Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Lets hope the police recognise careless driving for the crime it is

As a voter in the upcoming Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner I am interested in the views and priorities of all candidates. Luckily I live in an area of Berkshire which has relatively low levels of crime. As a daily commuter by bicycle my major concern is road policing. I frequently witness careless or dangerous driving and believe that the police do not place a high enough priority on this area. Cycling in Berkshire is very popular and is only going to increase in popularity in the coming years.

Examples of careless/dangerous driving I experience regularly are;

1. Vehicles pulling out in front of me. I can only speculate at some of the reasons for this, but I suspect that they could be because the driver;

  • failed to look at all,
  • looked but failed to see me,
  • looked and saw me but made an error of judgement,
  • looked and saw me but decided to pull out anyway despite it being obvious that doing so wasn't safe,

The first two are known in cycling circles as SMIDSY (sorry mate I didn't see you), the last two are known as SMIDCAY (sorry mate I don't care about you) or SMIDGAF (sorry mate I don't give a f***).

2. Inappropriate overtaking. The highway code is clear on overtaking yet I experience dangerous overtaking on a daily basis, examples of this are;

  • overtaking when there isn't room, eg the road is narrow, which usually results in the vehicle squeezing past dangerously close,
  • overtaking when there is oncoming traffic, causing the the vehicle to swerve in front of me,
  • overtaking on blind corners or blind summits
  • failing to give enough room when overtaking (rule 212)
  • overtaking simply because the they are following a vehicle in front, which has overtaken
  • overtaking when the road ahead isn't clear, for example at the approach to a junction or standing traffic
  • overtaking and then turning left (known as left-hooking)

3. Aggressive and intimidating driving. Some people appear to think that because I am riding a bicycle I am less important than they are. Here are some things that have happened to me this year whilst commuting.

  • Driver of a pick up truck beeping horn and yelling "get the f*** out of the way" then overtaking dangerously within 6 inches of me, causing oncoming traffic to swerve to avoid him, whilst he spat at me and yelled "c**t".
  • Driver pulling along side me and yelling "get off the road" before speeding away. When I caught up with him in traffic seconds later I asked him why he was so angry and politely asked him to drive with more consideration and respect for other road users. He answered that I "should cycle on the pavement, out of my way, roads are for cars". When I pointed out that cycling on the footway was illegal he said "if you want to be on the road, get a car".
  • Driver of a school minibus (St Edwards Prep school, http://www.stedwards.org.uk) with several children in followed me down the Kings Road bus/cycle/taxi lane in Reading continously sounding his horn. The bus lane is just wide enough for a bus, it is not wide enough for a bus to safely overtake a bicyle. I ride the primary position since an incident last year where I was forced off the road by a bus overtaking and clipping my elbow as it passed. The minibus driver even continued to sound his horn and yell abuse as I stopped at a red light for a pedestrian crossing.

Cyclists are extremely vulnerable road users and it doesn't need a severe collision or high speed to cause serious injury or death. If a vehicle overtakes me and hits me with its wing mirror, then its likely I'll end up in hospital or worse. This was brought home on my commute this morning when I cycled past an accident scene at Winnersh roundabout with several emergency vehicles in attendance and a cyclist lying in the road with blankets coving him/her. I hope whoever it was is OK, but it looked very serious.

It seems to me that there is a tendancy for collisions due to careless/dangerous driving to be labelled 'accidents' which has the connotation that it was 'by chance' and perhaps unpreventable. Far from it, such driving is a crime and the criminals need to be persued by the justice system.