Last month I reported a piece of bad driving to the police. It was another close overtake in Hounslow and when I initiated a conversation with the driver at the next set of lights, it was quite apparent that his lack of consideration was not due to failing to see me or a momentary lapse in concentration but was because he held a deep seated prejudice against cyclists. If I got in his way he felt entitled to run me down, he wanted me to ride on the pavement next time and, most incongruously, he had something against cyclists like me riding fast in Richmond Park. (London Dynamo organise time trials in Richmond Park and it is a popular place for cyclists to train, though I have never cycled there).
When I made my report I made it clear that it was the bad driving I really objected to. The verbal threats were, in my view, distinguishable from the Lomas case not least because he had not sought me out to deliver the threat from a moving vehicle but was responding to me when I was in a safe position. What the verbal exchange indicated to me was that his bad driving was quite deliberate. I am struck by how, almost universally, motorists who run down cyclists claim not to have seen them. Yet when motorists have come close to running me down, it almost invariably emerges in subsequent 'discussion' that they saw me only too well and chose deliberately not to take care. 'SMIDSY' is a completely unacceptable excuse even if genuine. My own experience convinces me that it is often a smokescreen for something worse and aptly described by many cyclists as 'SMIDGAF'.
Yesterday the police told me that the driver was sorry and had been cautioned. I assume the caution must have been for a Public Order Offence relating to his verbal threats, since cautions for Road Traffic Act offences are not given. When I repeated that I would have preferred to see a prosecution for driving without due care/consideration, I was told that the police had decided it was 'not in the public interest to take it any further than a caution'.
I do respectfully question this interpretation of the public interest. Our democratically elected Parliament has legislated that anyone driving a motor vehicle on a road without due care and consideration for other road users is guilty of an offence. The law does not require that this lack of care/consideration has caused an accident. There is helpful guidance in the Highway Code which is taken into account in determining guilt and includes the following:
I wrote (the day before this incident as it happens) to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner with a copy to Jenny Jones about the difficulties in getting action taken against bad drivers, I got a response from Jenny Jones telling me that Roadsafe was for gathering information and that she advised me to report bad driving to my local police station. The response from Roadsafe was to the effect that they try without success to get appallingly bad drivers prosecuted. I am a great fan of Jenny Jones but if she is advising us to report bad driving to our police stations she is seriously out of touch with the reality of policing in London. Either there is insufficient evidence or, if evidence is overwhelmingly sufficient, it is not deemed to be in the public interest to prosecute. Furthermore in what other area are the police absolved of any obligation, beyond information gathering, to act upon a crime that has come to their attention? I have a degree of sympathy with the Roadsafe view that when they do their bit, others in the criminal justice chain do not do theirs, as this also affects my willingness to bother to report bad driving. However we cannot all just give up.
I am sometimes accused of representing only a minority clique of 'MAMIL's. However what upsets me most about drivers like the one in charge of this Landrover, is not that they run me down. I have developed strategies that, thus far, means that they don't. It is that they make cycling an unpleasant and subjectively dangerous experience. The roads should not only be available to the battle hardened.
An apology given to the police in interview may be better than nothing but it is obviously not equivalent to an apology at the time. Had the driver said at the lights 'I am sorry, I will take care not to do that again', I would not have reported him. If he was genuinely sorry at interview then I would like to see a prosecution for inconsiderate driving stayed on condition that he attend a bikeability course for cycling on the road.
My witness statement is here and the video below:
Wednesday, 23 May 2012
"Not in the public interest to prosecute"
Posted by Martin Porter at 10:13
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What an odious man. Another depressing case of lack of action from the police.ReplyDelete
"SMIDGAF" quite apt, I may pinch that.
Trouble with these kind of people is they are like dogs; no point trying to have a rational argument with a rabid dog - you have to shout at them, and if that fails, scare the fuck out of them.ReplyDelete
This guy would think twice about running down cyclists if he thought there was a decent chance you'd break his jaw at the next junction. Sad but true. If the police continue to fail to enforce this kind of offence, then cyclists will take the law into their own hands. I have had to do so on a few occasions, and I'm unrepentant about it.
I could not encourage that and you could expect the full force of the law to come bearing down on you. I note today's news from Cornwall http://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/cyclist_hunted_after_alleged_attack_on_driver_1_1386349Delete
I would have thought purely on the evidence of the video that a prosecution for dangerous driving was far from likely to have succeeded . What constitutes being a safe passing distance being to some extent a subjective assessment despite whatever the highway code may say. But the behaviour of the driver when challenged clealy constituted a public order offence.Delete
Under the circumstances a caution is probably all you could realistically expect although I suspect Daniel has it right and only the prospect of a sound twiatting is likely to change this arseholes manner. I had a similar experience with a driver of a refuse truck and a caution for a possible public order offence was all I got.
I am fairly sure that most benches of magistrates would convict of driving without reasonable consideration for other road users. I was never pressing for dangerous driving.Delete
Cautions are meaningless. Driving prosecutions go on your license, are reflected in insurance premiums, and can help get someone disqualified. Why did the police not bother with it?ReplyDelete
A caution for a public order offence could have serious repercussions for anyone in public service who requires a CRB check or who needs to be of good character.Delete
Many of the people who SMIDGAF are just the kind of people who would break your jaw if you complain about it, as Martin already knows from experience. So I don't think they are worried about the cyclist being one of them.ReplyDelete
There has certainly been a case or two of cyclists taking the law into their own hands and ending up being prosecuted for it. It is not to be recommended.
In a country like the Netherlands, a random cyclist could easily be your relative, your friend - everyone knows and is related to many people who regularly cycle. Sadly, until this becomes true in this country, most people will be relieved rather than upset that the drivers who struck cyclists when blinded by the sun were successfully able to use that as an legitimate excuse in court. It isn't true today, but hopefully if petrol becomes a lot more expensive, as it must, things will eventually change.
I've found that in London the police are perfectly happy and willing to take a statement or ask you to fill out a form, but invariably the action taken against the driver is likely to be nothing more than water off a duck's back. I blogged on my own experiences, here:ReplyDelete
The Landrover driver is presumably one of those still labouring under the misapprehension that he pays road tax and cyclists don't.ReplyDelete
Or so I would surmise as he is apparently unaware that cyclists can't be prosecuted for speeding offences because they apply to "mechnically propelled vehicles", so 35 mph, if indeed that was what you were doing (amazing - hats off to you!) is not illegal. Perhaps furious riding might have stuck?
Anyway, how would he know what speed you were doing, unless he was matching it?
On another point, a spokesman from the IAM was on the Radio 4 "You & Yours" programme this morning. Now, IAM came in for some stick over its Red Light Jumping "Survey" recently, so it was good to see that the representative was not going to be drawn into defending drivers who lose their licences for amassing 12 penalty points. He was obviously pretty unimpressed by the "severe hardship" pleas often advanced to cling on to a licence over 12 points, pointing out that after all, it is not as if a driver can't predict the hardship they might suffer if they can't drive, so should they not take that into account when thinking about how carefully or lawfully to drive?
Oddly enough he was not suggesting I was doing 35 mph but that because he had seen 'people like me'doing 35 mph, I could not tell him how to drive. As I say pure prejudice.Delete
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
Insofar as I could understand his reasoning, it was (a) that Martin was holding him up, (b) that people like Martin go too fast in Richmond Park. A little hard to deal with both objections.Delete
I have to say that my current practice is never to remonstrate in any way with drivers. The last time I tried was with someone who was nothing like the character in this clip, basically considerate and law abiding, but it was waste of time (to do with ASLs - I won't bore you).
I've seen at least two assaults where someone tapped on a car roof. Not for me thanks.( me being male, 6ft and 12st if that's relevant). Sorry
I applaud, Martin, your continuing commitment to trying to do something about people like this. I have, truth to tell, largely given up on the Metropolitan Police. A minivan knocked me off on Brixton Road in February 2009 by turning across my path on an empty road where he must have seen me. I got two letters, the first saying it wasn't in the public interest to prosecute then, when I queried that, one saying there was insufficient evidence. I've since been assaulted by a bus driver who stopped his vehicle and jumped out to say I shouldn't have pointed out his bad driving. I also had to call 999 after an angry motorist - whose driving I had politely queried - threatened to assault me. None of these incidents led to any meaningful police action.Delete
As for the motorist's actual comments, there are plenty of bits of nuttiness in there. But it's particularly bizarre how he seems to regard all cyclists as somehow collectively responsible for all other cyclists' action. It's the kind of collective-responsibility thinking that I specifically criticise in a recent blogpost (http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/why-cyclist-should-write-londons.html).
I saw, incidentally, someone who looked rather like you getting noised up by a motorist on Monday evening on Clapham Road - but I presume it may have been someone else.
Keep up the good work,
Bullying like this is usually a sign of either low IQ or high stress and probably both. Modern roads, and life, do nothing to help the stress. The balance of power, seen from a car compared to a cyclist, will bring out the worst in some people who otherwise feel impotent in their lives.ReplyDelete
There is no reasoned argument on earth that would convince this guy he was in any way wrong. The lack of any logic to his statements shows that. If it were enforced then the law could make him re assess his actions; as they come from a higher authority. The law may even have bought about a change in his perspective, behaviour and even have lead him to a permanent change of attitude.
Shame the Police don't think it important enough.
I've got a couple of theories about this kind of thing. One is that some people have a certain atavistic distaste for cyclists similar to the contempt some people feel for gypsies or other groups that seem to live according to different rules: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/why-some-people-get-angry-with-cyclists.htmlDelete
There is also a strange nuttiness about road space, however. I've had people endanger me by trying to overtake me on roads where I go far faster than the cars and they have to make a big effort to catch me and overtake me: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/bikes-can-be-hard-to-overtake.html
The tragedy is that, until the police start to tackle this kind of behaviour, the prejudices behind them are going unchallenged (except in fora like this, where, sadly, knuckleheaded LandRover drivers are unlikely to see them).
That's exactly why it's IN the public interest to prosecute.Delete
I'll bet they'll be enforcing the VIP lanes at the Olympics like hawks. Surely ensuring cyclists' safety is at least as important as some IOC bigwig getting across London in time?
I agree with you entirely - and made roughly this argument to an officer from the Met's traffic criminal "justice" unit in 2009. Sadly, the point doesn't seem to have hit home.Delete
It is really sad that many motorists hold something against cyclists. There are a lot of people out on bikes that aren't, as you say, 'battle hardened' and it does make me very concerned about their safety!ReplyDelete
Having returned from the Giro d'Italia where i had in the past enjoyed safely cycling Italian Roads , i can report that i felt i was back in the " War Zone " that existed when riding London Roads !ReplyDelete
Hit by a car once , and squeezed off the road several times i have the scrapes and bruises to show off , and this was on areas of road where the Giro would pass a few hours later in the day .
That the founder of " Willier Bikes " was killed in his " own back yard " area by a local driver , speaks volumes for Italian driver attitudes in 2012 .
So many Italians told me they NO LONGER ride their roads .
RCS the owners of the Giro , told me they do not support an Italian version of " Cities fit for Cycling " , because it is " Political "! Mauro , the chief of the Giro , himself stated that " It would not be in the best interests of the GIRO " to attach a sticker to ALL racers bikes !
I am hoping that there are warehouses of the " Ufficiale Kit " , stacked high with product that the " Tifosi " chose not to buy this year from the lunatics that drive their " White Vans " without regard to Cyclists as they desparately tried to offload those shaby " Giro " products .
Will the Tour promote " Cities fit for Cycling " ? Only a concerted campaign , bombarding Chris Prudhomme in the next weeks will ensure this result ! Recall the French TV sponsor Guest vehicle dumping Boogerland and my mate " Jaffa" in the ditch last year ?
I'll add my two penn'orth FWIW! My own view is that the animus towards cyclists exhibited by some motorists is almost certainly caused by a sense of inadequacy. This is unlikely to be consciously understood by the motorist, but given that over 50% of the population is overweight, the sight of a fit, healthy male getting around practically as quickly as them triggers a sense of hostility that they do not know how to alleviate other than by an act of aggression to counter (in their minds) their sense of undermined masculinity.ReplyDelete
In your specific incident, the driver's argument can be parsed as essentially "OK, you may have been cycling sensibly, but most of the time you lot cycle recklessly, and therefore I do not feel obliged to show any of you any respect, since you're all the same". to be fair, many other road users (including cyclists) probably hold similar views on WVM and minicabs, so his hostility is perhaps not so hard to understand, albeit totally unacceptable.
On the point of the police failing to prosecute, I assume that it would be impossible without third party evidence or some kind of visual/audio evidence that you were able to produce as corroboration. Otherwise, I suspect, a caution is all that will follow.
I have included the evidence in the above post. As I say the decision was not taken because of a perceived 'lack of evidence' but because a prosecution was not perceived to be in the public interest.Delete
The Highway Code is useless to protect us cyclists. It states IIRC that drivers *should* give a car's width when they pass a cyclist. Until this phrase is changed to "must", we will never be able to pursue it any further.ReplyDelete
A few weeks ago, I was passed by a coach on the Jamaica Road that literally brushed against the side of my right ear. Very frustrating. Even more frustrating is that rarely do these drivers ever actually go much faster than us, as demonstrated by your video where you caught up with him at the lights. So they are speeding, with the risk of killing us, and all for nothing.
Good on you for taking these issues further. I'm afraid I now just roll my eyes and sigh.
Actually, the Highway Code says that motorists should give the same room to cyclists as they would to any other vehicle which they are overtaking. This is not quite the same as saying a car's width; some motorists pass within a few feet, or less, of the vehicle they are overtaking!ReplyDelete
My own view is that the Highway Code is ambiguous, poorly drafted in many places, and is open to question as to what is actually meant. In reality, it will be considered to mean what a "reasonable" person would understand. However, reasonable people often take different views on these matters, so a consensus definition is not possible.
I've just blogged on police attitudes towards cyclists, and why they don't seem to regard crime against cyclists seriously, inspired partly by Martin's forthright handling of the matter. It's here: http://www.invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/cops-pedallers-and-why-theyre-picking.htmlReplyDelete
Dear Mr Porter,ReplyDelete
You have to understand and take into consideration that the Metropolitan Police and other Constabularies in Britain do have a limited amount of resources and time available to them. While the Police are here to serve and protect they are here to serve and protect everyone they are not here just to protect cyclists and only cyclists. The Police have to deal with organised crime, missing persons, antisocial behaviour, murder enquiries and all this makes the range of what the Police have to do in their line of duty very wide. You have to respect what the Police do and even though I completely disagree with the actions and responses of the driver in question. I would rather see the Metropolitan Police arresting and locking up a paedophile for life then pushing cases like that aside in favour of a dozy motorist who 'Drove a bit close' to a cyclist. You have to understand that the Police are working on a fair justice system and even though our system may seem unjust at times there are some countries in the world where cyclists could be mowed down by a motorist and killed and the motorist would be able to bribe the Police to get away with the crime. I am greatful that we don't have a system like that in this country and we should all be greatful that our Police are helpful enough to lend us an ear and try at least. Reading the article you have published and reading some of the responses I get the impression that the Police are being accused of not doing anything at all to help Cyclists. The Police do prosecute motorists who give cyclists greif and I have seen many motorists being prosecuted but the Metropolitan Police can't prosecute every single motorist that 'Gets a bit close' to a cyclist the Police just don't have enough Officers to be able to take on every case that happens. With the increase of helmet cameras we are seeing an increase in the number of drivers brought to justice and its having a positive effect but with the time and resources the Police and Crown Prosecution have you can't possibly expect them to prosecute every single motorist that behaves badly.
It is just silly and disingenuous to suggest that issuing some summonses for driving without due care and consideration would remove resources from investigating paedophilia. We elect Parliament to pass laws which the police are entrusted to enforce. Parliament has passed laws about bad driving in order to save lives. It should not be for the police to determine which laws they will enforce and which they will turn a blind eye towards. The Met Police TCJU have adopted a wholly unjustified and probably unlawful policy that prosecutions of drivers who are filmed breaking the law are 'unlikely'.Delete
Many many people are deterred from cycling because a small minority of drivers treat them inconsiderately at best. No-one is asking the police to prosecute every single motorist who behaves badly but they must prosecute some.
Yous sound like a policeman/policewoman and I hope that if you are, you think again as to where your priorities should lie.
Far far more people are killed on the roads in this country than by terrorists. Please think about that.
Martin! All of your posted videos on YouTube are "private" and not viewable! Is this by choice or an unforseen technical issue? Love the blog and thankful for your enlightening blog postsReplyDelete