Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The Rush of the incoming tide of State control

I was riding down the (Sussex) road one day,
In the merry merry month of May
When the police came up to me
and said. "In case someone can't see,
You can have this orange coat, on me"

Yes, the Sussex Police have been running a campaign whereby they have been stopping motorcyclists who have not been wearing fluorescent clothing, lecturing them on visibility and then handing out free fluorescent tabards or some such piece of dayglo. The police have the power to stop any motor vehicle they want to, whether it is breaking the law or not, yet I am seriously wondering if the skills of the Road Policing Unit staff could not be put to better use. Maybe they are the same ones who have been ordered to be out there at 3am issuing survival blankets and flip-flops to pissed chavettes wearing next to nothing so they don't fall over, turn an ankle and then succumb to hypothermia or unwanted sex on their way back to wherever, after a night out consuming `buy one get one free` double shots of liver poison from the club owners? This sounds like a stealthy attack on aspects of life that should be a matter of personal choice and I am very concerned about the rush of the incoming tide of State control. I am a member of the Motorcycle Action Group aka MAG and the President, the star of the below video, wrote to Sussex Police to ask where this was all leading and received what was, to me, a familiar "straight bat" politikspeak reply. The Road Policing Unit Inspector made the `party line`points I would expect. I understand the sort of managerial/`political` pressures he has to work under having been a senior officer myself. Thankfully, I walked away from all of that, avec hard earned pension and my sanity, although he still has my sympathy and respect for the job he and his officers do, when they aren't issuing dayglo vests that is. What I did fully concur with was the principle contained in the Inspector's penultimate paragrah, that being about something they call `Operation Eyesight`, where he stated they are stopping cars to advise drivers of the need to have their eyes tested. Even this, I would argue, is a further waste of their time and skills although the sentiment is sound. But even this shows the flaw in the law. Having been to the scene of a horrendous accident in London during my probationary training attachment to Traffic Division, I watched one of my colleagues measure out 25 yards and ask the driver of the Mini, that had just wiped out a pedestrian on a crossing, to read the number plate on the Police Land Rover. Legend has it that this man replied, `What Land Rover`? Thereafter, I became something of an eyesight test zealot. I discovered many years later, as a junior but very well informed supervisory officer (I was by then a law instructor) that very few operational officers knew that they had the power, under certain circumstances, to request the driver of a motor vehicle to submit to the basic eyesight test and I'll wager that is still the case, Traffic Division/RPU officers excepted. So why is the road safety nanny of the Home Office edging ever closer to legislation on dayglo bibs and hi-viz clothing for motorcyclists, when the only current requirement for a motorist/motorcyclist to have their eyes tested compulsorily is a one-off, just before they take their test? Even then it won't test other essentials like peripheral vision. Thereafter, the driving licence law merely leaves it to the licence holder to ensure they can conform to the eyesight requirements which, in turn, were probably set in the 1930's. If this was the same for airline pilots, how many of us would want to fly? Yet, statistically, its the roads that will kill us.

I remember when I first needed corrected vision. I was sat astride my police bike on the side of the road, with a colleague on his, spotting for a stolen car. I noticed he was picking up number plates a lot quicker than I was (no ANPR in those days, sonny) so as a responsible biker I turned myself in and found that my eyesight was just below the limit for police drivers/riders yet still OK for the DoT test! I was grounded until I acquired glasses, but it started to snow so I didn't care.

All the dayglo in the world won't do a bean of good (even if one assumes it does in the first place) if the Nations drivers can't see properly. So why hasn't this been legislated for instead of the pursuit of this highly dubious dayglo malarkey. Incidentally, I wear a reflective vest, but only at times and in circumstances of my own choosing. I want a level playing field, not marginalisation because I'm a biker. This is an infringement of my rights over an issue that needs addressing elsewhere. The Home Office road safety legends-in-their-own-lunchtimes must be blinded by their own over-inflated opinions of themselves not to see this. This is why I support MAG and the right to use my own judgement and discretion about what I wear when I ride a bike. I am all for law, where it's proven to be needed.


Blue Eyes said...

Personal responsibility? How very outmoded. Get with the programme, Mr H, it's all about treating everyone equally in exactly the same patronising tone.

Under a fair regime, only people who had driven poorly would be stopped and given advice. I wonder when the power to stop to check documents was introduced? Was it there at the start (i.e. when driving licences were introduced) or more recently?

powdergirl said...

Hey, if I got falling-down drunk in public, in London(something I'd really like to do!) could I get a Copper to pin my mittens to my coat for me, help me on with some new flip flops, and then make sure I had a high viz vest to keep me out from under peoples tires?

Around here, they'd just throw you in the drunk tank for a bad night followed by an embarrassing morning.

"and then succumb to hypothermia or unwanted sex,.."

I'll be laughing about that turn of phrase for daaaays.

Hogday said...

Blue: The whole thing stinks! I have a personal theory re Hi viz, that being I'd get fewer people getting `danger close` if I look like I might stroll up to them, rip their door off and ravage their wife and daughters. Whereas dayglo man is just another nerd who can be intimidated by Mr dickless in his tin box. (N.B. Not empirically sound research).

Powder: I'm sure the former could be arranged, but with all the C4 residue under your fingernails I doubt you'd pass a CFATS scan ;)

You always know when a chavette has had sex she wanted, because she usually drops her kebab.

headless said...

Great post, as ever, Hogday.

I've just taken up running (don't ask) and as we live in the back end of nowhere, I choose to wear a hi-viz vest jobbie when going out running in the dusk/night (as well as one of those head-torch things).

The main reason I do so it to avoid being run down by some local yahoo who thinks that they're driving in RallyGB. Hopefully these days we're not so much at risk of them being over the limit as in my day.

That having been said, I still keep my eyes peeled for any possible lunatic and get out of the way (ocassionally by accident into a ditch) rather than run the risk.

Hopefully I shan't become a statistic...

Hogday said...

Headless! A first comment, thank you). Yes, as a runner myself and a man with East Anglian/Essex heritage, I recognise the similar perils "Sorry Mate, I just didn't see you" as a typical biker cliche. If the yahoos are over the limit, its less likely to be alcohol these days - too expensive and too many damaging side effects for the canny recreational user ;)

I'll be down your way end of March. I'll be sure and keep an eye out for you :)

Blue Eyes said...

Ha! I run but refuse to get a yellow thing. I suppose it's a bit different because I am generally running on pavements... I do wear a yellow for cycling, but only because I look good in it.

De Campo said...

The US Military (or at least Army) is crazy about motorcycle safety. Not only do we have to take a drivers safety course but to even ride on post you have to wear a fluorescent vest/jacket, be in long sleeves, pants, gloves, and of course a helmet with face protection.

Even when we do command rides off post we have to adhere to these rules. Hell, if you’re seen off post and off duty not wearing any of the above you get a wicked tongue lashing.

I’m not a big fan of all the safety precautions. Mainly because I’m young enough to still be a moron like that. However, I understand it.

There are some (many) months that we lose more soldiers stateside due to motorcycle accidents than in combat.

Hogday said...

Blue: Doesn't running in your neighbourhood require the permission of a police officer and a stabbie vest, hi-viz or not?

De Campo (aka The Return of the Alabammy swamp donkey): I think motorcycling in America is much maligned.

Blue Eyes said...

Permission, no, but it's probably not a bad idea to have an escort..!

Anonymous said...

I think a complete ban on all motorcycles is called for Hog. I have nothing against you guys, but my health is going to suffer if you are all dashing about in day-glow. I mean, this is worse than painting telephone boxes orange or something equally un-British, lacking in all-aesthetic taste. Very stressful! Plus I seem to remember deer can't see orange and thus would be at greater risk of you running into them. Yep, a total ban seems the only compromise.

Hogday said...

`ACO`: Basic rules of camoflage; outline, shape, movement. If we all look the same, glowing in yellow garb with headlights on, we vanish into the background!
And not 30 mins ago, my latest encounter, with a dumb-arse halfwit white van moron at the local `mini` roundabout, where he breezed in from my left, straight across my path, before parking up outside the village store, went like this: Hogday, "Did you see me in that roundabout as i turned right?" Van Mutt: "Yeah, I wondered what you were up to". Hog:"You are supposed to give way to traffic thats on your right". Van Mutt: "Shit, sorry mate, I never could get that right". Nothing to do with not seeing me, he was just a prick.