Have you had an undercover cop on your tail? Here’s what you need to know…
I was riding along a dual carriageway on which the general pace of traffic was 80-85mph. I was going just a bit faster (around 90mph) and slowly working my way past cars.
A mile or so into the carriageway a car came up behind me and managed to make me feel uneasy. It was really close and seemed eager to get past.
I pulled over into the slow lane and knocked around l0mph off my speed. The car then got alongside me and the passenger was gesturing for me to slow down. At first I was a bit confused, then miffed that I was being told what to do by some random passenger.
Anyway, being a good boy I slowed down to 75mph and dropped in behind the car, which in turn had slowed. The road continued at national speed limit for another six miles before we reached a 50mph stretch. I was slowing down, but less rapidly than the car which I’ve mentioned.
I was all set to overtake it, having switch to the fast lane, when I noticed the man driving the car was a policeman. In a heartbeat I was bricking it, and so dropped back by some 20mph.
It was an undercover car with three people inside, but they just headed off into the distance. Should I consider myself extremely lucky, or is there any reason for concern? I noticed when I was following them that a phone was being handed around the car, and I’m now wondering if that was them filming me?
You reacted properly. The car was an unmarked police car. It Is unusual for a traffic car to be crewed by three people so probably was not a traffic car as such, but could well have been an armed response vehicle or a CID car. Usually these cars have a class 1 driver and calibrated speedometers. A fair few have VASCAR recording systems.
The police are not as yet reduced to camera phone evidence, but give a bit more time for the police cuts to work their way through the system and the pursuit vehicles to get retired and not replaced. Then there will be almost no police coverage of the roads network.
On the face of It that might sound alright but I quite like the idea of real coppers pulling over drunk drivers or cars with tyres down to the canvas rather than having the roads network covered by speed cameras.
There are some forces which only have one traffic car operating at any one time in an entire county or two. As a general observation, police fast car drivers are usually pretty relaxed about brisk but not eye watering speeds. They like fast cars and know when a bike is being piloted by a rider who knows what he is up to.
I had a similar experience on the A30 in Devon and Cornwall’s patch when following some spirited riding I realised a rather tidy BMW 5 was not being shaken off.
My spidey senses thought “hello, this lad is fairly flying” and I dropped back to 75 and a grinning copper drove past me at speed, ruefully wagging his finger at me. If it hadn’t been a copper It could have been repmoblle man, in a tasty car but with the driving skills of a turnip so I would have wanted him in front of me rather than behind me, texting his mistress at a vigorous pace.
Because the vehicle you interacted with was an unmarked car and probably not traffic, the crew within the vehicle may have thought you were riding in a little too lively a fashion. The old tricks for telling if a vehicle was an unmarked car are now usually pretty redundant.
Forces now share unmarked vehicles and have twigged that buying base models (it used to be that if a flat coloured rather than metallic BMW was on your tall, chances are it was a copper) meant they had much lower residual value so unmarked police cars are not especially easy to spot and as they rotate between forces, you do not get to know the ones on your patch.
They are no longer mostly British made – BMW, Skoda Octavia RS and Subaru being the vehicles of choice along with X5 and other lively four-wheel drives. Counting aerials is redundant following tech improvements. About the only way to check is “is the driver in a police uniform?” which is not a hugely helpful tip.
So if your spidey senses start tingling let a car being driven oddly get past you. If the driver is a simpering tool who gets off on bullying motorbikes then you are much safer with him in front of you. If it is a copper, your antics and speed will be captured on video along with a calibrated speedometer so either way, you are a winner if you let the car go.
If driven by a nob neck (that is a legal phrase) then said nob neck is in front of you and you get to decide the distance you keep between you.
If it is PC Plod, then you do not have to have the embarrassing and potentially expensive road side chat followed by getting your best suit out for the walk of shame to the Magistrates, and potentially a bus ride home, where you’ll be having to work from for a good few weeks.
As someone who rides in London frequently I am also alert to the fact that bikes are stolen off the riders while being ridden, so anything which puts me in a vulnerable position with anyone acting even mildly suspiciously makes me want to put distance between us.
Ultimately, as you were not pulled over, you really do not have anything to worry about. But trust your instincts rather than your machismo and a mild feeling of impotent miffedness is a lot better than a ticket.
Fast Bikes September 2017