Junction Malfunction and a New Dawn



Despite the first part of this blog being about collisions and keeping safe at the most vulnerable parts of our cycling journeys, hopefully you will come out the other side of this edition of the Safer Cycling blog with a large amount of positivity, so grab a coffee, and maybe even a slice of cake and read on. Oh this blog is a little on the large side, we tried to make it smaller but I’m sure you’ll agree everything that’s in there is necessary, there’s no padding for effect, so in hindsight might want to make it two slices of cake……


Yet another near miss as a driver pulls across the path of the cyclist


Junction Malfunction

When we started the Safer Cycling concept we needed some direction, something on which we could concentrate our efforts to best see results for the work we wanted to do, our core task being to keep vulnerable road users safe on their journeys about the region. In order to make our efforts precise and properly targeted we enlisted the help of our in house analysts at the Central Motorway Police Group. They did what they do best, crunch figures, draw conclusions and give recommendations, the results were as expected, well as expected to those with experience of dealing with collisions involving cyclists, and these collisions were often the ones that did not make the headlines.

The most common complaint we receive from cyclists and now action in the way of prosecution is the close pass scenario, the classic due care and attention offence. This isn’t to be un-expected, we have even highlighted our own close pass experiences and footage/photo’s on our twitter account and previous blogs. So it’s no surprise to all that this remains the priority for most cyclists and more importantly “those considering cycling” when it comes to keeping vulnerable road users safe. However whether it’s a misconception by many or just a lack of awareness the close pass scenario is far from being the greatest threat to cyclists on our regions roads. Between 2010 and 2014 there were 530 KSI (killed or seriously injured) RTC’s (Road Traffic Collisions)involving bicycles, 517 of those KSI RTC’s (98%) involved at least one other vehicle. Of these the most common vehicle to be involved in a KSI RTC with a cyclist was a car (84% of KSI RTC’s).

But this is where the big misconception arises as 75% of KSI RTC’s involving cyclists in the West Midlands from 2010 to 2014 occurred within 20 metres of a junction, involving a cyclist and “another” vehicle. Further analysis (I won’t bore you with the figures, tables etc.) showed that the majority of KSI RTC’s in the West Midlands involving cyclists occur when a car has pulled out of a junction in front of a cyclist that is mid- junction because the car driver has failed to spot the cyclist.


From the nearside…….


or the offside drivers just are not looking out for cyclists at junctions


Birmingham city centre was the regions hotspot for such collisions, which, as this is where most daily commutes are to and from, and given the heavy traffic volumes, came as no surprise. Further analysis of all KSI RTC’s involving cyclists show that, in the majority of cases there are no environmental factors that have contributed to the collision. In most instances the weather conditions are fine with no winds nor are there any identified carriageway hazards or issues with the road surface. Further, there are regularly no identified special conditions at the collision site (e.g. roadworks, defective signage or markings). Lastly over half the cyclists involved in a KSI collision on the regions roads were commuting to or from work, so in the main we are dealing with experienced cyclists.

Anyone still awake after the number crunching? Well it’s onto the interesting bit….

Conclusions from the statistical analysis and what to do about it……


For those of us that cycle daily to work the results came as no surprise. Although the “close pass scenario” remains the greatest concern for the majority of cyclists or for those considering cycling the actual greatest threat we cyclists face on the roads of the West Midlands is the driver pulling out in front of or across a cyclist mid junction, either because they haven’t seen them or miss-judged the cyclists speed or path.


Classic close pass at a pinch point, aka. driving without due care and attention.

What can be done, well we have two parties involved in this type of collision, analysis of the collisions shows that in such circumstances the blame would lie solely with the driver not the cyclist. This is not uncommon as most drivers are trained and habitually look for other vehicles when negotiating junctions and show a total disregard when it comes to looking for or being aware of vulnerable road users (analysis of KSI collisions involving motorcyclists and pedestrians would prove similar).

We could make use of social media, press releases etc. to tell motorists to “look out” for cyclists, but this has been ongoing with both cyclists and motorcyclists and although has some positive effect it doesn’t reach the target audience we need to engage, those unwilling to take on the message or dismissive of vulnerable road users altogether, which given the rise in KSI collisions involving vulnerable road users seems like the majority of motorists.

Our time and effort, we have quickly realised, is better spent enforcing the law and prosecuting, thus creating a scenario whereby should someone not give a cyclist the time and space necessary or fail to see them completely they should expect to be prosecuted. In other words the carrot goes out the window and in comes the stick. Why some might ask? Well if drivers expect to be prosecuted for committing offences they suddenly stop committing them, unsurprising correlation I know but it’s the truth. Once drivers become aware that an infringement involving a cyclist is one they should expect to be prosecuted for, they suddenly become more aware of them on the road and in turn start giving them the time and space they should lawfully have as an equal road user.  Cyclists suddenly occupy a drivers attention, they actively look out for them and so are less likely to miss them at junctions and contribute to our KSI statistics.

Any offence that would contribute to a driver failing to see a vulnerable road user needs to be enforced, and as has been considered of late, some say needs a greater penalty. Whether that be excess speed that doesn’t give the motorist time to see or react to the vulnerable road user, distraction offences such as mobile phone use, or drug and drink driving.

So drivers need to expect a zero tolerance approach for any offence involving a vulnerable road user, or an offence that could contribute to a collision involving a vulnerable road user. The only way to change driver behaviour and concentrate minds on looking out for vulnerable road users and change driving habits is through enforcement, and the resulting fear of being prosecuted. Now for those who will no doubt be spitting out their finest percolated roasted bean brew at this moment screaming “what about the cyclists !” well…….statistical analysis shows they aren’t to blame, innocent in the majority of KSI collisions it would be a waste of our time, and thus public time and money to concentrate on cyclist behaviour. The figures speak for themselves…….driver’s don’t let your prejudices get in the way of the truth…….

But for those cyclists who want a bit of advice……

Before we carry on, this next section isn’t victim blaming, having read the last several paragraphs you should all have no doubt as to where we think the responsibility lies for the majority of KSI collisions involving cyclist’s and vehicles on our regions roads. I have no doubt a few will be appalled that we offer some safety advice to cyclists on what to do and look out for on the approach to junctions but this isn’t your standard advice, it comes from our thousands of hours watching road user behaviour from an trained advanced road user perspective, even the doubters might learn something from the next section…….and if you’re prepared for the worst you can often avoid it.

Don’t look at the eyes….

Many will say “make eye contact, this ensures they have seen you”, absolute rubbish this, half the time they will be looking not at you but right through you. Ignore the eyes of the driver; watch the wheels of the vehicle instead. A vehicle won’t move without the wheels moving, and you will see the wheels move far before you realise the vehicle is moving thus giving you that split second extra that to react and hopefully avoid a collision.

A red light never stopped anything….

Goes for all road users this one, red lights don’t stop vehicles, they instruct road users to stop their vehicle, if the driver (or cyclist) misses the red light or chooses to ignore it, a miss-placed faith in the power of the red light might be your undoing. Always check the opposing traffic is slowing and intends to stop at a red light, the glance only takes a second, it could be a very valuable second well spent

Hi viz doesn’t mean highly visible and the positive “wobble”

Don’t think hi viz clothing will keep you seen, although hi viz has a place in some circumstances such as low light conditions, it is contrast that catches the attention of the driver who might pull out on you, that, and movements the human eye and brain are wired to detect. White and black all have their place in being seen, white is a particularly visible colour not often naturally occurring so stands out, ever wondered why traffic officers hats are white ? It’s not because we want to look like ice cream salesmen! Lateral movement on the road on the approach to a junction triggers all the receptors visually that drivers need to see, recognise and subsequently react to the cyclist on the road. In low light a flashing front light doesn’t hurt either. So moving out an extra 6 or 12 inches on the approach to a junction can go a long way to making you the centre of the waiting or approaching driver’s attention, as an object moving steadily towards you in a straight line can be missed, the object that is coming towards you with some sideways movement is more easily seen by the drivers whose attention we wish to occupy.

A New Dawn

Cycling is a fantastic thing, it’s benefits are well documented, traffic congestion is reduced, as is pollution, health and wellbeing are boosted for the participants and not forgetting the resultant benefits of less dependence on a stressed NHS. When it comes to playing our part in supporting cycling and cyclists it’s not a case of “why should we?” it’s a case of “why wouldn’t we?” Supporting cyclists and cycling is really a case of policing for the benefit of all, a prime case of policing for the greater good of the community.

Cyclists don’t cause us, as an organisation, problems, that’s because they aren’t causing our communities problems, they aren’t killing nearly 100 people on our regions roads as mechanically propelled vehicles currently do. Yes we do get complaints of the “nuisance” variety, pavement cycling, some anti-social behaviour (usually yobs on bikes rather than “cyclists”), red light running etc. but you get the idea, most peoples interpretation of “1st world problems” or the “modern day blues”, nothing that’s a priority for a force like our own in a modern day society. Bad cycling is an “irritant” to the wider community rather than a danger, and maybe an improvement in infrastructure and policing may alieve many of the reasons that cause a very small minority of cyclists to be an “irritant”

So what can we do to do our bit ?, to encourage along with our partnership agencies people onto bikes and get the personal and community benefits already discussed. Well as we already touched upon in the first part of this blog, people’s fear of the dangers of cycling is the largest barrier, particularly the close pass. The media plays a large part, every cycling tragedy is to the fore, not that they shouldn’t be, such incidents can be a force for change but there is very little to re-address the balance, to convince people that cycling is safe. We as a force must do our upmost to protect the vulnerable on our roads and convince them that if anyone does endanger them on the road the perpetrator will be dealt with. The flip side of this is of course that anyone endangering a vulnerable road user should expect to be identified and prosecuted; this is the key to policing the problem.

The way forward

Although we have had great success prosecuting using cycle camera evidence sent to us by cyclists, not all, even those running cameras on their daily journeys have the desire to start reporting offending drivers (as previously discussed here : Lights, Camera, Action !  ).

So we need to be proactive, and so in partnership with Birmingham City Council we have a new partnership scheme which will see a traffic officer riding the most vulnerable locations for cyclists looking to instantly act upon close passes, distracted driving and the like. The cycling traffic officer when passed too close will let the officer up the road know, who will in turn stop the motorist. Then the offender will be given a choice, prosecution or 15 minutes spent being educated as to the correct way to pass a cyclist.

It’s simple but effective, drivers are shown how far they should be from a cyclist, we have chosen the widely advocated 1.5mtr as our minimum but of course a much further distance will be needed in many circumstances depending on the vehicle type and speed. For instance if the opposite carriageway is available for an overtake and isn’t used in its entirety the driver will be pulled and shown why they should utilise all the available road room available to facilitate a safe overtake. A full sized replica road floor mat with various hazards positioned on it will give perspective and equip drivers with the knowledge needed to prevent further offences being committed.

Those who are committing any other offence as well as the “close pass” due care offence will be prosecuted for all offences, no immediate educational alternative for those who show such a low standard of driving.

Days without education


Expect prosecution, not education for anything of this standard !

Following a period of education at a particular location if offences persist we will have “enforcement” only days where education isn’t an option for those committing close pass due care offences. Hopefully given the amount of publicity we anticipate this tactic will receive, most drivers should very quickly get the message and hopefully the enforcement only days should be few and far between!

We anticipate a change in driver behaviour as awareness of the tactic spreads, after all, every cyclist on the road ahead may well be a traffic officer on the operation, as our cyclists will not be liveried in any way, drivers will have no way of knowing !


For those who are reading this and think they need to make themselves or others (for example employee’s, friends or colleagues) more aware of how to share the road with cyclists in a way that will avoid prosecution, we recently teamed up with RoSPA and produced an interactive presentation which is free to download and is ideal. The presentation gives drivers examples of how to overtake cyclists, examples of what cyclists may do in certain situations to ensure their safety, and highlights blind spot awareness plus much more, and unlike anything that’s gone before it is filmed on live roads with live traffic, so those who have never cycled on a road get everything from a cyclists perspective. Well worth a look you’ll find it here : RoSPA Share the Road

Well that’s it for this blog, that’s where we are at, anyone from the media who would like more details of the new “Share the Road” scheme which proactively deals with close passes or attend a media launch day for the scheme in the coming week please contact Brigg Ford at our Corporate Communications Department, as for the rest of you, feel free to tweet us with any questions.

Until the next blog

Take care and safe cycling.

173 thoughts on “Junction Malfunction and a New Dawn

  1. bob craven

    Well done on this article. It is very much what motorcyclists have been saying for many years. Because they are a small silhouette they are more difficult to see and if and when seen they are then difficult to estimate the speed that they are going at. ie the time taken to get to the junction one is exiting from. Neither cyclists or scooter or motorcycle riders are tall and wide and so there is extremely little looming effect as it would be if the vehicle was a bus or HGV. they are big and can be seen to be getting bigger as they approach. Not so the two wheeler. As regards looking at the drivers eyes, This advice is still banded about in all forms of training manuals and its about time it was dismissed as being extremely dangerous. As you point out look at the vehicles wheels turning, even going backward, as if he was moving a little down hill as that means that he is probably in gear and ready to move forwards. Also look at the background is the vehicle moving forward against it. Or are the front wheels turning away from you or towards you . So can you see the hands and arms of the driver turning the steering wheel.. Many things can be observed. Notwithstanding what has just been written slow down, an accident at slow speed can cause bruising which is much more preferable to one at high speed. which could cause death. Never ever presume in these circumstances that you have been seen always presume that you havn’t and then ride accordingly and you will never be surprised. If you make the wrong presumption that you have been seen you will be surprised when it pulls out on you and you may suffer as a result of that simple wrong presumption. Never presume that you have been seen when wearing day glo. Whilst many say that it works in low light conditions it still requires a light source and in bad weather or darker days and at night that is missing and so all the day glo one might be wearing means absolutely nothing., Further some day glo have reflective banding and that also has limited value. One needs to be almost in line with a light source for the reflectivity to work. Merely passing street lighting may not illuminate it at all. Further recognise on a dark wet day when street lighting is on , car lights are being shown and shop windows etc.are illuminated there are a lot of light sources around and yours may just blend into that scenery. So be aware of its limitations, presume not to be seen and ride accordingly. The best thing is to include as much illumination as possible I recently saw for the first time a rider with a helmet which displayed a front and back light and he was also wearing arm bands that flashed red. He was making himself visible and it worked. Hope that but of information helps its from one who has riding cycles and motorcycles for over 50 years.


    1. bob craven

      Just an addition to the above. Because you may be commuting early and late in the afternoon at certain times of the year or day you may find that in bright low sunlight that you are casting a shadow in front of you. That is extremely dangerous as traffic in front of you, ones that may be waiting at junctions on your nearside or even offside to pull out or approaching traffic that wants to turn right in front or you may do just that. It doesn’t matter if you are a bus or HGV or wearing Hi Visor day glo or have lights on or are naked, they just wont see you.

      Just be aware of the dangers of low sun and ride as if not seen and anticipate that every one out there is and idiot and never ever presume that you have been seen. Slow, swerve if you feel like it but make sure that when they do drive out , and they will, that you are nowhere near them. Afterall as you have already seen them and anticipated [ presumed] that they have NOT seen you and you have already taken avoiding action. Is no use presuming that because you are on a bike the car driver is always at fault all the time.

      You must understand the risks of the road much much better than a car driver and more like a motorcyclists or scooter rider. Read and digest all the info in the Highway Code. You can and should always minimise your own risk and that’s what you need to do rather then cycle head down into possible danger.


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  3. bob craven

    Two further things come to mind. one is running RED lights. Actually its not its running AMBER lights as that is a most common practise that road users abuse believing that it is only on RED that one should stop. The law requires one to STOP WHEN THE AMBER LIGHT SHOWS. before turning to RED. So why do we run the lights. With a three second timing of the AMBER light before it turns to RED a car at 30 mph can travel 135 ft , about 40 meters,in that time certainly enough time to stop. Even after a second there is still 90 ft left as a car travelling at 30 mph covers only 45ft in one second and so there should be no reason or excuse to run the RED light.

    A cyclist travels at 10 mph perhaps maybe 15 mph at best, half the speed limit and therefore in that 3 seconds has ample time to stop on AMBER well before it becomes RED

    In some other civilised countries its accepted that vehicles slow down to say 20 mph whilst approaching junctions in anticipation of them changing. That might not be a bad idea to adopt over here.. Think about it ……you are approaching a traffic light which you have seen whilst approaching is on GREEN and therefore you know and can anticipate that its about to change at any time to AMBER. This would make traffic signals a much safer place and stop others from rushing through which does what? gain them a minute or two. they just aggravate others and make it a more dangerous place for no reason or excuse. Newer cars are designed to automatically turn off at junctions or when stopped as the H.C. advises one to do anyway. So as not to over pollute the atmosphere and to make things more pleasant for pedestrians and others. A little consideration. Its already in the H.C.


    1. Ross Axe

      I just thought I should correct a possibly dangerous misconception here; many cyclists do go faster than 15mph. I myself tend to cruise at around 15 to 20mph on the flat, and hit 30 on the downhills with some regularity. It should be noted that I’m no Bradley Wiggins, I wear no Lycra, and I don’t ride a racing bike; I’m just an ordinary looking guy riding an ordinary looking hybrid who smokes too much and eats too many chips. So please, when you’re out on the road, don’t just assume that cyclists are slow, always assess a cyclist’s speed properly.


    2. Keith Hallam

      Some years ago, there was a 30mph speed limit through any traffic light junction anywhere in Australia. It worked pretty well, may still do? Papua New Guinea had the same laws. We would pull drivers for going through red lights and a regular excuse was they were going too fast to stop safely so we gave them a warning and got them to sign what speed they were doing…. then book them for the speeding offence they had admitted. We didn’t have speed cameras.


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  6. Keith Baldock

    Very useful blog – thanks for RoSPA link, not aware – we’re just doing a study with Sussex and Brighton Uni’s on junction behaviour by cyclists and drivers to evidence what happens every day. Great to see a comprehensive enforcement package backing up the message.


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  10. Ewan

    Very good article that. Was very interested in the not making eye contact part. This is exactly what happened to me back in 2013. I thought the driver had seen me as he looked straight at me, next thing I know is im lying on the middle of the road.
    Keep up the good work.


  11. bob craven

    Two things come to mind when talking about road safety in general and both are from the perspective of a vulnerable two wheeled rider even though mine is now powered and I can keep up and stay ahead of traffic no matter what speed it is doing. The same obviously applies around urban town areas where with congestion and sped limits and constant stop starts i am just as vulnerable as a cyclist in many ways. So please take it from one with over 50 years of experience on two wheels that we are very similar to each other and cyclists can learn from our experience.

    The two matters are related by the single word SPACE. Historically, before speedometers were invented the two matters concerning vehicles anywhere on our highways and this could be a canal barge or a steam engine or even a horse and carriage where speed may be seen to being reckless and/or considered to be going to fast for the circumstances and relative the second issue was SAFE SPACE. This was deemed to be the safe full stopping distance that one could guarantee stopping in in the event of an emergency.
    We as a society seem to have gone away from the second issue and concentrated a lot, far to much to my mind about the first. Speed. and not space.

    How often do you find yourself or see others in a queue of traffic travelling legally within the speed limit. Usually up to it and spaced not to widely apart, maybe to close and yet we all suffer from it. From doing it or being the victim of some other driver who persists in following us at to close a distance. A tailgater. The Safe distance between vehicles is important as it will allow the driver of the vehicle behind sufficient time and space to brake in the event of an EMERGENCY if something caused the vehicle in front to stop abruptly.

    Liken it to a Motorway where traffic is flowing at higher speeds admittedly and therefore vehicles should be distanced further apart. Unfortunately as we have seen and know far to often they are not and something happens up ahead and the following on vehicles being to close together ,having not enough room to stop plough , one after the other, into the vehicles in front and we have a multiple pile up a with many injured and maybe unfortunately some dead. Not a nice scenario but one which could have been totally avoided if greater distance had been exercised by some if not all of the drivers concerned. The giving of Safe Distance is on of the greatest and easiest of gifts to yourself and to the safety of others hat you can give and its easy to do.

    In a street scenario I know that speeds would be considerably lower but still adequate Safe Following on distance apply. Nose to tail and going slow maybe 15 or 20 ft is sufficient to stop in at very low speeds and always when stopped no matter what circumstances or speed limit leave a gap of one car in distance whilst stopped.

    I adopted a measurement of distance whilst on my motorcycle that I have used for many years. It works for me and I hope that if adopted it will work for yourselves as well. Let me first mention that there are currently three measures of distance available. One is the 2 second rule and S 126 of the Highway Code. The second is the DSA Handbook advice of one meter per mph and the third, adopted in many other civilise countries is the 3 second rule. This means that we can confuse the issue of Safe distance at 7 different speeds from 20 mph to 70 mph. there being 21 different safe Distances. Confusing and no wonder many drivers do not use them. Many drivers believe that following anthers tail lights is the correct way to do it and adopt a closer distance as result, some may see that as the thinking distance only.. if the vehicle slows and shows brakes then one can do that also and no accident occurs. This attitude and distance fails to take into the account that of an emergency stop when something untoward happens to the vehicle in front or indeed to the something in front of that vehicle which due to close proximity of the driver of the following vehicle hasn’t seen it and can not react to due to his ignorance of it and of basic principals of safe driving.

    However back to my guide to distances. I ride around town in 30 mph areas giving one lamp post distance to the vehicle in front. This a is a minimum distance and i can give more if I wish to do so or traffic is light and no one is inconvenienced. Lamp posts are easily seen and recognised and so I watch the vehicle in front pass one and I know that I am passing the one before it where I am now positioned. At traffic lights or stopped for any reason i allow the vehicle in front to draw away before I set off and that allows a greater distance should it stall or have to stop suddenly. By the time I am half way across a junction the vehicle in front is past it and safe distance is assumed. I see to many drivers in the traffic queue revving up and moving forward in anticipation of say lights changing and that becomes increasingly dangerous.

    On main A and B roads subject to 50 and 60 mph I will take the distance at least of two lamp posts and that means that i am not in any traffic queue but riding or driving alone, by myself .I can react in time should anything untoward happen in front of me. on a Motorway I do as advised in the Highway Code and stay one marker post apart, that is 100 meters or 320ft approx.

    What has this to do with cycling. Well many cyclists are car drivers and if many more drivers including themselves gave Safe Space then the road would be much safer. Traffic would be less congested. Tailgating would be a thing of the past. Visibility by drivers and all road users would be beneficially increased as drivers would see more, particularly the greater scene of whats happening up ahead instead of the rear lights of another car far to close in front. Pedestrians could cross the roads with greater a safety, at junctions other vehicles would have greater time and space in which to emerge and merge with other traffic. At nearside junctions space would be given by stopped vehicles to any vehicle which may wish to emerge from it and the general road scene would change and safety on road would be improved. Cyclists would benefit hands down by being given space and being seen more and with less of an attitude of pressure and anger and frustration because of the giving of moire space in time drivers would become more considerate to others and that would enable freer and safer passage for all and road rage would be dramatically reduced.


      1. bob craven

        I know that there is a feeling of being let down when it comes to Enforcement.Over the last few years the traffic departments of many constabularies has seen a reduction of between 25 to 50% so there are less traffic officers about. It further appears that ordinary police on the beat have also been reduced from its highest level in the 1990s to a reduction of about 15% also .So fewer bobbies around altogether. What are left are busy running here and there doing other duties and road traffic offences are not at the top of their lists. To my mind I feel that from Chief Police Officers down to the bobby they do not recognise that enforcing road traffic laws is best about making the roads a safer place and not just prosecuting wrongdoers. That said they have a prime responsibility to keep the pubic safe and away from harm [ to protect life and property] that is a prime duty and they are failing that and concentrating more on petty crime etc.

        If we think about the actual end result of a prosecution a driver/rider has to pay a fine and that is more often nowadays payed by credit card . That fine means absolutely nothing at all to them. They probably owe thousands on their cards so whats one more small amount to be paid off over time. If the licence is endorsed again we are all aware that the Courts will look leniently on some driver who may lose his job as result of being disqualified and that the family will also suffer and no Magistrate will want to do that and so we have professional drivers or just reckless drivers that have accumulated many more than the legal limit. So no deterrent their.

        There are one day courses that offenders can go on and it is thought that they don’t go on any more. If we are to have any effect on offenders maybe we should consider the inconvenience of causing them to undergo more than one , course after course and that will cause them some inconvenience. They will have to take days off work or away from their social life then maybe that will have an effect to change their mind. It could also be possible to make community orders that would be for a period of time to force them out of their comfort zone doing maybe some litter picking or similar, something that will make them more useful member of society but also be an inconvenience.

        End of rant.


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  13. Graham Allsopp

    The topic of “Don’t look at the eyes…” has come up again with our local cycle campaign. I’m a National Standard cycling instructor, and this is the only part of the blog I have any issues with. Eye contact is a hugely powerful tool – but alone it’s not going to keep you safe. Bikeability teaches the concept of hazard perception, a more holistic approach which you must be familiar with.
    Is there I chance I could have a chat with Steve or Mark offline about this?
    Thanks, Graham


    1. Clive Durdle

      Not sure if experience from other areas is getting missed and I am puzzled why.

      I have had for at least forty years a copy of institute of advanced motorcycling that comments on this eye issue and that you should look at what is happening to the front wheels.

      I thought that was standard in police driver training. Are basic techniques not taught in basic driving and cycle training? The Dutch reach comes to mind.

      The other main vector is raf pilot training.


    2. bob craven

      I agree with you Graham that all has to be taken into account and that may be looking at the eyes of the other party. I do not dismiss that action, its the belief or preconception that they actually see and react correctly to what they are looking at. It is not to my mind as high and as powerful a tool as you may wish to make out. Over many years of riding on two wheels one hopefully develops a sixth sense which in essence is a knowledge bank of circumstance of ones experiences. Experience has made me extremely sceptical when seeing if others are looking directly at me and if doing so are taking in what they see or indeed care.

      A bike and motorcycle are hard to spot as we take up such a small space which can be easily lost. When we look at a road scene from any point of view we look in what are called sacades which means that instead of a steady scanning the area our eyes actually jump from one item to another and inadvertently miss anything in between. It appears also that if seen drivers cannot assess our speed as opposed to other larger vehicles that as they become closer they loom ie. become bigger, we do not. So even being looked directly at the driver may not be able to judge our speed and how long it would take for us to approach him and he may drive out before we have passed and when we are to close. This can happen on a wide open road with no other traffic or in a busy road scene and if and when looked at it doesn’t necessarily mean that one has been seen. Take this from one who has many a time slowed even after seeing some one looking directly towards me and justified that action as the driver pulls out in font of me.

      On occasions whilst approaching say a junction I have seen the driver look towards my way and I have raised my left hand towards the driver as an acknowledgement . Sometimes I don’t get a response and I slow and approach carefully. On other occasions I have received a raised hand directed back at me. Even a nod sometimes. Even after seeing that I still remain cautious and take exactly the same actions as if I have not been seen. No difference at all!! That is the way I have stayed safer and alive after all these years. Assume and presume the worst case scenario and one will never be surprised by what others do. After passing a driver at a junction or other wise, someone who has given me a courtesy and made my life a little safer by not pulling out I thank them. Someone when they have appeared to wait and appeared to have see me I will again raise my left hand in an acknowledgement and a nod. of thanks. Its amazing how we can make our travel on our roads much safer and easier with less strain if we do acknowledge a courtesy. It makes one feel good and grateful and happy to be alive.


    3. bob craven

      I have never said dont look at the eyes.. Yes by all means look at the other drivers face and therefore eyes,. This is important whilst approaching a junction on the nearside as one must know what they are looking at and where are they looking for it. Presume [ rightly or wrongly ] that its other traffic but they may be looking at the scantily clad lady across the road. Well they might. Observation and distraction is another subject.

      On many occasions I find that drivers slowing or actually stopping at a road road junction look away from me first and to their left . I can understand if the driver is foreign and therefore has been trained to look left first but many a driver is not so why do they do this. If next time you are out you watch for this and you may find as i do that some 30% of drivers look the wrong way first. As a result seeing nothing of danger they start to pull out or continue running out of the the junction and into my path. Now they are looking at me and its to late.

      What I have said is that if they appear to be looking your way never ever presume that they are looking at you and if so have recognised your position on the road. They may be looking through you at the bus behind you or indeed have seen you but dont recognise you as a danger or a even a consideration. I have had many a van driver pull out on me and its only due to my disbelief and defensive riding techniques , knowledge and understanding that I have not been seen or considered that I am still here.

      Much of our training stems from a publication by the police in the Police Drivers/Riders Roadcraft handbooks. First published in the 1950’s and 60’s. indeed all other organisations that train be they of authority such as the DVSA or charitable like IAM ext have taken and followed those publication .

      As a result over many decades much of our training has become institutionalised. However where the police publications advice has been found or considered to be to dangerous to be followed by normal riders some training organisations no longer follow certain pieces of advice. One must remember that the advice in them is for officers to keep as safe as is possible. Sometimes when in extreme speed situations.

      So the publications have been altered over the years and certain practises and procedures have been deleted for safety purposes. Those practises obviously considered inappropriate for general use by the riding public

      However there are still areas in the police manuals that need to be looked at as they can and do place a rider in a greater dangerous. Such as the contact or closer overtaking position . What I would call or consider to be the tailgating position before an overtake. No doubt this was basically advice designed for an officer to make speedy progress and not normal slow everyday progress, This was used presumably in the event of needing to get somewhere fast and being in a position where an immediate overtake was not undertaken. The advice is ok as it starts and that is to slow and fall back to the safer following on position [ as per the Highway Code and S.126 thereof ] and then to approach the vehicle in front with a possibility to engage in an overtake but that places one in greater danger by being far to close to the vehicle in front.

      Many a motorcyclist has been killed or seriously injured due to inappropriate overtakes. Its responsible for one of the highest casualty rates and I feel that by encouraging this closer position one is encouraging an overtake that can end badly in such a situation. Many riders, having followed this advise of pulling closer to the vehicle in front do not fall back if an overtake is not immediately on but continue to follow on closely until the possibility of an overtake may or may not exist. This dangerous practise of the contact position must be stopped and riders should be advised to pull back to the follow on position particularly when an overtake will, by necessity mean that the rider will break the legal speed limit by making such an overtake.

      The matter of overtaking is made worse by the words ‘Making progress’ which many an Advanced rider and trainer appears to believe that one should ride fast or at least faster than normal traffic out at all times and therefore overtake everything else on the road irrespective of speeds obtained because it is believed and trained that the safest place is to be at the head of traffic and not in between it.

      That is another issue for another day.


    1. bob craven

      I am fully aware of the subject matter by Mr Sullivan and of saccades as there is basically nothing new in what he submits. I myself have been involved in many miles of road work and over 55 years of motorcycling a few less in car usage and about 10 years of cycling before that and so I am not ignorant to the problems that car drivers and indeed all other roads users have.

      However for most drivers it will be a good read and may possiby help some understand why they had caused an accident in the first place, it wasnt their fault and and may be able to put forward a defence that we were not built right for road usage and therefore they were not to blame for thethe smidsy.


      1. Clive Durdle


        Why are you avoiding the next logical step that being in control of heavy fast moving machinery is a very high skill subject, made even more complex by our kluge like nature?

        And that requires normal health and safety approaches of prevention, very high level training and thinking everything through from first principles.

        Powered heavy vehicles are weapons. If the drivers don’t actually see what is happening, is it not reasonable to state “Houston, we have a problem”?

        Sent from my iPhone



      2. bob craven

        I do not disagree with what you say. i have not dished the science of vision. I just said that its not new and that as yet no one has come forward with a defence that we were not made to drive cars. Try that one in court and hear the laughing. and whilst I may agree or disagree with the science of saccades I think that we as humans, Kluge or not we do make it work,. Howevere there are those who dont bother and thats the ones that need to be seen in our courts and removed off the road for their own safety and more importantly for the safety of others.

        Talking about training what about the 2 hours on the road training that a motorcyclists gets . 2 hours that in no way prepares him to be safe and competent on our roads or the lack of training one needs to ride a cycle on our busy roads. At least car drivers suffer on average some 40 /60 hours of tuition just to get themselves past the test. and that still in no way makes them the least bit competent to drive a ton of metal and be safe . Something that takes a lifetime of experience and an atitude of mind that many drivers do not have.

        Fighter pilots have to undergo some extremely long and arduous specialist training before they even see the cockpit. The for the rest of their flying career are subject to intense further training and assesments. All things are relevent.

        We are only humans struggling in a world that is confusing and being human we err.


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  17. Jay Roberts

    Ah, now everything is clear. I have wondered for a long time why cyclists are so lawless – I need wonder no longer, it is because of the police. Who knew? No wonder they behave as if they can do what they want without repercussions, because they can, according to the police. Usual nonsense about how the NHS would be relieved of so much pressure if everyone just cycled. The estimated savings are not even a drop in the ocean as a proportion of NHS funding – the NHS spends more on surgical gloves than this would save, and walking would produce the same physical benefits. Anyone concerned about the funds of the NHS should be advocating that cyclists carry mandatory insurance that means the NHS can recover the cost of their treatment from insurers if they end up in A&E. The NHS already does this for drivers and it contributes significantly to the NHS funds at individual Trusts, which is important in times of tight funding.

    One of our employees who cycles ended up in A&E recently after a cycling accident – tipped over when his brakes failed in a park and was knocked unconscious (no evil motorist involved). He was picked up by the air ambulance and then treated in our hospital. We couldn’t recover a penny for this treatment but had he been a motorist we could have reclaimed at least some of it from his insurance company.

    Oh well, another citizen carries on facing unequal treatment by the police.


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    1. bob craven

      Yes Andrew but the problem arises in two ways. First that instructors say look at the driver to see if he is looking at you and two. If he is then there is a presumtion that he has in fact seen you and taken you into account. Without defensive riring/driving techniques one could indeed contribute to a collision with their vehicle. So if one can see that the drivers eyes are occupied in other matters, maybe some not related to driving safety we must never assume that by direct eye contact we have been seen. That is a catastrophy waiting to happen and the reason that so many end up i hospital with two broken legs saying I was in the right it was their fault.


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  22. Ian Spencer

    Came across this older blog and I think there is one bit of information missing that was covered by an excellent Advanced Driving magazine article from IAM. The brain is a con artist and if it can’t see things (like when you are scanning across with your eyes) it simply makes stuff up. So when a motorist says “I didn’t see the cyclist” they may well be telling the truth. You need to make a conscious effort to look in the right direction, stop momentarily to allow the eye and brain to function. Air force pilots are given training in how to look around the sky, fixing on points in a pattern rather than randomly scanning. It also explains the man look – how you can look at something yet not see it when you are in a hurry.


  23. bob craven

    The problem that we have is that we look from one thing to another. When driving a car and at a Junction we are looking to our right and left and looking for oncoming traffic that could possibly become a danger to us and we wish to avoid that danger. Therefore we see a large vehicle or a bus looming as it comes closer we wait then we look from one vehicle to the next down the line and further away looking for a gap between teach of them the size of which is suitable for us to pull out at. That’s what we would normally do, look from vehicle to the next vehicle. The problem with that is that we are not actually looking between those vehicles and that’s where the danger lies in that there may be some smaller road user that we don’t actually see because we are scanning and glancing in sacades with our eyes jumping from one thing to another and missing what is in between.. Further we only generally look for what we might reasonably expect to be on the road, a bus a lorry a car a van a taxi etc. as two wheeled vehicle represent only 2% of traffic we don’t actually look specifically for them or recognise them on the road and certainly don’t see them as being a danger to us.

    In over 55 years of road usage i have only collided once and that was over 30 years ago and it was at a junction where a car came out and i hit it. His defence in Court was that he was a stranger in town and didn’t know that there was a road junction there?

    i have learned that if we look at the space that we have in front of us and around us, that safety bubble, ride our two wheeler in a safer position on the road so that as we approach and anticipate different possible dangers others can see us better then with anticipating that it can go wrong at any time i have survived without any further problems.

    Many but not all Safe Riding manuals from the Police Roadcraft to the IAM and RoSPA all tell us about the safe stopping distances. and mainly refer to the Highway Code S.125/6 so I kept on wondering why so many, about 30 to 40% of drivers still drive far to close to the vehicle in front . Many adopt a distance of around the thinking distance or less only and that is one foot per one mph so at 30 mph many drivers follow the vehicle in front by 30 ft that being the thinking distance.only. 40 mph at 40 ft. 50 mph at 50 ft,60 mph at 60 ft and many times it is far less than that. As a prime example look at lorries on the motorway doing 56 mph and they are constantly and consistently only some 20 ft apart? Is that no dangerous and Tailgating?

    How can that be when all the aforementioned safety manuals recommend at least 90 ft distance.
    Then recently I had the opportunity to read the DVSA Motorcycle riders handbook and was amazed that this publication which is considered a Bible to road safety and used by more than any other and is the Bible and that All DVSA instructors follow its advise and all motorcyclists and no doubt all other drivers drive to it states that in traffic one does not give to much safe distance to other vehicles in front as they say that ” in doing so one could be wasting valuable road space”. They also advise that in those circumstances that “the gap should be no less than the thinking distance”. This then gives the attitude that that Thinking distance or similar is now a safe one when in any traffic situation and one to be adopted because one doesn’t want to abuse that open space that one should give to be safe and so ones safety has to be sacrificed in order to make that safe space available to more vehicle in order to what? keep the roads running and less congested? Whatever happened to the safe Stopping Distance also known as the Safe Following On Distance. The DVSA have just annihilated it with those comments.

    That to my mind is mind boggling that such an organisation that is responsible to the driving public should come up with that measurement when there are so many rear ending accidents on our road At least 30% of all known recorded accidents are caused by rear end bumps, many more less significant and not recorded and as a result no doubt of this Advice and that of all ADIs advocating this far from safe following on or full stopping distance.


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