Sunday, 27 November 2016

Are the Police Simply Lazy?

Prompted by a recent case (see below) I have been watching a number of videos taken by people on bikes using Go Pros and other head mounted cameras.  (Search for "Cycle Near Miss" in YouTube to get a selection).  These videos certainly raised my adrenaline levels.  But the sad thing is that I would have to admit that pretty much every day in a life of cycling as my main transport I get a frighteningly close pass or some other event such as a left hook, or a car pulling out ignoring my presence, or a parked car opening its door, or a bus half overtaking then pulling in to stop,  etc.    And I talk to those of my friends who use cycling for their main transport and the story is the same. Thankfully, I have developed pretty good self preservation, and  I have only actually been hit once, but that nearly killed me. And it is interesting to note the number of my friends who have cycling injuries caused by third parties.  And one friend was killed.

The fact is that it is quite scary out there on Britain's roads.

Why is it scary?

Obviously one of the reasons is that our infrastructure is not good enough. The motor vehicle is king, and to not drive is seen by some as social failure. As a country we have simply not chosen to invest in cycling as a form of transport, in spite of the manifest benefits to society.  The rest of Northern Europe have a different story.  See this video to see what difference having proper space for cycles can make (and bad weather is no excuse!)

The other reason its so scary on the roads is the thoughtless and dangerous behaviour of a small percentage of people driving.  In most cases I suspect that drivers are just thoughtless.  I don't think the 75 year old who scrapes past inches away from me at 25mph is being deliberately aggressive, but nevertheless they scare the wits out if me, and they need to understand the difference between successfully missing the bike, and overtaking properly. 

But some of these people driving are deliberately being aggressive to "cyclists" (you know  -- those people who cycle on pavements, cycle without lights, slow down traffic,  cross traffic lights on red and don't pay road tax in spite of the fact that they insist on the right to have space on the road). These aggressive drivers feel justified in performing close passes if they are unable to go at the speed they want and they cannot overtake.  Some take pleasure in seeing the fright they cause - some even shout into the ear of the person on the cycle as they pass!

Is this the same in other countries?  My experience (and evidence from other cyclists) is that aggression to people on cycles is considerably less in other countries in Europe. I have no hard evidence as to why this is,  but talking to residents of other countries I suspect that the following factors are important

  1. Better education - other countries put more into educating people who do not cycle about the experience of those who do.
  2. Empathy in society.  In a country where cycling is acknowledged as a "good thing", and indeed many drivers also cycle, people driving tend to be much more tolerant. 
  3. Insurance and the Law.  In many countries, if a vehicle hits a cycle the default liability is on the driver,  and the vehicle's insurance pays regardless of fault. The extreme care with which French drivers approach any interaction with a cycle is partly explained by this.
  4. The support of the police. In the extreme, where a person driving a tonne or more of steel does behave aggressively towards a largely unprotected person on a cycle we ABSOLUTELY NEED that the police take some action against the driver - even if it is only a warning.  And this is the topic which started me writing this blog and inspired its title.
The video below was one of the near misses I watched. The cycle had a SolarStorm on, an Electron flashing away and a dynamo driven halogen lamp, and the cyclist was wearing hi-vis with lots of reflective strips. But car HY62 NUB pulls out right into the cycle forcing him into the oncoming lane.

The evidence is all here, and was handed to Hampshire Police (@HantsPolRoads). But here is the response

So what this says is

  1. We see and agree with your evidence
  2. Noone was hurt
  3. We can't be bothered when there was no actual damage.
  4. We have made a policy not to be bothered
(There is no other possible explanation for this opt out.  As discussed below, other police forces are happily prosecuting bad driving on video evidence)

This is disgraceful, and just sums up all the problems.  At the very least the police should take the video and show it to the driver, give the driver a warning and get the driver to apologise.  I had a similar beef with the Devon and Cornwall Police (@DC_Police) when a lorry full of rubble overtook @suukii on the brow of a hill  in Exeter where the road narrowed considerably.  For an agonising moment, watching from behind I could not see her at all and thought she went under the wheels.  The overtaking was completely unnecessary at that place and was appallingly dangerous driving. I had all the evidence, but Exeter police said that if no-one was hurt they could not be bothered ("Its not our policy").

BUT Something must be done.  I repeat - If a person takes responsibility for driving around a tonne or more of steel then they must be made to accept responsibility for other people, especially cyclists and pedestrians, who are naked and not clothed with a tonne of steel. Or do we have to wait till people get killed before the police will take this seriously?

Hampshire Police are not acting to make society a better place - they are acting to save themselves what would be an admittedly difficult task.  "If its difficult - don't bother".

There are police forces that are much better than Hampshire and Devon and Cornwall. Traffic police in the West Midlands say that third-party video footage has so far resulted in the prosecution of 78 motorists for passing cyclists too closely.  AND YET NO DAMAGE WAS DONE.  Well done and thanks @trafficwmp.

I'll leave you with this lovely video to remind you what a city that cares about cycling can look like.  (And note: no Lycra and almost no helmets in sight) 😀

1 comment:

  1. On 06/01/2017 Mike Andrews started a petition
    which effectively asks Hampshire Constabulary to reconsider their policy of doing nothing unless someone gets hurt. PLEASE SIGN!