Your letters: Question on policy must be answered

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The police and co-operating organisations put on a very good show in the Sheepmarket on Tuesday.

Congratulations on the special effort. I noticed a sign amongst the displays, that invited: ‘Ask any question’; so I asked one. It was a policy question, and I put it to one of the officers standing near. That was unfair on him really, but I could see no senior-looking person around at the time.

I didn’t get a substantial answer, so here’s the question again, in the hope that someone in the hierarchy will give an answer: Why is there no policy statement by or on behalf of the police, on the matter of cycling on footways? This practice has become pretty well accepted now, to the extent that, by default, the law has effectively been changed. I don’t think that that is an acceptable way of changing law. If it is, what other law may become similarly changed in future?

As the officer to whom I spoke said: ‘We stop them if we see them, but it’s not often we can do that.’ No, of course not, and if you don’t catch offenders often enough, it’s no deterrent. To be effective, being caught needs to be a common enough experience to form a deterrent, and that must mean some special approach. Relying on the chance of catching enough offenders on the normal beat, plainly won’t work.

The police did do a one-off big raid on offenders in the early-ish hours some time ago and caught a number; but that exercise was useless as a deterrent, simply because it plainly was a one-off. Perhaps a programme of smaller, random, unannounced raids would help, with a regular (weekly?) appearance of well-reported court judgements in the paper.

I suspect that, given the calculated undermanning of the police force, there has been a decision by the police authorities simply to let the matter go, in favour of what are judged more important things. That’s comfortable, but is it acceptable? There’s also a political dimension to all this, in two ways: first, the undermanning of the force; and second, the long-standing lack of provision of adequate cycling facilities, which would reduce the temptation to resort to the footway in the first place.

Perhaps our MP would care to join some senior police person in giving a plain statement on policy and suggesting what might be done to recover control of the situation.

John Tippler