Getting Hassle From The Man
It’s taken me a week to get to write this post, as I was hoping to get CCTV footage of what happened. Unfortunately the response from my Freedom Of Information Request was that the camera overlooking the scene was not working. So you’ll have to take my word for this.
Last Saturday afternoon, we all had to head into Whitley Bay for a bunch of errands - I needed to get a new key cut, Wife was looking for a birthday present for someone, and Daughter had metaphorically smashed open her piggy bank, and HAD to visit the toy shop, Selling Smiles. We all rode in together along the sea front, before splitting up from Wife who had some serious browsing to do.
Anyway, we all met back together, and Wife was looking a bit sheepish. She’d bought a couple of framed prints, almost 20″ square, and was wondering about how to get them home. It was a problem . . . and in the end I volunteered to hang them from my handlebar while I rode home with Daughter through the centre of Whitley Bay - a route I chose to be out of the wind which would flap those pictures around.
In narrow streets and traffic, I ride in the primary position - take the lane, and if that means a few seconds’ delay for the traffic behind me, well that’s better than someone squeezing their car through a gap that’s not big enough. When riding with Daughter in such conditions, I put her about 2′ from the edge of the road, with me flanking, just behind her shoulder, and bang in the middle of the lane.
So, we stopped in the bike box for the lights outside the Fat Ox pub (”A” on the map - you can click to enlarge), and then when we got a green light, pulled away, just in time to see the next set of lights (”B”) change to red, and a bus pull out from the stop on the left, across the advanced stop line, and into the bike box. No problem - the sun was shining and we were in no hurry, so we rode down the street, and stopped ten feet or so behind the bus. I kept an eye on the lights and the [stationary] traffic around us, leaving Daughter to her own devices next to me. She’s as sensible as someone twice her age, and can be trusted not to go riding off or messing around when we’re on the road.
The lights turned green, the bus pulled away, and just as we were about to follow, a policeman ran up next to us, and asked us to pull off the road. He’d jumped out of the van two cars back, where he and five of his colleagues had been watching us. It seemed that . . .
- Daughter was too young to be on the road
- Uh, no officer, she’s with me, so she’s just fine
- Well, she was messing about on the road
- Um, no she wasn’t. She was sitting next to me, while we waited for the lights to change.
- Yeah, well bike’s too big for her. And it’s dangerous
- Daughter - please show the policeman how you know your bike’s the right size for you. Yes, that’s great - see, able to put the balls of both feet on the road while still on the saddle.
- This road’s too busy for you two to ride on . . .
- No it’s not - look, the traffic’s all stopped and completely stationary again.
- . . . and you’re slowing the traffic. And she shouldn’t be on the road.
- Ah. I see. And that’s a problem, is it? Could I just ask you, officer, what your experience or qualifications are to talk about this?
- Um, well, I er . . . Look, she just shouldn’t be on the road, right.
- Well the thing is, I am a cycling instructor, qualified to the National Standards for Cycle Training, and I say that she’s doing just fine, and that under supervision, with such slow moving traffic, this road is just fine for her to ride on.
And it was more or less at that point that the policeman went back to his van with his five friends. Daughter and I returned to the bike box at the once-again-red lights, and waited with the police behind us for the lights to change so that we could ride the rest of the way home.
I want to stress at this point that his five mates stayed in their van for the whole exchange, and aside from his uniform and uninformed statements, the policeman was not particularly intimidating or discourteous - to me.
But I still have lots of problems with this whole situation. The main thing for me is that Daughter looks up to policemen as people who are in the right. So when they say that she shouldn’t be on the road, or imply that its dangerous, or imply that motorised traffic must never be slowed by pedestrians or people on bikes, she takes it seriously. It doesn’t take too many interactions like that for her to take them as truth, rather than the misguided opinion of someone who ought to know better.