Police today launched a two-week road safety initiative to promote safer driving and cycling in Edinburgh city centre.
The fortnight-long blitz on rogue riders will see people zooming along pavements or skipping through red lights fined.
Officers on bikes will focus on notorious hot spots such as Haymarket. And while the offensive will also target car drivers, police are keen to stress cyclists will not escape their steely gaze in a bid to bring even-handedness to road policing across the city.
One officer said: “What we’re trying to do is show we are not picking on any particular road user. We will speak to drivers and cyclists alike as we get complaints about both.”
Starting today, the road safety initiative will promote safer driving and cycling through education first, then enforcement.
Pc Stephen Kirk, from Police Scotland, said “ignorance will be no excuse” for anyone caught breaking the rules, whether on two wheels or four.
He said: “I see people on a daily basis doing stupid things and taking risks that are putting themselves and other people in danger. There is a big drive for education but we will be looking to deal with the more serious incidents more robustly.
“If a cyclist is hurtling down a pavement at 20mph then that is beyond a warning, they will be getting a ticket.
“Similarly, we will be stopping drivers that don’t give cyclists enough leeway.
“We also have issues with drivers in cycling boxes at traffic lights. Technically that is an offence on the same lines as going through a red light.
“There are a lot of things that people that use the roads don’t know. The idea is to point it out and explain it is an offence and give them a warning or, in particular cases, give them a ticket.
“The ultimate aim of the initiative is to reduce road casualties in the city centre at a time of year where casualty numbers rise, particularly among cyclists.”
The latest crackdown comes after we revealed the number of drivers caught committing motoring offences in the Capital has nearly doubled since Police Scotland was formed.
Almost four times as many speeding motorists and twice as many careless drivers have been snared since April – when Lothian and Borders Police was disbanded – and June, compared with the same period last year.
This two-week initiative will have two phases, with the focus over the first week being on educating city centre road users on how they can keep themselves and others safe, at a time of year when hazards increase, not least because of the darker evenings.
They will look to advise cyclists without lights or are not wearing luminous clothing or helmets, but will take action against anyone deemed to be cycling in an “antisocial manner”, such as on the pavement.
Pc Kirk added: “Cyclists going on pavements or going through red lights are particularly ones we get a lot of complaints about which is understandable. I’m a cyclist myself and it really irritates me when I see it, especially when I see people going through red lights at junctions. It makes me wonder how there aren’t more accidents.
“Some say they didn’t realise it was an offence but whether that’s true or not, ignorance is not an excuse. We’re not looking to target people for the sake of it, we want to encourage safety and hope people understand it is for their, and other people’s, safety.”
The second week will focus more heavily on enforcement, particularly against those identified as repeat or blatant offenders.
Both cycling and motoring groups have welcomed the all-encompassing approach.
Ian Maxwell, from cycling campaign group Spokes, said he expected people to respond to police advice.
He said: “We welcome police action that is even-handed and looks at all road users rather than focusing on one group or cyclists just because they are cyclists.
“Campaigns like this which show police are concerned with law-breaking itself, rather than who is committing the offence, are far more likely to get support from all sections of transport.”
The cycling group’s latest survey shows Edinburgh has an “all year round” cycling culture and Mr Maxwell said the two-wheeled commute could be more perilous in winter.
He said: “We do advise people to be more careful because commuting times are often in the dark in winter and where Edinburgh’s streets have potholes and tram tracks, these can be more difficult to negotiate.
“The thing that is most conspicuous is the issue of whether people have lights. We have certainly been encouraging that and other projects have been giving out lights.
“I’ve heard of some police forces stopping cyclists without lights and, rather than imposing a penalty, they have asked them to show they have bought some.
“These are creative ways of dealing with problems that can prove more effective than fines.”
But keen cyclist and Green councillor Gavin Corbett said he hoped it would be a fair initiative that did not make
cyclists the primary focus.
He said: “I have seen cyclists that haven’t followed the rules of the road but I have seen equal examples of drivers and we know what causes more damage.”
Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said he favoured talking to offenders first. He said: “Everyone thinks they are a good driver so when they are stopped it can come as a shock and it is good for police to have a chat and tell them what they are doing wrong.
“Also, the fact that it is looking at all road users is good news. It recognises the fact that cycling is now a serious form of transport and that there are concerns about the behaviour of a minority of cyclists.”
ANOTHER TUMBLE AT HAYMARKET JUNCTION
ANOTHER cyclist has become a victim of the notorious Haymarket junction.
Charity worker Claire Crabbit, 29, was sent tumbling from her bike after her wheels became trapped in the tram track.
Around two cyclists a day are being snagged by the road design.
Incredibly, Ms Crabbit was sent spinning after climbing from her bike – to avoid what she said was a “confusing contraflow”.
Immediately after climbing back on she came a cropper. She said: “It was absolute textbook, I couldn’t believe it. The bike stopped and I kept going. I was very lucky I had just got on and was going so slowly otherwise I could have done some real damage.”
It is the latest in a spate of accidents, with one involving a 12-year-old boy who struck his head after falling off his bike.
Last month, council chiefs unveiled a battle plan to halt the number of serious cycle accidents at the section of tram track-lined road. They promised to increase taxi facilities outside Haymarket station and carry out an urgent road safety audit.
Extra signs were installed at the troubled spot, warning cyclists to use the marked bike route. And taxi drivers are being monitored to make sure bad parking doesn’t exacerbate the problem.
But Ms Crabbit – who took to Twitter to vent her spleen – said the council measures have had little impact.
She said: “It’s the angle that you are trying to cross that is the problem. I’ve seen on cycle forums and Twitter there has been regular spills like mine.
“What we’ve been seeing is that people with road bikes and thin tyres are getting caught and coming off but mine is a hybrid bike with thicker tyres and I came off.
“They have put a sign there saying there is a risk of falls but it doesn’t alleviate the problem, it simply highlights it.”
Experienced commuter Ms Crabbit plans to write to the council.
PETITION URGED ACTION ON KERBSIDE ‘MENACE’
TRADERS have already made calls for on-the-spot fines for cyclists.
In August, a petition was lodged with the city council demanding that cycling on the pavement by anyone older than 12 be banned, with parking wardens given the powers to hand out penalties.
Under existing laws, police officers can issue warnings to misbehaving cyclists, but do not typically give out fines.
Haymarket trader Alison Adamson-Ross was behind the push and submitted the online petition after becoming fed up with cyclists’ behaviour. The retailer, who runs kilt hire store Hugh Macpherson in Grosvenor Street, said abusive cyclists were speeding past the front of her business.
She said: “Pedestrians, especially in the areas where pavements are fenced in by metal barriers where the tram works are, increasingly have to be extra aware of a speeding menace behind them. This is so dangerous and lazy of the cyclists. I feel I need to apologise to my customers when they arrive, but it’s not me that should be apologising. ”