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: