Humberbug

Firstly, a disclaimer: I don’t live in Humberside. Now that’s neither for nor against the place, simply a statement of elsewhereness. But hold that thought while I digress. I’m also a considerable fan of road safety, having desire to neither kill nor be killed on the public roads. But – and this is a big one – I’m like most of us, in that the more threatening and authoritarian the message, the more likely I am to start taking the piss. That’s not big and not clever, but is pretty basic psychology — engage with me and I’ll listen, behave like a fascist and I’ll start fomenting revolution.

Where I now live, things seem to be generally sensible: no fixed cameras, strong enforcement of urban limits and a high days-and-holidays police presence at biker gathering spots like the Green Welly, where they’re promoting Bikesafe courses and wandering around mumbling slightly abashed comments like, “Take care out there lads…”. Several plain clothes plodmobiles (cars and bikes) tend to be out and about at similar times, but I’ve seen relatively little bad behaviour or general numptiness by the local Police.

Go for a long ride though and, as you pass from force to force, you’ll see a wide variety of approaches: from the engagement-driven attitude of places like Durham and North Yorkshire (both of which have amongst the best safety trends in the country) to the outright hostility and bullying control freak mentality of places like North Wales and Northamptonshire. When I ride into the latter County, with its huge “You ARE Being Watched” signs everywhere, I am seized with a near uncontrollable desire to behave in a manner outrageous, illegal and undignified (not necessarily in that order). On the same ride, I’ll then cross into Buckinghamshire and find signs along the nicer roads that tell me what the accident rate for that road is for a given period. Thanks, you’ve treated me like an adult, given me information and I’ll act on it. All is then peace and light.

Scene-setting out of the way, let’s get back to Humberside. The Plod there have just launched/relaunched their portentously-named Operation Achilles, a campaign aimed at reducing car and bike casualties. Nowt wrong wi’ that, as they entirely fail to say where I come from, but their approach is that of the fear-based threat of interception by their fleet of patrol cars and bikes, including the legendary Hayabusa, a bike capable of 186mph and of eating its own back tyre between breakfast and lunch. They’ve even tried to show that they’re hip to the juve jive by posting a video of same on YouTube. Now you’d think that a police road safety video would show, ah, safe riding and driving by said occifers, wouldn’t you? Not a bit of it – check this out:

Still awake? OK, amidst all the machismo posturing, did you spot the bit from two minutes in? The bit where the police motorcyclist splits between the cars he’s overtaking and the oncoming cars at 90mph? That’s a closing speed of about 150mph with inches to spare on either side whilst running over the white lines and the associated crud. Let’s now deconstruct the behaviour in a bit more detail:

  • He’s put himself completely at the mercy of the reactions of every other driver involved, with no safety space whatsoever for a manoeuvre that in itself is going to cause fear alarm and any consequent reaction in those exposed to it. Basic training 101…
  • He’s entirely failed to read and plan his ride — after those two oncoming cars the road is clear — had he just used observation and forward planning and rolled off for half a second, he’d have made his overtake cleanly and safely, without shock and awe.
  • He’s on a plain clothes bike – all the motorists involved would not have known he was Police and would, once they’d recovered from the shock, be thinking, “another dangerous idiot of a motorcyclist — must write to my MP and get them all banned”.
  • Oh yes, he was dangerous, illegal and bloody stupid.

Had any policeman seen any of the rest of us pulling a stunt like that, do you think that he or she would let us off with a, “My, what a finely judged manoeuvre — I just thought I’d stop you to commend you on your riding”? I think not…

There isn’t one law for the police and one for the rest of us: we’re all subject to that same law (one of Peel’s basic principle of policing being that they are us — citizens in uniform) and we delegate minor exemptions to that for police officers in training or in a genuine pursuit situation. This was neither, but an egregious breach of the contract between citizenry and citizenry-as-police. Which is what the police so often utterly fail to understand — by behaving like this they abrogate any authority they might ever had to set an example to the rest of the world. I’m not setting myself up here as a higher moral authority: at any given time my riding may be somewhere along an axis between the desire for fun, the utility of the journey and the state of my license. What I will always do is my damnedest not to compromise safety. And I certainly won’t video myself behaving like an idiot and post it under the guise of a road safety promotion.

So I’m offering £60 to anyone providing definitive proof that that same police Hayabusa has been confiscated and crushed and the rider convicted for this offence.

One Comment

  1. martin March 1, 2011 at 11:02 pm #

    Richard,
    newcomer to your blog but like your style. It would have been very interesting if somebody had made an offical complaint, maybe one of our representative organisations for example. As you say, blackening all our names…………..
    Keep up the good work.

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