just providing advice that will prevent you becoming a casualty. Plus remember cyclist vs cyclist, and cyclist vs pedestrian collisions are an unfortunate by product of increased cycling on our roads, headphone use can be a cause of some collisions, whether that be use by a cyclist, pedestrian or motorist. And as cyclists surely we have a moral duty to set an example to motorists. So as usual, grab yourself a coffee, a piece of calorific mood enhancer (cake to the uninitiated), and read on…..

A few ground rules first

Before reading on please bear in mind the following which are the usual criticisms thrown at any advice given that suggests wearing headphones will impair your safety on the road.

“Driver’ stereo’s, don’t have a go at them do you”, Well yes we do actually. Yes drivers sometimes impair their own driving ability by having a stereo to loud or by wearing headphones themselves. If we come across a driver with music so loud or using headphones so it prevents them from hearing an emergency siren or warning horn then we will deal with them for driving without due care and attention or the offence of excessive noise.

“The hearing impaired, surely headphone use is exactly the same”. Well no, you see they counter any deficiencies they have with their hearing with enhanced use of their other senses. They are usually also very acutely aware of vibrations. Their road use as a result is usually far better than those with full hearing. Those using headphones display none of the qualities we have just mentioned that the hearing impaired have. On one of our last Safer Cycling events at the Coventry Sky Ride we had an interesting conversation with four profoundly deaf cyclists whilst they completed our questionnaires. One of the questions we ask is what do you think we could do to improve cyclist safety. They all answered “deter headphone use amongst cyclists”, they really couldn’t understand why anyone would deprive themselves of such a fundamental advantage when it comes to staying safe on our roads, and advantage they were deprived of and knew all too well the problems it can cause.

“It’s commonplace, everyone’s doing it so it can’t be that bad” All of us that cycle on CMPG Roads Policing has ridden with them on! Yes, total shocker I know but at some point all of us on the Safer Cycling Team have cycled with headphones on playing deafening music. A lot of the advice about to be given is as a result of near misses and experiences we have had whilst wearing headphones and cycling or walking as a pedestrian.

Right having covered a few of the common counter arguments onwards we go…

Headphones, do theyhave any place in cycling on the roads ?

Headphones, do theyhave any place in cycling on the roads ?

 

No-one has eyes in the back of their head

Your ears give you a picture as to what is happening behind you. We react all the time to noises, take the ability to hear and react to noises caused by occurrences outside the periphery of your vision and you are at a distinct disadvantage.

Even those who use some sort of mirror lose out. Cycling mirrors exist, but they are only any good whilst you are looking at them. A mirror will not give you an audible warning of a hazard approaching from any direction. You see with a little experience and perception what you hear can put you at a distinct advantage when it comes to being safe on the road.

The noise of an approaching vehicle can tell you so much about the driver’s intent. Engine noise for a start, on hearing a vehicle approach from behind you will inevitably start to focus your attention on it. An increase in rev’s as the driver changes down a gear tells a lot about their intent. A change down in gear shows that the driver has seen you and the selection of a more responsive gear at higher rev’s may indicate that a purposeful planned pass will follow. Or it may indicate an intention to enter a nearby junction where a slower speed is needed. These are vital little clues as to the vehicle’s intention, from wherever it is approaching from, that you can build into your own plan.

A vehicle approaching from behind will also give away its driver’s intent by other noises. The sound of cats eyes being depressed as the vehicle behind prepares to overtake, will give a good indication of the vehicle’s intended road position during an overtake and the also the regularity of the noise will give away its speed, and together with engine noise, give an indication of acceleration or deceleration.

I once started to ride home in darkness with headphones on, in the thinking that all the things that I have just mentioned I could do without as the approaching vehicle’s lights would more than compensate as to driver intent and could be incorporated into my riding plan instead. After being passed in a matter of a few journeys by vehicles without lights on I quickly realised that my logic was misplaced and the headphones were left well and truly in the “been there done that didn’t like it pile”. Everyone else on our team has had similar experiences with headphone use, please learn from them.

Headphone use means you will miss a shouted warning, the sound of a horn, the emergency sirens, the screech of the overworked tyres belonging to the overconfident aggressive driver, the excited squeal of children playing near the road, the barking dog attached to the extending lead about to become a tripwire on the shared path you are transcending, so much will be missed that you need to recognise and incorporate into your cycling to keep you and others safe.

One last point about headphone use and this comes from my experiences of sharing the road with other cyclists and pedestrians. I don’t have a bell on any of my bikes, so when passing another cyclist or pedestrian I will shout something along the lines of “passing right” to let them know I will be passing in close proximity. You can probably guess what comes next, don’t expect shoulder checks from poor road users, and expect them to be wearing headphones and to be totally clueless as to your presence and intentions.

 

The Future is bright; the Future is ……well yours to decide!

We’ve mentioned it a few times before, on Twitter and to those that attend our events, but for those who don’t know this is how we on CMPG Roads Policing now split our efforts when it comes to dealing with issues around cyclists and cycling.. 20% of our time is spent on educating and changing cyclist’s attitudes and behaviour. The remaining 80% we spend on driver behaviour, education and equipping those without the skills to lookout for, recognise and safely deal with the ever increasing very welcome but very vulnerable road users we find on our regions roads. We go out actively seeking to witness poor driving, hunting those compromising vulnerable road users safety and act upon it. Plain cars and officers spotting in plain clothes will be on popular commuting routes proactively seeking to deal with those endangering themselves and more importantly vulnerable road users. But there needs to be a balance, for every ying there must be a yang, for the persecuted motorist will shout from the front pages of the motoring favouring press “What about those demon cyclists, those who endanger my fragile happiness on my daily commute with their incessant law breaking, riding on the pavement, without lights or running red lights”. Well although our cyclists are not killing 80 to 90 people on our regions roads, which is what poor driver behaviour currently accounts for in the West Midlands Region, the law after all is the law and we must enforce it to cater for the needs of all those we serve. So we come to the somewhat “prickly” subject of tackling cyclists who break the law. You notice I have said “Tackling” rather than “Prosecute” because as with all our efforts at CMPG we look to educate and change road user behaviour for the better in the first instance where possible rather than prosecute. So when we find a cyclist committing an infringement which needs tackling, we will always offer an alternative to the usual fine where possible, whether that’s as simple as buying a set of lights or attending a free Bike Right course in order to avoid the inevitable fine, but I’m sure you’ll all agree, it’s better to solve a problem by creating another preacher to spread the gospel of the good road user rather than chip away at the national debt.

cycling on thwe pavement piccy for blog

Cycling on the pavement, a mere nuisance or a dangerous offence that should be tackled ?

Anyway, this leads us onto what should we be dealing with cyclists for. This is where you come in, what offences do you as cyclists think fellow cyclists should be dealt with for, where should we concentrate our efforts to have the greatest impact. On the 11th November 2015 we will have an open forum on the subject at the West Midlands Cycling Forum, from which we will pick the areas on which we concentrate. Can’t make the meeting? Let us know your views via our Twitter account using the #SaferCycling tag, we value them and all will be taken into account. This is your chance to shape the future of road safety in the West Midlands, don’t miss out.

Enjoy your coffee and cake?, Good best go and burn it off, safe riding all.

 

Until the next time safe journeys all.