Tag Archives: Cycling

Driving…an extinction event

The golden age of driving….the beginning of the end

This blogs all about the current state of motoring, not only in our region but nation-wide, and is a wake-up call to all those who think that the golden age of motoring has a future. It’s hard to admit, especially for the likes of ourselves, after all most traffic officers have an emotional attachment to driving and the internal combustion engine in at least one of its inceptions, but the writings on the wall, we are living in the last generations of driving, and with it the last generations of Traffic Officers, at least in their current inception….so grab a brew, a few biscuits and dunk and read away, or drop a few crumbs if you prefer not to dunk. Oh and the soundtrack to read this one to should be a Black Sabbath track as Aston’s finest have called it a day, maybe The Wizard or for the “hard pressed motorists” out there (aka those who can’t drive or ride within the law)…….. Paranoid……

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Ahhh, another “trusted” driver fails to uphold their end of the contract

 

 

 

 

“Pleasure drive” – the ultimate oxymoron?

Hilarious isn’t it the term pleasure drive, is there such a thing anymore? There certainly doesn’t seem to anyone relaxed and enjoying the experience, at best a stressful yet functional part of modern life, at worst a bizarre form of 21st Century mock gladiatorial combat where the participants (supposedly law abiding citizens of the land) exhibit traits and behaviour they would never dream of displaying in any other area of their everyday life. Welcome to the beginning of the end, and as with everything that ends, it is usually down to our own behaviour. This particular extinction event, the demise of the driver is no different.

 

The end is nigh!

We were trusted with the ultimate responsibility, the task of piloting motorised vehicles, all be it to a strict set of laws and guidelines, necessary due to the damage a motorised vehicle of any size or form can do to the frail human form. Yet we have shown as a collective, us drivers and riders of mechanically propelled vehicles, that we are incapable of carrying the burden and shrug continually the social responsibility of being good law abiding road users. We championed and celebrated all that is good and enjoyable with motor vehicles, the performance, the luxury, everything that made us look beyond the negatives, the current main one being the 5 people who die and 63 who are seriously injured daily on our road network due to the way we pilot them. Not to mention the tens of thousands a year whose early demise is aided by our favourite steel polluting machines, an impact that is now sending serious repercussions throughout the health and transport world. Imagine if you put those 5 people who die daily and 63 who are seriously injured on a train or plane, there would be a national outcry, no one would use such a dangerous form of transport, it’s insane, almost inhuman some might say. But alas it’s the selfish price we continue to pay, a price that could be dramatically reduced if everyone just obeyed the law and showed due respect to each other, but as I have previously mentioned we have proved ourselves incapable of doing this. That is why technology has taken control of the driver’s destiny, and that destiny is the demise of the driver.  Manufacturers see this and are striving to be the first to make it work. It’s also part of the answer to congestion and pollution issues, after all your self- driving vehicle will not make the errors of judgement or break the road traffic laws that drivers currently do, reducing collisions dramatically keeping roads running smoothly at the busiest of times, and of course driving in the most environmentally appropriate fashion at all times. Computer controlled vehicles will link in with traffic systems reducing waiting times; they won’t block junctions, roundabouts or crossings. Basically they will do everything the human driver or rider has proven themselves unwilling or incapable of doing.  But in the meantime let us explore what those who are minded to do something about the current dire state of motoring can actually do to reduce the horrific cost in death and injury the nation currently demands to keep our road network running.

 

The Behaviour test

Stand outside a school at the start or end of the school day and watch the behaviour of passing drivers. See how many you can catch with a phone in their hand, speeding and the other multitude of sins we have to deal with daily, but surely this should be where a driver is most cautious, after all the likelihood of a child making the ultimate error is at its upmost at such a location, drivers care….don’t they ?. Then go into the busy city centre with its 24/7 congestion plus thousands of vulnerable road users, cyclists and pedestrians everywhere, again surely the drivers would be paying attention, driving slowly, just in case? Then go onto the rural road, unseen potential hazards everywhere around each corner, horses, cyclists, farm vehicles, do you ever see any driver driving to the conditions before them. How many collisions in rain or fog are due to vehicles being too fast and too close? How many of our children must we lose because people think they can drive a car or ride a motorbike like it’s a video game? It’s all down to driver behaviour, remove the driver, remove the collision, it’s simple, vehicles don’t crash themselves. Some will be reading this and uttering to themselves “It’s just the few, I’m a good driver”, are you? Do you drive like it’s your driving test every day? Do you stay under every speed limit, always signal when you should, use your lights correctly, stop at the amber instead of inanely racing towards it to beat the red, wear your seat belt?, The list is endless when it comes to things supposed “good competent” drivers don’t do. The test is the minimum standard, if you don’t drive or ride to that standard every time you get on the road you are part of the problem, be honest with yourselves…….

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So many people to look out for yet most drivers see none of this or chose to ignore, to everyone else’s peril !

Some will say, “why don’t you tell them to pay attention, slow down, take care” well let’s play a game, how many road safety campaigns can you remember….., it’s not hard, we have over a dozen in their various forms a year. We’ve tried to tell them, to educate. We even have a theory and practical test to ensure motorists are fit for the road to reinforce the necessity of complying with the law and having a careful and considerate nature towards our road use. Do the campaigns or test’s effect driver behaviour? we all know the answer. People will read headlines in the national press about families being killed by a driver who used his phone, broke the law, and utter how terrible it was…….. as they travel down the road above the speed limit, phone in their lap with a light out, having never checked their tyre pressures or condition……but they did take the time to have illegal dangerous tints to fitted their drivers windows, or hang something from their rear view mirror that partially blocks their forward view……

 

Changing behaviour, the tools of the trade

The most effective tool to curtail adverse driver behaviour is the threat of prosecution ,if people think they will be caught doing something they don’t do it, we’ll come onto that later…but first another piece of technology that precedes the driverless car, the insurance black box. Yes that’s right those little black boxes really do work, it would seem that the threat of having your insurance cancelled and suffering a large financial penalty if you drive to a substandard level seems to work, fancy that…..it’s almost like enforcement by the back door, shame that insurance companies don’t make them mandatory really, the effect would be profound, cheaper policies, better driving, insurance monitoring black boxes literally saving lives, contributing to the wellbeing of society………just a thought. And for those who are screaming “it’s just the big brother nanny state telling us what to do and how to live our lives” just remember, drivers were trusted to do the right thing, but alas can’t, just stand at the side of any road with a speed gun and see how many cars actually exceed the speed limit, most do. Some may complain of the nanny state but it’s become increasingly necessary when it comes to motorised road use, just look at the comments by most drivers regards road safety on social media, attitude says a lot about behaviour, if you went on some comments seen on social media regards sharing the road and improving safety you wouldn’t let these people drive a child’s pedal car around your garden, let alone a vehicle on the road with all the risk that carries. You see many like to blame someone else, blame the victim, many just don’t have the attitude or demeanour to be on the road in the first place, modern day personalities and priorities just don’t mix with being in charge of a potential killing machine.

Which leads us nicely back to our definition of the “hard pressed motorist” ….the motorist who is expected to obey the law……..

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A speed check at one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in Birmingham, drivers caught at 50 % above the speed limit whilst on their phone, says it all really….

 

 

 

The perfect storm is coming

What’s he on about now I hear you say, well it’s like this, traffic levels are rising at about 1.4% a year. Factor in population growth, of which those in the age bracket most likely to drive is swelled by migration and you see that within 8 years we will have over 10% more vehicles on our roads. Anyone think we’ll have 10 % more road capacity? Imagine the cost for a start, it’s impossible.

So we have more motor vehicles, at the same time we will have more vulnerable road users, as those who are economically excluded from the motor vehicle select club or those who have consciously chosen to “do their bit” and participate in a healthier, cleaner form of transport actually look to take advantage of their local authorities transport plan. You will notice that no local authorities are looking to increase vehicular traffic, to do so would be tantamount to community “self-harming”. The consequence to the driver of this “perfect storm” is more time spent watching a stationary queue of traffic stretching before them, the consequence for those not sat in a vehicle is an increased risk of injury, here’s why ……

You see 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, release their frustration that’s been compounded by sitting in slow moving or stationary traffic with an aggressive driving demeanour, all to the detriment of vulnerable road users. Just look at how may don’t wear a seatbelt properly or at all, this is the best evidence of how safe most feel inside a modern vehicle. Given our increasing levels of both vehicular traffic being driven to an ever poorer standard and more vulnerable road users in a finite area of road we are left with only one inevitable consequence, more vulnerable road users killed and seriously on our roads, in contrast to those in vehicles who become safer in heavy traffic due to reduced collision speeds. Now as a police force we are duty bound to protect the vulnerable, pedestrians, child and elderly pedestrians especially, those making socially beneficial transport choices such as cyclists, we are duty bound to support our communities transport policies and do all we can to create an environment where they can succeed. The long and short of it is drivers, who pose the greatest threat of harm on our roads need to get their house in order, or we’ll do it for them.

 

Twenties plenty and the car vs pedestrian

Why 20mph limits? Well because firstly it cuts down dramatically the numbers killed and seriously injured on our urban roads, quite simply it gives drivers and other road users the time needed to first make the correct driving decisions and second react to others mistakes, i.e. that child who suddenly runs into the road or the vehicle that pulls out in-front of you. If nothing else it lessens the seriousness of any collision. 20mph is not far below the average speed for many of our urban roads anyway so time wise drivers are not really losing out either, even if they were, small price to pay to lessen the carnage on our roads surely…..now don’t be selfish drivers after all you only get to the back of the next traffic jam fractionally quicker! Plus it won’t be long given the rising congestion levels before we reach the capital’s average speed of 7.5mph!! So just think in a few years a 20mph limit will be literally be light speed compared to the average speed of traffic on our roads.

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Many will say that no one drives to Birmingham’s new 20mph limits, this is true many don’t, but they will. Despite a highly publicised campaign of educational measures including roadside educational alternatives to prosecution we get numerous complaints and too often see the effects of drivers exceeding the limit. So “Out goes the carrot and in comes the stick”, after nearly 6 months of the limits it’s apparent that many drivers just don’t care or are incapable of driving to the new limit, just like they can’t drive to most limits, including the old 30mph limits. Again we come back to the previously stated situation where drivers proved themselves incapable collectively of driving at 30mph or below, you had your chance now 20mph limits are deemed necessary to protect our communities from drivers who don’t meet the standard of “safe and competent road users”. We need somewhere in the region of one in four compliance for the limits to be effective given urban traffic levels, the one in four slow everyone else down and produce safer roads. We will achieve this through enforcement, we will even use covert speed checks if necessary in the most vulnerable of locations, the loss of life on our regions roads is unacceptable to our communities, some drivers may be dismayed and distraught at the idea of us getting all “sneaky” to catch dangerous drivers, but they had their chance, “the gloves are off” as they say when it comes to the fight against the dangerous motorist in our region. But remember those who can drive to the required standard, “the law abiding motorist” have nothing to worry about, quite the opposite their journeys should become more pleasant as a result. Whilst we are on the subject our region does have some very good drivers, our plain clothes cyclists used in #OpClosePass have been overtaken by tens of thousands of very good, considerate drivers on our regions roads, and they are in the majority and should rest easy in the knowledge that we target only those who pose a threat, those doing the speed limit, not using their phone, not driving without due care and attention never get stopped, funny that………and they never complain when we start prosecuting those who do not comply with the law either, only poor incompetent drivers complain about enforcement campaigns, because they are the ones who are the problem and need to worry.

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Analysis of KSI data shows that drivers are not paying attention at vulnerable locations.

 

And for those who say “traffic cops, nothing better to do…” your right…..we haven’t got anything better to do…….reducing the amount of people killed and seriously injured on our roads is at the top of our list of priorities, so why would we do anything else ?

Our 2017 wish list

If we could change anything to make this year better than the last, these would be top of our road safety wishlist….it is representative of the personal opinions of myself and my colleagues, not the West Midlands Police, though you would be hard pressed to find anyone in our organisation who would disagree.

Points don’t mean prizes !!

12 points is hard to get for a competent safe driver, in fact they don’t get anywhere near. Some pick up 3 at some point during their driving when they switch off and fall below the expected standard, triggering a speed camera or the like, or some might have to attend an educational course when their driving again slips below the expected standard. It serves as a wakeup call to most that their driving and awareness isn’t up to the required standard and they rarely trouble the Traffic Process Office again. So to get to twelve points shows a real inability to drive to a safe and competent level. 12 points should result in disqualification, the farce of letting drivers continue past 12 points for whatever reason is an affront to those who have lost loved ones to drivers who regularly break the law, time it stopped.

Disqualification = mandatory retest

In order to get disqualified from driving you will have had to show a continued disregard for the law or a single act of such magnitude that a court feels you must lose your licence for a period of time. Either of these scenarios shows that such a driver clearly does not have the correct demeanour, responsibility, ability or attitude to be a safe and competent driver and as such is a risk to the safety of everyone else on the road. Surely then given this they should be all be retested as a result, they have clearly displayed the inability to be a safe responsible road user, only a retest can ensure they once again, following their disqualification be deemed fit to be a safe licence holder once again. Courts can impose a disqualification until test passed, we would like to see it imposed for all disqualifications under all circumstances. After all we revoke the licences of new drivers who reach 6 points in their first 2 years of driving resulting in a retest, why not do the same for those who reach 12, or are disqualified for a single offence. By taking a theory test and practical test only then can they prove they are once again at the level that is both practically and mentally suitable to be in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle on our roads.

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You are a huge threat to others when behind the wheel, drivers need to wake up to that fact and drive accordingly ! A wholesale change in driving attitudes is required.

 

 

Reduce the drink drive level

It’s been a success in Scotland, is any other reason needed to follow suit ?, and although this will cause great dismay to many Brexiteers Europe also has the same level as Scotland with no issues making the roads safer all. It’s about time we woke up and caught up, a reduction in the drink drive level leaves no uncertainty such as the situation we have currently where people think its okay to have one or two and drive. The correct amount to drink when driving is nothing, anyone who thinks otherwise again displays all the qualities that lead to the innocent dying on our roads. Once again our drink drive level is yet more evidence as to our prevailing attitude towards road safety in our country.

 

A change in attitude

If I was to say we have a problem with a “Top Gear” mentality its’s not an intentional slight on the programme, it’s a scenario where the selfish, inconsiderate attitude of a motorist takes precedence over the safety of others. This is clearly displayed all too regularly on our roads, it need s to stop. We need caring considerate motorists who display all the traits that prove they are responsible road users. Our vulnerable road users need to come first, those whose choice of transportation is environmentally friendly, reduces congestion, leads to a healthier lifestyle lessening the burden on other public services are doing everything right, everything society asks of them, the motorist, all be it under some circumstances with no alternative, is doing the opposite. Expect in the coming years road safety practitioners to increasingly look to protect and promote those transport choices currently considered vulnerable by making them safe, secure and desirable transport choices. Motorists are going to have to get used to this and the changes in their behaviour and road use it will bring, a change in attitude and an acceptance of no longer being the priority on our road system will be needed.

So that’s where we are, this blogs been a bit of a “scene setter” if you like for what you will see over the next few years. Anyone who thinks differently really does have their head in the sand, if you don’t believe me, have a look at your local transport plan, you will see that vehicles and drivers have no place anymore in our transport solutions, at least not until the driver is finally extinct, having being replaced by a computer and all our vehicles are cleaner and more efficient to the point where they no longer negatively impact on our communities. In an age where we are building record numbers of vehicles in this country we are no longer building roads for them, quite the opposite, all major transport investment is rail, cycle or pedestrian focused.

In the meantime when we do drive our vehicles we must remember that when we do we pose a greater threat to other people than at any other point in our existence. The motor vehicle is a far more destructive and efficient weapon than the gun, remember that next time you drive or ride. If someone handed you a loaded gun you would handle it with the upmost care, do the same in your motor vehicle, because if you don’t, the results are pretty much the same.

At the start you will have read “The Beginning of the End” and it is just the beginning, there’s a good few more years of people being able to drive yet before the technology is ready to take over completely, until we get there let’s make it as painless as possible, take great care when you’re out there, because remember it’s at this point in your daily existence you are the greatest threat not only to yourself, but everyone one else on that road.

For those who have read this and are distraught at the thought that the days of driving are numbered listen to one last Black Sabbath track……”It’s alright”….and remember you can always drive however you like on your games consoles 😉

 

In the next few blogs we’ll look at enforcing the new mobile phone penalties due in March, our new Operation to protect all vulnerable road users at collision hotspots OpSaferCrossing, and everyone’s favourite  insurance, it’s scams, the uninsured, the falsely insured and we’ll also focus on the insurers, and how some companies aren’t really helping a worsening situation.

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

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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.

Can You Hear Me At The Back ?

The Headphone Headache

Oh dear, here we go again, this may ruffle a few social media feathers but those who follow us on Twitter and read our blogs in full will know that we do and say everything for the right reasons, we don’t expect everyone to agree, infact we’re happy that some don’t, just read and then constructively try to save life and limb on our roads as we do. So let’s jump right in at the deep end as usual, and tell vulnerable road users, not just cyclists, just why they leave themselves at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to being safe on the road if you wear headphones.” Victim blaming you are” I hear you say in a Yoda like fashion as all the Jedi Masters of Social Media Road Safety all utter. Well no, hopefully the wise can see past our uniform and see that from our investigative experience we are just providing advice that will prevent you becoming a casualty. Plus remember cyclist vs cyclist, and cyclist vs pedestrian collisions are an unfortunate by product of increased cycling on our roads, headphone use can be a cause of some collisions, whether that be use by a cyclist, pedestrian or motorist. And as cyclists surely we have a moral duty to set an example to motorists. So as usual, grab yourself a coffee, a piece of calorific mood enhancer (cake to the uninitiated), and read on…..

A few ground rules first

Before reading on please bear in mind the following which are the usual criticisms thrown at any advice given that suggests wearing headphones will impair your safety on the road.

“Driver’ stereo’s, don’t have a go at them do you”, Well yes we do actually. Yes drivers sometimes impair their own driving ability by having a stereo to loud or by wearing headphones themselves. If we come across a driver with music so loud or using headphones so it prevents them from hearing an emergency siren or warning horn then we will deal with them for driving without due care and attention or the offence of excessive noise.

“The hearing impaired, surely headphone use is exactly the same”. Well no, you see they counter any deficiencies they have with their hearing with enhanced use of their other senses. They are usually also very acutely aware of vibrations. Their road use as a result is usually far better than those with full hearing. Those using headphones display none of the qualities we have just mentioned that the hearing impaired have. On one of our last Safer Cycling events at the Coventry Sky Ride we had an interesting conversation with four profoundly deaf cyclists whilst they completed our questionnaires. One of the questions we ask is what do you think we could do to improve cyclist safety. They all answered “deter headphone use amongst cyclists”, they really couldn’t understand why anyone would deprive themselves of such a fundamental advantage when it comes to staying safe on our roads, and advantage they were deprived of and knew all too well the problems it can cause.

“It’s commonplace, everyone’s doing it so it can’t be that bad” All of us that cycle on CMPG Roads Policing has ridden with them on! Yes, total shocker I know but at some point all of us on the Safer Cycling Team have cycled with headphones on playing deafening music. A lot of the advice about to be given is as a result of near misses and experiences we have had whilst wearing headphones and cycling or walking as a pedestrian.

Right having covered a few of the common counter arguments onwards we go…

Headphones, do theyhave any place in cycling on the roads ?

Headphones, do theyhave any place in cycling on the roads ?

 

No-one has eyes in the back of their head

Your ears give you a picture as to what is happening behind you. We react all the time to noises, take the ability to hear and react to noises caused by occurrences outside the periphery of your vision and you are at a distinct disadvantage.

Even those who use some sort of mirror lose out. Cycling mirrors exist, but they are only any good whilst you are looking at them. A mirror will not give you an audible warning of a hazard approaching from any direction. You see with a little experience and perception what you hear can put you at a distinct advantage when it comes to being safe on the road.

The noise of an approaching vehicle can tell you so much about the driver’s intent. Engine noise for a start, on hearing a vehicle approach from behind you will inevitably start to focus your attention on it. An increase in rev’s as the driver changes down a gear tells a lot about their intent. A change down in gear shows that the driver has seen you and the selection of a more responsive gear at higher rev’s may indicate that a purposeful planned pass will follow. Or it may indicate an intention to enter a nearby junction where a slower speed is needed. These are vital little clues as to the vehicle’s intention, from wherever it is approaching from, that you can build into your own plan.

A vehicle approaching from behind will also give away its driver’s intent by other noises. The sound of cats eyes being depressed as the vehicle behind prepares to overtake, will give a good indication of the vehicle’s intended road position during an overtake and the also the regularity of the noise will give away its speed, and together with engine noise, give an indication of acceleration or deceleration.

I once started to ride home in darkness with headphones on, in the thinking that all the things that I have just mentioned I could do without as the approaching vehicle’s lights would more than compensate as to driver intent and could be incorporated into my riding plan instead. After being passed in a matter of a few journeys by vehicles without lights on I quickly realised that my logic was misplaced and the headphones were left well and truly in the “been there done that didn’t like it pile”. Everyone else on our team has had similar experiences with headphone use, please learn from them.

Headphone use means you will miss a shouted warning, the sound of a horn, the emergency sirens, the screech of the overworked tyres belonging to the overconfident aggressive driver, the excited squeal of children playing near the road, the barking dog attached to the extending lead about to become a tripwire on the shared path you are transcending, so much will be missed that you need to recognise and incorporate into your cycling to keep you and others safe.

One last point about headphone use and this comes from my experiences of sharing the road with other cyclists and pedestrians. I don’t have a bell on any of my bikes, so when passing another cyclist or pedestrian I will shout something along the lines of “passing right” to let them know I will be passing in close proximity. You can probably guess what comes next, don’t expect shoulder checks from poor road users, and expect them to be wearing headphones and to be totally clueless as to your presence and intentions.

 

The Future is bright; the Future is ……well yours to decide!

We’ve mentioned it a few times before, on Twitter and to those that attend our events, but for those who don’t know this is how we on CMPG Roads Policing now split our efforts when it comes to dealing with issues around cyclists and cycling.. 20% of our time is spent on educating and changing cyclist’s attitudes and behaviour. The remaining 80% we spend on driver behaviour, education and equipping those without the skills to lookout for, recognise and safely deal with the ever increasing very welcome but very vulnerable road users we find on our regions roads. We go out actively seeking to witness poor driving, hunting those compromising vulnerable road users safety and act upon it. Plain cars and officers spotting in plain clothes will be on popular commuting routes proactively seeking to deal with those endangering themselves and more importantly vulnerable road users. But there needs to be a balance, for every ying there must be a yang, for the persecuted motorist will shout from the front pages of the motoring favouring press “What about those demon cyclists, those who endanger my fragile happiness on my daily commute with their incessant law breaking, riding on the pavement, without lights or running red lights”. Well although our cyclists are not killing 80 to 90 people on our regions roads, which is what poor driver behaviour currently accounts for in the West Midlands Region, the law after all is the law and we must enforce it to cater for the needs of all those we serve. So we come to the somewhat “prickly” subject of tackling cyclists who break the law. You notice I have said “Tackling” rather than “Prosecute” because as with all our efforts at CMPG we look to educate and change road user behaviour for the better in the first instance where possible rather than prosecute. So when we find a cyclist committing an infringement which needs tackling, we will always offer an alternative to the usual fine where possible, whether that’s as simple as buying a set of lights or attending a free Bike Right course in order to avoid the inevitable fine, but I’m sure you’ll all agree, it’s better to solve a problem by creating another preacher to spread the gospel of the good road user rather than chip away at the national debt.

cycling on thwe pavement piccy for blog

Cycling on the pavement, a mere nuisance or a dangerous offence that should be tackled ?

Anyway, this leads us onto what should we be dealing with cyclists for. This is where you come in, what offences do you as cyclists think fellow cyclists should be dealt with for, where should we concentrate our efforts to have the greatest impact. On the 11th November 2015 we will have an open forum on the subject at the West Midlands Cycling Forum, from which we will pick the areas on which we concentrate. Can’t make the meeting? Let us know your views via our Twitter account using the #SaferCycling tag, we value them and all will be taken into account. This is your chance to shape the future of road safety in the West Midlands, don’t miss out.

Enjoy your coffee and cake?, Good best go and burn it off, safe riding all.

 

Until the next time safe journeys all.