How to engage with local police

Road Justice map of police pledges
Bristol Cycling Campaign is an excellent example of a group of local campaigners who wholeheartedly got behind the Road Justice movement by ramping up pressure on their local force to improve roads policing

One element of Cycling UK’s Road Justice campaign is for campaigners to put pressure on their local police force to pledge to implement the recommendations in the report ‘Road Justice: the role of the police’ and then to monitor the force’s progress in implementing those recommendations, all of which are aimed at improving police handling of road traffic collisions.

Here we give you an insight into how one cycling campaign group has managed to engage with its local force and what success it has had so far in getting the force to improve roads policing. This case study can be used as a template for anyone wishing to engage with their police force.

Bristol Cycling Campaign (BCyC) is a cycling campaign group led by a small team of volunteers with several thousand supporters. It has succeeded in setting up a working partnership with its local police force, Avon & Somerset Police, through well thought out actions and commitment to the goals of the Road Justice campaign.

Using social media

When Cycling UK launched the Road Justice police map showing which forces had pledged to implement the campaign’s recommendations, BCyC took it upon itself to ask its local force why it hadn’t pledged.

Both the newly elected police and crime commissioner and the chief constable were active on social media, so the group contacted them via Twitter – the most public way possible. This act of ‘naming and shaming’ paid off: the PCC responded almost immediately pledging her support for the campaign.

Conducting good-quality research

The next step was to form a Road Justice sub-group of three people who could share the campaigning workload. This group maintained regular contact with the Road Justice campaign coordinator, who provided guidance when needed.

With a helping hand from the Freedom of Information Act, the group submitted information requests to the police in relation to pedal cycle collisions on a notoriously hazardous Bristol road. It analysed the circumstances of the collisions and the police response to each incident.

It found that in 25 cases of injury to cyclists caused by driving, there was: one prosecution for dangerous driving; one prosecution for driving without due care and attention; and one fixed penalty notice given out. The remaining 22 cases (88%) resulted in no further police action.

The group also collected Bristol-wide data on cycling and pedestrian collisions and submitted this to the police along with anecdotal evidence of poor police investigations. The group requested that the police investigate why the handling of these cases had been sub-standard.

Establishing a working group

The findings of the research were sent to the chief constable in a letter penned by the chair of BCyC, in which he requested a meeting to discuss the research findings and how the force planned to meet its obligation to implement the Road Justice campaign’s recommendations. An invitation to meet the chief constable and the head of the collisions investigations department swiftly followed.

A working group, which meets quarterly, was established to monitor the progress of actions agreed at the first meeting. BCyC also visited the Collisions Investigations Unit, where officers agreed more work must be done to improve collision investigations.

Achieving success

The engagement with Avon & Somerset Police has been successful because BCyC has approached it in a professional and diligent manner. The group produced convincing research and presented hard-to-ignore case studies, and has been assiduous in following through on actions and in holding the police to its word.

The group has kept BCyC supporters informed of its progress via news articles on the campaign website and has kept the Road Justice campaign coordinator regularly updated.

There have been setbacks – the chief constable was suspended earlier in the year and the head of collision investigations has changed – but BCyC is now firmly recognised as a stakeholder and as such has maintained open lines of communication with the necessary positions within the police.

BCyC recognises that there is still a lot of work to do and that its engagement with Avon & Somerset Police is a long-term project, but it will be supported throughout by Cycling UK’s campaigns team, as any other group hoping to engage with its local police force would be.

Become a Road Justice campaigner

If you’re interested in getting more involved with the Road Justice campaign, why not become a Road Justice campaigner? Training workshops for local campaigners will be held across the UK during the autumn months. We have plenty more information on the role of the Road Justice campaigner and the training available.

Share your campaign success

If you have engaged with your local force on Road Justice issues and would like to share your successes and lessons learned, please send an email to Rhia Weston.

A downloadable version of this case study is available below.