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The Alliston case: after the verdict

25 August, 2017 - 21:40

The previous post  has had more views than any other in our history. We have received significant support for its content in comments and on Twitter, and also – as one must expect in the age of social media – abuse and insult. Although readers will judge for themselves, it is striking how the insults have been based on a lack of evidence and – above all – misreading of what the piece was about.

So, to repudiate the insults, let’s clarify what the piece was – and more importantly was not – about. We can then move on to an assessment of where we are now after an extraordinary week.


The piece was written before the verdict in the trial of Mr Charles Alliston. This meant we could not legally comment on whether he was guilty of the offences he was charged with. One accusation made on twitter ( from Richard Williams‏ @richw1986 ) was that “Moreover – my point is more that by trying to defend a guy who doesn’t deserve it you’re not encouraging sympathy toward cyclists who do imo”. As I replied, “There is not one single thing in my piece which tries to defend him or his actions.”

 

What we said

The essence of the piece was as follows: along with other colleagues in the transport and road safety fields, we were struck by the way that a pedestrian death, unlike the 99.4% that don’t involve a cyclist, had caught the attention of the media and also a manslaughter charge. For some of our colleagues, like the officers in West Midlands Police

If only every road death had this much media coverage….our roads might be safer as a result.

I wanted to go further than voicing such a sentiment, by analysing why this has happened. My argument was, and is, that we see significant double standards applied here. Their use is based on a failure – or refusal – on the part of the media, the legal system, and our culture at large to recognise road danger as a serious social problem. Were it to do so, and apply the same focus to other pedestrian deaths as in the Alliston case, we would have:
• massive media concern,
• higher chances of prosecution,
• more serious charges brought,
• higher chances of securing guilty verdicts (with juries less likely to identify with errant drivers)
• and far more serious punishment
in the 99.4% of cases of pedestrian deaths where motorists and motorcyclists are involved.

The reason for stating this is not vindictiveness. Indeed, the point of drawing attention to the double standards is to focus on what happens before such deaths occur. Our aim is to move towards proper social concern for behaviour with a potential to endanger others, in order to avoid deaths and injuries. This is likely to involve far more law enforcement, and penalties of a minor nature for errant behaviour prior to crashes, as well as highway and vehicle engineering designed to protect the more vulnerable road users. But whatever the measures to be taken, the point is to return our attention to the principal source of danger on the road – and the fact that it has never really been taken with proper seriousness.

To a large extent this simply means viewing safety on the road with, to take a rough example, the sort of rigour to be found in places governed by Health and Safety at Work – hardly a very radical objective. But it would require a massive change in the dominant attitudes towards motor vehicle use, opposing the current acceptance of endemic rule and law breaking by drivers. Indeed, it is precisely because of this tolerance of what to us is intolerable that we have had the focus on the exceptional case of a cyclist causing a pedestrian death.

Only a bigot or anybody who hadn’t read the post could fail to see that argument and that we were in no way exempting Alliston from responsibility.

We also voiced a concern that cyclists as an “out-group” were being lumped together and targeted with negative stereotyping and stigma – with a dangerous propensity to increase already intolerable danger to them. Why – particularly when there had been no guilty verdict – should this mean we were excusing bad cycling or that we were supposedly and wrongly “speaking for cyclists”?

The widower of Kim Briggs, Mr Matthew Briggs, while calling for changes in the law to incorporate “causing death by dangerous cycling”, made it absolutely clear that he was not targeting all cyclists. Regrettably, numerous commentators (ab)using the tragedy of the loss of his wife were not so civilised. We have had the spectacle of abuse of all cyclists, from the convicted drink driver Andy Kershaw, through a grandstanding MP mouthing half-baked insults, to the extraordinary spectacle of the grotesque “Mr Loophole” attacking the “epidemic” of cycling.

The misconstruing of what we said is but a part of the wave of prejudice we have witnessed. Indeed, our prediction that this episode would be about diverting attention away from abuse of motor vehicles on to a vulnerable out group appears to have been at least partly fulfilled.

Finally, the disgusting suggestion was made that we had no sympathy for the loved ones of Mrs Briggs. Anybody aware of the work of myself as Chair and other members and supporters of Road Danger Reduction Forum know the work we have done, particularly in co-ordination with our friends in RoadPeace, to support road crash victims. Above all, our professional and voluntary work is based on making life safer for road users, particularly pedestrians.

Mr. Briggs, in his comments on his aims for the future, has talked about his objective of avoiding other families having to go what his has done. The obvious thrust of the previous post, and of all the work of the RDRF, is that we want incidents involving pedestrian death to be taken more seriously, and that the behaviours leading up to them are reduced, with those responsible for them held accountable.

This seems to us to be the best way to recognise the death of Mrs Briggs. It will work for others in her position to be protected from road danger, and for when it does result in injury or death, to be properly treated by society

After the verdict: what we do think

It’s worth reading this  analysis of the case, this piece  and in particular the detailed exposure of double standards involved here.

However, unlike in this last article, we don’t want to dwell on issues around the evidence on matters such as stopping distances. We accept the verdict and see it as our job to press ahead for reduced danger on the roads. When asked on BBC Radio London if we would accept cyclists coming under legislation relating to deaths caused by dangerous or careless driving, I said yes. We have always wanted all people endangering others to come under the operation of the law; however they are getting about (although we would be circumspect about potentially criminalising pedestrians with some sort of “jay walking” legislation).

So we support the statement by Cycling UK, which is worth reading carefully:

Ducan Dollimore, Cycling UK Head of Advocacy and Campaigns said:

Riding a fixed wheel bicycle on busy roads without a front brake is illegal, stupid, and endangers other road users especially pedestrians. Charlie Alliston’s actions had tragic consequences for Kim Briggs’ family, and it was entirely right that this led to his prosecution.

“The fact that he has been convicted of an offence dating back to legislation from 1861, drafted in archaic language, will doubtless lead some to argue that the laws on irresponsible cycling should be aligned with the laws on irresponsible driving. The reality is that the way in which the justice system deals with mistakes, carelessness, recklessness and deliberately dangerous behaviour by all road users has long been in need of review.

“In 2014 the Government acknowledged this when announcing a full review of all motoring offences and penalties, but then waited three years to launch a limited consultation last year which closed six months ago, with silence ever since.

“To ensure that there is consistency with charging decisions, and with how dangerous behaviour on or roads is dealt with, it is vital that the Government ends the delay, and gets on with the wide scale review that politicians from all sides, victims’ families and various roads safety organisations have tirelessly demanded.”

 

In a similar vein, LCC issued a statement:

So let’s note and celebrate that it’s the cycling organisations that are making a commitment towards reducing the danger presented to pedestrians. This involves pushing for a legal framework which will make it more likely that those responsible for road deaths (and injuries) are more likely to be charged, to be charged with an offence that reflects the seriousness of their behaviour, and to be more likely to found guilty and receive a sentence commensurate with the actual and potential damage that their actions have caused. We have been supporting the campaigning objectives that Cycling UK describe above, and see it as a key feature of road danger reduction.

By contrast, the official “road safety” industry has been conspicuous by its absence in the media storm of the last few days. Of course, so too have the official motoring organisations. (And anyway, can you imagine them being required to issue statements on the responsibilities of motorists after a road death caused by a driver?)

So we shouldn’t need to repeat this, but suspect we may have to, so here goes: The RDRF, along with the rest of the road danger reduction movement, is and has been working since its inception for a much enhanced system of enforcement and sentencing governing the behaviours of road users which potentially threaten others. The attentions of this system will include others such as cyclists, but because of their smaller numbers, and more importantly because of their lower weight and speed and thus destructive potential, will form a small part of its overall focus. This focus will prioritise those with the greatest lethal potential, namely the drivers and riders of motor vehicles.

To illustrate the task we have, let’s look again at a case which was heard in an adjacent court at the same time as when the Alliston case was heard.

 

The case of Jessica Wells   Photo: Daily Mail

According to the Daily Mail,22 year old Wells was riding her motorbike at 44 mph in a 30 mph area “weaving in and out of traffic”, overtaking a lorry and undertaking a learner driver moments before hitting and killing 80 year-old Ian Rose as he got off a bus. Ms Wells had noticed a speed camera and checked her dashboard in a way which distracted her at the moment of collision. (It may be of interest that both prosecution and the media report highlight this last fact, possibly implying that the speed camera was a problem. Maybe that is being too cynical.)

Wells was given a suspended sentence, with the judge pointing out that she had shown remorse, was aware that she taken a life (“a fact you will have to live with for the rest of your life”) and that it was “clear…that you are a sympathetic and compassionate young woman”.
Comparison with the Alliston case, which was being heard in an adjacent court at the same time, is instructive. Despite her behaviour being far more potentially lethal, there was a lower charge (causing death by careless driving as against manslaughter), what is likely to be a lower sentence, and – above all – far less media attention. Some of this can be put down to the contrast between the personalities involved, with one being sympathetic, the other (to put it mildly) unsympathetic. Some of it is due to a willingness to show remorse – although I’m not sure this should weigh that heavily when it comes to the severity of the collisions.

The point from this and many other comparisons is that double standards rule in a way which diminishes the prospects of serious commitment to tackle danger on the roads to the detriment of its actual and potential victims in the future.

 

Any hope?

All of this leaves us, as I concluded in the previous post, with an awareness of bleakness of the prospects facing people in the road danger reduction movement for a civilised approach to road danger.

Nevertheless, there are positive signs. There has been plenty of much needed mutual support voiced on social media. There have been thoughtful and well-crafted posts, threads and comments. (I modestly hope these pieces are part of that).

It also shows that safety on the road is not about abstract engineering or policing projects. It is about questioning the unquestioned, criticising an uncriticised status quo. It means addressing a culture where drivers are supported in the “rights” to drive where, when, why and above all how they want. That’s an important lesson to learn.

Since the early days of motoring – albeit with notable resistance from time to time – drivers have endangered others and largely got away with it. All we are seeing now is an outburst of the continued refusal to accept responsibility and deflect attention on to a (relatively) minor type of danger coming from a politically powerless out group. There is no reason to see the events of the last week as a particularly downward turn just because of a greater number than usual of bigots crawling out of the woodwork.

So we carry on. One last repetition: Carrying on the struggle seems to us the best way to recognise the death of Mrs Briggs. It will work for others in her position to be protected from road danger, and for when it does result in injury or death, to be properly treated by society.

 

 


Categories: Views

The Charlie Alliston case: the real story

21 August, 2017 - 16:08

Over the last week there has been front page coverage of the case of one Charlie Alliston, who hit pedestrian Kim Briggs in central London in a collision resulting in her death. . Naturally it is unlawful and wrong to cycle with one rather than two effective braking systems, and we will accept the verdict of the court when it comes later today. But for me the real story here is not what happened on a central London street in February 2016.


The Karol Michta case

The week before the front page coverage I was reading page 11 of a local paper, the Ealing Gazette (July 21st 2017), to see “Driver spared jail despite killing man while speeding”. Here we learn:

A student who hit a pedestrian so hard with his sports car that the man was thrown 150 feet has been spared jail after the court was told he was suffering “survivor’s guilt”.

In this case:
• Student Karol Michta had pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving while travelling at 61 mph within a 40 mph speed limit.
• His sentencing was adjourned for five months so that he could complete his degree.
• A psychiatrist had diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder and moderate depression, described by his solicitor as “survivor’s guilt”.
• Michta had swerved into the middle lane from the fast lane , recorded travelling at 61 mph, trying to keep up with another car, with one witness saying at the time: “look how fast he’s driving: idiot”.
• The judge stated that Michta did not see Henrik Luszcz until just before the point of impact: if he had been travelling within the speed limit he would have been able to brake and take evasive action earlier.
Judge Anthony Morris gave Michta a suspended prison sentence (along with 250 hours unpaid work and a “20-day rehabilitation activity” and a fine)because of his age, his psychiatric problems (brought on by him having killed Luszcz) and “the circumstances of the accident”.

You may wish to consider whether “accident” in this case is an appropriate term. What the judge meant by this phrase was apparently that he thought the road layout was not ideal. “Mr Luscz cannot be criticised for doing so, but this was not a safe place to cross such a major road and some sort of steps ought to be taken to at least move the bus stop nearer the lights”.

I would make the following points about this case:
1. It receives coverage in a local newspaper as opposed to the front page national coverage in the Alliston case.
2. The charge relating to car driven at 61 mph in a 40 mph limit, as opposed to a bicycle at about 18 mph, is “causing death by dangerous driving” as opposed to manslaughter.
3. The behaviour involved – speeding – is commonplace, with about 40 – 50% of drivers breaking the 30 mph limit when conditions allow, and a majority admitting breaking the limit. Press coverage in the tabloids tends to be critical of measures to control speeds, particularly speed cameras, whereas cyclists – as a group with anybody who ever cycles included – will be subject to criticism.
4. The killer driver was excused custody because of:
(a) His age – although his age is that of a high risk driver group, namely the under 25s.
(b) His mental state, which was brought on by him having been responsible for the incident in the first place. You may wish to note the phrase “survivor’s guilt” used by his barrister. Historically this has been used for the survivors of disasters and wars. Here it is used to refer to someone traumatised by having killed someone through his violent behaviour .
(c) The road layout and the victim’s behaviour is highlighted. Although the judge states that “Mr Luszcz cannot be criticised”, in effect that is what happens – or at least the perpetrator has his responsibility further reduced.
5. The key issue for us is reducing danger on the roads, which means reducing the instances of driver behaviour such as that described in the case, essentially feeling the need to keep up with another speeding driver. Nothing is said about the other speeding driver in this case. Indeed, speeding behaviour can be seen on the roads as a matter of course. As pointed out above, it is illegal behaviour which has become largely – although not by all of us – socially acceptable. It could be controlled by cameras and/or on-board speed governors. It could be prevented, but it is not.

This is not a particularly unusual case. Above all, apart from what many of us would think was lenience towards the driver; we have the issue of lack of media concern compared to the Alliston case.

Let’s look briefly at two other recent court cases where the lesser charge of causing death through careless driving (never mind manslaughter) was brought.

 

Two other pedestrian deaths

Farnham, Surrey .
In this case the driver said that he only saw a person’s head above a line of parked cars (along Lower Weybourne Lane) but that it had never occurred to him that the individual would step out into the road in front of his vehicle.

Norwich In this case the driver commented “In the city people cross in front of you all the time. And 99 times out of 100 if they don’t have enough time they will stop.”

I find the stated views of the drivers (both driving for a living) interesting. In the first “it had never occurred” to the driver that someone on the pavement would want to cross the road. In the second case the minority of pedestrians (calculated at 1 in a 100) that don’t stop presumably deserve to be hit.

In both cases the drivers were found not guilty. So even with a much lesser charge, and potential penalties, than manslaughter, there are still issues about getting a guilty verdict.
These are two recent cases taken at random from the local press where they have received a small amount of coverage. They are not scientifically gathered, but do illustrate the relative lack of public concern with pedestrian deaths normally compared to the Alliston case.

One could go further. For example, last week I heard the case of a pedestrian death at inquest where my colleague assessed legal fault as likely to be with the driver of a motor vehicle – however the police had decided not to pass the papers on to the Crown Prosecution Service and bring the case to trial. Many cases do not involve a trial, even for the lowest charges, despite evidence to suggest at least an element of driver guilt.

With regard to the Metropolitan Police Service, we had the high profile case of the death of Michael Mason, where the MPS failed to pass papers on to the Crown prosecution Service despite the judge in the ensuing private prosecution saying that there was a case to be answered. Again, compare with the Alliston case.

Let’s get more scientific by looking at the overarching issue: what other road users are involved in collisions where pedestrians die?

 

How do pedestrians die?

Here I am indebted to Bez of Beyond the Kerb  for his analysis of the last eleven years for which we have figures. From 2005 to 2015 5525 pedestrians died on Britain’s roads in “road traffic collisions”. In these cases, where the sole other vehicle involved was a bicycle, 31 died:  0.561% of the total. These are the figures as officially collected. For example, if the pedestrian dies after one month, as is often the case, the death counts as “Serious Injury” instead. I have no reason to assume that cases where cyclists are involved are more or less likely to fall into this category. The figures on deaths are about the most reliable of all road traffic collision casualty figures, so I’ll go with them.

Now, it may be argued that in cases where bicyclists are involved, the cyclist is more likely to be legally responsible than the driver of a motor vehicle. The best way we can assess this is to look at in-depth analysis of court cases and verdicts. However these seem to have a great degree of variation in how verdicts are reached and certainly with severity of sentencing. We can look at Contributory Factors (CFs) listed by police attending the scene, which imply a degree of fault. In the cases of pedestrian deaths over the time period studies, we have 25/45 CFs (55%) being pedestrian fault. This analysis, although open to criticism, does not indicate that cyclists are more likely than drivers to be responsible for collisions where they are involved in hitting pedestrian who dies.

 

So – why…?

This has been a weird time for professionals working in the area of road safety. We find ourselves concerned with a daily toll of people killed on the roads with court cases receiving minor coverage in the press, particularly with pedestrians killed in typical road crashes. Of course, this is highly variable, with some of the more extreme cases – such as those with multiple deaths and extreme bad driving – gaining coverage. And some local papers such as the London Evening Standard have been covering road crashes more often.

But the dominant fact is that when drivers kill pedestrians in “normal” circumstances, we are presented with little coverage. We also see charges far lower than manslaughter (or none at all); we see acquittal often on spurious grounds; and we see low penalties when conviction is secured. But when a CYCLIST is involved…

And that for us is the real story behind the Alliston case. When we finally get public concern and outrage from the media it is for something which – whatever its specific circumstances and severity – is above all NOT what is involved in 99.4% of cases where pedestrians die in road crashes.

 

…and does it matter?

I think this matters a great deal. Some colleagues have simply argued that it would be good if we could get this kind of coverage for more typical crashes. As our colleagues in West Midlands Police tweeted:

 If only every road death had this much media coverage….our roads might be safer as a result.

I think there is a deep and important issue here. One commenter on social media has suggested that this is simply a “man bites dog” story: it is just a case of something so unusual that it merits unusual attention.

I don’t think it is. I think it is a case of a persistent and profound refusal of this society to take road danger seriously, and specifically to exonerate and accept danger from motor vehicles and those responsible for how they are used. While this road danger can and does involve engineers of highways and motor vehicles, and a transport industry and politicians responsible for how we get about in the first place, it necessarily involves – at least largely – the responsibilities of motor vehicle drivers.

So for the road danger reduction movement the media coverage of this case is a matter of deep interest and concern.

In the first instance there is all the negative stereotyping of cyclists beloved by all too many commentators. Focusing on one errant cyclist is a key to tarring all cyclists with a brush of danger. In a context where it can be easy for a typical, let alone a particularly bad, driver to endanger a cyclist, I think that such negative ideas have an all too destructive potential. (On this point you can read the chapter on cyclist hatred in Peter Walker’s book .)

More importantly, this is a manifestation of a culture where motor danger is simply not seen as the problem we in the road danger reduction movement think it is. We’ll comment further when the verdict is given. But for now the indicators from this episode for road danger reduction, and the prospects for a civilised society which takes road danger seriously, are not good.


Categories: Views

Another case of bias on BBC Radio 4

18 August, 2017 - 14:07

Earlier this month there was a fuss when the BBC was accused of bias over attempting to “achieve balance” by inviting a climate change sceptic to appear opposite a climate scientist  Today’s example on BBC Radio 4 World at One was, in my opinion, at least if not more egregious.


The so-called “debate” involved “motoring journalist” Quentin Willson, who fronts the “Fair Fuel” campaign with the road haulage association. This campaign has effectively pressured government to freeze the minimal increases in fuel tax through the fuel tax accelerator. Key features of this campaign are avoiding admitting the extent of what conventional economists call “external costs” of motoring, which exceed the amount of money raised through fuel and other forms of taxation. (For further discussion see this and how motoring has been getting cheaper while other costs of living have increased ).

The “debate” was based on the fact that the proportion of revenue raised by the government from motoring taxation – a tiny 5% – is forecast to decline with electric cars coming on stream. Willson kicked off with the ludicrous assertion that “the greens” are owning the debate on motoring taxation , and – even more bizarre – that London Mayor Sadiq Khan is planning to ban cars altogether. (This presumably refers to very vague suggestions in the draft Mayor’s Transport Strategy that road charging may be considered as an option for controlling congestion).

Now it is fair that Mr Willson should be allowed to give his views on this subject. But a supposed public service broadcaster should give an opposing view which would point out, for example, that drivers do not pay their way (insofar as costs of danger, pollution, and other numerous public health and environmental problems can be paid for). Surely someone could have been found to argue for a more robust approach to problems from current, let alone increased, levels of car use rather than the mild version of road pricing suggested by Willson?

But no. The opposition to Willson came from – wait for it – the extremist pro-more motoring Alliance of British Drivers!

I must admit to not bothering to listen to this person’s views in detail. I did catch a bit of the usual whinging about how all motoring “taxation” (I think it’s just paying a small amount towards covering the costs they incur) should be spent on more roads, presumably for more cars. I also caught what appeared to be a complaint that electronic tracking for road pricing might be used to track drivers travelling at illegal speeds, and he seemed to be worried about that.

But I really wasn’t listening. Because the point is that the BBC shouldn’t be having this ludicrous bias, and that’s the news that counts.


Categories: Views

Close passing policing starts up in London

21 July, 2017 - 18:53

The main RDRF activity this year has been supporting the roll out of police operations targeting close passing of cyclists and related behaviours. Today we were pleased to attend and support the launch of the Met’s initiative in this kind of law enforcement, called “Space for Cyclists”, in south London.

RDRF Chair Dr Robert Davis with Duncan Dollimore of CyclingUK and Sgt. Andy Osborne of the Met’s Cycle Safety Team

Readers of http://www.rdrf.org.uk will know why we support close passing policing: it addresses danger at source, and it regards intimidatory behaviour as a police matter whether or not a casualty results (although close passing is associated with the main kinds of manoeuvre which result in cyclist Killed and Seriously Injured casualties). It can be extended into other forms of policing addressing danger at source. In London, there is a timely link with the persistent reference to the phrase “road danger reduction” in the Mayor of London’s draft Transport Strategy .

In London the strategy originates in the MPS’ Cycle Safety Team – the UK’s only bicycle based traffic police team. (For a look at how it has developed and the approach behind it, see Laura Laker’s report on the pilot here)

The Metropolitan Police Service’s Cycle Safety Team at the launch today The launch of “Space for Cyclists”

For the launch today, see the account in today’s Press Release from the Met:

“We can’t be everywhere, but we could be anywhere,” said Sergeant Andy Osborne from the Met’s Cycle Safety Team of their new tactic to improve cyclist and driver safety, which has launched today, Friday, 21 July.

Cycle Safety Team officers from the Met’s Roads and Transport Policing Command will go to any location, at any time, on any borough, based on intelligence and complaints, to ensure drivers properly obey the rules of the road.

The officers will now be working be in plain clothes, wearing video cameras and riding unmarked bicycles donated by BMW, to identify and deal with the offences that most deter people from cycling:
o Unsafe following (tailgating)
o Unsafe overtaking (close passes)
o Unsafe turning (left or right turns across the cyclists path)

If officers encounter a driver committing any of these offences, they will identify them to a nearby, marked police motorcycle rider who will stop and engage with them.

In line with any police roadside stop, the driver will be required to provide evidence of insurance, a driving licence, pass a roadside eyesight test and have their vehicle checked for roadworthiness.

The driver will be reminded (through a short presentation) of the Highway Code rules regarding the offences and the standard of driving that they should reasonably be expected to attain (in particular, rules 126, 163 and 179,180 & 182).

Professional drivers, especially those subject to certificate of professional competence requirements, and those who display examples of particularly bad driving will not be offered the roadside engagement and will be reported in the usual way, which may lead to a court appearance.

Thanks to the support of Havebike and London Cycling Campaign, 2000 car stickers with the words ‘I give space for cyclists’ will be given to motorists on the day and at Exchanging Places events to remove perceived pressure on the driver from cars that might be following very closely.

Sergeant Andy Osborne, Cycle Safety Team, said: “We want all road users to obey the Highway Code. This tactic is about education and encouraging motorists who do not comply with the rules of the road to start doing so – for everyone’s safety and protection – theirs included.

“There is a lot of traffic in the capital and we all need to share the roads and be mindful of other road users. In its simplest form, it’s about being courteous to one another.

“By all road users obeying the Highway Code, collectively we can help lessen incidents of people being killed or seriously injured on the roads.”

Will Norman, London’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner, said: “We know that safety concerns are one of the biggest barriers to cycling in London. That’s why we’re working hard to build high-quality safe routes to encourage even more people to cycle, and why I’m so pleased to see the Met tackling some of the dangers that we see on our roads.”

Lord Berkeley, The president of the Road Danger Reduction Forum, said:

“The Road Danger Reduction Forum was pleased to support West Midlands Police when they initiated the policing of close passing of cyclists last year. We are very glad to see another initiative in the same spirit being pursued by the Metropolitan Police, and look forward to seeing it being rolled out across London.”

Ashok Sinha, Chief Executive, London Cycling Campaign said: “Drivers passing too close is terrifying and off-putting to people cycling. Most people cite road danger and near misses as major reasons why they don’t cycle. The Highway Code requires drivers give safe space to cyclists when overtaking. This welcome operation on close passes will send a message to drivers in London to obey the Highway Code and stay wider of the rider.”

First results and iceberg tips

During the time we were there six drivers were pulled over for their bit of education. Right from the beginning we got a glimpse of how close passing is often only the tip of an iceberg of rule and law breaking: the first one was found to have no licence, 3rd party insurance, or vehicle excise duty paid. This reminds me of the accounts of traffic police like the tweets from West Midlands Police on @Trafficwmp – so much traffic policing involves picking up drivers who have failed in the basic legal obligations, as well as often being involved in non-traffic types of crime.

Indeed this seems to raise an important point: although the most obvious forms of law breaking need to be addressed, it is crucial to remember that we mustn’t allow them to serve as “lightning conductors” diverting attention away from the central fact. And that is that most rule and law breaking which endangers others is done by more mainstream and “normal” drivers. As a classic case: drink-driving has to be targeted, but don’t forget that the overwhelming majority of behaviours – 95%? – endangering others on the road are those of the sober driver.

 

The next steps

In partnership with West Midlands Police, RDRF will be running a training day in September for police forces in the UK on recent developments in close passing policing We think that there is a lot to be gained from having a training day: we need to share the experiences of those Police Services that have been doing this kind of policing, looking at issues such as:
• Numbers of stops
• Proportion involving prosecution, and for which offence
• Proportion/numbers of stops that lead to “chats on a mat” and similar educational processes
• Not Guilty pleas
• Use of different kinds of visual aid such as mats
• Numbers of officers used in operations
• Use of non-police staff for education, such as fire fighters, army personnel etc.
• Experience of collection of 3rd party video footage.
• Extension into intimidatory driving re-pedestrians
• Etc…

We are hoping to showcase the latest from West Midlands Police; the new initiative about to start by the Met, and the experience CyclingUK have had with their mat initiative.
My – very strong! – feeling is that we need to keep the momentum up. Our concern is that not enough police services are carrying out this kind of policing. Also we worry that there are other issues about policing as it affects cyclists and pedestrians in particular which need consideration.

Watch this space…

An interview with London Live

 


Categories: Views