Tensions on the River Cam rise as officials request stab vests

Ashley Chhibber - News Reporter 25 April 2013

Fears of violence on the river as patrolling officials request extra protection.

Anyone using the River Cam, whether enjoying some summer punting in an attempt to de-stress or training furiously for a faster race time, is potentially in danger after rising tensions amongst waterway users have left some patrolling conservation officials fearing knife attacks and requesting additional protection.

Reports presented to the ‘Conservators of the River Cam’, a group which is responsible for monitoring bylaws on the river, indicate a wide range of anti-social attacks, including a spate of house-boat burglaries.

One such report disclosed that river bailiff Adrian Hoyes felt so unsafe and at risk on patrol that he “asked to be issued with a ‘stab’ vest given the increase in hostility being displayed towards staff while patrolling the riverbanks.”

City Councillor Kevin Price, worried and disappointed by the aggression faced by “a guy who is just doing his job”, called this latest measure “a sign of a sad time”.

Even students feel the direct impact of such behaviour. River manager Dr Pippa Noon warned about fraught relations on the lower Cam, writing: “A certain minority of powered craft owners take a bloody-minded attitude towards rowers, either failing to give way to them or not reducing their speed or wash when passing.”

Conflicts between rowers and other river users are not uncommon, although the rowers also do not always show perfect river etiquette. One meeting of the Conservators heard that: “A live-aboard boater complained a rowing eight came close to their vessel and one of the crew members stood up and urinated openly in front of them at breakfast time. Although “the live-aboard owner tooted the boat horn at them in objection… the crew found this very amusing.”

Ashley Chhibber – News Reporter