Over the years of my biking career, I have had several “incidents” involving the constabulary of this great land of ours, but as is usual these days, the incidents below are becoming less frequent as the speed cameras do their victimless crime policing, leaving the police to carry on with the other aspects of their work.
Don’t get me wrong, I have utmost respect for the police, they are a good bunch of people – one or two do let the side down on occasion though.
Below are some of the most notable incidents where I have had occasion to exchange a few words with our boys in blue and one or two other incidents from my years of biking.
Episode one in my teens
It was a cold night in October when I found myself travelling from Wigan to Blackpool on my Honda 50. At that time, I had not passed my test so I could not use the motorway (nor could I have driven a 50cc motorcycle on the motorway either)
I was about half way there, just passing Preston docks on the old road. It was a 40mph limit and I was doing the best my little Honda could manage, about 32mph.
Out of the darkness behind me a police car appeared and pulled in front of me so close that I almost ran into the back of him (did I say the brakes on that bike were pathetic?)
When the driver got out and came to speak to me, I got the first word in. “What are you trying to do? Kill me? I was riding along minding my own business and you pulled in so close and so quickly that I almost ran into the back of you!”
“Well, you were speeding so it would have been your fault if you had” came the reply.
I explained a little of what my tiny motorcycle was capable of and that I was not as it happens speeding.
“So why did you feel it necessary to stop me? Is it a crime now to ride a motorcycle along the road within the speed limit?”
Change of tactic – “where are you going?” “None of your business”
“Where have you come from?” “None of your business, am I suspected of a crime?”
At this point the other occupant of his car entered into the conversation. He had got out of the other side of the car, and the back seat. He was dressed in all his finery and it looked like he held a significant rank. He piped up with “Johnson, get back in the car” then he turned to me and said “sorry to have troubled you sir, mind how you go” and then he got back in the car and they drove off.
No explanation, I think things might have turned out differently had Johnson been in the car with one of his cronies instead of a superior officer. As it stands to this day, I have no idea what was going on.
Episode two in my 20s
I was travelling to work one morning, on my 500cc Honda motorcycle. I had my work colleague on the back and we were pretty much on time, so no need for lawbreaking speed.
We found ourselves behind a police mini which was behind a particularly slow bus. Average speed was around 20mph in a 30mph limit.
I knew the route well, and knew that up ahead was an opportunity to overtake the bus, but as the police car was there, I also knew I would have to be canny about it.
We approached a bend where the road entered into a one way street, so I set myself up to go for the outside lane, making sure that I was not in the blind spot of the police car in case he was planning to do the same as me.
On rounding the bend, I gave the police car the opportunity to move out but he stayed behind the bus. Now I knew there was a police station a short distance ahead on the left, so he may have just been hanging back as he was going to turn in there. So, I made my move.
I accelerated into the outside lane and (not breaking the 30mph limit) proceeded to overtake the bus. I was alongside the bus and in my mirror I saw a blue flashing light.
I said to my mate “that copper must have got a call on his radio, as he wants to get past”. So I accelerated to get out of his way and then pulled in front of the bus and slowed back to 30mph.
Blow me down but the copper pulled in front of me and slammed his brakes on!
I managed to do an emergency stop before I ran into the back of his car, the bus pulled out around us much to the dismay of the cars trying to get past him, and the copper got out of his car.
I took my crash helmet off and remained sitting on the bike.
“Now then sir, do you know what the speed limit is on this road?”
“Of course I do, because I never broke it until I saw you were trying to get past me”
Then I explained to him in words of one syllable exactly what had just transpired from my point of view. I also pointed out that I was pretty brassed off that he was making me late for work with his efforts to make his target. I also asked him how monumentally stupid would I have to be to go speeding past a police car.
Then I sat and waited for him to think it through. It took a while before he finally asked for my documents. I told him that I was not carrying them and anyway, as I had done nothing wrong, what justification did he have for 1, stopping me and 2 asking for my documents.
That took a moment to filter through. “Have a nice day sir and mind how you go”.
I didn’t get an invite to the policemen’s ball from that little encounter but then I never expected to…
Episode three in my 30s
I spent some time despatch riding in Manchester and there was one young copper that all the despatchers were aware of. He spent his days riding around central Manchester on a Honda 200 and tried his level best to find something to upset us with.
It was a hot summers day and I had invested in one of those new flip front helmets and I was riding along with it flipped up to give me a breeze on my face when this individual stepped out in front of me and waved me into the side of the road.
His opening gambit was “it’s illegal to ride with your helmet like that”
And, having just spotted one of his colleagues over his shoulder riding a big police BMW doing exactly the same thing I pointed and said – “what, like that?”
Needless to say, and with extremely bad grace, I got the “have a nice day” sign off…
Episode four still in my 30s
Not the police this time, but uniformed personnel. I was despatching and found myself in a town I was not familiar with, and saw a traffic warden with his head inside some punter’s car, on a double yellow line. I pulled up behind and removed my crash helmet to ask him for directions. When he pulled his head out, he immediately saw me and stormed over with the opening line “you can’t park there” and I patiently explained that I was not completely stupid and that I just wanted to ask him for directions. His tone completely changed and he helped me out, no problems.
Just as an aside, if you’re somewhere new and looking for an address, the best person to ask is a postman. Just something I have found, they love being in the know.
Episode five still despatching
In a new town again, I found the place I needed to deliver to but it was on the opposite side of a square and there was no obvious way to drive round there. As it happened there was a traffic warden doing her thing nearby so I attracted her attention (I was stopped on a double yellow line) and she came over. I explained my problem. She told me to leave my bike there and she would keep an eye on it. Result!
Episode six still despatching
No direct contact with this one, but I felt it worthy of mention. I found myself in the centre of Glasgow and outside a police station. I had a delivery next door so I figured what safer place to leave the bike on a double yellow. So, I put my helmet on the mirror and did my delivery. It took a bit longer than it might but when I got back, everything was as I left it. I love Glasgow!
Episode seven in my 30s and still despatching
I had a very heavy BMW for a while and with the panniers etc it was a nightmare removing the rear wheel. On the M62 I got a puncture just outside the services so I pulled in and found a space on the edge of the carpark where I could work on the wheel (no AA membership in those days)
I managed to get the bike on its centre stand on the kerb with the back wheel hanging out over the carpark to give me more room to manoeuvre the wheel out, but still could not manage it. I had a think and removed the almost full petrol tank and placed it on the grass along with the heavier items out of the top box and panniers. Then I pulled the bike over on its side and pulled the wheel out. It was at this point I noticed why I had got a puncture – almost no tread left on the tyre (did I say I was operating on a budget?) I got the tyre off one side of the wheel and fitted the spare inner tube and inflated it with the tyre pump I carried. I got the wheel back in place and proceeded to lift the bike back up. As I was doing this, a vehicle pulled up behind me and a voice said, “do you need a hand mate?” and I replied without looking, “no thanks mate, I’ve got this” and finished heaving it upright. As I was doing this he said “OK then” and drove off.
Just then I straightened up, and looked over to see that the bloke who had asked if I needed help was driving a traffic police car and if he had helped me, we would probably have finished up with me ticketed for a bald tyre. Lucky day.
Needless to say, at the first opportunity I bought a new tyre. When the fitter removed it, he stuck his hand through the hole in the tyre and said “You like to get your money’s worth!” I had in fact been driving on the inner tube for I don’t know how long. I have been oh so careful about the state of my tyres since then.
Episode eight 30s again.
I was coming out of London one winter’s evening – pitch black night except for the car lights. On the M1 headed North, the inner lanes were absolutely full but the outside lane was empty so I proceeded to overtake about a mile worth of cars. Up ahead one car broke ranks into the outside lane, flashed his blue light twice then pulled back in. I took that as my warning that he was too busy to stop me but I had better be careful. I throttled back to the speed limit and overtook him a few minutes later with nothing more said or done. I like to think he was a good one.
Episode nine in my 50s
M6 southbound middle of the morning, dry road, good visibility, very little traffic. I was in the outside lane at about 105mph when I spotted a blue light in my mirror, so I pulled over to the middle lane and slowed to the speed limit. The police bike sped past me and waved. I guess that he was happy to tailgate me but when I spotted him behind me, I had to slow down but he must have been needed somewhere and let me get on with it. I have no clue how long he had been there behind me.
Episode ten in my 20s
In the middle of Warrington on a dark and very wet night, so I just wanted to get home. I was on the white line with solid traffic on both sides of me (opposite directions) and again, I spotted a flash of blue in my mirror, so I pulled into the traffic when I could and expected to have the bike cop behind me pull in as well for “a word” at least but he just went past wagging his finger at me. I gave him a minute or two to get ahead then followed him, I figured if he can, I can.
Episode eleven in my 40s
I had a BMW K1100 and as I was working from home at the time, I didn’t get out on it much being the bike commuter that I am. I had occasion to go into the office mid-morning and was proceeding at my usual breakneck pace along the M65 when I was joined in the lane to my right by a police car who indicated by waving that I should stop while we had a chat.
On stopping he let me know that I had increased my speed to over 120mph just after he joined the motorway and he did see me look in my mirror just before speeding up, then he said that he had to drive at 120mph plus just to catch up to me. He then used his speed camera to clock me at 96mph.
I explained that at no time did I exceed 100mph and that I had lost concentration on my speed as I was listening to a misfire in my engine and was trying to clear it if I could by opening the throttle in increments. I went on to say that if he had been travelling just 1mph faster than me, he would have caught up to me within one mile as that is how speed works. But I left that until after he had announced that he was giving me a ticket.
I also took the opportunity to mention that if he had just flashed his blues a couple of times when he saw me looking, then all this unpleasantness could have been avoided because as they were unlit at the time his low profile lights were not possible to see as I looked in my mirrors. I think those low profile blue lights are sneaky!
Episode twelve in my 20s again
I had parked my bike perfectly legally in Matlock in Derbyshire and was looking in a shop window trying to decide which sugary confectionary to buy for my lunch when a voice behind me said words to the effect of “where is your car?” now, I was wearing a Belstaff type jacket, white silk scarf and leather boots (de rigeur for bikers back then as helmets were not compulsory yet) so in surprise I just pointed at my bike and said “there”. This confused him as he was looking for an individual who was driving a blue mini and as there were no blue minis in sight, he got confused. He then questioned me about my whereabouts that morning and I must have said the right thing as he then told me that the post office had been robbed and the miscreant (his word) had made his escape in a blue mini. As there were no blue minis in sight, he must have got the wrong man…
This brings me to the end of this missive. I expect to have less and less opportunity to discuss the finer points of motoring law with police officers as they tend not to bother us old duffers in our electric cars using our cruise control to stop us getting pulled. Mind you, if I get the chance to get out on one of my bikes, I do tend to drive it like I stole it when the opportunity presents itself, so there is a small possibility but having said that, the last few tickets have been from speed cameras and one from one of those sneaky bus lane cameras.
Stay safe and keep it shiny side up.