Why cyclists really do need the police to step up

Cyclists know that the police are stretched and that Bobbies are hardly ever seen on cycles these days but police forces across the UK turning what amounts to a blind eye to the antics of some drivers is unforgiveable. Sadly, it seems dangerous drivers who put cyclists at risk are only really tackled when they have done some harm rather than them being targeted when seen driving dangerously near a cyclist.

The link below from Cycling UK is about using video evidence to help prosecute dangerous drivers but whilst being quite specific sadly it shows how UK police forces are reluctant to take dangerous drivers to task when they threaten the safety of cyclists:-

www.cyclinguk.org/article/roads-policing-review-failures-video-evidence

And sadly as if we needed reminding why the safety of cyclists needs to be a priority the Liverpool Echo put this article on its website only yesterday.

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/woman-cyclist-critical-condition-after-19006592

Let’s hope the injured woman survives and gets well again but let’s also not forget that a cyclist (a retired policeman) was killed on Wood Ln/Causeway Ln in Great Altcar only weeks ago as was former Melling Parish Councillor Alison Doyle a couple of years ago in Aughton’s Bold Lane. That’s 3 serious road accidents involving cyclists in a small geographic area and there will be others with non-life threatening consequences that go unreported. I blogged about Alison’s accident at the time:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/08/20/aughton-fatal-accident-on-bold-lane/

Speeding and close passing of cyclists are often the cause of such accidents that’s why it looks like the Highway Code is about to be changed to say that at 30mph drivers should give 1.5m of space when overtaking a cyclist. Another related issue is drivers overtaking cyclists who then see vehicles coming towards them on the other carriageway. Their reaction is to swerve back into their lane as though the cyclist whom they are overtaking has just vanished! If pulling a caravan or trailer this can hit the cyclist but even a car on its own swerving back into the lane can have a similar consequences. The massage is don’t overtake a cyclist if you’ve not got room to do it safely. Anything else is not unfortunate its dangerous driving!!!

Some drivers, a very small minority, don’t only drive dangerously around cyclists but they do it deliberately to intimidate them. I’ve been shouted at to ‘get off the road’, I’ve been all but run off the road by drivers passing within a coat of paint of my handle bars. I’ve even had drivers overtaking me and then slamming on their brakes! I’m told that some drivers hate cyclists, well if they do they really shouldn’t have a driving licence should they.

I’m a driver myself although I try to use my car as little as possible for environmental reasons on short journeys. And yes of course there are terrible cyclists out there swerving in out out of traffic, jumping red lights, riding on pavements etc. I saw one near Meols Cop Station a couple of days ago in Southport. But of course it’s probably the case that a poor driver is also a poor cyclist.

All we want is UK police forces to target bad drivers far more than they do and yes persecute the illegal cyclists too; I don’t have a problem with that. And remember the dangerous driver that knocks a cyclist off may well hit a pedestrian or crash into your car; they’re not just bad drivers around cyclists.

My thanks to Andrew Blackburn for the lead to this posting

3 thoughts on “Why cyclists really do need the police to step up

  1. Bob Jungels says:

    Excellent post, Tony. Some interesting points worth also raising in your local paper. Why? Because people need educating. We all do. Education never stops. Most drivers think that once they pass, that’s it. To hell with everything I’ve learnt. I know how to drive, so what more do I need to learn?

    Well, for a start, when learning to drive, how many times do you come to pass a cyclist? How well is it taught if the unlikely event arises? Driving is about more than just technique and reading road signs. One of the most important skills of good driving is good etiquette. For some people, this doesn’t need to be taught per se, because a good driver knows how they are the ‘big ship’ in comparison to a ‘rowing boat’ such as a pedestrian or cyclist. As such, you automatically back off your pedal and allow the ‘small boat’ ample room to cross, or to pass them.

    Sadly, in a dog-eat-dog world of meatheads in sports cars, angry white van men, arrogant tractor drivers who think they own the roads because they own the land, and plain, stupid bad drivers who are in a world of their own, etiquette doesn’t mean anything any more. The nationwide view of cyclists being “pests” is well cemented by now. The job is complete. Exactly the same way that Socialism has been trampled on and rejected by all politicians and the media. The job is complete. Thus, fighting for better cycling infrastructure is a constant swim against the tide.

    One of the most fascinating observations to come out of my trip to France last summer was the respect that cyclists are afforded by drivers in a ’50-50′ situation, such as where a cycle path (i.e. the Cheshire Lines) meets a road, like a level crossing. The cycle path has complete right of way. The driver must stop and give way. That’s the legal bit. The interesting bit was how, upon approaching the ‘cross-roads’, even as far back as 50m or so, drivers – from a similar distance out – would never accelerate to get there first. They would *always* back off, way in advance, in order to allow you to continue riding continuously and safely. For a British person, this really is quite a unique sight. Flattering, even! And yet, in French culture, this behaviour is normal. It’s not something that has to be beaten into people, or to be reminded about when faced with a “speed awareness course”. Even then, how much time is afforded to etiquette and pedestrians/cyclists?

    The over-taking issue is an interesting one too, because, personally, since lockdown, I haven’t just witnessed a massive drop in driver standards, but standards of over-taking cyclists has all but vanished completely. It’s as if all respect has gone out the window, and we are now officially in the world of Mad Max. Anything goes.
    But over-taking isn’t just about distance. It’s about speed. As soon as you get out of the suburbs, the national speed limit kicks in. Almost all rural roads are 60mph. Which is absolutely insane when you think about it.
    How can it be fair that a 10-ton truck can be allowed to hurtle past a 6 year old girl on a trike at 60mph? But this is what our road system facilitates. People *can* drive at 60mph, so they *will*. Moreover, as there are no police to enforce the limit, if people can get away 70mph on a long, straight road, such as one of the many between West Lancs and Southport, then they absolutely will. Likewise the road to Formby, which as you rightly point out, witnessed a car-cyclist murder only a couple of months ago, with barely a footnote in a local newspaper. No outrage, no backlash. No calls for road safety justice. Nothing to see here. Everyone carry on as they are.

    And this is the way it is on our roads at the moment. No respect, but crucially, no perspective.

    I say ‘perspective’, because every time this subject is aired in public, such as a pig-ignorant Facebook ‘community group’, the amount of anti-cyclist bile on soon snowballs and eventually drowns out all reasoned debate.
    “Jumping red lights”. Myth. I never, *ever* see this. I drive, I ride. I walk. Sorry.
    “Riding on pavements”. Why? Because roads are too dangerous? Has it ever occurred to you this may be why?
    “Don’t pay road tax”. Myth. It doesn’t exist.
    “Ride 3 abreast”. Myth. Besides, 2 abreast is perfectly legal and safe.
    What else… oh I’m sure there are many more myths.

    The point is this: bicycles, as moving weapons, do not cause death. And very rarely serious injury. 1 per year, max? Even then, dig a little deeper, and you’ll find the most extraordinary circumstances, such as a cyclist descending down a hill into a pedestrian with headphones on. Similar tragedies can happen with cars too, I am aware, but the point is, if you’re at the wheel of a ship, your responsibility is exponential. You’re responsible not just for your own/passengers’ safety, but you must respect the waters and all of its users. Roads are there for everyone to use. We should be grateful we have cars and that we can drive, but we must respect how dangerous they can be if not driven with due care, and we must *always* consider our size, weight and speed.

    Most drivers don’t cycle, so how can they ever experience the intimidation of a squadron of motorbikers hurtling past you in excess of 100mph? This really has happened to me before, in the Pimbo Ind Estate, and I duly reported it to police (with no follow-up, of course), but what would the bikers care? What does a white van man care? What does a chav in a sports car care? A Kim Kardashian doll too busy looking at her Instagram page instead of concentrating on the road?

    Look. The only way this behaviour can be changed is through tougher driving standards, a return to pre-2010 police numbers, with a significant emphasis on traffic enforcement, serious investment in traffic calming infrastructure (speed cameras, speed bumps, modal filters), and from a cycling and walking perspective: *Segregation*.

    Look at *how* The Netherlands works. Don’t just sit there from afar and admire! *Understand* how their road system works, and how cyclists are almost *always* kept apart from cars and pedestrians. And when cars/bikes do have to mix, take a look at how their street layout functions. The calming measures. The surface. The widths.
    There’s no magic formula for this. The Dutch have transformed their transport network through foresight, vision, expertise, logic and by being bold. Nothing is piecemeal there. Everything is connected. Every cycle lane has a purpose, not just a dead end or a bit of crappy shared use footway to the side of the road.

    As ever, we need to keep the pressure on our local Councillors, MPs and Transport Planners. We need to keep raising this issue up the agenda, because if we don’t, it will fall back into the shadows, where it has pretty much been since…. well, has it ever been on the national agenda?

  2. Phil Holden says:

    Good blog Tony and I agree with nearly everything Bob says. But I still feel 2 abreast (which I DO see) is inconsiderate on the road and positively taking the micky when right alongside a totally vacant cycle track. And yes I’ve seen that too. So maybe standards of cycling etiquette have also slipped. Your point that there are simply inconsiderate road users, whether travelling by foot, bike or car is, I suspect, spot on.

    • Bob Jungels says:

      Phil, a quick reminder, riding 2 abreast – which I duly miss since lockdown because of the vulnerability of riding solo – is perfectly legal, and in most cases, provides the most amount of safety for cyclists. Likewise, when riding as part of a group, it is far more space efficient to be riding in two rows of 5 compared to a strung out line of 10 riders. It is more difficult for a car to overtake 10 riders than 5.
      So no, riding abreast is not inconsiderate, even when next to a totally vacant track. The cycle track (remind me how many there are in Sefton and West Lancs again?! Please don’t make me laugh!) makes no legal difference to whether a cyclist can/should ride on the carriageway or not. At the end of the day, roads are spaces for us to move about in. For millennia they have been used for walking, and/or in conjunction with animals. Cars are still a relatively modern way of moving around, but there has never been a law introduced that explicitly says cyclists or people cannot use the road. Except for motorways.
      Why should cyclists and people be expelled from using their roads which they’ve used for centuries at the behest of the all-important, all-encompassing motor car?

      No. Perspective. Think back to my analogy to shipping. You are in the heavier, larger, most dangerous vehicle. The cyclist/pedestrian, be they on a cycle track or the road, are the lighter, small, most vulnerable user. If you can’t respect this responsibility that comes with driving, you don’t deserve to hold a licence. The roads aren’t yours. You don’t pay any more road tax than I. I.e. nothing. Nada. Our general taxes go towards maintaining roads, but of course, this also means people who don’t drive, have to subsidise the same roads you think are yours to drive as you like. The fact you can’t respect the fact that roads can be used by any user is symptomatic of the dangerous car culture we find ourselves in today. A combination of this, over-population (and subsequent car addiction) and a lack of safe cycling infrastructure.

      Your response was textbook anti-cyclist, even if you say “I cycle myself, I like cycling, I think more people should cycle”. I’ve heard it all before a thousand and one times, the same way someone starts off by saying, “I’m not a racist, but…”.

      This is exactly why I keep referring to perspective and how the transportation of ships operate, with regards to size, weight, power, and above all, safety.

      I could very easily describe the amount of times when I’ve seen some quite bizarre behaviour from cyclists, and sometimes some poor decision-making, but the fact is, they are completely out-numbered by motorists, and above all, they are the most at-risk user. Along with pedestrians of course.

      Because speeding past a pedestrian along a rural road with no pavement is perhaps one of the most inconsiderate, dangerous – and perhaps least talked about – driver behaviour traits known to man. So what is the excuse here? Pedestrians should be walking on top of the hedge? They should scale the side of the wall? How can this be excused when I see this behaviour every single day? How dare you compare this arrogant behaviour with 2 cyclists who perhaps once slowed you down by 10 seconds whilst riding next to a poorly maintained cycle track more often than not frequented by inconsiderate dog walkers with headphones in? Oh and did I mention the lack of continuity that comes with riding on our cycle tracks? All those side junctions that cyclists have to stop at? The same ones that give *absolute priority* to cyclists in the The Netherlands? Yes, those exact same side junctions.

      In short, it makes no odds how many times you see two cyclists riding abreast. Or whether they happen to be riding next to a cycle track. All you – or anyone – is trying to do here when using this argument is *distracting* from the case in point. Shifting the focus away from the real dangers at hand.
      From the lack of civility that comes with careless driving. How it breaks down communities and indeed, societies. Because that’s exactly what the Motor Revolution has done to this country. It severes communities and hamstrings people who cannot drive. People say the car is “liberating”, but try explaining this to someone under the age of 18 or who is physically/mentally incapable of driving. Or, quite simply, those who don’t want to drive (for all manner of possible reasons).
      For these people, quality public transport is what *really* liberates them. For some, the simple bicycle is what *really* liberates them.
      Both of these modes liberate *everyone*. Because if they are designed with full accessibility and built to the highest of standards, only a very small % of population therefore *need* a car to travel about.
      But how can these people every be truly liberated when we hold such disdain towards active travel and public transport? When children are brought up on a diet of “The Taxi of Mum and Dad” to take them to school, to clubs, to friends, and so on?
      The country has sleepwalked into a society that *relies* on the car. This is completely wrong. And no amount of sidestepping this issue about the very occasional dodgy cyclist can detract from it.

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