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Introducing the Road Harm Reduction Team #WMPRHRT

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls…..may we introduce………..The Road Harm Reduction Team

 Autumn is approaching, so with the coming of the “Season of the Witch” it’s only right that this blog is enjoyed with a warming coffee and a large slice of cake, always thought coffee and walnut was quite autumnal, with a little double cream, or maybe some warming bread pudding with custard…..hmmmmm decisions. Once decided on your chosen autumnal cake we can sit, relax and read on, all maybe enjoyed to the delightful sounds of “Season of the Witch” from Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper and Steve Stills’s “Super Session”  yeah that’s nice…………now let us continue 😉

 

The Road Harm Reduction Team ?

The Road Harm Reduction Team……? What’s that then we hear you say, well it’s evolution in progress, it’s the result of the realisation that we need to do more of what we do so well here in the West Midlands Police, to an even higher standard, and most importantly all of the time.

But first a little scene setting….. We (as in Police Forces generally) are great at developing new and exciting ways of tackling property crime, utilising all that the latest technology and analytical techniques to catch those responsible and deter offending offer. Alas when it comes to the threat of harm on our road network nothing has really changed, we police in the same way as we did 30 years ago, doing the same things in the same way, same campaigns at the same time of year, trouble is attitudes, offending, our transport network, our communities resulting needs and concerns have changed dramatically in those 30 years, and given recent environmental, health and congestion concerns those changes are accelerating at a dramatic pace. The long and short of it is the way we police the threat of harm on our roads needs to firstly catch up, and develop at a faster pace than the change. Only this way can we play our part in dealing with some worrying national KSI statistics whilst working in partnership with our local authorities make each and every community’s transport plan work to the benefit of all.

Almost a bit of a mission statement there………

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Rear Admiral Grace Hoppers famous quote couldn’t be more appropriate when it comes to dealing with danger on our roads.

 

 

So what will the Road Harm Reduction Team do ?

Well for a start it will do more of what we’ve been doing over the last 12 months, all our efforts to ensure we target the greatest threat of harm on our road network will get a boost as 7 officers on the team will be dedicated to the task, enabling them to get on with their efforts to reduce the threat of danger without distraction. Our Operations to protect vulnerable road users will become far more common and widespread, thus creating an environment in the West Midlands where firstly road users who pose a threat of harm to others can expect to be caught and dealt with, and secondly where those who wish to utilise a healthier, sustainable form of transport supported by the regions transport plan can do so, confident that we are targeting those on the roads who deter them from doing so presently.

The 7 officers will be working in alongside our Roads Policing 24/7 resources, Neighbourhood Teams, Partnership Agencies, The West Midlands Fire Service and the Force Resource Unit, thus we will have a large targeted resource to make a hugely positive impact on offending in our region. Together we will concentrate on intervention, prevention and detection to reduce the threat of harm to those who use our regions road network. Together with our partnership agencies we will carry out many more Multi Agency Road Safety Operations (#MARSO), which entails ourselves and other enforcement agencies combining with our educational partners to target a specific vulnerable location in large numbers for maximum effect with all manner of road going offenders and offences being targeted at once. As you can imagine the effect on offending, both of the criminal and road harm variety is substantial, so as a result we will look to carry out as many as possible.

To give you an idea a normal days work for officers on the team it could entail running a 20mph speed check followed by a #OpClosePass operation and finishing off with a mobile phone operation. Each and every day of the officer’s time will be dedicated to targeting those who present the greatest threat of harm to our communities whilst they use the regions road network.

Targeting will be analysis and intelligence based, our analysts will constantly update the team as to the most vulnerable locations in the region so they can be appropriately targeted. The team will through analysis of driver records target the most dangerous and emerging prolific road traffic offenders. Through analysis even those with no current points on their licence will be highlighted. For example if a driver has come to our notice repeatedly, even if those interactions resulted in education instead of prosecution they will be highlighted and efforts will be made to change their road going behaviour and seek reform , just as we currently do with criminal offending. This way we can target those who pose a threat of danger to our communities before they actually cause harm.

 

Partnership working to the fore

The team will continue with its partnership working in unison with the local authority and the West Midland Fire Service, both who will educate where necessary, leaving us free to deal with those who offend. Exciting developments using VR as part of the education package on #OpClosePass are already in the pipeline. Our partners will engage with our communities carrying out education and awareness prior to the Road Harm Reduction Team carrying out periods of enforcement, leaving those offenders who as a result face prosecution in no doubt they had they were warned and had chance to “voluntarily” change their behaviour on the roads.

The officers on the team will work on a daily basis with officers from local Neighbourhood Teams and in doing so will “up skill” the Neighbourhood officers. So when the team move on to another area the Neighbourhood officers can carry on with the same tactics and targeting of their communities greatest threat of harm, with the Road Harm Reduction Team coming back on a regular basis to target “hotspot areas” or pass on new tactics and techniques. This ensures a continuous threat of prosecution will remain in all areas of the West Midlands, so important in deterring offending.

Also whilst working with the regions Neighbourhood Policing Teams we will get opportunity to work with and teach every new student officer all that we know, thus every new West Midland Police Officer will be equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to enable them to target and prosecute those who pose a danger to others on our road network as they progress with their careers. This is such an important factor as it will ensure that the work that we do will spread as will the necessary ethos that will ensure that the changes in approach we have started continues and gathers the necessary momentum to ensure a wide scale change in offender behaviour in our region.

 

Tactics, Overt and covert and further innovation

Our tactics will continue to be truly innovative concentrating on putting doubt into any potential offenders mind. We want to create an overriding sense of certainty in any potential offenders mind that should their road use fall below the expected standard to the point where it threatens others with harm then they will be caught and prosecuted. This might be through our efforts or through 3rd party reporting, but either way we will not neglect a single opportunity to deal with the threat of harm on our roads in a direct and pro-active fashion.

Sometimes we will be highly visible for impact, sometimes we won’t be seen at all, the first offender will know we were out there looking for them will be when the notice of intended prosecution drops through their or their employers door, the impact of the unseen threat of prosecution having a huge impact on the psychology of potential offenders we will utilise it where-ever we see fit. Plus it gives us reason to expand our ever growing “fancy dress” box 😉

The innovation with a concentration on those who pose the greatest threat of harm will come to the fore. #OpClosePass #OPSaferSchool #OpSaferCross # and 20’splenty will continue to evolve until we get that perfect formula with each that ensures they deliver the wide scale behavioural change our communities desire.

 

Campaign Ownership

The Road Harm Reduction Team will have campaigns, but these campaigns will last all year, with all the offences that pose greatest threat of harm to our communities being targeted all of the time with the same “gusto“, resources and most importantly results that you usually associate with week long campaigns. We will still participate and support National campaigns but the work associated with them will just be “business as usual” for the team. That’s really the best way to describe the team, imagine a group of officers who are solely tasked with dealing with those who commit the offences that cause the most danger on our regions roads 365 days a year…….it’s like the ultimate campaign if you like. This with the other measures we have discussed and our 3rd party reporting scheme will create an environment on our regions roads where offenders can expect that if they offend they will be caught and prosecuted. The peaks and troughs seen in offending as national campaigns have effect then lessen, will smooth to the levels of the “troughs” and then as our tactics create the desired environment where offenders expect to be dealt with should they offend we will see a steady decline in offending levels, and with it a corresponding reduction collisions across the board. This will have huge benefits to the local environment, business and community wellbeing……as we have said time and time again the work that the Road Harm Reduction Team will engage in is basically the ultimate community policing project. It brings trust, confidence, visibility and change to those communities that want positive changes to their areas, and a road network that offers positive transport choices.

 

There is it then………

Expect to hear a lot from the team, watch out for the #WMPRHRT (West Midlands Police Road Harm Reduction Team) hash tag and the #Interventionandprevention hash tag on the twitter feed and upcoming blogs as we deal with those who pose the greatest threat to our communities on the regions roads. We will feature the developments in #OpClosePass , the 20’s plenty campaign, and also developments in 3rd party reporting in upcoming blogs. There will be a blog dedicated to how the Road Harm Reduction Team have developed a way to combat the worrying rise in “cloned” vehicles on our roads and in doing so eradicate the danger they and those that drive them pose also.

Oh we forgot to mention the being part of or associated with the team will also involve a lot of cake, in-fact any carbohydrate infused mood enhancer will be consumed in vast quantities. This is due to our respective commutes having increased to our new base, which means longer spent cycling and running to work, plus given all the work we plan to take on we will need the energy anyway…….. And we just like cake 😉

Time for another appropriate tune, how about Something in the Air by Thunderclap Newman now there’s a  tune if there ever was one and couldn’t be more appropriate…….pass the coffee and walnut cake.

 

Until next time safe journeys all

 

 

 

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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.

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.

Just dying to see……

 

This blog is all about those things that detrimentally affect a road user’s vision and as a result endanger themselves and others. Your vision, your observations, your ability to see and then react to a potential hazard on the road is the start and most important part of everything you do on a journey, whether you are on foot, two wheels, four wheels or more. Yet some seem intent on compromising their own and others safety for what is usually a blindingly obvious obstruction to seeing what is around you on the road. Remember, unless you are blessed with some supernatural or superhero style power, you can only deal with what you see. If you fail to see another road user there is a high probability that you or they will suffer as a result….

Tints – the shaded killer

Okay let’s start with the obvious, tinted driving windows. These are great on bright sunny days and pose no obvious risk under such circumstances. However, as we can count how many such days we have here in the UK and not run out of fingers, and add to that we have something called “nightime” where the sun disappears to be replaced by the moon, you will start to see the problem. For those who still don’t get it, would you chose to drive wearing dark sunglasses all of the time in all conditions ?, try walking down the road in sunglasses at night, your reactions will range from discomforting to petrifying when you realise what you cannot see, imagine having that view out of your driving windows 24/7 !

Tinted drivers windows, a potential "killer" of vulnerable road users !

Tinted drivers windows, a potential “killer” of vulnerable road users !

The most worrying thing about tinted windows, as with any obstruction to a road user’s view of the road, is that it is the easily missed, less obvious road user that becomes the potential victim. The pedestrian in dark clothing, the poorly lit cyclist, the small child walking from a shaded area, the motorcyclist as you pull from a junction, these are the people that the wilful ignorance of those who drive with obstructions to their vision will hurt.

Windows down and the excuses!

Most realise there is a problem with their windows if they are tinted, having to wind the window down in order to get a view out of a wing mirror when reversing at night makes it very obvious that window tints can cause all sorts of problems in every day road use. When we stop those “car enthusiasts” in freezing weather or pouring rain and both driver windows are down before we get to speak to them !, we automatically know that they are hiding a potential killer of a defect from us, all for the sake of “blinging” their motor !. Then there are those who utter “But I bought it like this” or “they told me they were legal”. Really? How can anyone think a modification to a vehicle that a manufacturer doesn’t offer can possibly be legal, after all, the manufacturer’s exist to make money, if they could, they would. Whilst on the subject of modifications, window tinting is a modification that you will need to notify your insurer of, tinted drivers windows that are illegal will invalidate your insurance, and as you will find out as you read on, there really is no such thing as legal after- market tint that can be applied to driver’s windows. So as well as the potential 3 points you could get for your tints, you also come straight into play for another 6 points for a no insurance offence, ouch !

Spot the difference

Spot the difference

 

What is legal? How do we test? What will I get?

Right let’s start with what are my driving windows?

Well there’s the obvious one the windscreen, the other drivers windows are those situated in the driver and front passenger doors, quite simply, those in-front and adjacent to the driver. Imagine the windows on a transit style van; those are the very windows we are concerned with on your vehicle.

Now here’s why you cannot apply a legal tint to any driver’s window in the UK. Manufacturers of vehicles already tint the glass in vehicles to just below the legal limit, so they transmit enough light to comply. The law states that your windscreen must transmit 75% of the available light; your two side driver’s windows must transmit 70% of the available light. Manufacturer’s tint the glass at production so it transmits just over these amounts by a few percent, so soon as you add any post production tint, no matter how light it is, makes your drivers windows illegal and you liable to prosecution. Penalties for illegally tinted windows are on a sliding scale depending on the severity of the offending window tint. Between 100% and 70 % or 75% (depending on the window) your windows are legal and you skip away into the sunset singing a merry song, between 70 % and 50 % you’ll get a Vehicle Defect Rectification Notice ensuring you remove the tints within 14 days, between 50% and 30% you will get a £100 fine and will have to remove the tints at the roadside whilst grumbling somewhat. Get stopped with tints that only transmit between 30 % and 0 % of the available light and you’ll be earning 3 points, a £100 fine, or alternatively a day out at court. If you are wondering, most of the Tints we test are usually below 30%. Oh and yes you will be removing the tints at the roadside leaving a sticky mess all over your windows whilst thanking the officer for bringing the matter to your attention. The worst case scenario is you are involved in a collision resulting in someone being seriously injured or even dying and your illegally tinted windows are found to be a contributory factor, you will then face a prison sentence as your vehicle was in a dangerous condition, and knowingly driving a vehicle in a dangerous condition is dangerous driving. Oh and if you refuse to remove your tints at the roadside we will prohibit your vehicle from being driven due to its dangerous condition by way of a PG9 prohibition notice.

How we detect?

We have calibrated eyes that detect tinted windows, it happens during the Traffic Patrol Officers course when we get a bionic implant. Aside from that, it’s really is obvious, illegally tinted windows look considerably darker than legal windows. Once stopped we test the windows using one of two calibrated devices that measure the transmission of light through glass, a “TINTMAN” or a “TINT TESTER”. Both give a transmission of light figure that we then use in any prosecution should your windows prove to be illegal.

 

Tints tested for freeeeeeeee !

Now you just may be in a mild state of panic regards the state of your driving windows having read the last few paragraphs so here’s what you can do to avoid prosecution. Firstly if you have an after-market tint on your driving windows just remove them, a quick search on the internet and you will find some sound advice on how to remove the tinting and clean you windows after to avoid the glue residue smearing on your window seals etc. If your still unsure if your windows are illegally tinted after reading all of the above then why not pop down to our “Get you windows tested” events we will be running via our Twitter account, and have them tested without fear of prosecution. Just be aware though if they are illegal, you will not be driving away with them in place or else you will be prosecuted! (So bring some cleaning gear if you fear the worst!)

Testing in action

Testing in action

The first of these events will be at the Halfords Store, Coventry Road, Sheldon, Birmingham on Saturday 25th April from 5pm to 7pm, you’ll spot the marked car on the car park. Keep an eye on our Twitter feed for future dates and locations, we will get around the whole of the force over the coming month giving everyone ample opportunity to avoid a potential prosecution.

 

Visor Vision

Whenever I ride a motorcycle I always feel like my eyes are on stalks anyway such is the level of intense concentration I give my observations, which is no doubt enhanced by the sense of extreme vulnerability that only riding a motorcycle can give. So why some insist on wearing tinted visors in poor light conditions is beyond me. If you are going to have a tinted visor for bright light conditions always carry an untinted visor so you can swap. Penalties for visor offences are as follows  

But inevitably the highest price you will pay as a motorcyclist when you miss something is paying with your life, just carry a clear visor for when light conditions deteriorate.

The Pedestrian Menace

Pedestrians you are road users, as such you need to look where you’re going, not at your phone! All too often pedestrians are walking out into the road or using crossings whilst looking at their phone instead of what’s coming down the road towards them. There isn’t an app yet that tells you if it’s safe to cross, so look up from your phone and give it your full attention. Remember cyclists are silent on approach until the point you step out in front of them. Then we tend to become quite vocal, not always in a pleasant manner, that’s if it’s not too late! So please remember the “Stop, Look, Listen”. Save the phone based activities for when you’re seated in your favourite coffee house.

 

Flowers, Sat Navs, Trinkets and the just plain ridiculous!

Now I’m no Percy Thrower or Alan Titchmarsh but even I know that flowers belong in two places, in the ground or in a vase, but certainly not hanging from your rear view mirror or the like, so they sit in the driver’s vision. VW drivers take note, if you must have them why not wear them round your neck and spread a little love and happiness, instead of giving yourself chance of missing that vulnerable road user and spreading misery and pain as a result !, It’s just not flowers, we see all manner of trinkets and paraphernalia dangling in-front of drivers views, they may not obstruct your immediate view ahead but your peripheral vision to the left and your view into junctions as you turn left ends up having a blind spot which due to perspective can be over 20 feet wide at a distance you’ll reach in seconds at 30 or 40 mph, there could be a crossing child in that blind spot !

Flowers are for the ground or vases not your windscreen !

Flowers are for the ground or vases not your windscreen !

The golden rule is keep the swept area of your windscreen and views to the side through the driver’s side windows clear of any obstruction to view. So don’t stick you Sat Nav in the swept area of your windscreen, or your phone or anything else for that matter. Again it may only be inches wide on your screen, but in the distance it’s hiding a space that is feet wide, what’s in that space? You really need to know to ensure your own and everyone else’s safety.

Onto the plain ridiculous, we once stopped a driver with a two foot teddy sitting on the dash, you could say childlike behaviour, but I know my kids have got more common sense than that, sheer idiocy is more befitting. And then there was the HGV driver with more collected ornaments and trinkets on his dash and stuck to his windscreen than my Nan had in her china cabinet, its only 44 tonnes at 56mph, what could possibly go wrong if he missed something! I’m sure you’ve seen similar, that’s the great thing about road traffic law, we’re all out there on the regions roads experiencing this sort of stupidity daily, feel free to share your little gems on our Twitter account, we’re always interested in the sublime and ridiculous, oh and donuts we’re very interested in those as well 😉 ………..safe journeys all.

I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike!

Today we’ve reached an incredible Twitter milestone… the @trafficWMP account gained its 10,000th follower! We’d like to say a huge thank you to everybody who follows. We hope you find our updates informative, interesting and useful.

To mark the occasion, we thought it best to share another blogpost, featuring a team of Traffic officers you may not be aware of…

It's not just traffic officers who have access to police cycles. our neighbourhood policing teams use them too.

It’s not just traffic officers who have access to police cycles. our neighbourhood policing teams use them too.

Welcome to the WMP Traffic Safer Cycling blog. It runs alongside our normal blog but is just centred on cycling matters. Don’t think though that if you don’t participate in our two wheeled obsession it won’t be of use or interest to you… As you read on you will see that there is plenty of advice for motorists as well as cyclists.

Why have a separate blog you might ask? Well it’s not intentionally separate, its additional if you like, brought into being by the demand for discussion and debate on matters of cycling safety that often get more than a mention on our social media streams. The input for the blog will be from the WMP Traffic Safer Cycling Team, so what better place to start by introducing the team and what we are about.

The Safer Cycling Team – what we do

Well for start it’s fair to say we do a fair bit of cycling. The team is embedded in E unit who are dominated by some very fanatical cyclists. By day we are normal WMP Traffic officers but due to our personal love of cycling we have brought about a small team who take it upon themselves to give the department a cycling safety dimension. With the increase in those looking for a cheaper healthier commute and those who have joined the legions of existing recreational cyclists, the demand for cycling road safety advice has seen a greater demand than ever for our services. Thus we have a team of very dedicated officers led by PC 3505 Mark Hodson and PC 5815 Steve Hudson.

Many of our officers cycle in their free time, as well as when on duty.

Many of our officers cycle in their free time, as well as when on duty.

We, in partnership with Birmingham City Council’s Cycle Revolution Team and our local corporate partner Jaguar Landrover, who provide truck cabs and drivers for our “Exchanging Places” scheme where cyclists and heavy goods drivers get the chance to change places, attend the regions cycling events spreading a safety message and advice both for cyclists and drivers, and a result help keep all road users safer as a result.

So what do Traffic officers know about cycling & what keeps cyclists safe?

Some know nothing, some know a little, as with all things in life experience is the key.

Those who have attended some of our events will know us well, those who have actually taken the time to meet us and engage us in conversation or debate will know that we base everything we say, advise or suggest on personal experience, not statistics, or what’s best to comply with the general consensus or current transport policy rhetoric.

Our conversations over the briefing table are dominated by heart rate training zones, cadence rates, route planning, road position, light setups, group sets and cleat position, junction safety, and the like.

Don’t get me wrong, like most Traffic officers this is combined with coffee and donuts, we just enjoy the fact that ours are guilt free as we spend most of our days in a calorie deficit after our commutes.

Over half of the unit from which the Safer Cycling Team is taken commute by cycle, which is above and well beyond the average for a team in any profession in the UK.

This isn’t a recent thing either; most have been cycling for many years with well over 146 years commuting and cycling experience between us. The total daily mileage for our combined commute is somewhere between 345 and 500 miles, depending what training the sportier members of the team have built into their commute that day.

Our commutes are varied, combining all the extremes that inner city Birmingham and its rural outskirts can offer, and its accompanying challenges.

Some of us compete (when we say compete we join in! To compete we would have to trouble the points positions!), some tour and some just spin the pedals for recreation, but all members of the team prefer pedal power to any other form of transport.

This, combined with our road traffic experience and accumulated road craft, gives us an ideal position from which to perfectly understand the needs of cyclists and motorists alike when it comes to keeping everyone as safe as they possibly can be on our regions transport network.

And as we deal with all fatal and life changing collisions involving cyclists in our region, we have a vast accumulated knowledge of how, why and where cyclists find themselves endangered.

Without sounding smug or conceited, “we do this for a living” so we know a thing or two when it comes to keeping all road users safe on the road, and our Safer Cycling Team know how cyclists can give themselves the best chance of staying safe whilst enjoying their two wheeled passion.

One very important thing to remember is that we are, at the end of the day, police officers in the employ of the West Midlands Police; we are not a campaign or pressure group. We can advise various bodies, councils and support the fantastic work of organisations such as CTC, BRAKE and Sustrans but at the end of the day we stick to enforcement and prevention in the here and now.

More on helmets

In an earlier blog we did the whole helmets thing. We were supported in our views by those we expected to be supported by, i.e. other emergency services, coroners, those who have experience of helmets working for them or others and those who have lost friends and loved ones to head injury.

We were lambasted by a few, and again we expected the usual social media participants to come out to play.

It was a quite intentional social media poke in the ribs, because you can’t beat a few “screamers” to engage the general public and draw attention to what is a very important subject, that being the safety of cyclists.

We are police officers after all. We are used to those who vehemently dislike and disagree with everything we do and say; we like them for it. When they stop disagreeing we’ll start worrying!  We do encourage those who have an interest in what we do and say, both negative and positive, to come and meet us in person at one of our events, or if you can’t make it and feel you have a vital to play in what we do we can arrange to meet with you over coffee and cake and maybe a turn of the pedals.

Now a quick response to those who criticised our view…….what did you really expect ?….. We are after all a police Traffic Department, and as a result we are charged with reducing the amount of killed and seriously injured cyclists on our regions roads. Did you really think we would say any different?

We deal with seriously injured and fatally injured cyclists all too often, anything that would save just one of them we are going to promote.

We did say the subject would be discussed in the blog in isolation, without influence of infrastructure, liability or blame, but still people failed to see the reasoning behind this.

You see we don’t care much for Australian statistics regarding helmet use, we don’t care much for statistics in general, being intrinsically involved in the collating of some, we know how misconstrued they can be and the illusions they can paint.

We much prefer personal experience – what we see on a daily basis, the verdicts and statements of coroners, the anguished looks of despair of trauma staff as we tell them that the unfortunate soul before them wasn’t wearing a helmet as they are placed into an induced coma.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some in these groups that will tell you different, but take a group of 100 people and show them a picture and one will always see something different. Such is life. Are they right? Depends if you’re unfortunate enough to fall from a bike for whatever reason and bang your head, doesn’t it. This is the reaction to the helmet blog we wanted and got. Thank you for your feedback, both negative and positive, it is appreciated.

For those who shout “why don’t you recommend pedestrians wear helmets ?” well if there comes a time when the government of the day abolishes pavements and makes pedestrians mix it up on the roads with lumps of steel and plastic moving at an average of 32mph like the majority of cyclist currently have to, then yes we would recommend pedestrians wear helmets.

And for those who shout, “People in cars, all dying of head injuries, why not recommend they wear helmets?” we whisper, “Seatbelts, they don’t wear them, that’s why they get head injuries, they slammed into an A or B post or get ejected from the vehicle. If they ever abolish the seatbelt law then we would recommend a crash helmet in cars also.”

As you can see, as Traffic officers we are the world’s greatest realists, we live daily in the “self-preservation society”. We see the selfishness and greed on our roads daily; most are not looking out for you so please look out for yourself.

Three last things that came up in the helmet debate we just need to mention. A helmet that breaks on impact “is” doing its job, it hasn’t failed. A helmet is there to absorb kinetic energy, it is a crumple zone for your head, it absorbs, fractures, distorts, all instead of your skull. Secondly helmets won’t prevent rotational brain injuries but they will prevent cranial fractures. We see this all the time, and for those that like them there’s some Australian science that proves it somewhere in web land if you’re that way inclined. Lastly, we are not and would never be in favour of a helmet law, sometimes even some of our Safer Cycling Team don’t wear a helmet on some cycling occasions, shocker I know but true.

What next then ?

In 2015 we will be attending a variety of events in partnership with Jaguar Landrover and Birmingham City Council.

Events include the NEC Cycling Show, local Sky rides including the now huge Coventry & Birmingham Sky Rides, events organised by local cycling clubs, some Bikeability inputs and many other events in conjunction with Birmingham Cycle Revolution.

That’s it for this one, in upcoming Safer Cycling blogs we will discuss why the problem with motorists is pretty much the same as the problem with cyclists, the use of headphones whilst cycling, cycling offences and how they are dealt with, the Exchanging Places scheme, on board cycle camera footage and its use in prosecutions, standards of liability, victim blaming, and our views on cycling infrastructure and the continental “dream”.

For those now chomping at the bit, your 140 Twitter characters await, have a coffee and cake first though, feed the cycling soul.

Safe journeys all.

The Safer Cycling Team