Are British Police still trustworthy?
Nostalgic illusions?

Nostalgic illusions?

A recent news story, widely covered and still running, has raised concerns about dishonesty by police officers, some of whom are suspected of trying to stitch up a Cabinet Minister, some trying to add fuel to the fire and some of covering up.  The episode has backfired on the police in a very big way, not least because four police forces are now involved, and three Chief Constables have been eating humble pie to Parliament already.

And the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has just taken the exceptional step of announcing that the person who will be conducting their enquiries is an experienced investigator but he has never been in the police.

The episode is clearly escalating, as is the scope for conspiracy theories.  There are so many potential conspiratorial players that there’s got to be the basis for a movie script in there somewhere.  So far it’s not looking at all good for the police because there are no “good guy” police angles to this so far, unless those who arrested their Met colleagues turn out to be the ones who moved without undue delay and played with a straight bat, which is a possibility.

Eight Metropolitan Police Officers have been arrested and a file has gone to the CPS to decide whether they get prosecuted.  The CPS seem to be really taking their time.  Three Police Federation Representatives (from three police forces in the Midlands, the politician’s constituency area) took it upon themselves to be interviewed on TV immediately after a meeting with the Cabinet Minister and have been revealed to have told lies because unknown to them the meeting was recorded.  Their three Chief Constables had their conduct investigated and overruled the Investigating Officer by effectively letting them off, on the basis that they had merely exercised “poor judgement”.  They too were called up to answer to a Parliamentary Committee to justify their actions.

The IPCC is now firmly on the case, having already said that the Federation Representatives should, on the basis of the Investigation Officer’s findings, have faced more serious charges than he was recommending.  The IPCC have now started their own formal investigation.

Despite concerns being expressed about undue delay, the CPS have yet to decide about continues………

Farewell to the Local DVLA Office
DVLA1

Local Offices will all have closed by December 13th 2013

I wrote an article a while ago about a visit to my Local DVLA Office in Preston; it happened to be the day when two mobility scooters rammed their front glass door which, among other things that day, was good spectator value.  Click here if you would like an entertaining read.

About six months ago a member of the DVLA staff there contacted me to say how much she and her colleagues had enjoyed reading the article, which had eventually come to their attention.   I was invited to make a return visit and make myself known.

Eventually I had reason to go there again, so I gave warning by email, thinking I might just make contact with the relevant staff, although it might be quite likely by now that many would have moved on.  The Office’s last day of business will be on December 13th because as you may be aware DVLA is closing all the Local Offices down.  The staff will perhaps have had some other options but for many it will apparently be a question of plain redundancy.

Anyway, I needed to transfer a cherished number, so off I went to my Local Office.  The place hadn’t changed much and it was well maintained as I walked in, so they weren’t letting it go to the dogs in its last few weeks.  It had been refurbished at some stage and the counters and fittings are high quality and modern-looking.  They also have an IT system which displays the progress of the queue and calls you to the desk when your turn comes in a cheery voice.  It’s a bit like the one at Argos which shows you where you are in the queue when you are waiting for your stuff to come out of the warehouse.

There was a standing queue to Check In as I arrived, as expected, because I was earlier than planned.  Not much use telling you now but if you turn up at a DVLA Office 10 minutes before closing time there is no queue and they rush you through to avoid being late going home!

The queue was backed up to the door from “Check In” and the seated waiting area inside the Office was completely empty.  You don’t get your supermarket-style numbered queuing ticket until you have Checked In, for which you have to queue, then there is a relatively short wait for the next stage, where they process the transaction and take the money.

At Check In, a somewhat frustrated-looking person was trying to deal with a frustrating-looking  person and it looked like this encounter had already been going on for a long time, causing the Check In queue to back up to the door, even though it was clearly quiet that day.   I could see from the body language of the people in front of me in the queue that there was some glowering going on at what was going on ahead of them. continues………

One Up on The Plod – if only for now?

A Winger friend of mine, who had better remain anonymous for reasons which will become clear, cannot stop himself winding up policemen. He accepts the logic of advice that it’s not a good idea but he can’t seem to resist doing it.

If he carries on baiting bobbies for a pastime he can hardly expect the word not to get around and for him to become a marked man across a wider and wider geographical area.  Even if there isn’t a way for policemen to flag him as a target for revenge on the Police National Computer, there’s probably an unofficial, non-computer way for it to happen.  Most of us wouldn’t want risk becoming a marked motorist, at increasing risk of getting our comeuppance.

But my mischevious friend gets a buzz out of it  and often does it while riding his Wing, for example by riding with his illegal display lights illuminated past a location where he knows the police park up to monitor passing traffic.  Maybe experience has taught him that although his multi-coloured lights certainly are illegal, there would be too much homework and/or paperwork for the policeman to make actually prosecuting worthwhile.  Anyway he seems to get away again and again with baiting them and usually ends up with nothing worse than  stern caution, in the face of which he can smirk knowingly.

On a recent occasion he was driving his van, approaching a stop sign at crossroads on a country road.  He slowed down to look both ways and almost stopped, and by doing so he got a good view of the police car coming his way, the only other vehicle in sight. continues………

A Light Parade, a Taxi and a Scabby Knee

And was I glad to see one of these guys!

Chester was the first GoldWing Light Parade I’ve attended on foot – and I discovered within ten minutes of the start that it’s far safer to participate on a GoldWing.

It had been a very showery day – more dull clouds showers and sunshine, even though the sun did show its face from time to time.  But in the way which Blackpool Light Parades always seemed to do, come Parade Mustering Time the weather had cleared and the streets were dry.  The omens were good.

And if the weather forecast had kept some Wingers away from Chester altogether then the ones who did turn out (around 70 of them) most stayed on to ride in the Parade.  It was a very successful and, I’m told, a very enjoyable GoldWing Light Parade and the City of Chester and Chester Lions are both keen to run it again next year.  There are photos and videos of the Parade on the Light Parade Website if you would like to look at them.

The Police Escort which had been promised turned up in plenty of time and so did the Lord Mayor, soon-to-be Biker Chick Mrs Eleanor Johnson, who was to ride on a trike courtesy of Dave Bayliss, aka Biggles.  Likewise Corrie Star Ian Puleston Davies who was promoted from riding his own classic scooter to passenger on Jim Nightingale’s  solo GL1800.

I wandered around taking lots of photos of happy Wingers and their bikes and then, as the Parade set off, kept clicking away, down on continues………

GoldWing versus Boeing – which is quicker off the mark?

The Pacific island of Nauru - with the runway showing at the bottom of the picture.

I came across an interesting Blog Article by a retired airline pilot who used to fly into a small pacific island, where the locals would race the departing aircraft using a road which was close and parallel to the runway.

One of the bikes was a GoldWing GL1500.

The Article is well written and interesting, especially to learn which was in the lead, bike or plane, as they got up to 80 mph.

I won’t spoil the story by telling you the answer but you can read the Article for yourself by Clicking Here.

By the way if you are ever offered a used GL1500 which has been imported from Nauru it would probably be wise to give it a miss.

Raising the Motorway Speed Limit to 80 mph – will it help motorcyclists?

Our Government has proposed that the speed limit on UK Motorways be increased to 80 miles per hour.  The speed limit on our motorways, as on all dual carriageways has been 70 mph for over forty years and there are differing views about the value and wisdom of an increase.

Unsurprisingly opinions vary on the desirability of this change and although biking organisations all seem to be welcoming the proposal, there are of course objectors, including the usual crop of blinkered obsessionalists.  There is an organisation called Brake for example which seems to think this is a selfish move by speedsters who want to put other people’s lives at dire risk which will cause “carnage” and that we should be doing everything we can to persuade people to get off the motorways and on to trains and buses.  Back to having a man carrying a red flag ahead of every motorised vehicle then.

The protagonists point out the economic gains to be had from shorter journey times will amount to as hundreds of millions of pounds, which strikes me as a bit fanciful, but they also point out that modern vehicles have vastly better brakes than 1960s vehicles and these out-perform the stopping distances in the Highway Code by a considerable margin, so the extra 10 mph, which in reality many drivers are already doing anyway, will not convey much extra risk.

People might claim to be experts but I’m not convinced there are any real experts on this subject and your opinion and mine might be just as good and valid as anyone else’s.  We, or rather our politicians on our behalf, will either have to take the risk of raising the motorway speed limit to see if it can be done without too much impact on road safety or not.  The idea that it will cause carnage on the motorways if we do this is clearly very silly.

And since the decision whether to increase the limit is a political one, all the other factors which influence political decisions come to bear too and the chances of this actually happening might be fairly low.  Our democratic system is such that the politicians who make the decision whether to proceed with this proposal will end up doing what they feel will give them the best prospect of being re-elected, especially if that is becoming uncertain.  Our best hope of what might be a perfectly reasonable attempt to strike a better balance between risk and benefit on our motorways could easily fall victim to the vagaries of the political calendar and other factors completely unrelated to the issue.

Speed is undeniably a factor in some accidents, so the possibility that increasing the motorway speed limit to 80 mph could lead to more motorway accidents and more deaths needs serious consideration.  We’ve had a 70 mph limit since 1964, so a very long time, so making a change could have an adverse effect – just as a reduction to 60 mph would be a disruptive change and that alone would probably adversely affect road safety for a while.  Adjusting the speed limit either way could lead to an increased number of rear end shunts.

If the economic gains are uncertain (if not fanciful) and the any change is likely to rock the boat and increase accidents at least for a while, the “ain’t broke, don’t mend it” argument has some attractions, as does the idea that the highly congested nature of our motorways (compared with European motorways) makes raising the upper limit too risky.  Will a limit of 80 mph work on the chronically congested M6, where average traffic speed are often much lower than 70 mph?  Will anyone gain from the legal opportunity to accelerate briefly, but only briefly, up to 80 mph?  Without much more extensive variable speed limit sections to calm things down when necessary, which have been successfully introduced on busiest sections of the M25 and the M42 not be much more effective in improving journey times?

But on the other hand in the special case of motorways which are, statistically speaking, the safest part of our road network, it can be argued that a higher overall speed limit, especially in combination with variable lower speed limits would be a safer way of doing things as well as well as improving traffic flow and allowing faster journeys.  And it probably would improve journey times significantly at less busy times and on less congested sections of the motorway system, so why not give it a try? continues………

Roundabouts and merging lanes – who’s the Big Chicken?

Battle Stations!

There is so much traffic competing for space on our roads these days that it’s hardly surprising that challenging “right of way” situations can easily arise, especially at roundabouts, which are designed to help crossing traffic flow smoothly and do so, providing everyone plays the game considerately.

The problem is that there are different and conflicting ideas of who should give way to whom at roundabouts and, having re-read what the Highway Code has to say on the subject, it still seems to me that there is ambiguity about “right of way” and how to use it safely.

I got tooted and gesticulated at by a blonde lady in a Land Rover Discovery for getting in her way on a roundabout recently and it gave me food for thought and hence this article.  I’ve been carved up by another lady on a roundabout since then too; I’m starting to feel harassed!

We are either instructed by road signs or advised by the Highway Code that we “should” give way in a number of situations – at junctions, roundabouts and sometimes when the road narrows.  The problem is that this sometimes creates an expectation in other road users that they thereby acquire a “right of way”  which they might then try to enforce – for example by maintaining speed in an intimidating way or even sounding their horn and barging through a shrinking gap.

continues………

A Dangerous and Selfish Winger

At the Blackpool Light Parade this weekend, during the Saturday afternoon static display at South Pier, where crowds of people, including lots of children were strolling towards and among the parked bikes, one Winger, pictured here, decided to take the opportunity to give his young granddaughter a ride around the display area.  She was sat on the bike’s tank in front of him and he wasn’t wearing a helmet – and neither of course was she.

These activities were reported to me (as Lead Organiser of the Event) and so I went over to talk to him.  This was only a short time after the incident and as I approached he was sat on his bike preparing to leave.

As soon as I asked him if he had just been giving a child a ride around the Promenade area, politely of course because I needed to check I had approached the correct rider, he immediately came out with a belligerent mouthful, telling me in no uncertain terms that it was his bike and that he wouldn’t have anyone telling him what he could and could not do with it – not that I had got anything like as far as doing any such thing of course,  so immediate had been his angry response.

He clearly was the Rider who had been doing what I had been told about and equally clearly he had no regrets – and no intention of abiding by anyone else’s idea of safety requirements either.  I felt he was continues………

The Legalities and Safety of Filtering

Tempting but increasingly tight for a GoldWing?

I have referred to a helpful internet article written by Biker/Solicitor John Measures of Barratts Solicitors previously and this Article was provoked by another one of his.  Filtering past or through standing or slow moving traffic is common practice in UK but is it safe and is it legal?

With our busy and often traffic-clogged roads, the option to filter through standing or slow moving traffic is a potentially valuable aspect of life on two wheels, providing you have the confidence to do it and the perceptiveness to appreciate when it’s a bit too risky.

Not all GoldWing riders are confident enough to take their big bike into the relatively narrow gaps which filtering often involves but plenty are.  When I get the chance to make progress while cars and trucks are stuck in traffic I do so, with contentment which sometimes verges on smugness at my good fortune at being a motorcyclist.  Not only am I riding continues………

Dealing with Dangerous Drivers – Lancshire Police turn up trumps

Getting this close for a photograph was not ideal

Motorcyclists are more vulnerable than most other road users, who are usually surrounded these days by a protective steel cage, within which multiple airbags are poised to come to their aid if they have a serious collision, even from the side.  So it makes sense for a motorcyclist to feel relatively vulnerable.  Ride a motorcycle like everyone else on the road is actively trying to kill you, so they say.  And sometimes of course that’s precisely what someone is trying to do, even if he or she doesn’t quite realise it.

I was attacked (the only word for it) by a car driver recently who decided he needed to teach me a lesson of some sort by passing very close and cutting in sharply at high speed.  He passed within less than two feet of me and was clearly doing it quite deliberately.  There had been no previous encounter or altercation, so presumably it was because I had dared to be on his road and in his way.  I wasn’t riding as fast as he was driving and I had therefore put him to the trouble of changing lanes to overtake me, so maybe that was it.

But would there be any point in reporting it? Would the police be interested? continues………

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