Friday 15 November 2013

My letter to Standard re CSH and the Mayor's victim blaming

This is the version of my letter I approved this morning:

THE angle the Mayor took on the radio yesterday, talking about cyclist risk-taking in relation to the recent terrible incidents is very unfortunate.  Either he has inside information before it is released to the public or as his own spokeswoman said it is too early to say. It is highly improbable that all the victims were being reckless for their own safety, and highway engineers can and should allow for human error.
Cycle superhighways are designed by people who have not been required to undergo cycle training and do not understand the importance of cyclists positioning themselves where they can best survive mistakes by others.  The paint encourages both cyclists and motorists to believe that cyclists should be alongside the kerb. I avoid the superhighways and would recommend other cyclists do the same.

Martin Porter QC

I am told that an editor has used the term 'accidents' and that by the time I was informed of this the print deadline had passed.  I very much regret the understandable distress this will cause (and indeed the perplexity amongst my followers.)

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Cycle Super Highways - My personal views

I write this in  a purely personal capacity as a London bike commuter, though naturally I could not fail to be profoundly moved by my experience in representing the family of Brian Dorling who died so tragically and unnecessarily at the Bow Roundabout shortly after the blue paint of CSH 2 was laid in 2011 and furthermore, in following the recent inquest into the death of Philippine De Gerin-Ricard at Aldgate last July.

I agree with the Mayor that Cycle Super Highways have a future.  However this is with the important proviso that their designers have a good understanding of how cyclists safely integrate with traffic where segregation is not achievable (or rather not achieved).  Current design, typified by a 1.5 m strip of paint of no legal significance, encourages cyclists towards an unsafe position too far to the left.  This both conflicts with the ‘Bikeability’ training that TfL itself rightly seeks to encourage and reinforces the mistaken views held by some motorists as to where cyclists should be.

It is telling, and confirms what I have long suspected, that cycle infrastructure designers, and even those at the top at TfL pushing cycle training for others, do not see the need for Bikeability training for themselves.  Their designs demonstrate that they do not understand, for example, that approaching a roundabout to go straight ahead the cyclist is best advised to position herself well to the right of the leftmost lane (especially of course if there is a high volume of left turning traffic). When given advice by a very knowledgeable police officer who understands safe cycle positioning, it is all too easy for the untrained designer to consider this is a matter on which their opinion is as good as anybody else's.

Personally I do not buy the argument that putting down paint is a useful indication to motor traffic that cyclists may be present.  Any driver, especially in London but also elsewhere, is criminally negligent if he does not  consider the likely presence of cyclists on any highway.  Are we implying that where there is no blue paint drivers are not obliged to consider the likely presence of cyclists?

For the encouragement of the broadest possible mix of people the focus has to be on (optional) segregated routes of the highest quality, as recognised in the Mayor’s ‘Vision for Cycling’ published in March.  Using paint to lead cyclists directly towards segregated areas without regard to how they integrate most safely with traffic on their way there must be avoided.  Indeed there is a very great deal to be said for not marking the road at all where cyclists need to integrate with motorists.  Many (indeed the majority) of cyclists crossing the Bow junction do so on the elevated flyover where there is no cycle infrastructure, recognising that it is not only faster but safer than the provision below.  It is so easy to make matters worse and the Mayor needs to be held to his word to do cycling infrastructure properly or not at all.

I do not doubt the Mayor and TfL’s sincerity in wishing to make London safer and more attractive for cycling.  I applaud them for some good progress towards HGV safety (sadly too often neglected by others).  I trust that by the end of the Mayor’s second term we will be able to look back and see that he really did take valid criticisms of his project to heart.

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Why am I hopeful?

I am hopeful because the risk, in absolute terms, of my getting killed or seriously injured on my bicycle is low (705 KSI per billion km or once every 1.4 million km).  At my current mileage I can reasonably expect to get to 85 without serious incident.
I am hopeful because my chances of getting to 85 without stroke, heart attack, diabetes and other ailments connected to inactivity are substantially increased by my riding.
I am hopeful because a Judge recently said when sentencing a man for dangerous driving,  "If he [cyclist] could bang on the side of your van, you were too close".
I am hopeful because the ACPO lead officer for traffic policing rides a bicycle and has bowed to pressure to change police guidelines relating to the enforcement of 20 mph speed limits.
I am hopeful because for the past nearly two years, an influential national newspaper that previously could not have cared much less has been interested in cyclists' safety.
I am hopeful because CTC (of which I am proud to be a member and 'ambassador') together with British Cycling (which I am proud to be a member of and an informal legal adviser to) are working tirelessly on campaigns to improve the safety of cyclists.
I am hopeful because Chris Boardman, Rebecca Romero and Chris Hoy (among other sporting heroes) say such sensible things in support of the safety of cyclists.
I am hopeful because there are many more charities and organisations with a positive view of cycling (I can single out Roadpeace, See Me Save Me, RDRF, CDF)  than there are those with negative views.
I am hopeful because there are Parliamentarians across all major political parties with real enthusiasm for cycling.  I would be very happy to have Julian Huppert, Ian Austin, Sarah Wollaston, Ben Bradshaw or Steve Brine among others as my constituency MP or, even better, in government.  Last month's debate indicated that the proportion of MPs interested in cycling is higher than that of the general population which elects them.
I am hopeful because the Mayor of London has said of cycling infrastructure that it will be done properly or not at all.
I am hopeful because the level of interest in my cycling club has risen steadily in recent years which I take to be a good leading indicator of the growing popularity of cycling.
I am hopeful because many youngsters are taught Cyclecraft at school before they learn how to drive.
I am hopeful that I can continue to do my bit through my profession to assist both individual cyclists and the interests of cyclists collectively.
Above all, I hope to continue to enjoy riding my bicycle for many years to come

Sunday 29 September 2013

Why am I angry?

I have been quiet on here in recent months.  I find it is hard to write about cycling without getting angry.  Anger is not generally a constructive or attractive emotion so I have just kept it to myself, until now.
I am angry that I am eleven times more likely to get killed cycling to work as driving to work.
I am angry that were I to get killed on my way to work, the criminal justice system would probably fail those I leave behind by applying 'momentary inattention' to virtually every piece of potentially lethal driving.
I am angry that those who endanger me go unpunished and free to do so again.
I am angry that a senior CPS official asserts (absurdly) that my video evidence does not support my complaint of dangerous driving against an HGV driver who nearly crushed me.
I am angry that the Met Police have no ambitions for 'Roadsafe' beyond a public relations exercise to pacify angry cyclists and will not find the resources to prosecute bad drivers.
I am angry that no police force will 'act' on intelligence of bad driving unless it comes to them in their predetermined bureaucratic format.
I am angry that those who attack cyclists (like me) avoid conviction whereas cyclists who lash out at motorists who endanger them get prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
I am angry that when police are eventually compelled to enforce ASLs, they put at least as much effort into prosecuting cyclists who stop ahead of the stop line to get ahead of traffic.
I am angry that two of my sporting heroes have gone in for victim blaming.
I am angry that a leading charity with close links to otherwise commendable law firms goes in for extreme victim blaming fronted by an ex Olympic oarsman.
I am angry at the cynicism of government ministers voting for the APPCG report which they have no intention of implementing.
I am angry that when tailgated by an HGV driver, I get told I am putting myself in danger by riding on the road ahead of him.
I am angry that, whereas Olympic lanes can be built overnight, there has been no spade into the ground to implement the London Mayor's cycling vision, whilst in the meantime more people on bicycles are being killed and injured.
I am angry that by the time action is consulted over and eventually taken, more people on bicycles will have been killed or injured by unsafe HGVs.
I am angry that nobody educates motorists that the way I ride is recommended and not provocative.
I am angry at sloppy, lazy, journalism which incites malevolence towards those of us on bicycles.
I am angry that civil litigation funding changes will make it harder for cyclists who are killed/injured to get the representation they need.
I am angry on behalf of my clients who often struggle to get that to which they are entitled.
I am angry at Eric Pickles.
That, dear reader, is why you have not been hearing much from me lately.

Monday 29 July 2013

Another bad idea from Pickles.

I have commented upon Eric Pickles before when this Government was only 8 months old and I compared him unfavourably with Julian Huppert, a new MP who had caught my attention by delivering a stunningly good speech in Parliament.  Mr Huppert has gone on to do great work co-Chairing the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group.  Mr Pickles has gone on to suggest that "over agressive parking enforcement" is killing off the High Street and this is presumably his excuse for elbowing in on what would seem to be the natural area of responsibility of the DfT and, more specifically, the Roads Minister.  The idea is that motorists have a 'period of grace' to ignore parking restrictions for 15 minutes with impunity provided they are not guilty of 'dangerous parking'.  (Yeah right, given the difficulties we have with the enforcement of laws against dangerous driving, I cannot see that being effective.)

As a lawyer I find this kind of mucking with the law distasteful.  People talk about 'decriminalising' parking and other motoring offences but we should not lose sight of the fact that this is a rather inaccurate reference to the manner of enforcement, not to any principle.  You pay a fixed penalty if you break the law and are caught and if you wish to dispute a fixed penaltyyou do so in a criminal court.  This is definitely crime not contract.  The suggestion seems to me to be, we shall let you break the law provided that you do not park dangerously and if you park dangerously we shall do you for parking on a double yellow line (not parking dangerously).  Alice in Wonderland stuff given that it is perfectly possible to permit parking for up to 15 minutes if that is what was thought desirable.  Doing it the Pickles way means that no double yellow lines need be respected and local authorities will be powerless to prevent short term parking.

Saturday 1 June 2013

Marie Vesco Memorial Ride 4th - 5th June 2013

Marie Vesco died 4th June 2008

 I have been asked by Marie's parents to publicise the ride that is being held in Sussex and France to mark the fifth anniversary of Marie's death when she was struck by two cars on the A23 dual carriageway whilst she was taking part in a cycle ride from London to Brighton.

The details of the ride can be found on facebook here. and further details are here.

As I mentioned 3 years ago, Marie's tragic death had a profound effect on me personally.  I had been to Leigh Day, solicitors, to talk to them about cycle helmets etc and was shortly thereafter asked by them and Roadpeace to represent Marie's family at the forthcoming inquest.   It was at that hearing that the scales from my eyes were truly lifted and I experienced the intense discomfort that every lawyer ought to feel when they see just how inadequate the administration of justice can be.

5 years on, we still have a long way to go.  I do wish Marie's family and friends and all other participants well.

Wednesday 8 May 2013

The Frustrations of Eurostar

'scuse finger
For the past 6 years I have traveled with my bicycle by Eurostar and SNCF to various parts of France to do the Etape du Tour.  This year I booked the TGV to Annecy and then set about booking the Eurostar tickets.  Quite by chance I came across a 'tweet' indicating that the Eurostar policy on packed bicycles had changed and I saw this confirmed when I searched the Eurostar site.  I had a long conversation with Eurostar  None of their suggestions were any use to me.  I could not take the bicycle unpacked as it needed to be packed for the TGV.  I could not turn up with it packed as there was no guarantee it would appear in Paris for up to 24 hours after I did, when I had a train connection in Paris.  The only thing I might have done is sent it ahead but that would have required a special trip from Berkshire to St Pancras ahead of travel and a special trip back to St Pancras to collect it after my return.  Extra charges were of course involved for all these options.  In frustration and against every instinct in my fibre I gave up and booked a flight from Heathrow to Paris (packed bike conveyed at no extra cost).  I did look at the possibility of train/ferry but ruled it out on grounds of time and cost.

It is interesting that when I first used Eurostar they used to cheerfully place my packed bike in the baggage carriage.  More recently it appeared to be too much trouble for some train guards to open the baggage carriage and more recently still I had been told to dump it in the buffet car.  I believe there are two baggage cars on each train which no doubt go at least half empty.

Throughout France on very similar trains there is no problem turning up and taking a boxed bike at no additional charge or hassle.  Eurostar are not (quite) alone.  I had planned to take my bicycle this year to Venice for the Grand Fondo Sportful.  However in response to my enquiries I was informed curtly that the sleeper from Paris to Venice does not take bicycles.  Again I had to pass my custom rather reluctantly to British Airways.

Thanks for Sponsorship

Thank you very much for the numerous generous donations sponsoring my Team Townend Ride on 27th April.  Raised £425 on Justgiving which I matched so £850 for Roadpeace.  Not bad for what was a very pleasurable day out.  Published results suggest I should be less greedy for home baked biscuits at the feed stop and do it in under 3 hours next time.

Wednesday 1 May 2013

So, what powers do the police actually have in relation to road racing?

It is today reported in the Hull and East Riding Mail that Cycle Races in the East Riding are being cancelled after Humberside Police told organisers that they 'would not support' events without road closures.  Sometimes we do need to pinch ourselves to remember that, happily, we do not live in a police state.  What we can, and cannot do, is governed by the law not the support, or otherwise of the Police.  It is true that local Police forces do have some discretionary powers relating to the organisation of Road Races but this discretion is not unbounded and is strictly curtailed by statute.

My advice to road race organisers in the past has been that the police do not have the power to tell them that they may only run a race on condition that the road is closed.  Here in a nutshell (but inevitably requiring 'legalese') is why.

A cycle race on a public road is prohibited by section 31(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 unless the race is authorised by or under regulations under that section.  The powers of the police in this area stem from the Cycle Racing on Highways Regulations 1960 (as amended in 1963, 1980, 1988 and 1995).  These Regulations now take effect as though made under section 31.  Regulation 5 authorises a bicycle race on the public highway subject to ‘the standard conditions’ which includes a condition that the length of the circuit is at least 10 miles.  If the standard conditions do not apply, then the police may authorise the race pursuant to a power under regulation 7.

Pursuant to Regulation 8, then, if the race is authorised by Regulation 5 and if the appropriate officer of police considers it desirable that conditions should be imposed on the holding or conduct of the race he may impose such conditions ‘for that purpose’ as he may think fit.  If the race is authorised by the police pursuant to Regulation 7 the officer of the police may impose such conditions as he may think fit on the holding or conduct of the race.  In practical terms it appears highly unlikely that there is any real distinction in the power of the police under Regulation 8 to impose conditions in either case.

Examples of the type of condition that the police may see fit to impose are set out in Regulation 8(4).  The list is expressly non-exclusive and without prejudice to the generality of the above provisions.  Nonetheless it is noteworthy that all the examples (days, times, places, route, number of competitors and arrangements for marshalling) are within the power of the race organiser.  Although couched in wide general terms the conditions all relate to ‘the holding or conduct of the race’ and, in order to be workable, it is necessary that they relate to matters that are similarly within the control of the race organiser.

The 1960 Regulations were brought into force under section 13 of the Road Traffic Act 1956 (then in force but subsequently repealed) pursuant to which, the police had a power under the same section  to direct the movement of traffic and/or close a road to vehicles or vehicles of a certain class, see section 13(3) of the 1956 Act.  The police still have this power, now pursuant to section 31(4) and (5) of the Road Traffic Act 1988.  This statutory framework makes it again virtually inconceivable that the conditions imposed under Regulation 8 would ever have been envisaged as including a condition that the same police who are imposing the condition exercise their power under the Act to close the road.

It was only later that the Highway Authority was granted the power to close roads in connection with special events.  This power was introduced in the Road Traffic Regulation (Special Events) Act 1994 which, as Hansard for 4th March 1994 makes clear, was introduced to facilitate the running of two stages of the Tour de France in England in July 1994.  The power is now in section 16A of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984.  The section provides that the Highway Authority may temporarily restrict or prohibit traffic on a road, on which a sporting event, social event or entertainment is taking place.  The Highway Authority has power to restrict or prohibit the use of the road by vehicles or vehicles of any class or pedestrians as it considers necessary or expedient.  The debates in Parliament suggest that his section was to apply to major events such as the Tour de France.  The responsible minister, Robert Key, in giving Government support to the Private Member’s Bill said (Hansard 04.03.94, col 1226)

“As long ago as 1839, the House recognised that special measures were needed when it gave the Metropolitan police Commissioner powers to help control events in London. In 1956, it was agreed that events such as cycle races need to be controlled and in the Road Traffic Act 1956, cycle racing was made illegal unless held in accordance with regulations. That Act also gave chief constables powers to close roads for authorised cycle races. Those powers were perfectly adequate then and remain adequate for the overwhelming majority of cycle races, but they are not sufficient for the really big events, such as the tour de France or the Kellogg's tour of Britain. Those and other events need powers that will make it possible to control the huge number of spectators, so as to minimise the disruption to local communities.”

It is clear enough that the Highway Authority was being endowed with powers to close roads for the ‘really big events’ and existing powers, principally the powers of the police to close roads, were considered adequate for the overwhelming majority of cycle races.

In short the police have the power to impose conditions upon the organiser of a race and the police have the additional power, should they deem it necessary, to close the road.  It makes a nonsense of the statutory scheme for them to seek to impose a condition that somebody else close the roads.  The nonsense is further exemplified by the fact that the Highway Authority may not make an order under section 16A in relation to a cycle race prohibiting or restricting the use of roads unless the race is authorized by the Cycle Racing on Highways Regulations.  Plainly the authorisation of the race and the question of road closure are two quite distinct issues and the necessity or otherwise of closure should be considered after the race has been authorised.

For those reasons the police do not have the power to impose a condition on the running of a race that the roads be closed by the Highways Authority.  Nor do they have the power to ban a race, they have the power to impose conditions as authorised by the Regulations.

Tuesday 30 April 2013

Why are those who assault cyclists not usually prosecuted

There has been some publicity recently over the failure of the West Midlands Police and the CPS to prosecute the charmless man who was filmed assaulting Stephen Perrin.  The story has made it into the redtop newspapers and the broadsheets.  The assailant was not even, contrary to some of the reports I have seen, cautioned for assault since his victim reluctantly accepted 'local resolution' when told by the Police that there was no prospect of the thug being prosecuted.  (His identity has not been released so I shall call him 'the thug').  That means he has no criminal record and, the next time he does this, will be eligible for a caution under the rules which the West Midlands police have applied to this case.

In response to Stan Fichele's comment on twitter, retweeted by Chris Boardman, saying that there is a lot to do to get Britain Cycling when the police think it is OK not to prosecute/warn the thug, West Midlands Police referred to their press release which (to my mind) rather glosses over the fact that the victim wanted a prosecution.  Reference is made to Home Office Guidelines which mean, they claim  that 'the offence would not have been put before the Courts'.  The victim is reported to have accepted from the police that they (the police) were not to blame because of the government guidance.

These guidelines are the same ones that I was told meant that Timothy Denman could not be prosecuted for assaulting me in December 2010.  I wrote to my MP and to the Home Secretary about the application of this guidance but got nowhere with responsibility being shunted back and forth between the Home Office and Lord Chancellor's Department.  Subsequently there has been a promised review of the cautioning of offenders and, very recently, some embarrassment now that it has come to light how frequently the police settle for 'local resolution' in cases of violence (see today's BBC news.)

I fear there is a strong element of our law enforcement authorities seeking to do as little as possible whilst at the same time bombarding us with press releases and twitter feeds designed to reassure us that they are doing much and, indeed, everything they can.

The Home Office Guidelines that are said to tie everybody's hands are the Gravity Factors Matrix which ACPO drew up in consultation with the CPS but which are not openly available.  A Criminal Justice Service booklet compiled by the MoJ/Home Office and CPS expressly refers to the ACPO Gravity Factors Matrix under the rather important question of 'offence suitability'.  Certainly these guidelines require much greater scrutiny than they receive.  It is all too easy for those deciding not to prosecute to rely upon guidance that 'outsiders' know nothing about.

When I complained about Denman's caution to the Thames Valley Police, I was shown a copy of the guidance by the Inspector who came around  to my home to apologise.  It was very similar to the Matrix used for Young Offenders which Kent Police have made available for download here.  From this it can be seen that an assault occasioning actual bodily harm (bodily harm that is not trivial) gets 3 points.  If there is any aggravating factor then (unless balanced by a mitigating factor) the score gets to the 4 which should 'normally' result in a charge.  The way then to get around the inconvenience of having to charge somebody is to say that an assault which in fact occasioned ABH should actually be treated as a common assault which scores only 2 and so (under the counting system as I understand it) cannot get to the magic 4.

Such a mechanistic system is bizarre and bound to lead to unacceptable results.  That is why the Police and CPS are at perfect liberty to depart from it when they feel the circumstances warrant it.  The Matrix itself confirms that:

15.2 Discretion does exist to deviate from the normal response, as indicated above, but only if the circumstances justify this, and the reasons for such action would need to be fully recorded by the decision maker.

For example as I pointed out in 2011, a leaked police document indicated that no person had been cautioned for offences arising out of the inner city riots notwithstanding the fact that many of the offenders arrested would have qualified for a caution under the Matrix.  Equally Hate Crimes involving assault are singled out as meriting an award of 4 and therefore likely prosecution.

There is a simple answer here.  The Government wishes to encourage cycling in furtherance of the public interest.  Assaulting a cyclist because he is on a bicycle should be characterised as a 'hate crime' and should result in prosecution.  I fully recognise that there are issues of choice here that distinguish race, gender and sexual orientation from transport choice but the evil of being attacked for what you are and what you represent goes beyond these factors to cyclists, 'Goths' and transvestites (and quite possibly others).  Let us label them all 'hate crimes', get ourselves away from the absurd and discredited Gravity Factors Matrix and get prosecuting.  Where the Police and/or CPS decide not to prosecute they should be required to explain why not without vague reference to guidelines that are too often used as a excuse designed to be incomprehensible to the victim.

If you enjoy this blog (and even if you did not), please consider supporting Roadpeace by sponsoring my Team Townend Ride at Justgiving.  I have reached 25% of my target and will match your contribution (up to a total of £250).  We need a charity complaining about the state of our Criminal Justice System.

Sunday 28 April 2013

Team Townend Pushbike Challenge

My Strava data - I forgot to press start for 1.5 miles so it was really 40.

I had a great day yesterday in the Lake District taking part in the Team Townend Pushbike Challenge ridden in memory of Christian and Niggy Townend, brothers killed in a double tragedy in December 2010 when a coach was driven into them.  Last year, I had to report here, the acquittal of the coach driver of all charges against him and I felt it important to support this ride.
My clubmate at the hotel overawed by scenery and testing the weather
At the start, nearly ready to go
It was a real pleasure to meet several members of Christian and Niggy's family.  The sun shone almost throughout, and the friendliness and generosity of all involved was quite exceptional.  Lovely home made chocolate biscuits alongside the bananas at the feed half way around and an enormous spread of homemade/prepared food to welcome us at the finish.  I thoroughly enjoyed the day and am now the proud owner of a Team Townend jersey.
For the local news report click here.
The ride supports the Charity roadpeace whose sterling work includes lobbying to improve the criminal justice process after vulnerable road users have been killed or harmed.  They really do deserve our full support.
Honister Pass looms ahead
Do please consider sponsoring my ride, which can easily be done at justgiving.  To encourage you along I shall match your contribution (up to a total of £250 - in case Bill Gates is reading!)

Me - in the Lakes (Hardknott)

Wednesday 24 April 2013

APPCG Report and Petition

The All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group Report is now available.  I recommend reading the summary.  The full report sets out many of the representations made at the Inquiry before coming to those recommendations which the Group is making.
These recommendations are all sensible, moderate and achievable yet with the potential to effect a profound improvement for cyclists and the attractiveness of cycling.  I am hopeful that Government will find these proposals irresistible.  It calls for modest amounts of money  for cycling (starting at just £10/head which could surely be afforded given the savings in many departments that an increase in cycling would entail), designing roads and communities with cyclists in mind, appropriate speed limits, HGV design and control,  adequate law enforcement, training, education and political leadership.
There is so much sense in all this that I do urge you to take a moment, right now, to support this petition.

Friday 12 April 2013

Dangerous or Careless - An Update

I now have a letter (here and here) from an Acting Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor which essentially reiterates the rejection of my complaint by the District Crown Prosecutor.  The Acting Deputy Chief says that 'there is no evidence that Mr Stead's error of judgment was so substantial that it caused the driving to be dangerous'.  So there is now a total of 4 prosecutors who do not appear to recognise that attempting an overtake that could not be carried out safely and failing to have a safe and proper regard for vulnerable road users are not merely evidence of dangerous driving but are 'likely to be characterised as dangerous driving' according to their own guidance.

There is no explanation from the CPS as to when an 'error of judgment' (nice comforting description of bad driving) is 'so substantial' (big, big hurdle implied) that it causes driving to be dangerous.  Even directed specifically to their own guidance, drafted in large part to deal with undercharging, the CPS en bloc substitute their own motor-centric ideas of 'errors of judgment' needing to be 'so substantial' etc.  This was not a case of momentary inattention or distraction, Mr Stead chose to try to pass me on my bicycle with his very massive HGV on a narrow road when traffic was coming the other way.  It was a deliberate act.

It will not surprise you that I am not happy with this letter and have now written to the DPP here

Sunday 17 March 2013

The Criminal Justice System - Only as Strong as its Weakest Link

Back in September 2012 I experienced this when cycling from my home to the circuit at Hillingdon for my last race in the Wednesday evening Masters' Series

The driver's first misfortune is that he chose to try this incredibly dangerous overtake just on the Surrey side of the Surrey/London border (the Metropolitan Police have a very strange but strong disinclination to prosecute based on video evidence as confirmed in their evidence to the APPCG last month).  His second misfortune was that I had my camera attached to my handlebars.  I reported promptly to Surrey Police.  They investigated carefully and decided it was appropriate to charge the driver with dangerous driving.  I was told they anticipated a guilty plea.
However after the Court case was over, I was informed the driver had attended a preliminary hearing and that his plea of guilty to driving without due care was accepted and the dangerous driving charge dropped.  He was fined £265 with 4 penalty points.
I do not think it good enough that in those incredibly rare cases where the police choose to prosecute, the CPS respond by reducing the charge without even a reference back to the police or complainant.  I also think the CPS were just plainly and obviously wrong in deciding that this was not dangerous driving.
So I complained.  I just got back a letter (here and here) rejecting my complaint, to which I have just responded here.
Unless and until the CPS take this kind of offence much more seriously than they do then the broad masses of potential cyclists are going to remain terrified to use the road.  It terrified me and I am fairly hardened.  My full description of the incident is set out in the statement I made for the police here.
I intend to pursue this further.

Friday 15 March 2013

Metropolitan Police Letter to Cyclists

A Metropolitan Police Roadsafe officer has written to me and, presumably, others with 'Advice to Cyclists' which relates to Advanced Stop Lines.  I have been asked to share it on my 'forum' and that I now do though I must confess after some hesitation.
The letter makes a point that filming a motor vehicle in an advanced stop box with the light red is not the same as filming it being driven past the first stop line at red.  It is theoretically possible, though I have to say in my many miles of commuting experience it does not happen, that a motor vehicle passes the first line at green, or at yellow when it is not safe to stop, but they do manage to stop before the second line.
A reminder of the Highway Code:


You MUST stop behind the white ‘Stop’ line across your side of the road unless the light is green. If the amber light appears you may go on only if you have already crossed the stop line or are so close to it that to stop might cause a collision.
Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD regs 10 & 36
Or, conceivably you were in a queue of traffic waiting to turn right and chose not to keep the cycle box clear.
Highway Code:


You MUST NOT move forward over the white line when the red light is showing. Only go forward when the traffic lights are green if there is room for you to clear the junction safely or you are taking up a position to turn right.
Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD regs 10 & 36


Advanced stop lines. Some signal-controlled junctions have advanced stop lines to allow cycles to be positioned ahead of other traffic. Motorists, including motorcyclists,MUST stop at the first white line reached if the lights are amber or red and should avoid blocking the way or encroaching on the marked area at other times, e.g. if the junction ahead is blocked. If your vehicle has proceeded over the first white line at the time that the signal goes red, you MUST stop at the second white line, even if your vehicle is in the marked area. Allow cyclists time and space to move off when the green signal shows.
Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD regs 10, 36(1) & 43(2)
In fairness, in the absence of yellow cross hatchings, the instruction only to go forward on green if there is room to clear the junction safely is advice rather than mandatory so a further get out for the motorist is that he was in congested traffic and, contrary to the Highway Code but not to the criminal law, got over the first line on green but could not make it over the second due to congestion.  This will hardly wash if the traffic is light.
The vast overwhelming majority of motor vehicles waiting in cycle boxes have got there in contravention of a traffic light but I would not quibble with a police decision not to issue a ticket to such motorists because of the possibility that they might challenge the ticket and a Court is then persuaded that there is reasonable doubt whether they have broken the law.  However a letter of advice if, as I believe, that is the most draconian step that the police would consider anyway would be justified in those circumstances where there is a reasonable suspicion of a breach of the law.
So what the police want, I suppose, is something like this, filmed last night but there are plenty of examples on every one of my commutes:

So the car on the left has clearly committed an offence and the one on the right even more clearly.  I cut the film where I did so that you can speculate on whether I stopped at the first line.  The police have taken the trouble to remind me that I would be committing an offence if I cross the first line at red other than through a lead in cycle lane (or 'cycle entry').  If there is such a lead in lane (or entry) at all it is in the gutter a quite hopeless approach to the Hammersmith gyratory if, like me, you are going all the way around to continue west on King Street.
So I have to tell you I am not going to waste my time sending this footage and others like it to Roadsafe.  I do not believe there is a ghost of a chance that they would prosecute.  They might send a letter to the registered keeper reasoning that education is all that is required.  However motorists do not breach ASLs when there is a police car behind them which indicates to me that they understand the law only too well.  Getting a letter reinforces the quite accurate perception that it is a breach of the law they can get away with.  Another reason not to send in such material is that the APPCG enquiry was told by the Metropolitan Police that they had assigned one officer to viewing these videos with a view to prosecution.  After one initial response when that officer was first appointed I have heard nothing in respect of the various films I have sent in where I have been endangered by incontrovertibly bad driving.  Enforcing ASLs is one thing the police could very easily do without any assistance from me and I will not depart from my practice which is to send them only the really bad (would clearly sustain a prosecution for careless driving) stuff.
Raising the issue of cyclists' contravention of the law in the way in which I have described is clearly a stock answer.  It is the one I was given when I spent a morning with the Cycle Task Force.  It is a revealing reflection of how trivial the police consider ASL offences by motorists that they intermingle it with the issue of cyclists crossing a first solid line.  Perhaps they think the absence of a feeder lane for cyclists means that no offence can be proved against the motorist but this would obviously not be so since the motorist is still crossing the line at red.  Perhaps this is the "it would not be fair to crack down on motorists unless we crack down even harder on cyclists" mentality.

In frustration,  I am resorting with increasing frequency to dismounting and pushing my bike over white lines in order to stay within the law but that is only an option if you know that the lights are not about to turn green.
So I shall not be acting on the police letter but I draw it to your attention so that you can do as you see fit.
Two very obvious improvements in the law though would be:
(a) Cyclists may pass the first stop line regardless of the colour of the light;
(b) It is illegal for a motorist to enter a cycle box unless his/her exit is clear (i.e. treat them as yellow boxes and without the right turn exception).

One from Tescos

Contributory Negligence - A worrying case

I recently stumbled across a case decided two years ago in the High Court in Birmingham which causes me some concern.  The case is Thomas v Warwickshire County Council.  Judgment was delivered by Mr Justice Wilkie on 31st March 2011.  The case was about the liability of the Highway Authority for injuries sustained by John Thomas on 16th April 2006 when he fell hard after his bike hit a lump of concrete that was stuck to the road.
Mr Thomas was on a Sunday Club run with Solihull CC.  His group of 18 riders went down Gospel Oak Lane towards Stratford-on-Avon.  The concrete was on a downhill stretch with a bend.  The Highway Authority argued it was a defect that they were not required to deal with urgently because it was between the expected wheeltracks of motorists.  Had it been one metre over to either left or right it would (or should) have been picked up on the regular highway's inspection.  To the extent that thought was given to cyclists it was assumed (demonstrating a shocking ignorance of cycling practice) that cyclists would be confined to the part of the road where the nearside wheels of motor vehicles run.  The case does not reveal what, if any, thought was given to motorcyclists.
The Judge found that the concrete should have been removed by the Highway Authority prior to Mr Thomas's accident and therefore found it liable for his injuries.  He went on to consider contributory negligence on the part of Mr Thomas.
The Judge could not help himself from observing that Mr Thomas "was not wearing any form of protective headgear" though happily contributory negligence on this ground was not something that was argued.
Instead, however, the Judge found Mr Thomas to have been contributorily negligence to the extent of 60% for riding too close to the rider in front.
This is a massive deduction and it arose because the Judge found Mr Thomas's evidence to be "startling."
"The claimant’s evidence was in some respects startling. He was riding in a group of 19 or so. They were riding in rows of two, which is normal and which in itself cannot be said to be negligent. However, insofar as he can remember, prior to the incident he was riding his racing bike with very narrow tyres and no tread. In his first statement he remembered he was travelling about 25-30 mph. In his second he says he was told it was 20-25 mph. There were cyclists in front of him and cyclists behind him. His normal position would be on the outside lane. His normal position when in a group was 5 to 6 inches of the back wheel of the bike in front and he was in the middle of the group with cyclists to his front and cyclists to his rear."
As a matter of fairly elementary physics having narrow tyres and no tread would have had absolutely nothing to do with the accident or even with the amount of grip available (air pressure in the tyres might affect grip in wet conditions but there is no suggestion that it was wet or that his wheels slid).  Speeds of the order of 25 mph are entirely consistent with careful riding down hill.  Usually even I average more than 25 mph in a race on the flat.  Equally a normal position 5 to 6 inches off the back wheel of the rider in front is something to strive for (or closer if you can manage it).
I am left with the disarming suspicion that the lawyers and 'experts' at this trial had no understanding of the basics of the sport of cycling.  It is not surprising - when I joined my Club it took months/years for me to build up the trust required to ride on the wheel ahead.  I have said elsewhere on this blog that I believe everybody should hone their riding skills with a club before taking up racing, yet apparently we are at 'fault' if we ride on the roads holding the wheel ahead at anything approaching race pace.
The evidence that the Judge used in making this finding of contributory negligence was that a clubmate who witnessed the fall had said that his 'normal cycling distance within a group' was  half a metre.  I do not have a transcript of the evidence so do not know whether this witness was asked whether he thought others riding closer than that were at fault or whether the Claimant (who had a head injury so could not remember the accident itself) was asked whether he opened up his normal distance somewhat when travelling downhill as most riders instinctively do.
There might, I suppose, have been reasoned and informed argument about whether a rider accepts the risk that something will happen to the rider in front or that hazards will not be observed and called out by riders ahead or whether he should have followed the line of the wheel ahead more accurately (since he was the first to hit the concrete).  However to condemn Mr Thomas on the grounds that he was following too close demonstrates an unfortunate lack of understanding of what he was doing.
I have said this before:  If you are unfortunate enough to come off your bike and need legal advice please make quite sure you go to lawyers who understand cycling.  The Judge very likely will not.without suitable guidance from your lawyer.

Wednesday 13 March 2013

The Mayor of London's Cycling Vision

Lat week's publication of the Mayor of London's new Vision for Cycling in London has got to be welcome.  The foreward (which has all the hallmarks of Johnson's writing) in particular expresses very welcome sentiments.  I highlight a few:

- "Cycling will be treated not as niche, marginal, or an afterthought, but as what it is: an integral part of the transport network, with the capital spending, road space and traffic planners’ attention befitting that role.
- "The Westway, the ultimate symbol of how the urban motorway tore up our cities, will become the ultimate symbol of how we are claiming central London for the bike.
- "I want cycling to be normal, a part of everyday life. I want it to be something you feel comfortable doing in your ordinary clothes, something you hardly think about.
- "There will be greatly-improved fast routes on busy roads for cyclists in a hurry. And there will be direct, continuous, quieter routes on side streets for new cyclists, cautious cyclists and all sorts of other people who would rather take it more slowly. But nothing I do will affect cyclists’ freedom to use any road they choose."

The Mayor and Chris Boardman on the embankment arriving for last week's press launch of his Vision.  Note 'normal' clothing,  Chris suitably distanced from the kerb, presence of HGVs and is that a car behind in the cycle lane? (not I trust a Mayoral following car).
Contrast this impression of what the Embankment might look like.  Free flowing cycles and cars in their separated facilities with no HGV in sight.
I ride up and down the Embankment on my commute to/from work and know it well.  A very major advantage of the depicted segregated cycle track is that it would take away the need to wait at numerous traffic lights.  A lot of cyclists of varying speeds already use the Embankment so I am hoping these lanes are going to be suitably wide.  I would hope 2.5metres in each direction (5 metres) in total.  This depiction does show the low hanging fruit in the sense that alongside the river it is easy to avoid junctions save at bridges (where there is no artist's depiction) .  Further, I may be surprising motorists by being on the road rather than cycleway for at least part of the Embankment in order to make my turn into and out of The Temple.  
The most remarkable part of this Vision is the preparedness both on the Embankment and the Westway for an elected politician to take space from motorists.  Even the very sensible pro-cycling President of the AA, Edmund King, has questioned the use of the Westway reasoning that street level cycle provision is to be preferred.  However both speed and safety are improved for cyclists if junctions are minimised.  Motorists have long had the benefits of limited access roads whilst cyclists have had to negotiate frequent junctions.  If I were mad enough to drive to work I would get all the way from Egham to West Kensington encountering one traffic light.  Extending this in a small way to bicycles is an excellent idea.  Of course there must be alternative provision for more local traffic, just as there is for motorists.  The Mayor is to be commended for a Vision that would make cycling more attractive for the fast and the less fast.  That and his specific assurance that nothing he does will remove the freedom of the cyclist to use any road she chooses confirms he sees no need to 'tame' the cyclist.
Hooray for Boris, now I wait with expectant interest to see what gets constructed and when.

Sunday 10 February 2013

Imperial Winter Series Race 12

Just above freezing and wet, started with drizzle but then soaking but little wind.  The 3rd cat race kept together this week with the bunch sprint taken by William Goulbourne from Neil Wass with Jacek Reder's 3rd place winning him the series..
Just under an hour's racing at an average of 25.2mph.  My max of 31.9 was nowhere near sufficient to keep up with the bunch sprint at the end.
Jacek Reder, Greg Wiltshire and Ken Buckley taking the 3rd cat honours presented by Tony Doyle MBE, who earlier described his remarkable comeback from a severe crash in 1988 

So yet another winter series draws to a close.  A huge debt is owed by racers in the London area to the Collins family.  A real family effort and I had not realised until yesterday the full extent to which distant cousins are drawn into this huge undertaking.  As always they run their races superbly and deal with the ups and downs in the very best interests of the sport.

At a personal level I have hugely enjoyed the racing, though I have done fewer of them than in the past 5 years.  It has been perfect for me to dip a toe tentatively back into racing after the traumatic end I had to last season.  I definitely need to work on my (lack of a) sprint but with most of my 'training' done commuting into London, this can be awkward.  The great popularity of the series confirms to me that racing cyclists are spearheading the post-Olympic boom in general cycling.  Within the current welcome initiatives to popularise cycling further it is, in my view, important not to lose sight of the interests of those who wish to cycle fast.

Wednesday 30 January 2013

All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group

It was a privilege to appear at the APPCG's Inquiry into 'Get Britain Cycling'.  It was hugely reassuring that 8 Parliamentarians (including as it happens two of the brightest legal brains of their generation) were willing, together with other MPs who attended last week, to devote their time and energy to this important subject.  Much good sense was talked about bringing bikeability into driver training and in reducing speed limits in urban areas with a virtual consensus on what was required (if you leave aside the thorny question of strict liability).  There was a discussion of HGVs and the Police/Mineral Products 'Exchanging Places' initiative which I experienced first hand in November 2011.  One aspect of this that struck me was that it is not only cyclists' behaviour that we should be seeking to influence, but we really need to knock on the head the idea that it is acceptable for lorries to manoeuvre around our streets with blind spots.  The technology is there for all round visibility and we must place the vast bulk of the burden of responsibility on the operators and drivers of such vehicles.  Happily the Inquiry has the written evidence of Kate Cairns with her important 'See me, save me' campaign.
I was a bit of a wildcard as the only witness there to represent myself rather than an organisation and I used (possibly abused) this freedom.  Clearly though, I was invited as a voice on law enforcement and I repeated the line I have often taken on this blog that I would like to see a tougher approach taken by the police against those who endanger cyclists.  Chief Inspector Ian Vincent took my lambast well and assured the Inquiry that roads policing was a priority.  However I found myself unable to understand, still less agree with, his view that action could only be taken against a motorist who had endangered (rather than actually run down) a cyclist if the careless (or dangerous) driving had been witnessed by a police officer.  It is almost as odd as Ms Davenport of ACPO's assertion that she had legal advice that criminal proceedings based upon video evidence were unlikely to succeed.  Mr Vincent did say that original unedited footage would have to be available, which is fair enough, and I am sure generally is available if called for.  By way of conciliatory gesture I was very happy to acknowledge that the I have always found the police to be very receptive when my property rights have been infringed by a thief.  Mr Vincent did inform the Inquiry that Roadsafe had appointed a dedicated officer to review video submissions with a view to prosecution, a step that I certainly applaud (even though it is surely the very least that we could reasonably have expected at the outset) and I acknowledged to be a modest shift in the right direction.  The proof though will be in when a regular stream of bad drivers find themselves with points on their licences.
One thing that did occur to me is that perhaps I should have been there representing the non-cyclist who has the sort of Pauline conversion that we would like now to see in others.  For half my adult life I have been a non-cyclist.  I was rare at my University in not owning a bike, I preferred to walk everywhere.  In my mid 30s, I took up cycling.  Looking back at what induced that; I had a more senior colleague at work with whom I shared a room who cycled and I began to become concerned that I was getting fat.  It finally dawned on me that if my colleague could cycle from Greenwich, reliably arriving in one piece,  I could surely cycle from Kensington.  I tried it in normal clothes on the quietest roads I could find.  Government exhortation one way or another would not have made any difference to this start.   What did make the difference was that I found it a preferable way of getting around than the alternatives.  Having tried it I was surprised at how effective and practical it was as a means of transporting myself around London.  A desire for greater speed and, once I moved home, greater distance and then participation in charity rides led me incrementally to adopt better equipment, clothing and more direct routes and to morph slowly into the cycling/racing nut that I am today.
We really just have to seek to ensure that cycling is a more convenient, more enjoyable, more reliable and cheaper way of getting around than other modes (particularly the car).  For me, the evidence from my very knowledgeable fellow witnesses today reinforced my perception that there are a large number of ways to achieve that.  I am convinced it would be a mistake to focus on one solution to the exclusion of all others.
This is not a report of today's proceedings, I would not be able to do that as well as the journalists and organisations present whose material is already available online.   I  leave with this irreverent thought: looking around Committee Room 12 it was clear to me that the average BMI of the occupants was substantially lower than that of the population at large (and possibly of other Committee Rooms though I did not investigate that).  Lately I am finding that I can hardly turn on my television without seeing the gory detail of another unfortunate person getting a gastric band fitted.  That alone validates my decision 15 years ago to get a bike.  In hindsight of course my deep regret is that I did not do it sooner.

Monday 28 January 2013

Imperial Winter Series Race 10

Race 10 in the Winter Series on Saturday 26th took place after the thaw.  Indeed it felt positively balmy after recent days as I rode out to the circuit;  5 deg and a stiff breeze from the usual SW direction.    In the 3rd cat race, Ken Buckley (AW Cycles) and Graham Crowe (Twickenham CC) got off the front and did a two up timetrial for about an hour, completely out of sight by the end; an impressive effort with Ken Buckley characteristically taking the sprint.   We were passed only by a break off the Elite race; their bunch was snapping at our heels at our last lap but wisely Comm Richard Collins ordered them to ease off and let us sprint in peace.  A few on the grass on the last bend but all remained upright and I came in comfortably in the bunch this time. 
26.7 miles in 1:03:43.  Av 25.2.  Max 31.4.

Thursday 17 January 2013

Update from Court: CPS v Bhamra

An odd and disturbing case was decided in Solihull Magistrates' Court this week.  The Solihull news today reports that Ichhapal Bhamra was sentenced to a fine of just £35 and unspecified court costs and 3 penalty points after his conviction of driving without due care.
The bad driving occurred on 27th June 2012 and involved a collision with a cyclist, Tom Ridgway, who tragically died from the injuries sustained in consequence of the collision..
It appears that Bhamra pleaded guilty to the charge of driving without due care.  The fact that he was not charged with causing death by careless driving and the extremely light sentence suggests that his plea must have been given (and accepted by the CPS) on the basis that his bad driving had not caused Mr Ridgway's death, or indeed any significant harm.  It is very similar to the sentence (£37 plus victim surcharge of £15 plus costs of £85 and 3 penalty points) given to Levi Rayner, after I insisted that he was prosecuted for careless driving after a very close pass in Hounslow that I filmed last year.  The victim surcharge will have been mandatory in Bhamra's case and the costs are likely to have been of a similar order to Rayner's, so the overall financial burden will have substantially exceeded the headline £35 that was reported.  Still well short of harsh but roughly in line with other cases where the careless driving caused no injury/damage.
The real question is not then the leniency of the bench but how it is that the prosecution accepted a plea on the basis that Bhamra's careless driving had caused no significant harm.  Apparently the CPS took the view that they could not prove that Bhamra's carelessness had caused the original impact but merely that continuing on for a distance of 90 metres with Mr Ridgway on his bonnet, colliding with signs and eventually a tree was careless driving.  They also decided that they could not prove that this 'proveable' carelessness, as distinct from the original collision, had caused Mr Ridgway's death.
Making every allowance for the fact that the details of the original collision did not come out in court and were not therefore reported upon, with the consequence that very little is in the public domain, the CPS charging decision does seem lame.  In the absence of any striking explanation, a passing car should not collide with a cyclist.  This is on the face of it indicative of a lack of due care.  Had the original collision been due to Bhamra's lack of due care, then it could hardly be disputed that that collision caused Mr Ridgway's death.  Even if a conviction of causing death by careless driving was not a certainty it seems to me unfortunate that the facts were not brought before a Court to determine.
Hopefully there will be a rigorously conducted Inquest to explore how the original collision occurred.

Tom's aunt has been in contact and comments as follows:

"I could not agree more with your assessment.   I am Tom Ridgway’s aunt, I attended the trial and – as I told the prosecuting solicitor – it felt to me as though a back-room deal had been done.  All events leading up to the collision were dismissed without discussion.   The prosecutor replied that he was new to the case that morning and he could not argue the charge, which had already been agreed.  He added that we should complain if we wished to the CPS.
The family is not seeking further punishment for Mr Bhamra, who has lost his job and is depressed and suffering.  He has paid his £150 penalty including costs and, like most reasonable people, understands that he was responsible for the death of a young man who was merely cycling ahead of him on the road.  (Tom, a student, was on his way to Solihull to deliver his CV to New Look in the hope of getting a holiday job.)  It is the law which has failed to us, by bizarrely dividing the event into Before and After Impact.
Although it cannot be proven that the taxi driver was driving carelessly before the accident, the fact that he hit and killed Tom is surely evidence enough that he was driving without due care and attention WHEN he hit him.  The shattered windscreen, the subsequent panic, the death, are all part of a sequence of behaviours which killed my sister’s beloved son.
Many people, including the newspapers, are jumping to the conclusion that sentencing in this case was too light.  But given the charge before them and the fact that Mr Bhamra was not proved to be drunk, drugged or speeding, the magistrates were directed to give the lightest level of fine.  Indeed, the fact of Tom’s body being on the windscreen became a mitigating factor as the driver could not see where he was going, panicked and put his foot on the accelerator instead of the brake.
The point is not that hitting Tom caused Mr Bhamra’s erratic driving, but that Mr Bhamra’s erratic driving killed Tom.  A distinction that would have been made in court if his case had been charged and prosecuted with proper respect for human life."   

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Update from Court: R v Evans

A548 near Flint

On Sunday 5th February 2012, at 1238 (broad daylight) Alan Mort was cycling along the A458 dual carriageway near Flint.  He was struck from behind by a Range Rover motor car driven by John Evans.  Sadly Mr Mort died of his injuries.
Today at Mold Crown Court Evans was convicted, on his plea of guilty, to causing death by dangerous driving.  Despite the fact that Mr Mort was in plain view of Evans for at least 20 seconds, Evans claimed not to have seen him before running him down.  Motorists behind expressed astonishment as Mr Mort was clearly visible to them.  He was said to be cycling in a straight line close to the kerb in a fluorescent jacket.  Mr Mort's rear light was found embedded in the front of Evans's Range Rover.  It is not clear from the BBC report whether the light was on but there is no particular reason why it should be in the middle of the day.
Evans was sentenced to 14 months imprisonment and disqualified for 18 months.
The Judge, His Honour Judge Niclas Parry, made some encouraging comments when sentencing Evans.

"He was there to be seen. He was immediately in front of you yet you collided with him"

"The use of the public roads by cyclists was probably now more enthusiastic (sic?)  than ever before, the danger to cyclists had never been under greater scrutiny, they were vulnerable road users.  Drivers have a high responsibility to be aware of cyclists on the road."
Encouragingly, there was no suggestion that cyclists should not be on dual carriageways, and the Judge's comments do suggest that the widespread concern over the needless loss of cyclists' lives is filtering down to Judges and to sentencing decisions.  There is yet further to go, however.  The sentence does continue to reflect the judiciary's continuing reluctance to disqualify obviously incompetent motorists for serious lengths of time.
It is hard to know whether to believe Evans when he says he did not see Mr Mort (would an aggressive motorist admit to having passed deliberately close in these circumstances?).  If true, it does emphasise that sadly kitting yourself out in hi-visibility kit is no substitute for positioning yourself on the road where you will be noticed.  There is no safety in riding close to the kerb in a straight line.  This does not attract the attention of the all too common inattentive driver.
None of this detracts from the obvious and complete culpability of Evans but we can improve the odds in our favour by taking the lane and not in placing our faith in the kit that we are so often urged to wear.

Saturday 5 January 2013

Imperial Winter Series Race 7

Race 7 (can it really be 7 already!?) saw a big 3rd cat field of 43 riders lining up on an exceptionally mild overcast January afternoon with the usual SW wind. The larger turnout meant that some were taking greater risks to move up the field but at least everybody managed to remain upright. We all stayed together the whole race though we strung out a bit for the prime. The Elites were on a bit of a go slow today and only caught us up right at the end of our race with just a couple of laps to go. Inevitably we then sprinted past them on the final bends up to the finish. I didn't much fancy sprinting past the other race so just rolled in at the back of the wrong bunch probably in last place.

The race was won by a convincing margin by Ken Buckley of AW Cycles who also won on Tuesday. I suspect there will be plenty looking to hold his wheel next week. We did 26.9 miles in 1:04:09 averaging 25.1 mph, my max 30.6 (during the prime, not the finish).

Friday 4 January 2013

More victim blaming from my profession?

Updating my table of sentencing in fatal cases I came across this:

Both prosecution and defence debated whether Mr Warrington should have been on the A1 in the dark at 4am, but concluded that the law allowed him to be.

Mr Warrington had a rear light that could be seen some 200 metres away.

Rather a lot of reports of these tragic cases seem to have an at best superfluous discussion about the cyclist's entitlement to be on the road.  The motorist's entitlement to use the road is always taken as granted.

A petition you may wish to sign

C Frank is petitioning the Government to make the police take the close passing of cyclists by motorists more seriously.  I agree with him and have signed his petition.  My experience is that some police officers do take this problem seriously but many do not.  My account here of a morning with the Metropolitan Police Cycle Task Force includes the defeatist sentiment expressed to me by a police sergeant that close passing was all too subjective to take any action.

It is very difficult to know how often close passing results in tragedy and I have a sneaking suspicion that when it does many motorists would prefer to claim they had not seen the cyclist than to admit that a close pass went wrong.  Whatever the figures though, close passing is unquestionably precisely the sort of subjectively terrifying experience that drives a lot of potential cyclists off our roads.