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Phones, Belts and 20’s

 

Phones, Belts and 20mph limits

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This time around we will be discussing two of this year’s campaigns, firstly the mobile phone campaign from March with its increased penalty and also the latest seatbelt campaign. We will also talk about 20 mph limits and making them work so the local communities they are introduced to protect see the true benefits rather than just a change of signage. This one’s going to be fairly relaxed compared to recent blogs, and shorter, so put on a little light jazz, maybe Take Five by The Dave Brubeck Quartet and grab your favourite coffee or herbal tea and relax….

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Look up !!!!!

 

 

Smart phone + not so smart driver = 6 points and £200

Here’s our narrative from the latest mobile phone campaign….

It’s the start of March, enough is enough, the penalty for using a mobile device whilst driving has been increased to 6 points and £200 fine. The nation stands up and takes notice as white traffic hats dominate mainstream news, never seen so many white hat adorned police officers from so many forces, it’s like an army of really stern ice cream sales people….  a new sentencing package and a week- long awareness campaign to enforce begins :

Day 1…. Sales of phone cradles have rocketed, or they must have as suddenly every other vehicle now has one complete with smart phone secured snugly inside. You can’t miss them as most are unlawfully and inappropriately placed in the swept area of the windscreen creating blind-spots galore!! Drivers treat their once beloved mobile devices like a venomous snake daring not to handle them in the confines of their car knowing that officers are just waiting for one slip up to action the new improved penalties, it’s all over the news, awareness is high, it seems to be working.

Day 2 -7…. Enforcement is high, social media posts highlighting novel detection methods and the worst offenders abound, driving instructors, HGV drivers, and Taxi drivers, the so called professional drivers, are everywhere. The responses on social media condemn the offenders, it still seems to be working.

Day 8 -14…. The mobile phone cradles still create a blind spot in the swept area, but they’re empty now, maybe everyone has given up on, lost or had their mobile device stolen…….. or maybe not. The new penalty is old news, everyone is talking about something else, the offending rate is starting to creep up…..

Day 15……the cradles are gone, as has the fear of prosecution, the phones have re-appeared back in the hands of drivers…..it’s just as it was in the last days of February once again

……and that ladies and gentlemen was the introduction of the new mobile phone penalty, an exercise in evidencing why penalties need a constant, credible threat of wide scale and probable prosecution all year round otherwise they might as well not exist…….which brings us onto the seatbelt campaign…..

 

 

Campaign Culture…this time seatbelts

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Campaign Culture……you’ll hear this a lot from us over the next 12 months and the need to move away from it to a constant credible threat of prosecution all year round. It’s not that we disapprove of campaigns, they have a very important part to play in reducing the inherent threat of danger on our road network, they do impact on many educationally, raising awareness, and they impact behaviourally on some, but not on those who pose the greatest threat of harm to the many…… we’ll bring you some exciting developments in the West Midland Police Force in a blog later this week that address the issues we’ve just discussed, plus there’s more thoughts on this subject at the end of this blog,……any way we’ve digressed back to the seatbelt campaign.

Probably the second most widely contravened of the #Fatal4 offences (behind speeding) it is commonplace to see people not wearing a seatbelt in its various forms, whether it be the unsecured child in the rear through to the un-belted HGV driver, why….well it’s because it just hasn’t been enforced as rigorously as it should have. And like the mobile phone offence that preceded in this blog it probably needs a higher penalty and an all year round concentration on enforcement….let me explain.

It’s all about the bigger picture, we’ve written about this before. Not wearing a seatbelt isn’t as simplistic as it seems. If someone doesn’t wear a belt, the repercussions when it all goes wrong don’t only impact on them and their family, there is a huge cost to wider society, the expense to the NHS for one, the closure of roads placing impacting on the wider economy, the use of emergency services, the cost of a serious or even fatal RTC enquiry which runs to millions of pounds. Surely given all these factors the offence of not wearing a seatbelt should now be an endorsable offence giving at least a 3 point penalty. The driver should be responsible for what occurs in their vehicle, the not wearing of a belt by any occupant should impact on the driver, don’t belt up, don’t get driven, if the driver choses to drive with an unsecured passenger then points should be the consequence. But again, it would need a continuous, realistic threat of enforcement, if not such legislation would be just a waste of ink upon the ever growing statute books. But of course laws needs enforcement, enforcement needs enforcers which brings us nicely onto 20mph limits…………….

 

20 is Plenty – Making it work

20mph limits are the future in urban areas, we’ve discussed the arguments for and against before, but the residents of the areas in Birmingham that have now had them since October last year simply love them, and that is the essence of why their enforcement is so important, because like #OpClosePass , #OpSaferSchools and #OpSaferCross, it is essentially a community policing project, the enforcement  brings an improvement in quality of life and transport choices to residents in effected areas, and that is so very important in modern day society. The benefits of communities being able to engage with and choose sustainable healthier transport choices bring so many positives on so many fronts, not to create a safer road network to enable such choices to all would simply be a disgrace…….which is why we were a little dismayed to hear that in some parts of the country 20 mph limits were at risk, because apparently drivers were not complying with them !!!

 

Well what a surprise….drivers that have for decades failed to comply with 30mph limits now failed to comply with the new 20mph limits…shocker….never saw that coming. Apparently the change of signage didn’t make a bit of difference to their road going behaviour, who would of thought…….

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The self-enforcing 20mph limit is a myth, take it from experienced traffic officers who regularly pursue vehicles over and around all manner of traffic calming measures at speeds in excess of 60mph, there is no such thing. So when some state 20mph limits shouldn’t be enforced, they are in effect “voluntary” we sit here with a quite quizzical look upon our faces. You see no other speed limits have to be self -enforcing, when we drop limits in rural areas, say villages or particularly hazardous country roads, we enforce to ensure compliance, “Smart” motorways with their variable limits have galleries of enforcing cameras. We know 20mph limits are evidently the most important speed limit to our communities, and have the largest potential of any limit to positively effect lifestyle choices and reduce the amount of people killed or seriously injured on our roads, so why not enforce them ?

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Well in the West Midlands we will, rigorously. We’ve spent the last 6 months testing the waters with tactics to see what works best and will in the coming months produce a blog detailing how we will make the 20 mph limits work to their full potential, benefiting all in our region. And those who oppose the idea will in time come around as the concepts of “children being able to play in the street, cycle to school, parents taking the healthier option to walk or cycle to the shops become a reality as the motor vehicle, for so long the negative influence that prevents positive lifestyle choices, is forced into community chosen compliance where it still has a large part to play to the transport infrastructure of our region, but a safer and healthier one.

 

In this blog we’ve talked about the need for a continuous probable threat of prosecution to be present to ensure wide-scale compliance with the laws that are so commonly broken on our roads. Campaigns and the resulting “Campaign culture” that preside over many of the nation’s efforts to reduce the danger on roads offer temporary solace from the seemingly never ending stream of offending by all to many road users. Effective whilst in progress and for a short time after they have a great role to play at key times of the year, such as the Christmas drink drive campaign. All too often though key messages are quickly forgotten as the public’s attention switches to more recent news and the behaviour of those who pose the greatest threat to others on our roads remains unchanged.

Well we think we’ve got the answer that will resolve the never ending cycle of peak/trough wide-scale offending, it’s exciting and new, it’s been taking up a lot of our time over the last month, thus our absence from our social media channels…….but you’ll have to wait until later in the week for the details.

 

That’s it for this one, told you it would be short compared to our normal prolonged ramblings….time for a little more jazz, cake and your favourite brew.

 

Safe journeys all.

 

 

Climbing Mountains….

A corner turned, a long road ahead

Fruitcake, yes you’re probably going to need a good filling fruitcake for this one, and a nice cup of tea, definitely should accompany fruitcake with a nice cup of traditional tea….followed by a little cheese….and maybe a small glass of warming port…..welcome to the next Safer Cycling blog

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Never happier than with tea, and a bit of cake…..Hudson and Hodson

 

 

We’ve been busy, we’ve been very busy, what started as a conversation between two traffic officers and one member of the Birmingham Cycle Revolution Team over a cup of tea and some chocolate bunnies (yes it was Easter !!), followed by a few hastily drawn sketches 20 minutes later of an educational road mat,  Operation Closepass #GiveSpaceBeSafe has now become a huge thing, a huge work generating  quite awkward thing. Awkward you may ask, why awkward? Well it was rather well received,  all of sudden we were receiving praise and some might say being “liked” which is rather discomforting for traffic officers, as we are somewhat conditioned to being disliked and receiving negative feedback. After all we are not the smiley happy branch of the modern police force, we are the spreaders of misery and gloom generally among the road going populace, the dour faced donut eating aviator wearing, Road Traffic Act preachers of doom. So the positive feedback and support for our first tender new steps in a new direction have left us standing around, blushing slightly with our hands behind our backs whispering things like “well this is all a little unnecessary, we’re only doing what we are paid to do”. Overnight what the officers involved did on a daily basis changed dramatically, there have been no rest days since the start of September, the phones have rung every day, whether it’s our press department, journalists, editors of TV shows or just the interested public the demand has been off the scale. At the same time normal policing has had to continue, those officers involved drive a traffic car 24/7, doing what traffic officers are normally deemed to do, you know that “police Interceptors or road wars” type of thing, you know the drill. So everyone involved, including the supervision are a little bleary eyed but thankful of the great support received from all parts of the road going community, we are also thankful for the negative feedback received from some members of the public and press, your response which was in the minority, strengthens our faith that we have made the right decisions in order to make our roads and communities safer, thankyou, after all you were most likely our primary target audience, and now you’re aware so there can be no excuses…….we don’t care what you think, a life is a life, the law is the law, it’s all a matter of priorities, get used to it, it’s the future.

Then in the midst of this success driven cacophony of chaos there’s two officers who sit deep in conversation, which when not dominated by Star Wars conspiracy theories, comic books, Op Hercules tactics (an illegal street racing operation, their other project), and their somewhat eclectic music tastes, goes something like this “ Well that went rather well”  “Well yes we always knew it would, we just needed the opportunity” “What next then” “More of the same I suppose” “Got the book” “Of Course” and out comes the book of Blue Sky Thinking Road Safety Ops (yes it really does exist !) as you see #OpClosepass  #GiveSpaceBeSafe was just the first of what will be hopefully a string of CMPG Roads Policing initiatives centred on the safeguarding of our vulnerable road users. Then there follows cake and a beverage or two…..as the next plans are hatched to promote improved, safer driving and enforce the law against those who endanger others daily.

 

Close Pass update

 

Op Closepass has been a success, that’s all you can say really. It was cost neutral, just part of our everyday patrols. We have used officers own bikes, equipment and also Cycliq kindly gave us Fly cameras to test, so it cost nothing. It was well received, and most importantly had an immediate impact. Within a week cyclists were contacting us to tell us things had had not only improved, but improved considerably, there were still close passes, always will be, “can’t get them all”, but they have become a rarity rather than commonplace. We noticed the difference, having to move locations on press days as our usual preferred spots now harboured good driving habits, we were literally starting to struggle to find a volume of offences to deal with. Admittedly the huge press attention helped, but if our future efforts to protect vulnerable road users have half the impact that this operation has had we will be guaranteed success each time. Don’t get us wrong, we know there is still a mountain to climb, but if a mountain climbing analogy was needed, let’s just say we’ve got the equipment and made base camp, where we currently enjoy cake and a beverage before pushing on to the lower slopes. The summit, a view from which we can see a land where we let our loved one’s take part in their journey’s as vulnerable road users without undue worry is still sadly out of sight, but hopefully someday soon we will see the view of this promised land. Until then we continue climbing the mountain…..

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Excuses, excuses………..

Feedback from offenders has been good, 99 % of the time. Some of the excuses not so good, but they left with the knowledge and change in perception necessary to firstly be aware of, and then overtake or account for cyclists on the road safely in future. Some said they hadn’t seen the cyclist at all, maybe in the belief that it was better to say this than admit poor driving judgement, both don’t bode well regards their everyday driving ! But they were caught, and hopefully reformed before their poor driving harmed another. The 1% have left with a piece of paper that is titled “Traffic Process Report”, no further explanation is needed, they failed to show not only the driving skills necessary but also the aptitude to guarantee belief they won’t endanger a vulnerable road user again. This 1% of course does not include those who were ruled out of the immediate educational input due to additional offences. These drivers would include those with no tax or insurance, those on the phone, the lady putting her dog back in its cage, the man reading the delivery note in one hand whilst holding his phone in the other…..you think of it, we’ve had an offender who can make your worst road going nightmare come true !

This is why Op Closepass works so well, it targets and catches those who endanger the vulnerable on a daily basis, tens of thousands of drivers have encountered and overtaken our cyclists displaying all the attributes necessary to be not only safe and competent drivers but at times exemplary, we have seen some fantastic driving and although you will never know, if we could stop you and shake your hand we would, unfortunately we still have too many poor drivers to occupy our time at the moment….

But on a side note we always thought that what if in every book of tickets at the back there was a gift voucher that we could give out to particularly good drivers or riders we encountered, that would be novel wouldn’t it. Would people change their driving or riding in the hope that they might get caught being “good”…..(no boss I haven’t drank all the port having finished the fruit cake and cheese 😉

 

What is apparent from Op Close Pass is how little attention drivers actually pay to what is going on around them. This is because of a number of factors but primarily because drivers have little to fear when it comes to their own personal safety on the road. The modern motor vehicle is a fine feat of engineering, it can be driven into a brick wall at 50mph and the occupants can walk away relatively injury free. This “security” has however endangered vulnerable road users where it protects the driver. Drivers with their subliminal feeling of safety relax, pay less attention, start practicing poor driving, they speed, don’t pay attention, all to the detriment of vulnerable road users. This modern day wholesale rapid decline in driving standards combined with ever increasing traffic volume has inevitably seen vulnerable road users bear the unfortunate brunt of this driving trend. As we try to fit an increasing amount of traffic onto the same amount of road the chances of conflict increase proportionally. Factor in the declining amount of attention paid by drivers and the declining standard in driving and it’s only the vulnerable who are threatened. Vulnerable road users instinctively pay more attention, it’s only natural, vulnerability hones the senses. Vehicle drivers cocooned in their protective shells do the exact opposite, they pay less and less attention, to both other road users and road laws.

Falling levels of enforcement have a part to play in this trend, we know this, our last department leader Chief Supt Keasey, now moved onto pastures new stated exactly this to the transport select committee who agreed. You don’t have to be a road safety expert to realise that those with very little chance of being caught will continually offend, that’s why we are determined to utilise our time and talents where they have the most impact, targeted intelligence led enforcement. This combined with greater opportunities for third party reporting should reverse the trend and hopefully see an improvement.

What next

Op Close will is now an everyday part of our workstream, as it should be, its value increasing with each deployment, additional “value adding” offences are being identified, and the operation is continually being honed to be more effective. Locations in Coventry, Solihull and West Bromwich are all pencilled in for attention. We are constantly evolving the Operation, in this New Year we will hopefully be joined by staff from the West Midlands Fire Service Cycle Safety Team, who will deliver the 15 minute educational input instead of one of our officers. Why the change you might ask?, well for a start it frees up our officer to deal with the “other” offences that the operation is detecting in ever increasing numbers. Secondly our partners in the Fire Service come without the “baggage” that some associate with the police and so the educational input is better received.

New bespoke operations concentrating on distracted drivers and also protecting schoolchildren and the elderly on their pedestrian journeys are being approved in the same vain as Op Closepass.  Our favourite analyst Chris has worked his magic once again and has been duly rewarded with calorific carbohydrate mood enhancing treats (otherwise known as chocolate biscuits). One lowlight of the analysis was the finding that over a third of pedestrian KSI’s occurred on or at pedestrian crossings…which again begs the question what are drivers paying attention to at such vulnerable locations…

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Our analyst Chris has been busy again, as has PC Hodson who doodles when thinking!

Birmingham’s 20mph limits are now old news, which means every driver should be aware and complying, to ensure they are we will be out doing what we do best, enforcing the law in these areas. There is really no excuse for speeding, no-one seems to do it on their test………, we’ll be out there with the speed gun, every willing participant will leave with a piece of paper, resulting in a fine and points or an educational course, for those who might disagree with speed checks, read this https://trafficwmp.wordpress.com/2016/04/25/cash-cows-stealth-taxes-and-revenue-raisers/ and if you still disagree, well then you really shouldn’t be the road at all !

These new operations primarily designed to protect pedestrians will of course naturally protect all other vulnerable road users as they significantly concentrate driver’s attention in the most vulnerable of areas. It all supports our regions latest transport plans, and rightly so, after all our communities rightly deserve cleaner, healthier and enjoyable transport opportunities, it’s our job to create an environment which enables safe worry free participation, and as we all know that means curtailing the behaviour of those road users who endanger vulnerable road users, only then will our regions transport goals be achieved.

As we have said previously we will concentrate on those offences and offenders who pose the greatest threat of harm to others, our analysts will help pinpoint locations and also shape our tactics. For example although we like to be highly visible as it has crime prevention and reassurance benefits, if a particular road safety problem requires a covert approach we will use it, offending drivers are going to have to get used to the reality that we will use every tool at our disposal to save lives on our roads.

We aim to rely ever increasingly on our road safety partners to deliver what we term “soft education”, the educating in schools, youth and faith groups, the exchanging places scheme etc. We realise that we, traffic officers are becoming an ever increasing rare and valuable resource, and so our time needs to be spent doing what we do best, enforcing the law and delivering “hard education” as seen in Op ClosePass.

 

Third party footage prosecutions

 

Much like #OpClosepass, third party footage prosecutions have now become the “norm” for ourselves. The numbers of close pass due care offences we receive have dropped by about 50% since the #GiveSpaceBeSafe initiative took effect on our regions roads, we still get the same amount of red light, mobile phone and other offences via third party footage though, no change there yet!  Ultimately Op Closepass will be judged on KSI figures and the increase in the number of people cycling, and rightly so, but what is certain is that to succeed it must run alongside a good easy to use and successful 3rd party reporting scheme. We believe we have achieved this to the point where offenders are starting to realise there doesn’t need to be a police officer present and witnessing for their offending to be detected and punished, that element of doubt put in a potential offenders mind works wonders, the psychology of offending is a wonderful thing and easily manipulated as soon as the threat of potential continuous detection is introduced.

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Third party video prosecutions, protecting all road users not just cyclists

The one thing third party reporting has brought to the fore is that the majority of good law abiding road users, not just vulnerable ones, want the opportunity to report poor road use or offending and see it acted upon . This stream of offence detection and prosecution really will have a large part to play in the future of road safety, after all we can’t be everywhere at once to deal with offending on our roads, but given the ever increasing traffic levels and the spread of vehicle born cameras, there will always be someone with the right intentions waiting to do the right thing.  We are still awaiting our digital reporting portal, this should make the process easier and encourage more to participate, but we have literally stopped counting how many road users we have prosecuted now using 3rd party footage, it’s just normal policing and will pay a large part in future efforts to make our regions road network safer for all.

It’s not all been going to plan though, we have had at least one report made to the traffic process office that wasn’t dealt with in the correct manner, this was a mistake made and apologies have been made, Processes have been put in place to ensure that it doesn’t happen again, like we said at the start “base camp achieved, the summit is a long way off”.

 

A Thankyou

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Smiling, twice in one blog, that’s a record for traffic officers !

As many will be aware we were given an award for our efforts by the Road Danger Reduction Forum and had a great evening at the House of Lords enjoying the company of many who are as passionate as ourselves when it comes to saving lives on our roads. As I wrote earlier, we are not used to praise from outside our organisation, it is quite alien to ourselves, we are grateful to all those who support us and our work. We really couldn’t do it without you and even though we have an exceptionally supportive management team right the way up to our Chief Constable, it is reassuring to know for both them and ourselves that our efforts are well placed and valued.

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We would love to personally thank whoever sent these choccies but the card had no details, but if your reading “Thankyou”, carbohydrate based mood enhancement is always appreciated, good fuel for the Operation as well !

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Thankyou to Safe Cycling Eire for the goodies, this will appear as part of #OpClosePass in the very near future

 

 

 

So to all those who have supported with kind words, sent kit to use or chocolate to fuel the Op Close Pass cyclists, thankyou.

“Shine a light”

For the last two years we’ve tackled the issue of unlit cyclists by having the now well used “alternative” to prosecution approach of giving away light sets provided by Birmingham City Council and local Universities. We have dealt with over 400 offences in this fashion. We don’t have special events or targeted operations anymore, we carry a few sets of lights in our kit bags and deal with offences as we come across them. What we do notice as that most offenders participating in the scheme are teenagers or from newly arrived communities and are apparently unaware of the law attaining to lights on cycles at night. Both groups often have never had any cycling training or road law input. Many of the teenagers or young adults are of a generation that had no “Bikeability” training or the like during their school years. Now with the widespread use of “bikeability” type training both in schools and in all areas of our community’s, hopefully this should be slowly addressed and we should find ourselves giving away fewer sets of lights.

The rise in numbers of these offending groups however only shows how cycling groups that aren’t really accounted for under the usual statistics are on the rise, which is a great positive for the future of cycling.

“Illuminating Stuff”

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Two up front, three behind

Want a little advice on lights well this is our take on what’s best.

  1. A steady light is better than a flasher but if you can have both then that’s the best option. The combination of the 2 provides attention, and the 2 lights even with one being a “flasher” are better for the eye to track making judging speed and direction easier for the observant motorist or pedestrian.
  2. Two to the rear is also the best option, again for the same reasons as above and if you can place them on differing axis i.e. one on the seatpost and one on a chainstay or seatstay again the effect is enhanced.
  3. Position so as not to “dazzle or blind” other road users. Most quality front cycle lights are better than the lights on some scooters, position for best road illumination but also be considerate.
  4. Two lights to the rear and fore also cater for a light or battery failure. Personally I have two front lights and 3 to the rear.
  5. Beware the “Halo” effect. At night you can become very hard to see no matter how well you are lit if you have a bright light very close to the rear of you, i.e. if a following vehicle has its main beams on or an inappropriately fitted bulb and is tailgating you or uncomfortably close not giving room to the rear. On the approach to junctions this can be particularly problematic. If the following vehicle flicks on an indicator and turns left the waiting vehicle might exit the junction not having seen you in front of the turning vehicle as you can become hidden in the “glare” of the vehicle’s lights behind. Although this set of circumstances is thankfully extremely rare you can combat any such effect by moving out from the nearside to an almost prime position, so your light doesn’t get lost in the “Halo” effect of the following cars lights, also an “flasher” can help getting you noticed in high traffic volumes with many lights to get “lost” to the attention in.
  6. If you look directly at a driver with a helmet mounted light on you can be effectively shining a light in their eyes, save the bright helmet lights for the trails, a simple single low level led flasher on your helmet does the trick nicely on the road if you want a light on your helmet.
  7. Nothing to do with lights but when it comes to clothing at night remember reflectivity is the key. Black kit covered in Scotchlite or similar is far more effective than hi vis with none.
  8. And remember, you could be as easy to see as a supernova exploding in your neighbour’s garden, but if another road user is distracted by their phone, lunch or whatever else they prioritise above your wellbeing they won’t see you because they aren’t looking. Ride defensively always, think the worst of everyone and prepare for the unexpected, give yourself time and space to react wherever possible, that’s the mind set we use in our road use, at work and at home, unfortunate but necessary until we reach the “mountain summit”.

 

 

Time for a coffee and a mint, nearly finished !

Well that’s it for now, we recommend reading the next Traffic Blog which will be published in a couple of weeks, it will concentrate on our efforts to prevent pedestrian KSI’s but will include measures that will keep all vulnerable road users safe. Expect more Op ClosePass updates as the year progresses. On 13th January we are holding a Close Pass forum to spread our mindset more than anything when it comes to protecting vulnerable road users, we will of course be covering the practicalities of the operation also for those attending. The actual Operation is easily replicated, changing decades of thinking and resulting practice which is now largely inappropriate given the transport and associated road safety issues we collectively face as a nation is a much harder task……mountains to climb you see…….cake to eat……port to…..I’ll stop there.

 

Safe Cycling All.

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……

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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.

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From the nearside…….

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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.

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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

close-lorry-pass

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 !

RoSPA

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.

PC Steve Hudson’s holiday ! – Lands End to John O’Groats

Safer Cycling August 2015

Just for a change and to show why the Safer Cycling Team feel so passionatly about keeping the vulnerable on our roads safe we thought we would give you an occasional insight into what the members of the Safer Cycling Team do when they are not in uniform. We start with PC 5815 Steve Hudson who is a lifelong cyclist, loves his touring and commuting, and has just completed a “life time acheivement” ride, Lands End to John O’Groats.

 

Hello again all, and thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings.

I have recently finished my first LEJOG, (Lands End to John O’ Groats) and thought I would share some of my experiences with you.

This is a journey I have been waiting to do, and planning in my mind, for about 25 years, and have found an annual excuse to not do it for all that time! I finally decided to commit in late 2014, and began to plan seriously for the trip. I must however thank my wife for her support (and permission!!) as she will read this post, and brownie points are always welcomed to bank when needed.

The decision was made to take 12 days for the trip, but this was trimmed down to 11 after some route planning, only 1000 miles! I knew I would be riding on unfamiliar roads for some of the trip, so made sure I researched as much of the areas as possible, although there is no amount of research that’ll prepare you for the 25% climb up to Forest Glade in Cullompton on day 2. The plan was to camp for about half of the days, and use cheap B & B’s for the remainder, carrying all the kit on my trusty Surly.

I read many online forums, as well as several books, before deciding on my route, and carried Nick Mitchell’s excellent guide for reference. (Other publications are available, and research is recommended) I also had my (sometimes) trusty Sat Nav, and back up maps, both of which failed me on days 2 and 3!

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I am lucky to work with mostly cyclists who helped with my planning, and agreed to accompany me on a couple of dry runs to test my newly acquired camping kit. Just a word of advice, spend as much as you can afford on a decent sleeping mat and bag, they’re worth their weight in gold! We had a couple of stays up in the Peak District to try and replicate some of the climbing, testing bike and kit in Buxton, Bradwell and the higher points of the Peaks.

After lots of tinkering with loading the bike, I managed to get the final weight down to around 40 kilo’s including the bike and luggage. I also made sure I had suitable gearing to be able to grind up the climbs, a 36 tooth on the back and a touring triple on the front meant I would have more than enough, and I never felt I had run out of gears, even if some of the riding was at walking pace!

I finally set off in mid June with great weather and in great spirits. I spent almost a full day travelling down to Lands End, and spent a night in a nearby B & B to get an early start the next day. If you are planning to do your own LEJOG, make sure you book your train tickets, and more importantly your bike space well in advance. There were a couple of cyclists that were not allowed on the train as they hadn’t booked in advance.lej.2

I cycled down to the Lands End monument early the next day, and due to the hour, I was the only one there. It was a misty and cool morning, and I set off excited to finally be on my way. The first day led me through narrow lanes with stiff climbs and short descents into Looe. It was a tough day, but with no real problems, until I realised that my pump, glasses and rear light had been stolen off my bike! However I set off on day 2 un-flustered and looking forward to another great day on the bike.

After about 10 miles, my Sat Nav crashed, and it was then that I realised my maps were nowhere near detailed enough, and I spent lots of time stopping at junctions to try and remember my planned route. This would turn out to be my hardest day on the bike, and I can see why lots of people abandon the LEJOG this early on! The day was finished with a snapped chain on the approach to the final 25% climb of the day, which I fixed at the roadside as I was determined to cycle every available inch of the journey. I arrived at the excellent Forest Glade Campsite, and even though I was late and everything was closed, the staff opened up the kitchen and made me the best fish and chips I’ve ever had. I must also thank my friends for their well wishes, I really needed them after that day!lej.3

Day 3 was again challenging with navigation, but the riding was truly memorable. My biggest problem, unbelievably, was getting from Bristol to the Severn Bridge. It’s a landmark that can be seen for miles, and following the main road will get you there with few problems. I however decided to follow a route closer to the water, and tried to use coastal paths and NCN routes. It may be that I was tired, but it seemed to take forever to finally reach the bridge, and then rode over into a strong head wind, but at the end of day 3 I arrived in Chepstow, looking forward to a night’s sleep in an actual bed for the first time in a couple of days.

At the start of day 4 I was joined by my cycling friends, who had met me to ride the 100 miles to Shrewsbury and fixed my Sat Nav for me in about 5 minutes! I have never been so glad for assistance, and enjoyed my best ever group ride with great company over a truly memorable route. The riding through the Shropshire Hills was amazing, and the descents were some of the best I’ve ever ridden, not even spoiled by the wasp that decided to sting me in my mouth! We had a great tea stop in Brampton Bryan, where we were schooled on some local history by the proprietor, before photos in front of the famous cloud forming yew hedge. We arrived in Shrewsbury to enjoy a pub tea, before I was left to camp, and continue my journey alone, minus 1 pannier, which was emptied of its contents and kindly taken home by my friends. I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I was for the day’s company, and my spirits were truly lifted.lej.4

Day 5 was spent navigating a lot of urban riding into Blackburn, which was a bit slow going but kept me sharp on the bike. It always seems to be the case that road users are in more of a rush the busier the roads are, and I saw a number of cyclists jumping up the kerb to avoid stopping at traffic lights and junctions, as well as cars and vans blocking junctions as they had failed to plan ahead. A lot of times, the driver seems to see the cyclist as something that needs to be overtaken at all costs, without looking up the road for hazards or slow moving traffic.

There was also a huge amount of younger cyclists wearing headphones, in dark clothing, and with little regard for the laws of the road. I offered kind words of advice on more than 1 occasion, and was typically “thanked” on each of those! It may well be that the Safer Cycling team may be visiting roads near you soon to try and get the message across.

Days 6 was spent through some of the UK’s most beautiful and challenging terrain through the Forest of Bowland, the tip of the Yorkshire Moors, and into the Lake District. The roads around Slaidburn “treated” me to some proper northern weather. Steady rain and swirling winds made the Forest of Bowland challenging, but stunning scenery kept me going with a smile on my face. I arrived in Ambleside looking forward to entering Scotland the next day. The hardest part of the day was not stopping every mile or so to take photo’s!lej.5

On day 7, I cycled through Keswick, Carlisle, and over the border into Scotland. I picked up a riding companion going into Scotland, who was taking a more relaxed attitude to his LEJOG, and had been on the road a couple of weeks. I arrived in Moffat, and enjoyed a great night’s sleep in the excellent Star Hotel, before filling up on supplies for the day’s ahead.

Having never cycled in Scotland before, I was really looking forward to the wide open spaces and dramatic landscapes, and was not disappointed. On days 8 and 9, I stopped in a couple of small cabins on the shores of Loch Lomond and Loch Ness, where the midges were constant company, and enjoyed an amazing ride through the Glencoe Pass, where the temperature seemed to drop 10 degrees. The climb over General Wade’s Military Road is also not to be underestimated! The roads in this part of Scotland are very heavy, mainly due to the extremes of weather, and I wondered whether my 32mm tyres were wide enough at times. The flat sections were hard going, but the ups and downs more than made up for it.

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On day 10, I decided to try and ride as far as Betty Hill on the northern coast, a distance of about 120 miles, and then wild camp near the beach. The Scottish weather welcomed me after about 60 miles, and after a couple of hours of this, I sought sanctuary in the famous Crask Inn, along with about 20 or so other like minded cyclists. After some much needed food and drink, I decided to push on through the rain. I was then treated to about 30 miles of spectacular cycling up to Betty Hill, where I only saw about half a dozen cars and enjoyed views of Loch Naver and the wilds of Scotland. Unfortunately the constant rain made wild camping impossible as everywhere was under water! I managed to find space in a hotel in Betty Hill, and looked forward to the last 50 miles the next day.

I was welcomed by a sunny morning, light winds, and an unbroken view over some dramatic coastland. The first 20 miles or so have long steady climbs, and fantastic sweeping descents. Anyone who tells you that the last miles of a LEJOG are easy, have either never ridden it, or are far stronger than I! I continued along the coastal road, enjoying the beauty of the beaches and sea views over the gently rolling roads. I finally arrived in John O’ Groats, tired, but with a huge smile on my face and a real sense of achievement.

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I realise that the LEJOG is ridden by lots of cyclists per year, but anyone that has completed it will tell you they made the journey their own. I was lucky enough to meet some of the friendliest people you could imagine, and I can’t think of anywhere in the world that offers the variety of riding that we enjoy here in the UK. If you are planning your own LEJOG then good luck, you will be tired and there will be times when you wonder why you are doing it, but stick with it, it will live with you for a lifetime.

 

Thanks again for sharing in my experience, and I’ll be back soon with some more Police related issues.

Helmets, speeding and cake!

Well then, after our little introduction last time around this is where the traffic blog begins in earnest. So let’s start with a subject that causes the foundations of social media to shake with the choruses of “Yays” and “Nays”, every time it gets a mention on our twitter feed, that subject is of course…

Cycling Helmets, should you be wearing one?

“To wear, or not to wear” that is the question. No other subject stirs such feeling on both sides as this seemingly insignificant matter, given everything else that dominates our working landscape and resulting Twitter feed. With the recent explosion in popularity of both recreational cycling and commuting by pedal power, has come the ever increasingly volatile cycling helmet debate, that sometimes draws a surprising amount of vitriol from both camps.

Now before we continue along this path that is like skipping through a firing range, no matter how careful you are you will always draw fire from somewhere, let me make it clear the following views are representative of my own thoughts and in no way are the formal policies or thinking of the West Midlands Police on this matter. Neither am I going to cover law changes, cycling infrastructure or the balance of liability, this is about the decision as to whether to protect your noggin or not when astride a bicycle.

Before I can give you my opinion on the subject, it is only fair that I cover some of the most commonly thrown spears of argument from both sides, and debunk some very false arguments.

“They only work if you’re travelling under 12mph”. Utter rubbish, for a start if it were true, the professional cycling world wouldn’t bother with them. With speeds in the pro peloton averaging somewhere in the 25mph region, not one of those riders would be without a helmet. When you bear witness to some of the horrendous pileups that occur in racing at speeds well in excess of the 25mph average, and the forces involved, the fact that none come away with significant head injuries is in itself testimony to the effectiveness of modern cycling helmets. Just check out the manufacturers web sites and helmet testing regimes if your want further proof.

“They won’t save you from a ton of steel travelling at 50mph or a 44 tonne artic if it runs over you”. This is largely true, but there isn’t a lot that would save you under such circumstances apart from a miracle of biblical proportion. They do however give you a fighting chance of avoiding a serious head injury in “some” collisions. We must also remember that it might not be a collision, the cyclist is blessed with an elevated riding position and forward motion, two of the prime requisites needed in the formula for a serious head injury, just throw in a pothole, slippery surface or sharp (sometimes warranted) braking or the like and the formula is complete. I myself have been saved from a serious head injury under such circumstances, when a wet road and lack of talent saw me hitting my head on the kerb of a traffic island at well over 20mph. My head survived the blow, which as my hands were still on my drop bars when I hit the road, took full force with no time to break the fall. All I lost that day was a lot of skin and pride, thanks to the helmet I was wearing.

We have, unfortunately, dealt with incidents, which have resulted in the cyclist losing their life to a head injury that could have been prevented or lessened had a helmet been worn. Modern medicine is an amazing thing, we have witnessed people being brought back from the dead numerous times having suffered massive injuries, however a major head trauma remains a largely un-survivable injury.

“More people die in cars of head injuries than cyclists”. This again is largely true, however it must be placed in context by the fact that the majority that die of head injuries in vehicle born collisions do so because they or another passenger is not wearing a seat belt, either incorrectly or not at all, or they are killed due to intrusion into the vehicle interior. We don’t suggest they wear helmets because they are generally encased in steel and airbags, which as long as a seatbelt is worn correctly, does a pretty good job of protecting the occupant in the event of a collision.

“It stops people from cycling”. Does it? Cycling is booming and it seems that the majority are equipped with helmets. It’s actually quite unusual to see a commuter or recreational cyclist without a helmet of late. Besides helmets are cool, some of the coolest people on the planet wear a helmet, Sir Brad, Cavendish, Marianne Vos, the Brownlee Brothers, Peter Sagan, Fabian Cancellara, X Wing Pilots, Boba Fett, the Knights of the Round Table… I’ve gone off on a tangent again here ! Anyway, they are an accepted and increasingly important part of cycling fashion, can’t be seen in a lid that doesn’t match your bike or cycling apparel, can you?

“Why should I wear a helmet, it’s the drivers that endanger us” Sometimes true, sometimes not. Plenty of cyclists crash all by themselves (like myself) or endanger themselves through either judicious actions or lack of road sense. The tribal attitude of cyclist vs motorist is seemingly perpetuated by the “few” on both sides of the argument, that are incapable of accepting that to build a better future all must accept their failings, before we can truly share the road.

Having covered a few of the arguments here’s my take on the helmet debate, and I think I’ve got it pretty cornered really. So whether you’re a “Yay or a Nay” read it, digest it, mull it over, and sleep on it. Do not start cracking out your 140 characters on our Twitter feed without rationalizing in full the following statement and its obvious implications. Deep breath having been taken, here goes…

“Wearing a cycling helmet is akin to wearing a lifejacket whilst on the water, you don’t have to do it, but you’re guarding against an un-quantified risk that you know exists but hope you never encounter. A life jacket would not save you in all situations, but would you advise someone not to wear one? And for those of supreme confidence and ability just remember that the best of swimmers would not sail into a storm without a life jacket, nor would the greatest fighter pilots fly into battle without a parachute. And let’s face it, sometimes when you’re on the road sometimes it is like sailing into a storm or flying into battle, there is risk out there, our daily experiences and the casualty figures show that, please guard against part of that risk by wearing a helmet. If you don’t you or your loved ones might have to live with the consequences.

The same could be said of seatbelts as well, but we’ll talk about those next time.

Moving on…

Reflections on another speed campaign

It’s been a few weeks since the last speed campaign, following which, some of the most dramatic and heart wrenching footage of road users losing their lives due to excess speed we have seen has been released. Footage that even made the most hardened of traffic officers draw a sharp intake of breath.

The shock that such footage causes amongst the motoring public however never seems to dull the right foot or throttle hand of the motoring majority though. Let’s face it, when we stand at the side of the road with a Pro Laser we don’t fall short of target practice, do we. It’s a problem that is not reducing or has even plateaued, and makes me think that the one plus point of congestion is that it slows road users to steady crawl, saving a good many lives!

Now you don’t need me to tell you that speeding is a problem, because the majority of you reading this will be on the road daily and witness those who repeatedly place their desire to get somewhere seconds quicker well above the lives of those they share the roads of our region with.

So if I were to tell you that speeding kills far more people than drink driving, you would think that like drink driving, speeding would be socially unacceptable. But alas it is not, why not you may ask? Well some argue that it’s because at some point most drivers have experienced intoxication and realise the sheer senseless stupidity of driving under such circumstances. However, the vast majority have not born witness to the carnage a speeding motor vehicle causes, and as a result are willing to risk their own lives, and those of the innocent, to save a few extra seconds of their day. I however think different; I really think that the British motoring public all have the odd moment when they have a selfish total disregard for others. Why do I think this, well it’s because I have to listen to the endless tirade of poor excuses at the roadside, that when I counter with “Have you seen the advert when the child dies because the car is travelling above 30mph” and I get the inevitable “Yes” I then ask “Why are you speeding then”,….. they say silence is golden……

Traffice officer PC Tina Benbow on patrol.

We carry out our speed checks at locations that have a history of serious collisions, or just past a school, a pedestrian crossing, a playing field/playground or even one of those wonderful signs that flash to tell you that your speeding, yet even here we rarely get chance to raise our speed gun before the next “customer” comes charging towards us.

We aim to educate primarily, make motorists see the errors of their rapid ways, try to reform driving habits that endanger. We offer courses instead of prosecution, councils run campaigns, static cameras line the country’s roads and speed bumps and traffic calming measures lie across them. Manufactures make vehicles with speed limiters and audible warnings that can be set for road limits for those to distracted or to lazy glance occasionally at their speedo. Yet despite all of this my trigger finger still aches through overuse at the end of every speed check, and my pen takes the resulting battering. The courts see daily, motorists who have accumulated enough points to achieve the shameful accolade of a “totter”, those who have managed to reach disqualification through their unquenchable need for speed. There isn’t a lot more we and our road safety partners can do, it really is down to the great British motoring public to change the way you drive. However with 20mph limits on the horizon, I fear for my trigger finger, and the stationery cupboards stock of pens and tickets!

Prove me wrong, slow down folks, make speeding socially unacceptable, however I think we won’t be short of Pro Laser practice until the vast majority of vehicles drive themselves.

Cake and its importance in policing the road

Wonderful thing cake, in all its many forms it truly is a magnificent thing, especially when combined with a cup of tea. But what role does it have to play in policing the roads I hear you ask? Well come close and I’ll let you into a secret, you may not have noticed but the average traffic officer is partial to a bit of cake. Why is this?, well cake never fails to lighten the mood of the worst day, and seeing as most traffic officers are a little dour in demeanour, a little sugar enhanced calorific mood lifter goes down nicely at any time of the day. Cake is readily available and can be eaten 24hrs a day and never even fails to put a smile on my face and smooth the furrows in my brow, and I was born frowning and haven’t stopped since!

And of course for those of us who cycle to work burning somewhere between 1000 and 2500 calories a day alone during our commute, we need cheap carbs to keep us going.

Next time we’ll discuss minimum driving standards, the one reason why you really should wear your seatbelt but never thought of, and the important role Star Wars plays in keeping our roads safe.

Until then, safe journeys all.

PC Mark Hodson
E unit