I have been critical of law enforcement agencies that have failed to take any action against a driver who threatened to kill me when I was on my bicycle. Many many people (the vast majority) have been kind enough to let me know that they believe I am doing the right thing and this does certainly motivate me to keep at it.
It is though predictable that anybody who pops their head above the parapet to seek to change the established order invites criticism, some of it expressed in immoderate terms and some of it from surprising quarters. The criticism broadly falls under the following heads:
1. You are making a lot of fuss about nothing and you have lost all objectivity likening this to a threat with a gun. The threat was hollow, empty and unexecuted. Happens all the time. You escaped unharmed; get a life.
The threat was delivered pre-meditated for a period of around 10 minutes (since the incident that upset him). He drew alongside me no more than a couple of feet away on a narrow road and threatened to kill me. He had the means at his disposal to carry out his threat (to my mind the analogy with a gun or knife is apposite). He became more sheepish afterwards when, because his car was stationary and I was alongside him, he could no longer use it to harm me. This is not journalistic hyperbole, like that from Matthew Parris, which need not be taken seriously. Of course he did not actually kill me or in the event try to; if he had he would, or should, be on a murder or attempted murder charge. It is quite obviously not a defence to a charge of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour that the offender stopped short of a more serious offence.
My view is that it is time to call a halt to this type of behaviour and one important first step is to call a halt to its acceptance by police, prosecutors and apparently some cyclists. If I can play some small part in this I would be very happy to do so, as must be obvious to anyone who has read my Cycling against the Car Culture. I, too, used to live in a world of indifference to aggression of this sort. My Pauline conversion came when representing the Vesco family at the inquest into the death of their young daughter Marie, an experience I will not ever forget. There was too much indifference there on display from authorities whose job it is to protect us. I hope that the experience has turned me into an activist.
How can we expect ordinary people to take to their bicycles in the numbers which would make the world a better place if we tolerate abuse, threats and far too often real harm and even death inflicted on vulnerable road users?
If the police have the resources and inclination to hand out penalties to cyclists who cycle though Abingdon's pedestrianised high street, they surely have the resources to hand a fixed penalty for disorder to a motorist who abuses a cyclist.
2. You asked for it.
Astonishingly enough there are people on a bike chat forum who express this in various different ways. An 'expert' on riding the A315 has popped up to say there is no need to antagonise motorists by moving out from the edge of the road and that he has been passed by this same car with no drama. A triatheletes' forum is suggesting 'six of one half a dozen of the other' or 'gobby motorist v gobby cyclist'. Some have appeared to say that as they cycle around and motorists do not often threaten to kill them, it must all be my fault and point to my having a camera as further proof.
I do find it hard not to take offence at this. No bikeability instructor or knowledgeable cyclist would have any criticism of the way I was riding. (If I am wrong and you are a bikeability instructor let me know!)Furthermore motorists are not beasts on a safari park whose instincts to attack may be aroused if you do not act cautiously around them. The motorist is responsible for his actions and I am not going to ride in a position that is unsafe so as not to arouse him. As for 'gobby', am I expected to remain mute while this is going on? If not, bear in mind that the microphone is much closer to me than the motorist and when moving there is no point in saying anything at all unless I shout it. Is it really thought that the content of what I am saying is in any sense comparable to the content of what he says to me? I do not get it, and I do dislike the rush that some people make to blame the victim.
The video also demonstrates that, whatever motorists may think, they do not get to their destimation a moment later because of my presence on the road.
3. The CPS are right - there is no evidence
The same discussion on a chat forum is almost comical on this subject. Apparently those at the sharp end of the criminal justice system, who cycle, post their opinions (along with I readily concede more sensible voices) and advise each other knowingly on what evidence is, and is not, admissible (the clear admission immediately after the event that the suspect threatened to kill me is no evidence of anything in one learned opinion) and how my story has shifted over time, casting doubt on whether I was called a "f***g c**t" or a "cocky c**t", which means the case would surely be thrown out (neglecting to notice that those words are actually quite clear on the video). My evidence as to what was said when the car drew alongside is also pronounced to be worthless (the fact I repeated the words into the camera giving it the same status as if I had written it down contemporaneously is alas overlooked). What innocent explanation is there, I wonder, which could turn out to be consistent with what is on the tape and would explain why I have fabricated all this against an innocent motorist? - we will never of course know until the motorist is asked, but it would have to be good for even the lawyers on bikeradar to secure an acquittal.
4. The video is very dodgy - you've doctored it.
I have very overtly taken out a long segment between the time that the motorist took offence and the time that he threatened to kill me. This has apparently aroused some suspicions that I have edited out frightful behaviour which would justify the threat. If you have time on your hands you may view a 10 minute unedited version here. I have, from day one, offered the original memory card to the police.
Equally I can appreciate that the video is very hard to hear; so there is a transparently doctored version equipped with subtitles here. As I say on youtube, if anybody has the capability to report reliably on the content of the soundtrack, I would be very happy to send them a DVD for that purpose.
5. You can't complain you are a lawyer...or you should do it yourself
The idea that a lawyer cannot complain about deficiencies in the legal system seems to me very odd. The idea that a lawyer who is the witness of a crime should bring a private prosecution with no assistance from the state even more odd. Just as I am not above the law, so too I am not beyond its protection. If I am in an advantaged position through having legal knowledge, I very much hope I am putting that to use for the benefit of others rather more than for myself. I have to pursue this because many others would be put off from doing so. A stand has to be taken somewhere somehow.
Enough for now; even in this cold weather I cannot devote all my leisure time to this!