Cyclists get away with murder says police chief

POLICE have launched a crackdown on city centre cyclists who think they can "get away with murder" by disobeying the rules of the road.

Racing along pavements, ignoring traffic lights and travelling in the wrong direction on one-way streets are three offences highlighted by officers.

But now they are to get tough with offending cyclists, warning they are risking their lives.

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Inspector Andy Gilhooly, of the central policing team, said: "They think they can get away with murder and a lot of them think it is fun and acceptable. It's actually very dangerous and serious."

The crackdown – Operation Appetite – began on Saturday and it is to intensify by the end of the month as officers become more "robust" with offending cyclists.

A team of ten officers on bikes took to the city centre on Saturday afternoon, patrolling the area until after 8pm, issuing warnings to offenders. As the operation intensifies, warnings are expected to turn to fines in a bid to improve safety in the busy shopping area.

During Saturday's initiative, police warned 12 cyclists for offences, including failing to attach lights to their bikes for use after dark, as well as dangerously riding on pavements.

On a number of occasions, as patrols waited at notorious junctions – mainly on Princes Street – they witnessed cyclists screeching to a halt when lights turned to red – only because they had seen the police.

Insp Gilhooly said: "It was clear they were just going to keep on going through the red light, but then they saw the patrol."

Cyclists were also warned for recklessly using their bikes on pavements – although strictly not a crime – putting the safety of pedestrians at risk by dangerously weaving in and out of crowds.

Police say they are frequently contacted by shoppers in the city centre who are angry about the conduct of cyclists. Many are regularly seen heading up one-way streets – especially South St Andrew Street – in a bid to make it to their destination quicker.

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Insp Gilhooly said: "In general, cycling is a big thing in Edinburgh and we encourage it. It promotes healthy living and means there are fewer vehicles on the roads.

"Most cyclists are fine, but there are those who spoil it as it's all about getting somewhere as quickly as possible for them."

Further problems encountered by officers involved cyclists chaining their bikes in inappropriate places, including gates to houses in the city centre and lampposts on central reservations. Sometimes bikes are found on posts in George Street, often slipping down on to the pavement or road, causing a tripping hazard to passers-by.

Officers believe it is mainly younger cyclists who cause problems, stressing older users appear more willing to adhere to the law.

Insp Gilhooly said: "All we are asking for is common sense. Ultimately, this is for the safety of cyclists as well."