Good result for dangerous driving?

Fined £400 + £85 costs and 6 penalty points applied to their license. A good result for some pretty dangerous driving?

The fine is pretty substantial compared to some of the other cases I’ve seen about dangerous drivers bullying other road users. This fine was how ever for failing to nominate a driver.

The registered keeper of this vehicle was sent several letters by the Police and failed to respond to all of them. They were summoned to court for Failing to Nominate a driver and were fined £400 + £85 costs and given 6 penalty points.

It’s a shame the police couldn’t do more work to find out who the driver was a take them off our streets for good. But let’s be honest, this was probably a better results fine wise than if they were charged for dangerous driving. In fact they probably wouldn’t have been charged for dangerous driving, as the CPS pretty much always lowers the driving offence as a standard practise.

So whilst this is a good result, lets not get stray from the issue, the registered keeper may not be the driver in the video. The driver in the video may have gotten away free, we don’t know. The registered keeper could be trying to cover for a friend who may be banned, uninsured or be a wanted criminal, who knows.

You can watch footage of the incident below, the basics of it are as follows.
The driver came too close for comfort as we stopped at some traffic lights, I asked him if he could give me some more space.
The driver replied that it was OK because he hadn’t hit me.
As we set off there is a cement truck to my right and the driver gets closer and closer, my speed stays constant throughout and he edges towards me several times. When he is finally able to squeeze past (and leave me very little room) the driver then slams on his brakes trying to force me into the back of him. Luckily I’m more than aware of this stupid kind of move and I’m able to brake and swerve.

It has to be the worst incident I have had, the only one where I honestly thought I was going to get rammed of the road and potentially die. I feel that it’s a shame that the Police didn’t push more on this to find out who the driver was and get him removed from the streets!

Overtaking on ZigZags

It’s against the law for a vehicle to overtake another vehicle whilst going through a section of zig zag lines right?

Wrong in the case of a motorist overtaking a cyclist. The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 section 28 states

a zig-zag line shall convey the requirement that, whilst any motor vehicle (in this regulation called “the approaching vehicle”) or any part of it is within the limits of a controlled area and is proceeding towards the signal-controlled crossing facility to which the controlled area relates, the driver of the vehicle shall not cause it or any part of it—

(a)to pass ahead of the foremost part of any other motor vehicle proceeding in the same direction; or

(b)to pass ahead of the foremost part of a vehicle which is stationary for the purpose of complying with the indication given by a traffic light signal for controlling vehicular traffic.

So whilst the Highway Code rule 191 only states

You MUST NOT overtake the moving vehicle nearest the crossing or the vehicle nearest the crossing which has stopped to give way to pedestrians.

The actual law only refers to motor vehicles. Motor vehicle drivers are allowed to pass non motor powered vehicles on zig zag lines and non motor powered vehicles are allowed to pass vehicles stopped on the zig zag lines.

We have to make sure we take extra care at zig zag crossings and if it is to safe for people to overtake us then we must take control of the lane to prevent them, as the law is not on our side in this case.

Grammar For Motorists

Came across this nice little website from a friend. Certainly an excellent twist on cycling blogging and one to follow. The story behind it? Well here is what the twitter account says..

Grammar for Motorists is an idea that came to me while cycling to work this morning. Hope it has legs. Any ideas for future lessons welcome.

Here are just a few of the lessons so far

Lesson 4: Spacing

Use of spacing between words helps to avoid unsightly collisions between words that will obscure your meaning and cause confusion.

Similarly, when driving, use of spacing when overtaking cyclists will help avoid unsightly collisions between vehicles that will increase your insurance premiums and cause death or serious injury.

Lesson 3: Imperatives

Cyclists must stop at red lights.

Motorists must stop at red lights.

Motorists must not accuse all cyclists of being “red light-jumping scofflaws”.

Motorists must not labour under the delusion that no motorist ever jumps a red light.

Lesson 1: Prepositions

The car must go around the bicycle.

The car cannot go through or over the bicycle.

If there is no space to overtake, the car must wait behind the bicycle.

Avoiding close passes

A few months back I was trying to think of a way to get motorists to give us a little more space when overtaking us. There isn’t really much we can do that would be legal, which makes; flame throwers, paint guns and window breaking pins out of the question.

The one thing we do have in our arsenal is our arms. I’ve started to indicate to my right if i suspect a driver is going to give me a close overtake.

And from my unscientific research it seems to be working. An indicate to the right is making drivers either stop their overtake or they give me more room. Either way it is putting the doubt into the mind of the driver about what I’m going to do. Which is something the highway code suggests anyway

213

Motorcyclists and cyclists may suddenly need to avoid uneven road surfaces and obstacles such as drain covers or oily, wet or icy patches on the road. Give them plenty of room and pay particular attention to any sudden change of direction they may have to make.

A fair percentage of drivers don’t seem to think about this and overtake at a distance which many cyclists do not think is safe.

This is only executable when you think someone is going to overtake far to close, sometimes it’s hard to even be aware of the moment when you are about to be clipped by a wing mirror!

FPN for Careless Driving

Yesterday it was announced that there is a plan to allow police to issue on the Fixed Penalty Fines (FPN) to road users who driver dangerously, carelessly and inconsiderately.

The fines will be issued for doing such things as tailgating, undertaking and cutting up other road users. They are certainly welcomed but will they have an effect on how people behave whilst surrounded by metal?

It seems that the fines are here to make the roads safer in the UK and to force drivers to act better on the roads. Another angle is that the fines will skip the process with the CPS, which means it’s relatively fast and the paperwork is minimal in comparison. This means it’s a pull you over, ticket you, on your way kind of job rather than lots of desk work filling out forms for all involved. Basically dealt in the same way as speeding tickets.

At present there are minimal amounts of police on the roads. As I’ve mentioned before the roads are essential un-policed and we are in this current situation because drivers are not being fined, cautioned or warned about what they are doing wrong and thus it becomes an everyday part of their driving.

As Roger Geffen, the CTC Campaigns and Policy Director said:

A careless driving fixed penalty notice is welcome, but should only be used where no injury has occurred and the driving is demonstrably careless, not dangerous. We have concerns that too often driving which is objectively dangerous is treated by police and prosecutors as merely ‘careless’.

He raises a good point that dangerous driving is often toned down. Is this just because we are used to it?
I often get comments on my videos that go something like this:

Close passes are a part of cycling, live with it

Just because it’s something we are currently ‘used’ to, doesn’t mean we should put up with it. Passing a cyclist too closely can be very dangerous and is something that is hardly ever addressed!

Unfortunately there are planned cuts in the police force, which is only going to mean even less police officers on the roads.  Looking at the laws relating to mobile phone use whilst in a vehicle which was introduced in 2003, the number of drivers which still talk away whilst driving is not getting any lower. Clearly the message is not getting through and the drivers know there is little chance they will be caught! Is this just going to go down the same road?

On a good note, a lot of clips of bad driving were shown today on the news. And as the list of cyclists that use cameras gets longer, so does the footage of bad and inconsiderate driving.

We need to continue to highlight the issues we are having on the road with dangerous and inconsiderate drivers. So far this year we have had large amounts of media coverage and things can only get bigger!

News containing videos from cyclists

The AA Blunder!

On Friday the 15th of April the AA (Automobile Association) gave out 5,000 branded helmets and 5,000 branded high visibility vests to cyclists in London. The cycling community was outraged by this and watching the twitter comments was quite funny. Especially afterI had already tweeted this the following day to the AA President, Edmund King.

why is the @aapresident giving free helmets to cyclists? So drivers can drive more dangerously around us?

The AA President was kind enough to reply to me to let me know that the AA does give out free training for dangerous young & older drivers and campaigns against drink/drug drivers. Which is fantastic!

What I don’t get is why a motoring group is getting involved in handing out ‘safety’ equipment to cyclists. Are they trying to make the motorists think that cycling is dangerous? Or that motorists can drive around us in a more dangerous manner because we now have helmets to protect our heads.

The AA’s basis for this free advertising gift where 2 polls. Around 16,000 AA members were asked if they think cyclists should wear helmets. 97% think we should. And a spot check done by the AA suggested that only 5% of Barclays Cycle Hire users wear helmets.

The AA president, Edmund King, said

You see some people on Boris bikes who are not proper cyclists. They need a helmet more than most. They’re weaving all over the place.

The helmet is a hot topic among cyclists, at the end of the day they are designed to reduce acceleration to the head at low speeds. Wikipedia states

A typical helmet is designed to absorb the energy of a head falling from a bicycle, hence an impact speed of around 12 mph or 20 km/h. This will only reduce the energy of a 30 mph or 50 km/h impact to the equivalent of 27.5 mph or 45 km/h, and even this will be compromised if the helmet fails.

Basically the helmet is only designed to protect a cyclist that falls over by them selves. Anyone that has cycled for a reasonable amount of time can manage to balance and is unlikely to fall over. The addition of a cycle helmet in a crash with a vehicle is debatable. It may or may not help you.

Is weaving a bad thing? I and many other cyclists do a little wobble or weave as a vehicle is approaching us, it gives the driver the perception that we are not in control and they are more likely to give us the space we require.

High visibility vests are also a hot topic. My personal opinion is they are next to useless in the city environment. So many people wear hi-viz that it doesn’t have the same effect that it used to. Out in the suburbs and the country side it’s a different story. But in the city where you can’t see much further than the rear of the car in front of you, hi viz isn’t going to help.

The CTC’s response was fantastic.

We believe that far bigger road safety gains can be made by tackling instances of bad driving.

And that is how most cyclists felt about it. The CTC turned up at the same locations as the AA and handed out copies of the highway code to drivers.

The AA have said they will repeat this branded give way in other UK cities but I suspect that this may do more damage than good to them, especially with regards to the cycling community.

Advanced Stop Lines – The results

I said a few weeks ago that I was going to collect some data about ASL’s and how many people I see breaking the rules on them. I took the data from a 5 day commuting period, which resulted in 149.55 miles traveled, 11 hours and 30 minutes in the saddle.

I stopped at 88 sets of traffic lights which had an ASL. 7 of those ASL’s had no vehicles that shouldn’t be in there from the time I was in it till the time I left it on the green light. At 12 of those 88, I couldn’t filter to the ASL, either due to it being full with vehicles or because the filter lane and other access routes were blocked.

At those 88 sets of traffic lights I saw 154 vehicles in them whilst the light was red. 59% of those where there when I got to it, and 41% of them I saw move pass the first stop light whilst the light was red.

54% of the vehicles that where in the ASL’s where motorbikes, the other 46% where other vehicles on the road, be them lorries, vans or cars.
On average, there where 1.75 vehicles in each ASL that shouldn’t have been there.

The highway code states, Rule 178:

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.

The highway code suggests that you should treat the ASL like a yellow box and pedestrian crossing. If you can move all the way passed it then fine, but if you will stop in it due to traffic ahead of you, then you should stop at the first stop line. This suggests that any vehicle caught in the ASL that shouldn’t be there, could be fined.

Lets see what the Road Traffic Act and The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions have to say about ASL’s. *reads sections outlined by the highway code* Well that would be nothing. Just the laws about stopping at the first stop line but nothing about ASL’s. Which means that the police can only fine someone if they see them cross the first white line whilst the light is amber or red (amber is a 50/50 ).

I’ve yet to see anyone get fined for crossing the first stop line whilst the light is red. There have been some tales told by cyclists, the police say they can only fine someone if they see them cross the first stop line whilst the light is on red. Even then I doubt the driver will get a £60 and 3 points for it, more a telling off.

TFL boast that they added new ASL’s and increased the size of the existing ones along the super highways. But what is the point in wasting tax payers money on facilities for vulnerable road users if motor vehicles just ignore them? I would have no problem with TFL boasting about them if they where actually enforced and useful to cyclists but I fear that they often act as a target for cyclists to filter to and can put them in danger.

Advanced Stop Lines – The most useless cycling facility

Liverpool

Image via Wikipedia

Well they certainly aren’t useless in their design. The idea behind them is bold but it’s hard to find one that isn’t already occupied.

I have two issues with ASL’s, the first being that motor vehicles often breach the law on stopping at the first stop line and the fact that 99% of them force you to filter on the left side of the cars to legally enter them.

I’ll start of with filtering to the ASL. The ASL is designed to give cyclists the chance to take control of the traffic lane they are in by taking a central/primary position. This means they have the space they need to get started when the lights change and not get caught by traffic that is turning or moving around them.

This sounds great, but first you have to get to the ASL. To do this legally, you will more often than not have to filter up the left hand side of the traffic. This is generally a bad idea for many reasons, including passengers exiting cars whilst stopped and not looking and the chances of getting caught out and having a car turn left in front of you or being squashed towards the kerb.
I very rarely filter up the left side of traffic when approaching a junction, I will often filter on the right hand side much like a motorcyclist, this has many pro’s including the fact that motorcyclist do this and drivers are more likely to be aware something in that position.

The main issue is the problem with motor vehicles breaching the ASL and stopping in the ASZ.  With the knowledge that an ASL is at a set of traffic lights, cyclists filter to the front only to find that there are cars stopped in the ASL and there is no room to position them selves safely. This either leads to cyclists jumping the red light and riding through the junction, the cyclists crossing the last stop line (which is technically RLJing), staying in a position which is unsafe or stopping in a gap between cars.

The main problem is that ASL’s are rarely a subject covered in the driving test and since their introduction in 1986 there has been little information provided to road users about what they should do.

It doesn’t help that the police do nothing about vehicles that cross the first stop line when the traffic light is red. It is a punishable offence with points and a fine but it is deemed to be a minor offence and is often overlooked. What may be a minor offence in one persons eyes, is an offence in another persons that causes an expensive cycling facility to be a waste.

I’ve decided to do a minor study to see how many vehicles I come across stopped in the ASZ’s over a few days. I shall included all modes of transport that by law, should not be in the ASZ. It may be that they entered it perfectly legally when the light was green but due to traffic they could not progress further. I shall report back on my findings in the next week or so.

In the mean time, there are some figures to have a look at from the Westminster Cycling Campaign. Their research at 4 junctions shows that in 2009 53% of drivers stop before the ASL when the light is red or amber, which is the same as in 2002. So over a 7 year period, and with an increase in cycling traffic on the roads during that time, the drivers where not any better. I did miss out that in 2003 60% of drivers stop before the ASL when the light was red or amber. But that number is still awfully low. TFL worked on the bus drivers understanding the ASL from 2002 to 2009 and we can see an increase from 59% stopping in 2002 to 92% stopping in 2009, why can’t something be done with all drivers?

The Red Light Jumping Gods

Any sensible cyclist knows that breaking the law is a big no no. It gives us (cyclists) a bad image and can potentially be dangerous.
Each day I see several cyclists whizz through lights with no consequences.  Which is good, i don’t wish harm to anyone but sometimes it’s good to see them fall foul of a common issue for cyclists, such as your chain coming of your chain ring.

The Roads are Un-policed!

I asked my self the other day when was the last time I saw a traffic police car on the road driving around? hmmmm… I thought long and hard but couldn’t give my self a definitive answer. Either they are doing a great job of hiding but not catching anyone or there aren’t any.

With the lack of Police patrols on the roads, drivers get away with speeding, drink driving and using their mobile phone whilst driving. In the case that they do get caught, the fines and penalties are not large enough to stop them from doing in the future. And as the motorist is aware that there aren’t many patrols, they know the chances of getting caught is slim.

I see people breaking road laws on a daily basis and not once do they get caught, they put other road users at danger and can serious hurt or kill innocent people. But how can we solve this problem?

More police on the roads.
That’s right, if we put a bigger police presences on the roads, then people won’t act like idiots all the time. They can use unmarked cars to blend in with regular drivers and catch people red handed. With more police on the roads and more fines given out, it will mean that the points system will actually work. As you have more of a chance of getting caught then you are more likely to get points and reach the limit. This will mean that over time, the people on the roads will be the safe drivers.

Fines relative to income
A £60 fine is nothing to someone driving around in a £60,000 car who earns more than £200,000 a year. I suggest that we do what Finland do and fine people relative to their last known income. This will help cover the costs of the extra officers required to catch offenders.
In finland a fine was handed out for €170,000 (£140,000) to a driver that was going around 45mph in a 30 zone. The police in the UK could make a comfortable living if people were charged that much.

CPS need to give decent sentences for traffic crimes
The amount of times I see a news report of a conviction given to a motorists for killing an innocent road user and the sentence is below poor. The fine isn’t high and they are only in jail for a few years and if they get a driving ban, it often runs along side the jail sentence which often means by the time they come out, they are allowed on the roads again.

But is it really the polices fault that driving standards are so bad? Well it kind of is, if the roads are un-inforced then people get away with bad driving a few times and then they continue to do it. Lets not forget how people learn to drive, the test isn’t particularly hard and the theory you are required to ‘learn’ is often forgotten as soon as they have passed the theory test.
As a cyclist I would like to see a section of the test that is devoted on how to drive around vulnerable road users and the duty of care they should have towards us.
At present drivers are put onto the road without any real experience around cyclists and the mentality of most drivers is that the speed limit is in fact a target. What the often fail to see is that over a set distance a bicycle can actually be just as fast and that rushing past us actually gets you no where.
I also think that there should be some re-testing involved , everyone 5 years you should have to go back and take your test to prove that you know what you’re doing and you haven’t picked up any bad habits.

Driving is a privilege and not a requirement or should I say, driving should be a privilege. I myself am a driver, and I know what sort of damage my vehicle could do to someone, because of this I take care when I’m driving and I look out for other road users.

Recently, Martin Porter QC (A cyclist and a helmet camera user) called out for courts to do more to protect cyclists after the tragic death of former boxer Gary Mason.

I don’t claim to know anything about how the Police work, my ideas about funding and more staff to catch more drivers may be a wild dream that is never practical, but we can all have our little perfect world.