MANY Oxford Mail readers might well be somewhat astonished by their Lord Mayor’s accusation to city police that they were acting ‘outrageously’ when they politely warned a mum of the dangers of cycling on the road at rush hour.
Police get a lot of stick for being heavy-handed or overreacting – that is when they’re not getting stick for not being tough enough on crime – but now they’re getting stick for giving out advice.
The accusation from councillor Damian Haywood that the police were ‘victim blaming’ seems to summarise the belief that these officers, in handing out what the cyclist herself said was ‘very friendly advice’, were doing something unwarranted which unacceptably shamed a cyclist.
The obvious question, then, is what should these officers have done?
They saw a woman cycling with her young child, they were worried for their safety, and they wanted to raise their concern – indeed as any passer-by might have done.
If these officers had been the most rabidly pro-cycling pair of policemen in the country, then it is still their job – which we pay them for – to raise the alarm if they see a citizen who they think is in danger.
Of course, as the Lord Mayor rightly points out on page 3 today, many cyclists in Oxford do feel like ‘second class citizens’ compared to motorists, and that is not a situation anyone wants.
Cycling is good for the health, it is a more clean and sustainable form of transport than motor vehicles (although not as useful for long journeys or very heavy loads), and it is a lot cheaper.
This situation also highlights the fact, as Ms Miles points out, that too many roads in our city are currently not safe for cyclists, and that is a job for councils and councillors such as Mr Simmons and Mr Haywood to sort out – not the police.
We run articles all the time in Oxford Mail holding the police to account for their failings, but we don’t blame them when they try to do their jobs.
Telling police not to give out safety advice because you want safer roads is backwards.