Richard Duggan – Masterclass in how not to do journalism

Yesterday Richard Duggan posted an article about cyclists and how we are the most selfish and entitled road users in London.

I believe Richard has achieved what he wanted to achieve. Views on his article. Todays journalism is all about clickbait, to get your pay check you need the business to make money and the only way some of these online papers make money is from advertising. The article is full with advertising space but also broken up with links to other parts of the MyLondon website, as a reader, it’s a pain to read the article.

It is however labeled as an opinion piece, and Richard him self posted on his Facebook page that he expects hate mail for this article. There is one thing having an opinion, and there is another thing doing no research and trying to understand why something happens or why you have such a belief.

I recently watched a documentary on Netflix about flat earthers. It was interesting as it touched on the fact that many people just laugh at those that suggest the earth is flat. However this has a negative effect, it reinforces their opinions on the matter and thus increases the divide. What we should do instead is invite them into conversation and go through the scientific processes on why we believe the earth is round. In that documentary the flat earthers do various experiments that ‘will’ prove the earth is flat, none of them do.

So on that note, let’s look into the comments that Richard Duggan talks about and see why he might have those opinions and try to explain the reason why.

Barely a month has passed since I started working in London and already I have developed a deep resentment towards the city’s cyclists.

Welcome to London Richard, you’ve been here a month, I hope you are enjoying everything that this city has to offer you, it is vast and a great way to see the city is by bicycle.

Never before have I come across a group of road users so selfish and entitled

Two paragraphs in and we don’t know why yet

London’s cyclists seem to think they are a cut above the rest of us, whether we’re in cars or on foot.

Three paragraphs in…

I should note that, of course, I don’t mean ALL cyclists in London

Four paragraphs…

And I do appreciate that cyclists are doing their bit to save the planet.

Five paragraphs…
Note that the vast majority of cyclists don’t necessarily do it for saving the planet, we just enjoy cycling and/or hate driving/taking public transport in London.

However, there have been so many examples of bad behaviour among this unruly group that I’ve observed since the start of February, from the discourteous to the downright dangerous.

And the sixth paragraph. But it’s only been a month, so he must have seen some good stuff, right?

Let’s start with my number one bugbear; cyclists during rush hour.

Oh gosh. Those damn cyclists during rush hour, the blasphemy of those 9 to 5 office works that are taking to their trusted two wheeled steeds.

Crossing the road at times can feel like a death-defying experience and that’s made even worse by cyclists hurtling through the heavily congested streets of Central London at breakneck speed.

As a man that has only been in the capital for a month, many of us seasoned Londoners would still call Richard a tourist. Crossing the road isn’t a death defying experience if you do it how you are meant to. Either look for a crossing and wait, or cross where you like. I regularly do the later and it is very safe, you stop, you look left, look right and repeat until you see it is safe. I bet Richard is walking around looking at his phone and treating London like his rural Derbyshire, walking around whilst watching the birds.
If Richard thinks cyclists are riding around at breakneck speeds, wait till he sees what motorists are doing. I wonder if Richard knows that more than 80% of motorists don’t follow the 20mph speed limits!

I’ve even witnessed a number streaking through red lights, without a care in the world for the pedestrians trying to get from A to B.

I don’t condone those that go through red lights. Sure, some cyclists go through red lights. Very rarely is this done at speed, and very rarely do they do it in a way that endangers pedestrians. Remember cyclists are just as vulnerable as pedestrians, we have no protection, if we hit a pedestrian it’s likely we will fall as well.
I do wonder if Richard knows that more pedestrians are injured at crossings with red lights by motorists than cyclists each year. The statistics are available from the Department for Transport websites.

You can’t even escape them on the Underground, where cyclists can take a folded bike anywhere at anytime.

But just because a bike is folded up doesn’t mean it doesn’t take up space.

They’re even on the Tube

Travelling on the Tube during rush hour is a painful enough experience without falling over a folded bicycle that’s taking up space where a person should stand.

I wonder if Richard complains about people taking suitcases on the underground as well. This is such a problem for Richard that he takes 3 paragraphs to comment about all his bug bears with cyclists on the tube!

I also find it astonishing so many cyclists think it’s acceptable to bike around without wearing a helmet.

While there’s no law to compel cyclists to wear helmets, the Highway Code strongly suggests they wear them, for obvious reasons.

As Richard mentions in the second paragraph, helmets are not compulsory. I wonder if Richard knows what helmets are designed for? Bicycle helmets are designed to minimise concussion to the brain. But they are only designed and tested for tests at around 15mph and falling onto a flat surface, simulating a fall from a bicycle with no external forces. Not for protection in a collision with a tipper truck turning over your legs.
Countries that force helmet use such as Australia have seen a decline in people cycling but not a similar decline in injuries. There are various complex reasons why this is such, and there are many resources and studies available for reading on this.

This London junction has been labelled ‘dangerous’ and too many cross looking at their phones

A link to another post on MyLondon, I hear this is near the MyLondon offices and Richard is often crossing it.

Why on Earth would you risk your own safety – not to mention the potential additional strain you could cause to our overwhelmed A&E departments – by not wearing one?

Even if no one wore a helmet, the benefit to getting people out and exercising far out weighs the additional potential cost to the NHS from head injures. We have factors such as safety in numbers, the more cyclists we have the more people get used to them and the safer we are. And there is the obvious reduction in strain on the NHS from people being fitter.

Then, of course, there are those who cycle at night without lights or reflective jackets, again a selfish decision which can have devastating consequences.

I see far more motorists without correct lighting on their vehicles at night than I do cyclists. Espcially since most cars now have a dashboard that is lit up all the time by LEDs, it isn’t as obvious to drivers that their lights are off than it used to be. And the consequences of people driving without lights is far greater than cyclists doing so. Of course I don’t condone any road users that use the road at night without lights.
Reflective clothing on the other hand, not required and of course of no use if motorists don’t have their lights on.

And, FYI, there are cycle lanes in London for a reason, please stop pedalling away on pavements.

Cycle lanes are often filled with glass, pot holes and parked cars. You don’t have to cycle on them. Of course cycling on the pavements is not something I would personally do, but think about why people might do it? Perhaps the dangerous speeding motorists who pass cyclists closely or knock them off means that people are scared to cycle on the road.

Richard has previously been shortlisted for ‘Young Journalist of the Year’ at the Society of Editors Regional Press Awards in 2018 and 2017 according to his bio on Essex Live and his Muck Rack bio. I’m guessing he got those from his quality articles on Northumbria’s Best Bums 2015: winners and How to cheat on holiday and get away with it.

The point I’m making is that Richard Duggan is obviously looking at having some form of career in journalism and as an editor. But his opinions on cyclists are just that, opinions and mostly because he, like the majority of society, is blind to the real safety issues on our roads. Motorists kill more than 1,700 people a year in the UK. Cyclists kill on average 2 people a year. Cyclists are people, motorists are people and some people are arseholes. Don’t be blind to the majority of good cyclists that stop at red lights, have lights and don’t ride on the pavement. Also don’t be blind to the speeding motorists, phone using motorists and the motorists going through red lights. Those are the real danger to our pedestrians in our city, along with the pollution that petrol and diesel engines bring.

We must challenge our own opinions, do good quality research and try to understand why people do various things. Richard I hope you enjoy London as much as I do, hopefully you’ll find shortly that cycling is by far the best mode of transport.

Should sentencing be tougher?

Last week Road.cc published a post about motoring offences and tougher sentencing. Certainly we can see from their post that there is such a variance in how offending motorists are changed in these cases.

They touch on the fact that we need more than just tougher sentencing to drivers that show willful neglect to the safety of others. We also need:

  • Better driver training
  • Investment in cycling infrastructure
  • More substantial driving bans and non-custodial punishments.

I think we need two further things: Stricter following of points system and more traffic police.

Every year or so there is an article in the press about how many drivers are driving with more than 12 points on their license. Our current system works based on a points system where you are allowed 12 points on your license, after 5 years these are removed. If you go over the 12 points then you lose your license. But it seems that claiming exceptional hardship to not having your license results in you being allowed to carry on driving. This undermines the system. Everyone knows how this works (or should do) and if you are close to the 12 points limit then you should be careful.

This BBC article from 2017 states that over 10,000 motorists are driving with more than 12 points on their license. That’s 10,000 people who for some reason can’t follow the rules and as such accumulated more points that allowed. Because of magistrates allowing people who plead exceptional hardship for various reasons (along the lines of not having a car will impact their lives), these should have been reasons for driving safely, especially when already accumulated points on their license. This makes the system a mockery, those of us who drive safely and understand the potential danger we could cause with our several tonne vehicle when driven at speed or distracted, are doing so pointlessly when those that should be punished harshly for not following the rules that they must do with in accordance of their license go basically unpunished.
Worth noting that the DVLA have said that the 10,000 motorists reported to have more than 12 points on their license also included motorists who had already served a ban for said points and as such the figure isn’t totally accurate.

We also need more traffic police, with cuts to police forces across the country, one of the first hit front line units is the traffic unit. This has an unfortunate affect or people not being pulled over for their driving mistakes and learning that they need to do better. As a result people get bad habits, and drive with the impression that they won’t get stopped for doing anything.
Often you will hear people say that it is a waste of time doing minor traffic stops and the police should focus on more serious crimes. In reality however these minor traffic stops can and often result in more serious crimes being picked up.

I already see there is a huge variance in how police forces deal with traffic offences reported to them via members of the public. I posted at the end of 2018 about the successes I’ve had with my reports to the MET. Comments that I often get back on tweets like these are from other people in the country saying how their police force doesn’t care and does nothing.
I’ve reported to the MET for the past 9 or so years and have seen a massive change not only in how to report but also of staff levels and commitment in future technologies. Their current online reporting form is very impressive, it’s regularly updated, with one of the more recent updates being the ability to upload video footage on their portal.
It’s so impressive in fact that they and providing the same form to other police forces around the country. Surrey police for example use the same form.

Is filtering legal?

There isn’t anything in Law or the Highway Code that explicitly says that cyclists are allowed to filter. So are we?

Looking into a few of the highway code rules in detail we come across a few things that suggest that we can and that other road users should expect two-wheeled vehicles to be filtering.

Rule 88 is in the motorcyclists section, but the advice is sound and shows that motorcyclists are allowed to filter. Note the advice here, do it slowly and take care!

88 – Manoeuvring. You should be aware of what is behind and to the sides before manoeuvring. Look behind you; use mirrors if they are fitted. When in traffic queues look out for pedestrians crossing between vehicles and vehicles emerging from junctions or changing lanes. Position yourself so that drivers in front can see you in their mirrors. Additionally, when filtering in slow-moving traffic, take care and keep your speed low.

Rule 160 shows that you should be looking out for two-wheeled vehicles filtering

160 – Once moving you should

  • be aware of other road users, especially cycles and motorcycles who may be filtering through the traffic. These are more difficult to see than larger vehicles and their riders are particularly vulnerable. Give them plenty of room, especially if you are driving a long vehicle or towing a trailer

Rule 211 shows again that you should be looking for two-wheeled vehicles filtering

211 – It is often difficult to see motorcyclists and cyclists, especially when they are coming up from behind, coming out of junctions, at roundabouts, overtaking you or filtering through traffic. Always look out for them before you emerge from a junction; they could be approaching faster than you think. When turning right across a line of slow-moving or stationary traffic, look out for cyclists or motorcyclists on the inside of the traffic you are crossing. Be especially careful when turning, and when changing direction or lane. Be sure to check mirrors and blind spots carefully.

It seems pretty clear from the sections of the highway code that I have listed above that filtering is legal and that motorists should be aware of it and look for vehicles filtering.

Why is there no legislation/law that says it’s legal? Well legislation says what you can’t and what you must do. Not things you are allowed to do but don’t have to do. As such there is no mention of it any legislation regarding road use.

So who is at fault if there is a collision?

You have to look at each case for its own merits and perhaps compare it to previous cases.

Generally there are a few things that make a difference. How you approached the situation, was it slowly and with care?
Was the motorist cautious, did they take their time and indicate clearly before they moved?
Was their warning signals to you that something might happen (stopped vehicle with a gap in front of it for an example).

There is a thread on a motorcycling forum that discusses how to prove your case with an insurance company. It’s a very good read but note that since it was published in 2005, there have been many changes to the highway code, not just wording but also numbering. So make sure you check with the highway code first.

TFL’s press release shows us what is wrong with UK transport culture

Today TFL released a press release regarding enforcement of ASL/bike boxes to help improve cycle safety in the capital.

Basically they are working with the police in giving motorists, motorcyclists and cyclists advice about how the bike boxes should be used. In their own press release TFL give a history of the ASL in the UK, it goes like this

ASLs were first introduced into the UK in Oxford in 1986, primarily as a measure to increase safety for cyclists by enabling them to move in front of traffic queues at signal controlled junctions. The regulations and layouts permitted for ASLs and lead-in lanes are contained within the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD) 2002. This was introduced in December 2002 and came into effect on 31 January 2003 for new schemes

So ASLs have been part of UK infrastructure since 1986 and have had a law regarding their whole use in place for 10 years. But only now are road users being taught about them. The problem we have is that you pass a test to drive and you can go the rest of your driving life without having to pick up a copy of the highway code or reading about new implementations to the road network.

As new signs, laws, road markings etc.. are introduced into the road network, current road users are only made aware of such additions if they look into them or if they are brought up on them. How can we fix this?

Test people!

As road users, I speak here as a cyclist and as a motorists, we should be regularly tested at intervals on road theory, things change and I’m sure that a 60-year-old driver who has been driving for more than 40 years is not aware of many of the additional changes made to the road network in that time frame. Even if it was a 10 year interval then all motorists would have been made aware of bike boxes and we wouldn’t need to educate them this time round but instead fine them for not following the rules that are set to them!

Enforce rules!

10 years! It’s been 10 years since ASL and their function where backed by law and in that time frame it has been extremely rare for a motorist to be pulled up for the offence of not stopping correctly at a red light and encroaching in the bike box. That’s a shocking time frame and this should have been something that was addressed from day 1. Not just because it’s breaking the law but because those boxes were put in for safety reasons and by no one following by the rules it nullifies the safety aspects! WHAT IS THE POINT?

TFL have included some safety tips for both motorists and cyclists regarding ASLs

Motorists

  • Do not enter the Advanced Stop Line (ASL) box when the light is red – this space is reserved for the safety of cyclists;
  • Crossing the first or second ASL lines when the light is red makes you liable for a £60 fixed penalty, three points on your licence, and endangers vulnerable road users;
  • If the traffic signal changes from green to amber and you cannot safely stop before the first stop line, you may cross the line but must stop before the second stop line (Highway Code rule 178).

All good but adding a few other things like

  • Be aware of cyclists filtering towards the ASL whilst you are waiting in stationery traffic, give them time and space to join into the traffic flow were required
  • If you are stopped in the ASL, please be aware of cyclists who attempt to use it and allow them to pull away safely.

Now for the cycling one.

Cyclists

  • Do not cross the second stop line while the traffic signal is red.  Contravening a traffic signal is against the law, and could result in a £30 fine;
  • For more information on ASL safety tips visit: www.tfl.gov.uk/safetytips
  • The MPS have explained some of the myths around ASLs on its new ASL dedicated webpage: www.tinyurl.com/ASLadvice.

The information on the TFL site is actually quite good for TFL, although some of the images and spaces defined as safe overtaking are a little worrying.
The information on the Met site is of course detailed and well thought out, the myth busting info is pretty good as well.

However I would add one final point for cyclists

  • The ASL is not a target, if you can’t get to it safely, do not attempt to reach it. Take a strong position where you are and keep safe.

Interestingly all the documentation does not state how cyclists might enter the ASL, at present cyclists can only legally enter an ASL via a feeder cycle lane or at a broken point of the ASL. Both of these are usually to the left of the cycle lane, which is probably one of the most dangerous places to filter. It’s much safer to enter from the right (usually blocked by motorcyclists) or by the middle on a two lane road.

To sum this all up. 10 years too late, nothing has changed there then.