Ask a Policeman
The uniformed policeman stood in the road next to his motorbike and pointed sternly at me to pull over. “Census” said the blue sign propped on the pavement. I pulled over. A woman in a reflective jacket stuck her head through the window and thrust a card at me. “Thank you for taking the time to provide Transport for London with this important information,” it read. Eh? Transport for London? What information? Since when do the police pull you over so you can have a chat with TfL? According to a spokesperson for TfL, the police are present simply to make sure the traffic flows smoothly....TfL later said, as if this made it better, that it only uses off-duty policemen. But why are off-duty policemen impersonating on-duty ones? And to assist TfL? When I queried this, the surveyor got stroppy. “The police have the authority to pull you over,” she snapped. True, but that's not the point. When pushed, she admitted that I didn't have to answer their questions (so I didn't), but how many people are going to make a fuss?
How many are going to feel cowed, obediently answer yes and no, and end up as a statistic backing some TfL “multi-modal transport” proposal? What wouldn't pollsters and market researchers give to have the might of the police at their disposal?
If Transport for London wants to ask me something, it can call me, or write to me, and I may or may not tell it; using the police in a crude attempt to force me is disgraceful. As for the police, whose power to stop people from going about their lawful business is an awesome one, they should be ashamed of themselves for using it to help TfL to tick boxes. And if they really are off-duty, they've got some explaining to do.
Last time I was stopped for one of these surveys the surveyor got angry and tried to put me down as a non-answerer just because she didn't believe my answers - why wouldn't I be going from Glasgow to Inverness along the A4, I like taking the scenic route. I got angry back and told her she had to record my answer, and then the policeman suggested I might like to be on my way....