Simon MacMichael January 29 2018
Police in Chiswick, West London, have said they have fined cyclists in the area for using mobile phones while driving, but admit they lack resources to target motorists using handheld devices illegally at the wheel.
While there is no specific offence of using a mobile phone while riding a bike, it may be dealt with under the heading of careless cycling.
Using a handheld device while at the wheel is a specific offence, although harsher punishments introduced almost a year ago, with a fine of £200 and six penalty points, are failing to deter a huge number of motorists from breaking the law, with the RAC last year estimating that 9 million drivers were doing so.
Officers from the Metropolitan Police revealed last week at a meeting of the Chiswick Area Forum that they had been targeting cyclists using mobile phones under Operation Safeway – the controversial road safety campaign introduced in late 2014 after six cyclists were killed in the capital in the space of a fortnight – and that fines had been issued.
Among those present at the meeting last Tuesday, hosted by Hounslow Borough Council and which brings together councillors, police and local residents every two months, was Ruth Mayorcas, a cycling campaigner and Labour candidate for the Turnham Green ward in the forthcoming local elections.
Aged 64, she has lived locally for more than 40 years, and told road.cc that news of the cyclists being fined was greeted by “a general murmur of approval from the audience.”
The area has seen some anti-cyclist sentiment recently due to a small but vociferous group of opponents to Mayor Sadiq Khan’s plans for Cycle Superhighway 9, unveiled last year, which will run along Chiswick High Road on its way from Kensington Olympia to Brentford.
At the meeting, Mayorcas asked police whether they would be targeting drivers who were using their mobile phones while queueing in traffic on Wellesley Road, but was told no patrol car was available.
Asking whether an officer on a bike might be deployed instead, she was informed that funding had been withdrawn and there was therefore no such officer available.