27 February 2012

Police & Tickets - No News is Big News

Policeman Hunting Cyclists
As we highlighted last week, the Danish police announced they would be going after bicycle users this week and sure enough, they were at it. Hiding behind a tree along The Lakes, as above. This officer was largely stopping bicycle users who were scooting over the sidewalk, as illustrated below, in order to turn right while avoiding the hundred or so bicycle users waiting at the red light.

Yes, hundreds of the world's best behaved cyclists waiting for red lights and once in a while a citizen on a bicycle rolls across the sidewalk (red arrows), only to be stopped by this police officer. I watched for a while and the policeman spent more time leaning against a tree than writing tickets. And this was rush hour.

Policeman Hunting Cyclists_1 Policeman Hunting Cyclists_2
He did get to unfreeze the ink in his pen a few times though. None of the bicycle users who cut the corner did so at any great speed and none of them bothered any pedestrians on their A to B journey.

Anette Jerup Jørgensen is a researcher at Danish Cyclists Federation and she said in an article in a Danish newspaper today that, "What happens in our bicycle culture is that there is a pragmatic interpretation of the rules. People think that as long as they don't bother others, they can bend the rules here and there."

"A survey has shown that 75% of respondants have turned right on a red light within the past couple of months and by far the most of them think that it was okay to do so. So there is a conventional practice of ignoring the red light and an unspoken norm that it doesn't matter, as long as you take care of pedestrians."

What's interesting - and under-reported - is that if you consider the enormous volume of bicycle traffic in the Copenhagen morning rush hour, there are very few fines given. A sensationalist Danish tabloid wrote today that "one officer handed out a whopping 34 tickets in the morning rush hour." You can bet that there were several thousands bicycle users rolling past the spot and that 99% of them did so as they do every day - legally. But that's not news, is it. "10,000 cyclists obeyed the traffic rules on a stretch of street in the centre of Copenhagen!" But 34 fines IS news.

I blogged back in 2007 about another police raid on cyclists. They handed out 777 tickets in the course of a work week. Out of literally several hundred thousand cyclists. But hey. It gets in the news. The police are "doing their job". Blah blah blah.

When I was cycling into the city this morning, it was business as usual. I watched the behaviour on the cycle tracks and there was little to report. A few right turns on red lights, etc. But nothing worth writing home about.

The funny thing is that the police always stand at the same spots. They are inadvertantly handing the City of Copenhagen's Bicycle Office a map over the Desire Lines of the bicycle users. On the badly photoshopped map up top, look at the cycle track on the right, with the green arrows. That was a stretch of sidewalk that many bicycle users used as a short cut to get to the next street over. Until the City made a temporary painted lane on the spot and later made it into a permanent cycle track. Observing and listening to the citizens' Desire Lines.

The sidewalk shortcut on the map, that ended with the rather bored police officer writing a few tickets should feature a right turn cycle track that avoids the red light, like at many other intersections. Like everywhere else, when a few bicycle users bend the rules, it's because there is inadequate infrastructure for them or there is no logical reason for them to stop there. The police, like many urban planners and traffic engineers, do not think Bicycle first. If they did, things would be very different.

One of our readers, Thue, sent us this photo from another regular hunting spot. Police on the right.

He also reported six Known Enforcement Spots in Trapster.com for where the police hang out a couple times a year to "enforce the law".

These spots are freely available to the City for planning retrofits of the intersections.

There is a new Twitter account @cykelrazzia where we'll be tweeting, in Danish, the location of these bicycle traps and we'll keep using the #cykelrazzia hashtag until the week is over when the police have reached their quotas and can then go back to tackling crime.


Erik Griswold said...

An auto-centric traffic engineer ought to be asked how such an intersections would have to be constructed if this was a car-road carrying such a volume of traffic!

I'lll bet that turn lane would be mandatory if it was to "meet the standard".

David said...

The blonde looks to be on the attractive side... I suppose being assigned to this job does have a few side benefits for these otherwise bored officers.

garage equipment said...

Yes, no new is big news. That kind of situation always happens and it includes a lot of police officers.

Ivar said...

Did you know that in Norway - there is no law against walking on a "red man". If the way is free, go ahead.

Anonymous said...

don't do the crime if you can't pay the fine-it's that simple!

Edward said...

Anonymous: "don't do the crime if you can't pay the fine"

Why is it a crime? Only because a regulation has been written making it one. If it is plainly stupid, is it not our responsibility to question it? Do we just accept every new law that is thrown at us and simply assume that our superiors know better than we do? I know that we Australians did that with helmet laws in the 1990s but that doesn't mean that everyone else should. It's a stupid law and should be questioned.

Anonymous said...

And I thought hiding behind a tree was strictly East Europe tradition.
Looks like being a traffic cop is a diagnose.

Erik Sandblom said...

Wow. That really is lame. In Sweden they mostly ticket you for things like no lights or running a red light. During the summer, when all the Sunday cyclists are out, they can write a lot of fines. Or sometimes they will be at a major crossing where there are a lot of cyclists, where there is reason to be vigilant. I think that kind of thing can help the bicycle culture but this seems silly.

Ryan said...

Probably ended up costing taxpayers more for him standing there.

I stopped trusting/respecting our cops the day I was stopped. Questioned what I had in my front basket (camera), then asked why I had a camera.

I guess I made the mistake of saying "to take pictures", because that pissed him off. Took down my information (name/address), then asked if I had a bell (trying to ticket me on something).

All of which failed.
Complained to the police board but they came back with the standard "he was in the right". Of course our local police don't have a shining past (or present) when it comes to being honest :\

Anonymous said...

"don't do the crime if you can't pay the fine" holds true IMHO, or rather don't be pissed if you get fined.

The danger with arguments for not respecting the law because they are stupid, is that you can justify anything with civil disobedience. That's exactly what drivers say when driving too fast ("30km/h speed limit: it's ridiculous, so I speed" blabla).

If you don't agree with the law, go to your local council and protest or vote for another party next time.
If you get fined for not having a helmet in Australia (I definitely would be fined), pay your fine and bring it to the local media!

Anonymous said...

"If you don't agree with the law, go to your local council and protest or vote for another party next time."

A citizen of a democracy has the right to protest or disregard laws that they disagreee with. Its called civil disobedience and it is something that is increasingly rare in the obedient populations of increasingly crypto-fascist western nations.