I grabbed the shot above in London last year. Seeing drivers chatting on their phones is not unusual. It’s a deplorable, dangerous practice that impairs concentration. Perhaps worse, though, is the act of texting while driving. This requires both lack of concentration and an eyes-down technique that has death written all over it. Sadly, the death is usually of some unwitting person who comes into the path of the driving texter, as has been shown in numerous death-by-texting ‘accidents’ over recent years.
The other day - while a passenger in a car - I witnessed a driver texting on the M1. He was on the inside lane, no doubt going a little slower than usual for “safety”. As we drew parallel to him I could see him fiddling with his phone, looking down at the keyboard and screen, and bobbing eyes-front now and again to make sure he was roughly in the same lane he was in before he started texting.
As we were overtaking (I asked my wife to get well away from such a dangerous driver) I didn’t have time to take a photograph. Anyway, had I done so he might have wobbled and crashed; or chased after us to show his displeasure at being caught on camera.
Such unthinking morons text away from motorways, too. They kill. Texting while driving is not yet as socially unacceptable as drink-driving, but the sooner it is, the better.
I’m no huge fan of the No 10 Downing Street petition site. It’s toothless (Gordon Brown has not resigned, despite a popular request asking him to) and more of a diversion than a tool for democratic change. But it’s a focal point for campaigners and can bring out the best in their prose.
Allan Ramsey, for instance, has penned some of his best stuff thanks to his ‘mobile menace’ petition. It’s now got 1100+ signatories, a far cry from the tens of thousands of petrolheads who have signed a petition asking for speed limits not to be dropped.
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to introduce driving ban and phone confiscation, if not car confiscation, for drivers caught using/holding mobile phone - potentially lethal weapon.
Ramsey campaigns for Roadpeace and is an inveterate letter writer, getting his views published in numerous local newspapers and cycle magazines. He also emails bike editors like myself. Part of his latest email is carried below. Whatever you think of his tactics, he talks a lot of sense.
Since reading the story about Leigh [Dolby's] death, I have been deeply troubled. But then which cyclist wouldn’t have been?
Leigh was a very experienced, capable and responsible cyclist. On August 30, 2007, Leigh’s life came to an abrupt, a tragic, an undignified and senseless end. While training for a 225 mile charity ride, which he’d planned to celebrate his 55th birthday just two days later, he was hit from behind by a driver. Why? Was it because his killer was otherwise engaged – composing and texting trivial-trash on his hand-held mobile phone?
Instead of looking at the road ahead, as one is supposed to do by law, especially when driving at a speed which can kill, which basically amounts to any speed, was Leigh’s killer looking down towards his knees, trying to focus on a tiny little screen and composing useless information by pressing tiny little buttons?
Despite admitting to driving dangerously, Thomas Duffield was found guilty of the much lesser crime of causing death by careless driving, and was subsequently sentenced to just 12-months in jail. To make matters worse, when Leigh’s family appealed that the sentence was too lenient, the Lord Chief Justice in his wisdom ruled: Not at all!
When Labour peer Lord Ahmed was involved in a fatal collision not too long ago, the judge ruled that although the records showed he had been texting in the moments just prior to the collision, because it couldn’t be proved that he was actually texting at the moment of impact, the incident could not be considered to be one of causing death by dangerous driving. Consequently, Lord Ahmed was found guilty of just dangerous driving - no death to answer to - and [not] jailed accordingly.
However, he instantly appealed against the decision, and after serving just 16 days of a very lenient 12 weeks, he was released – with a huge smile on his face. Not so the family of his 28-year-old victim. Isn’t life in the UK dirt cheap?
Now though, new sentencing guidelines are calling on judges to consider up to seven years jail for drivers causing death by texting. What we really need are much tougher sentences for drivers who simply just use a mobile phone, in fact, even just holding one whilst driving is dangerous.
Anyone who is as troubled and as fearful as I am about drivers who ignore the mobile phone ban, and would like to see the current £60 fine and three penalty points replaced by phone and car confiscation (so that innocent lives aren’t confiscated) plus a driving ban, (as with drink driving), then they should petition on-line.
Read the rest of "Motoring texters need to be shamed, like drunk drivers"...
The now famous incident of London Mayor Boris Johnson nearly being killed by a stupid truck driver (famous to cyclists, anyway…we’re spreading it virally as a There But for The Grace of God Go I parable) is bound to featured on this week’s comedy news quiz Have I Got News For You.
Because it’s Boris, the video will be played for laughs but, of course, the criminal actions of the truck driver - trying to squeeze past a group of cyclists on a bend, over speed bumps and with too little space to overtake safely - will be a reason for mirth, not condemnation.
Perhaps, just perhaps, the truck driver may face some sort of sanction. His crime? Being caught. On camera. These sort of ‘accidents’, sadly, are not rare but it’s unusual for there to be a celeb involved and unusual for the CCTV footage to be made public so quickly.
Andrea at Velorution.biz wants the truck driver to be banned from driving in London and for the video above to be sent to all haulage companies as a warning: ‘[I'd] send an email to all companies who employ lorry drivers, and tell them: “Drive like this and we will impound your fleet.”’
Karl also points out the tousle-haired one was wearing a bike helmet, not something he’s noted for. In a spirit of helmet-wearing safety, here’s my video of a game you could once place online thanks to the UK’s Department for Transport.
Following complaints, the game has now been culled. Complaints? What’s the world coming to when you can’t hit kiddie heads with a mallet?
Over on Bikeforall.net I answer a load of queries sent in to the site. Most are either too banal or too localised to be worth broadcasting. Everybody gets a personal reply but some of the questions are of general interest. These get posted to the FAQ section – with an answer – for all to see.
Generally, the questions are from new cyclists, worried parents or returnees to the fold. Sometimes the questions are from non-cyclists and these tend to be more strident. One came in earlier today. I answered it at length. J Clift of Colchester (who I assumed is a Mr.) really doesn’t like people cycling on pavements [US=sidewalks]. I don’t either. It bugs me when I see adults riding on what are clearly footpaths. But I know why those adults are not riding on the road.
See if you agree with what I wrote to Mr Clift.
Q: “I am somewhat angered these days by the amount of people who ride on pavements, young and old, and no-one in authority seems to care or be about to stop this. The public just seem to think they can do this because there are no effective actions to stop them. I just grow angrier and madder by the day. Sometimes I have suggested to the riders they are illegally riding but I fear for my safety! What can I do before I explode?!”
A: Cycling on the pavement is illegal and cyclists can be fined £30 on the spot (and often are).
But, just as motorists routinely break traffic laws (running red lights, driving in bus lanes, habitually speeding, driving while talking on mobile phones), sadly, some cyclists also break the law and cycle on pavements (i.e. footways).
Sometimes this is ignorance of the law. Other times it’s laziness. Often it’s due to confusing local authority cycle facilities: many pavements have been designated as cycle paths and yet, just a little further on, the very same stretch of ‘cycle path’ reverts to being pedestrian only.
Mostly, however, it’s out of fear of motorised traffic. Not that cycling on the pavement is necessarily safer than being on the road. Sometimes motorists mount footways and kill people. For instance, on Friday, a pregnant woman in Carlisle was killed by a dangerous driver who hit the woman while she was walking on a footway.
Rest assured, all the official advice from cycle organisations is for cyclists not to ride on footways. Bikeforall.net has a page all about ‘cycling and the law’, where cyclists’ rights and responsibilities are spelled out in no uncertain terms.
This article leads with the ‘cycling on pavements’ issue. A bike shop in York also has a Stop At Red campaign aimed at cyclists who run lights. I don’t know of any motoring organisation that has a similar single-issue campaign aimed at stopping motorists committing the same offence.
Many motorists also routinely park on footways, a dangerous practice for passing pedestrians, wheelchair users and pushchair pushers. It’s also very damaging to pavement slabs; costly for councils to repair.
In an ideal world, no cyclists, drivers or pedestrians would break the law: but we don’t live in an ideal world. By all means campaign against cyclists using footpaths but perhaps there are mitigating circumstances on some of the footpaths in your local area (speeding motorists, poor signage of where cycle paths start and finish etc)?
If the majority of those you see cycling on footways are youths in hoodies, ask your local police to take some action. Maybe they’ll send out some bike bobbies to nab the worst offenders? A few FPNs (fixed penalty notices of £30) might reduce the problem.
Looking on the positive side, it’s probably better to meet a hooded youth cycling on a pavement than meeting the same youth acting illegally in a car. Cyclists riding on footways are wrong and irritating; they’re very rarely life-threatening.
Don’t explode. Take up the footway cycling issue with your local council. Consider widening your campaign to include complaints against all forms of anti-social transport behaviour. In fact, if your local streets were made safer for cycling, there would likely be less need for cyclists to ride on footways.
Cars are heavy, fast and potentially lethal to flesh-and-blood cyclists and pedestrians. If your area saw dramatic reductions in car speeds, I’d warrant you’d see a dramatic reduction in traffic violations by cyclists.
Read the rest of "Colchester’s Mr Angry: please don’t explode"...
Jan 27th 2009: Do I have a target on my back? I’ve just been on a car hood. There were witnesses.
I’m riding back from dropping my daughter at ballet. I have flashing LEDs front and rear, plus reflective jacket, plus flashing LED ankleband. The narrow road outside our cottage is a rat-run, especially at night.
I could hear a car going stupidly fast behind me, revving right up to me. I have to take a right turn on a road and then an immediate right turn into our drive. If a car is too close, the driver might not realise I’m making two turns in quick succession - so, if I hear them getting too close, I wiggle to tell them I’m about to do something they might not be expecting.
Tonight, an impatient driver ignored my flashing LEDs and disregarded my wiggle and hand-signal. I turned right, and as he was inches behind me there was nowhere for him to go but - slowly - into the side of me. I’m now parallel to his front bumper, stuck half through my right-hand turn. The driver revved, and blistering the air, told me to get out of his way.
I stood my ground, pointing to my flashing LEDs, asking him why he had been following me so close when I was executing a turn. I was a paragon of calmness. He revved again, pushing into my legs with the front of his car. He repeated his instruction for me to get out of his effing way.
A cyclist came along at that moment and I asked him to be a witness to the drama unfolding. The cyclist tried to calm the motorist, arguing there were no injuries involved (yet) and that as he hadn’t seen the original incident we should disengage.
The young, well-dressed motorist got out of his car at this point and started effing and blinding at me at very close quarters. Instead of the expected thump, he got out his iPhone (not all iPhone users are saints, then), said he’d call the police, and took a picture.
By this point, my next-door neighbour was watching and listening.
The motorist said “people like me” needed to get out of the way of cars [UPDATE: "people like me" meaning cyclists or anybody in front of him? If cyclists, then I would now point him to iPayRoadTax.com, a site that majors on the cyclists' right to the road]. I suggested he might not want to use a vehicle weighing a tonne as a battering ram on my legs.
He lifted my bike out of my hands, threw it to the side and on to the ground and got back in his car. I stood still. Gandhi of Jesmond Dene.
I was about to take out my iPhone and take a pic of the guy’s number plate when the car revved, and moved forward at enough speed to force me to jump on the hood. I had to hold on, Starsky and Hutch style as he drove 10m before a chicane and a coming car stopped him. Now even more enraged, the motorist reversed at speed. All the while other cars are managing to make their way past. (What must they have been thinking? I don’t suppose you see somebody crouching on the hood of a speeding car every day of the week).
The motorist sounded his horn, shouting and swearing. By now off the hood, I blocked his way while I took a pic of his number plate, which is only fair as he took a pic of me. Once I recorded his details, I stepped out of the way.
He drove away, swearing, but, again blocked by a car coming the other way, he had time to shout why he was in such a hurry to get past me. He was late for picking up his son. Mr Angry revs again, and sped away, brake lights blinking as he aggressively tail-gated a car with the temerity to be in front of him.
The patient cyclist gave me his contact details. The police will be called. The cyclist said not to bother as “they won’t do anything.”
I dunno. With two witnesses, they might just.
Two policemen called in tonight, very quickly after I phoned in the incident. They seemed shocked by the details recounted above and took it all very seriously. Probably because of two witnesses.
The guy was to be interviewed tonight. Case could go to court, possibly for dangerous driving, more probably for careless driving.
I’m still in shock. I don’t like or encourage these sort of encounters, but, sadly, they’re getting more frequent. Too many drivers don’t seem to realise cars can be weapons.
Deliberately shunting my shins was dangerous - and stupid given there was a witness standing by - but to take me on a 10m drive on his hood was insane.
What I didn’t write about above was the abuse the motorist gave cyclists in general. He doesn’t think we should be on the roads at all, and said so in no uncertain terms. At the very least the guy needs a motoring attitudes course to teach him that the roads are not for cars alone.
When I’m in my car I, too, get frustrated when I’m late, but I wouldn’t for a moment take out that frustration on skin and bones.
A nice police officer called today and said the “offender” would be arrested and charged with assault. Lifting the bicycle away from me was enough to warrant this charge but taking me on a little car journey on the hood/bonnet was “very serious”, said the police officer.
The car used in the incident was a company car and the driver has yet to be tracked down. “But we’ll find him,” promised the police officer.
By going down the assault route instead of a motoring infraction there’s less red-tape and more chance of securing a conviction. The first assault took place within one metre of one of the witnesses.
FINAL UPDATE: The police phoned tonight (12th Feb). The driver was identified and arrested. He admitted he had lost his temper, and that he shouldn’t have done. He told the arresting officer he was sorry for he had done and that it won’t happen again.
The police officer said the driver was “unknown” to them ie no previous. He accepted a ‘caution’. I was asked if I was OK with that. I said yes, and meant it. I had told the police at the time that the guy was probably the salt-of-the-earth when away from his car. Hopefully, he’ll now take more care when driving behind and near to cyclists.
A ‘caution’ is a shot across the bows. It’s on the driver’s police record and if he’s caught road raging again he’s more likely to be convicted for any future infraction. Case closed.
But don’t worry, it’s all in the name of art. In fact, no cyclists were hurt in the making of this music video:
Of course, singer Jarvis Cocker would be well aware of the friction between cyclists and cabbies. He’s one of London’s most distinctive cyclists - the others are mayor Boris Johnson, newsreader Jon Snow, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and wannabe PM Dave Cameron.
Below is a statement I’m going to give to the police tomorrow. I reported a road rage and assault incident earlier today. The statement has had identifying details removed.
When you get to the end you’ll see there’s a funny side to the story, but also a worrying side.
Two skinny roadies - me and Dave - could be charged with assaulting a burly Border Reiver type, built like the proverbial brick outhouse, and with fists the size of my head.
Now, we were non-violent (so would you be if you saw the width of the driver’s shoulders) but the driver and his mate pulled a fast one on us and, if the police believe them, we could be for the drop.
UPDATE: A policeman came to take down our statements. Dave had already decided that if the driver didn’t make up a cock-and-bull story and accuse him of assault, he would let the matter drop.
The policeman read my statement below and said he didn’t know what the other party was going to do. Dave asked him for clarification on this and the policeman rang through to the police officer in another force who was dealing with the incident.
She said the whole incident sounded “ridiculous” and that the driver complained I had been in his way. But he didn’t make a complaint that Dave hit him, which, given the guy’s theatricals, was our main worry.
I’d say there was clear case of dangerous driving involved here but, with no witnesses, there’s little the police can do.
The policeman said every driver needs to exercise caution on flooded roads and shouldn’t expect a cyclist to ride through surface water.
Dave said: “There could be a pothole under a big puddle.”
The policeman agreed: “I hit one last night, it nearly broke my car’s wishbone.”
As an aside, the policeman expressed amazement that we had cycled from Newcastle to Mitford:
“I’d get tired doing that in my car,” he said.
At approximately 10.55am on Wednesday 17th December I was cycling with a friend - Dave Goodwin - north on a minor country lane between the B6524 and the village of Mitford.
Dave was 20-30 metres ahead of me. The road was slightly downhill and was partially flooded, with deep puddles either side of the road and unknown number of potholes hidden by the surface water.
We had been cycling from Newcastle, approx 20 miles away, and I was now warm enough to take off my gloves. I looked behind me and saw no vehicle. Thinking I was safe, I took off one glove as I was riding along. Before I took off the second glove I instinctively looked behind me and was surprised to see a vehicle, approaching fast.
As there was a flooded area coming up I was 1.5 metres from the left hand verge to avoid what could be a deep hole. I assumed the car would have to slow, and pass me once I had passed the flood. I didn’t think it would be able to pass me as at this point as there was no room for safe overtaking.
Within a split second I realised the vehicle had not slowed down. It was a 4×4 and it ploughed into the right hand grass verge, spraying flood water as it drove past at 30-40mph. The vehicle had been inches from my right hand side. The driver of the vehicle must have been able to see me from a long distance away. Stunned at the passing move at speed, with the vehicle veering on to the verge, I was shocked at the proximity of the vehicle and I shouted:
“You nearly f***ing killed me! You can’t do that!”
At this, the driver of the vehicle jammed on his brakes and stopped abruptly. I left the road and ended up on the muddy verge on the car’s left hand side.
Two men got out of the vehicle (a Nissan 4×4, licence number 00000) and the driver (white, aged about 50, and about 5ft 8, and dressed in a brown waterproof jacket, sturdy boots and with a fleece hat) came across to me, effing and blinding.
He came very close to my face and had his fist by the side of his head and pointed at my face, as though he was about to strike me. His hands were far wider than the average man’s hand and I feared that if he hit me, as he was verbally threatening to do, I would be badly hurt. He kept his fist in this position for some time.
His passenger - about the same age as the driver, 5ft 10, with glasses and dressed in a green fleece and also wearing sturdy boots - was doing his best to calm down the driver, urging him not to hit me.
Dave had by this time come to my side and was also urging the driver not to hit me, saying it ‘wasn’t worth it.’
The driver spat as he shouted at me: “You had your hands off your bike! Your mate was in the middle of the road!”
I told the driver and the passenger I had been removing my gloves, there were obstacles in the road I couldn’t avoid and that he should have slowed down and waited the few metres until I had passed the flooded area.
The claim that I was riding no-handed was repeated, with venom. The driver then said:
“You were going very fast, we could hardly catch up to you.”
I don’t remember riding for any great distance with my hands off the handlebars although might have done fleetingly. However I was definitely holding one side of the bars when the driver closed in on me and came past me. The other hand was still putting a glove in my rear jacket pocket, even when the driver came past and mounted the verge with his right set of wheels.
At this point I was not travelling very fast, perhaps 15mph.
As the driver was still threatening violence – with his fist quivering as if on a hair-trigger – Dave told him he had better stop or he would call the police. The driver urged him to do so.
Dropping his fist, the driver returned to the car. I took out my mobile phone (an iPhone) and took a photograph of the car’s number plate. At this the driver ran back to me, snatched the phone off me and said: “What are you doing with that thing?”
I said I was taking a photo of his number plate to give to the police, and asked him nicely to give back the phone.
He refused and appeared to want to throw the phone over into the field behind me. He also looked at the ground briefly and I feared he might smash the phone off the road. Again, I urged him to give back the phone, and I might have said something along the lines of ‘you’re stealing it,’ or similar.
He shoved it back at me, hitting my chest with it, and I held on to it. My photos of the incident are not terribly good because each time I raised it to take photos, the driver made a move to come running to grab it again. In the end I hid it in my jacket, although I had managed to get some photos of his registration number.
By now there were three or four vehicles stuck either side of the Nissan, unable to pass on such a narrow lane.
I took my phone and went to the back of the car to take photos of the flooded area and the verge the driver had mounted to get past me.
The passenger now started taking photographs of us with his mobile phone, saying he would report us to the police because I had shouted at them when they overtook me. We were happy for him to take photographs and told him so.
Thinking the incident was now over, Dave went back to retrieve his bike, 20-30 metres away. While I was taking photos of the verge, I heard shouting and saw that the driver had followed Dave. The driver had his fists clenched by his side. Under no provocation whatsover, the driver hit Dave on the back of the head, just under his helmet. Dave, who until now had been a peacemaker, was infuriated and walked towards the driver, telling him he had just committed assault.
The driver walked 10 metres back towards his car but then turned back and, facing Dave at very close quarters, said in a fake dramatic voice, “Ow! Ow! Look, you hit me!” He put his hands to his eye socket, feigning injury. He then fell to the road and started writhing in fake pain, suggesting the passenger take photographs. The passenger did so.
The day had taken a farcial turn and it was bizarre to see the driver on the road, pretending he had been hit in the face. He got up. Not quite believing what I had just seen, I asked the driver what he did for a living. Spitting venom again - not seeing the funny side of his antics - he shouted “I’m an actor!”
I said: “Yeh, but what do you really do for a living?” Aggressively, he shouted, “I’m an actor! I’m an actor!”
The driver then went to his car, opened the driver’s door and took out a green, military-style rucksack, bringing it in our direction. He had one hand inside, seemingly about to take something out.
I have no idea what was in the rucksack because at this point we decided to leave.
Dave and myself rode away, informing the driver and the passenger that we would be calling the police and reporting the incident. The driver and the passenger said they would be doing the same, daring us to stay. We declined to do this because of the driver’s aggression and bizarre antics.
We feared the vehicle would chase us but the Nissan did not pass. We rode to Ponteland police station and reported the incident, relating the facts above.
This is a famous photograph of Barack Obama riding his bike in Chicago when he was a mere senator. The bike doesn’t fit him and he’s pedalling with the balls of his feet but he appears relaxed and safe.
But check out the driver in the passing car. Sure looks like he’s driving while talking on a mobile phone. Such lack of attention is a major cause of auto ‘accidents’ around the world. The American dream could have been over before it even started.
Read the rest of "Cellphone driver could have killed the American dream(boat)"...
Dunno, this bobby on a bike looks pretty big to me.
Maybe being a policeman helps in the visibility stakes? Of course, once the cyclist has cleared this area it’s into the HGV drivers blind spot. But there are special mirrors to combat such blind spots.
The pic is from a press release from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
A DOSE OF CYCLE SENSE
As part of a three week long London-wide campaign of education and enforcement aimed at lorry drivers and cyclists, the Council gave cyclists a rare opportunity to see the road from a HGV driver’s viewpoint and learn about the real dangers in passing them on the left hand side. The campaign’s aim was to reduce the number of collisions between lorries and bicycles.
The awareness event was held today 26 November at the entrance to Holland Park, on Kensington High Street, with partners the Metropolitan Police Campden Safer Neighbourhoods Team.
The Royal Borough’s Cycling Champion, Councillor Maighread Condon-Simmonds, said: “Even the most road-aware cyclist will probably never have seen what a cyclist looks like in the mirror of a HGV and more importantly when they don’t appear in the mirror. This event gave cyclists a chance to brush up on the basic rules of the road and see things from a different perspective. I’m also very pleased to hear that the campaign will also encourage lorry drivers to pay special attention to cyclists.”
Bike experts were on hand to give quick safety checks and simple adjustments to bicycles on site and alerting riders to another hazard - the risk in jumping a red light.
I’m agog, the Evening Standard wants to keep 30,000 cars out of London partly in order to protect newbie cyclists!
THE Mayor is expected to announce his decision on whether to keep the western congestion charge zone within days: as we report today, the issue is dividing London councils. Hammersmith and Fulham council is at loggerheads with Kensington and Chelsea over the western extension’s future.
Hammersmith regards the zone as creating a “Berlin wall” which divides one part of the borough from the other, and is worried about the effect on local businesses. The Royal Borough, meanwhile, says its residents like the reduction in traffic the charge has brought.
But this question has to be looked at from a London-wide perspective. The western extension was inevitably unpopular when introduced. However, to remove it now and allow 30,000 cars a day back in would be a retrograde step. It would force many cyclists back onto public transport, increase car commuting and congestion, and worsen air quality. At a time of pressure on budgets, the Mayor will not want to do without the revenue the zone raises. The solution is to modify the charge so that it still deters car commuters but ends in the middle of the day to allow access to shops and businesses.
Read the rest of "Cough. Splutter. Cough. Evening Standard backs congestion charging"...