Cops, cars, jaywalkers, bikes and priorities…August 30, 2013 at 12:31 | Posted in bicycles | 3 Comments
Tags: bicycle, bike, commuter, cops, crossing, cycling, jaywalking, pedestrian, police, red light
I was riding home on Wednesday this week when a friendly oncoming cyclist on Pyrmont Bridge warned me that there were police at the end of the bridge pinging helmetless cyclists. I thanked him, and then rode on, keeping a lookout. I was expecting to see the usual bike cops, but saw there was a squad car parked on the junction, with two officers standing on the pavement nearby. I jumped off my bike and walked across the crossing, to avoid a tedious helmet conversation, and once on the other side paused to see what the police were doing.
Shortly after that, a car turning right out of Darling Drive went through a red light. The filter light on that lane is only lit for a short time, and it’s frequently not enough time for the queue of cars to get across. So it’s pretty much a dead cert that someone will push through as it turns red.
In this instance, I think probably two or three cars went through as it changed, with the last one evidently being well after it had gone red – indeed, he was so late going through that the pedestrian / bike crossing had gone green and a swarm of pedestrians were already in the road. This meant he got stuck in the middle of the junction – as it happens, slap bang over the bike crossing that links Pyrmont Bridge with the Union St cycleway.
This posed some problems for cyclists; either they had to ride around the rear of the vehicle, uncomfortably close to the oncoming traffic now coming out of Pyrmont Bridge Rd, or go around the front of the car by riding on the pedestrian part of the crossing.
In the picture above, you can see one cyclist doing exactly that – look for the flash of hi-viz behind the cop’s arm.
The car was stuck in the middle of the junction for quite a while whilst the crossing cleared (in the pic the ped lights have gone to flashing red and the car is still there), with two cops on the pavement, one each side of the crossing, perhaps five metres away from the vehicle.
So what happened next?
Well, the cop in the picture, turning and seeing the cyclist coming around the front of the car, pulled him over, asked to see his ID and gave him a warning about riding over the pedestrian crossing, although he stopped short of issuing a ticket. (Whilst this was happening, a pedestrian came over to where the cop was speaking to the cyclist, and started laying into the officer about how they were harassing cyclists!)
As the crossing cleared, the motorist drove away, with neither cop making any effort to speak to him, pull him over or capture his rego.
After the cyclist had ridden away, I took the opportunity to speak to the officer about his actions. He was very pleasant and courteous, and basically acknowledged that the cyclist was ‘the unlucky one’.
‘There’s things coming from all angles on this crossing, and there’s only two of us, and we can’t stop everyone.’ he said. ‘He was just unlucky this time; it’s just too busy to cover everything.’
I did gently press him about the motorist, pointing out that a car driving over a red light and towards a crowded pedestrian crossing perhaps posed a greater danger than a lone cyclist trying to get around an obstruction, and the cop did agree that, yes, the behaviour of the car driver was more dangerous. He also agreed that he’d seen lots of cars jumping that particular red light.
Internally at this point, I was shouting, ‘so why on earth didn’t you walk the five paces over to the car when it was stuck on the crossing to talk to the driver, instead of pulling over the cyclist?!!’. However, I kept that thought to myself. The cop went on to say he was a cyclist himself, and hated it when car drivers do that kind of stuff, and that poor driving around cyclists really annoys him. Not enough, it seems, to translate into action when he is on duty.
He also said they were positioned there because there had been lots of reports of conflict between cyclist and pedestrians in that area. The reason for that, of course, is due to the phasing of the lights. Cyclists and pedestrians get far too little green time, meaning that a large group of pedestrians builds up for each signal change – and many of them end up spilling into the bike lane simply because the crossing is not wide enough for that number of people.
Approaching cyclists, for their part, knowing that they have perhaps three seconds of green to get onto the crossing before they will be forced to wait another four minutes for the whole cycle to go around tend to speed up when they see the crossing go green.
Speeding cyclists anxious to get onto the crossing and a sea of peds spilling all over the road – hardly surprising that there’s conflict.
The number of pedestrians and cyclists at that junction at peak time far exceeds the number of motorists, of course. And yet the motorists get the vast majority of the green time. Simply putting in another pedestrian green phase in the middle of the cycle would probably solve most of the conflict issues, and save the police time and money having to patrol there. But that might cause a precious motorist to be held up for ten seconds longer – which clearly can’t be allowed, can it?