This is a guest post by Jonathan Hoffman
I was walking from my office to Aldgate tube station at 7:30 last night. I always cross from the south side of Aldgate to the tube station side about 30 yards west of the pelicon crossing. It is the quickest way and it is perfectly safe. Tonight as I was crossing I looked towards the pelicon – where the lights had just turned red. But a cyclist racing up to the crossing could not be bothered to stop at the red lights. We have all seen this a thousand or more times in central London. Cyclists are unidentifiable and therefore feel free to break the law. They frequently jump lights, cycle on the pavements and speed the wrong way along one way streets.
Don’t get me wrong. Those who know me will tell you I’m not a grumpy old man – well no more than my allotted fair share of grumpiness anyway, all things considered. I’m not a cyclophobe. I have taken cycling holidays and used to cycle to work myself. Some of my best friends are cyclists. But you have to agree that in central London, they exploit their anonymity to the full.
Usually light-jumping cyclists get away with it. We London pedestrians have got into the habit of not trusting the green light on the other side of the pelicon. If we see a cyclist manically peddling within 50 yards of the crossing, we wait for him to cross, in a blur of yellow lycra (It’s always a him isn’t it …. must be the testosterone). We may swear at him (I do); we may even throw our lunchtime sandwich at him (I have) but we cower on the pavement until he has passed.
Except that last night on the Aldgate pelicon it all went pear-shaped. A young lady stepped onto the crossing and was mowed down by the cyclist, who then stopped (he did not have much choice, as the impact was severe).
Determined that he would not get away scot-free, I ran to the site of the incident. I grabbed the bike and made a Citizen’s Arrest – as well as a lot of noise. Even grumpy old men still have testosterone.
The lady was shaken but not badly hurt, fortunately. However I was determined to deliver the psyclofascist into the hands of the Old Bill so I clung onto the bike and announced that I had made a Citizen’s Arrest and was waiting for the Boys in Blue to pass. It is a busy arterial road so I thought it would not be too long. Soon a crowd had gathered round. The lady got up. She was tearful but told me that she did not want the lycra loony detained. I responded that I was pleased she was OK, but now justice had to be done for the sake of all of us who have been hit by cyclists (myself included). By this time a small crowd had gathered round and a debate began. Well, not a debate – more like a lynch mob. It was clear that despite the fact that the cyclist had knowingly raced through a red light and despite the danger posed by such bullies on wheels to all of us who cross roads in central London, the mob clearly wanted the psyclofascist released. But they didn’t physically separate me from the bike – and neither did the cyclist.
Then a policeman arrived – an off-duty one without a badge, but clearly no impostor. Justice was about to be done. Except……….it wasn’t. “There’s not much I can do Sir except give him a warning. The lady wasn’t hurt”.
So was I right to get involved? Was the policeman right? Should I have got his number? Should at least courier cyclists be licensed, as Brian Paddick has suggested?
Get peddling. And if you are a London cyclist, declare your interest.