Cycle Passing Limits, and Cycling in London

One ABD correspondent has written to the ABD about the fact that he received a Notice of Intended Prosecution about a claimed offence of passing a cyclist too closely in North Wales, which he denies. The police are claiming to have evidence based on a headcam worn by a cyclist but are refusing to disclose the video evidence or even a transcript of a statement given by the cyclist.

Firstly, headcam or dashcam footage can be used as evidence in criminal cases if some conditions are met although the widespread use of cameras does raise the question of privacy. There is effectively none at present on the public roads.

As regards disclosure of evidence, the police certainly need to disclose the evidence if they intend to pursue a prosecution. See this article on Pepipoo for more information on that subject: http://www.pepipoo.com/Disclosure.htm . Perhaps the Police are relying on people accepting a Fixed Penalty Notice rather than going to court to challenge the case, but that would be most dubious.

As regards the distance that vehicle users should allow when overtaking a cyclist, the Highway Code says the following: “Give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car” and “Give them plenty of room and pay particular attention to any sudden change of direction they may have to make”. This is somewhat unspecific as some drivers might feel they need not give much space when overtaking another vehicle at slow speeds.

One can see that any prosecution might be difficult based on those parts of the Highway Code. So cyclists have called for more specific limits, e.g. 1.5 metres, or perhaps 1.0 metre on roads with lower speed limits. Ireland proposed to introduce such a law but it was abandoned after realisation that it would create legal difficulties. The Department for Transport is currently considering the matter in the UK.

But in this writer’s view, any specific limit is not sensible. In central London, where streets are narrow, and traffic speeds are low, giving 1.5 metres would not be easy and might simply lead to encroachment onto the opposite carriageway thus creating other road safety risks. Likewise on some of the narrow country roads in North Wales. A wide limit on high-speed dual carriageways or other A-roads may be quite appropriate but equating it to the road speed limit rather than the speed of a vehicle and its size makes no sense. Larger vehicles that create much bigger back drafts are more of a risk to cyclists and drivers of those need to allow more space.

Perhaps the Highway Code should be reworded to try and clarify what is a reasonable passing distance but any specific limit seems unwise because it very much depends on the circumstances. The ABD will respond to any public consultation on this issue if one appears.

In the meantime, it seems some Police Forces are using “Careless Driving” offences to try and enforce specific passing distances and are even offering “education courses” as an alternative to taking the points and fines. That is much the same way as they offer speed awareness courses which the ABD is campaigning against (see our AMPOW campaign at https://www.speed-awareness.org/ ). This is morally and legally dubious and should be strongly opposed.

Cycling in London

There are a number of cyclists who avidly read the ABD London blog (see https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/ ). Many of them are critical of the issues raised therein about the standards of cycling in London in a number of articles. It was very amusing to read an article in the Financial Times last Saturday (29/9/2018) by Katie Martin. She is an FT writer and she gives the views of someone who has been cycling to the office for the last nine years.

She said cyclists would be wrong to assume the main threat was cars, and she highlights two others as of importance: the road itself and other cyclists.

Potholes are a major menace to cyclists and she points out that unlike for vehicle drivers, potholes are not just a route to a repair shop, they are a risk to life and limb. I am sure that all road users will agree that potholes have become a major menace as expenditure on road maintenance and proper resurfacing has been cut back by local councils.

But she says an under appreciated risk is other cyclists who are “comfortably the diciest fellow users of the road”. She describes most of them as “infuriatingly rubbish and some would struggle to pass a primary school proficiency test”. She reports that they run red lights, don’t signal before they swing into your path, don’t use lights in the dark and barge in front of you at traffic lights. There is much more in the same vein.

She also criticises pedestrians, and car passengers who open doors without looking, but she does not wish to put off anyone from cycling! You can read the full article here: https://www.ft.com/content/b6ffcb9c-c239-11e8-8d55-54197280d3f7 . I hope she does not get too many abusive comments from her fellow cyclists.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

Public Consultation on Cycling Offences

The Government have announced a review of cycling offences and a public consultation on what they propose to change. This follows an increase in the apparent numbers of cyclists who ride “furiously” and cause harm to pedestrians or other cyclists.

The Department for Transport (DfT) have reported that in the last five years (to 2016) there were 2,491 accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists with no other vehicle involved which resulted in 20 fatal pedestrian casualties and 546 serious injuries (source:LTT). It is clearly not a trivial problem.

A particular concern was the recent case of Charlie Alliston who killed Mrs Kim Briggs on Old Street in London. He was acquitted of manslaughter but convicted of the Victorian offence of causing bodily harm by “wanton and furious driving” for which he received a sentence of 18 months in prison. The maximum sentence for that offence is 2 years. It was realised that there is no equivalent to the offence of “causing death by dangerous driving” that vehicle users face. There is effectively a gap in the law as regards cyclists.

The Government’s proposal is to introduce “parity” of sentencing options where the outcome is death or serious injury. They are also proposing other minor changes – for example to make cycling offences apply to any public area, not just roads. That might cover car parks and pedestrianised precincts.

Comment: In principle it would seem to make sense to introduce parity as a deterrent to bad behaviour by cyclists. This seems to be a particular problem in London where cyclists often travel at high speed on their commute to/from work and don’t like to slow down at all. They often seem to try to emulate their racing cycle heroes and record their journey times on the web. See the past articles on this topic in the links given below. It is becoming a serious problem in London which many people have commented upon in the media articles written on this subject.

Whether introducing parity in offences will actually improve the behaviour of cyclists seems questionable however. The immediate reaction of Cycling UK spokesperson Duncan Dollimore was to dismiss the proposals with the comment that “Adding one or two new offences specific to cyclists would be merely tinkering around the edges”. He called for a wider review of road traffic offences. Olympic medallist Chris Boardman said “That says it all really. Wow, just wow. I genuinely thought this was a bad joke, had to check it was a real account” and called for other cyclists to complain. Cyclists seem to hate being subject to regulation so it seems likely that cyclists will oppose the proposed changes.

As the consultation on this issue points out, cyclists are not subject to licensing and do not have to carry insurance. They are not subject to points totting up, nor of disqualification from cycling, although they can be disqualified from driving vehicles.

One concern is that cyclists are silent and are no longer required to have bells to warn of their approach (they were before 2011). When they persist in riding on pavements many people are concerned about them being hit from behind without warning. It is interesting to note that the DfT will soon be mandating noise generators for electric vehicles to protect pedestrians so why not introduce the same rule for cycles?

There may be other ways to improve cyclists’ behaviour such as cycle speed limits or controls on the type of cycles that can be used, but a change in attitude is really what is required. More consideration for others and less libido.

The ABD will probably respond to the formal consultation on this subject so please let us have your comments. Or of course you can submit your own comments directly. The consultation is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/new-cycling-offences-causing-death-or-serious-injury-when-cycling

Past articles from the ABD London blog:

More Pedestrian Deaths Caused by or to Cyclists: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2017/09/15/more-pedestrian-deaths-caused-by-or-to-cyclists/

Cyclist Convicted in Pedestrian Death Case: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2017/08/24/cyclist-convicted-in-pedestrian-death-case/

Cyclist Faces Manslaughter Charge: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2017/08/16/549/

Banker Fined for Dangerous Cycling: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2016/10/29/banker-fined-for-dangerous-cycling/

London Divided and Cycling Accident Rates: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2016/04/03/london-divided-and-cycling-accident-rates/

Are Cyclists Racing on London Streets: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2015/12/29/are-cyclists-racing-on-londons-streets/