I’m sure many of my subscribers recall this incident and are wondering what was happening with it. Several weeks ago I was in court as a witness for it. The driver was found guilty of Careless Driving, 3 points on his license, £200 fine, £140 court costs and £15 victim surcharge.
This incident has been much more than just that result, I’ve known what has been happening behind the scenes for quite some time.
Reporting the incident
Those who use RoadSafe London will know that there was a change in how things were handled late last year, a change that many of us appreciated! This was the first incident to be dealt with under the change, and potentially the turning point. When I originally reported this incident I was left with no feedback and when I chased about it I still had no feedback. After contacting an officer who I knew had previously worked with roadsafe the report was chased up and I was put in touch with PC Walters.
From there I gave a statement and provided footage. This was different to before, others and I had previously been to RoadSafe HQ to meet with the staff and talk about the system but this was a different approach.
The company failed to respond to any form of contact and that isn’t just from my self but from many of the people who viewed the video. They were inundated with e-mails and didn’t know how to respond. This goes to show that a company vehicle with contact information on it is a massive advertising board, if you drive in a manner which people deem to be dangerous then the company will be contacted. I did not put details about how to contact the company or ask people to contact the company in my video description, people did it on their own accord.
PC Walters visited the company to get details on who was driving at the time. The company had been making improvements to its fleet, including improved driver training and putting “Look out for cyclists” stickers on the dashboard of their vehicles. VOSA visited the company and checked on everything, I don’t know anything apart from that and I believe that happened after the improved driver training and stickers.
The Court Hearing
Despite the clear video footage of what happened, the defendant originally pleaded not guilty to careless driving. It went in front of a magistrate and the defendant and witnesses were questioned. The defendant said that he was distracted by a van that sped past him and took the same turning as him, he had to slow down and sound his horn as a warning. The horn is on the same stalk as the indicator and he was unable to indicate earlier. The defendant said that he thought the cyclist was taking the same turning as he was. He mentioned his professional driving experience of over 20 years and training he was undertaking to drive bigger vehicles.
As I left the court room, the driver said “Watch yourself out there” to me and his brother gave me a sinister look. Probably not the best thing to do when a waiting room is filled with several police officers.
The Road Layout
This can be a confusing road layout for someone who has not ridden it and is one that has been raised on several occasions as a danger spot to TFL, I raised in back in 2010 when I spoke to the manager of CS7 and CS3.
Cyclists following the road round to the left would stay in the bus lane.
Cyclists following the road straight ahead need to merge into lane 1.
Drivers following the road round to the left need to be in lane 1.
Drivers following the road straight ahead need to be in lane 1, 2 or 3.
And there is the problem. A cyclist wishing to continue straight ahead must merge into the same lane as traffic that is wishing to turn left. A strong position is required in the lane and taking it as early as possible is the best approach. However with motorists zooming past and cutting in front of you, this is daunting for many cyclists and ultimately motorists feel as though they can push past when really they shouldn’t.
The work that was undertaken by the Police was fantastic and something I had not seen or heard of before with a non-collision cycling incident caught on camera. The punishment I believe was fair given previous punishments we have seen with video footage but perhaps there is still an underlying exceptional hardship taken on drivers. I’m sure many will say that they believe that the driver should have lost his license.
The work that the company did to improve their drivers was something I was not expecting and I think they deserve credit for that!
Several of the video camera cyclists in London have received a letter from RoadSafe London completely out of the blue. The letter is about reporting motorists who are in the ASL, and what evidence is required for them to take action. I suspect this is due to them receiving a large amount of reports regarding motorists in the advanced stop zones and them not being able to do anything about it. It’s wasting their time and wasting our own time in reporting it, if I reported every motorist I saw in the ASL whilst the light is red, then I would be reporting 40 motorists a day. I don’t want to do that!
I’m sure many of you have already seen the website ride-smart.org (which has now been pulled, it can be seen here). It’s meant to be a cycling campaign that raises awareness of dangerous cycling and how it can get you into trouble. But instead it calls people ‘Stupid Twats’ and makes up fictional limericks to try to make people see the dangers of certain actions.
As I’m writing this, my twitter feed is going off the hook and I’ve just been informed that they have published an apology, which reads as below.
Karmarama, the company behind it, certainly made a few mistakes along the way. One which I can relate to is their use of other people’s videos without permission or credit to those who filmed and uploaded them. This of course has led to several of the video owners lodging copyright complaints with youtube. Youtube have a policy of 3 strikes and your out, if they don’t remove the videos in time then the youtube account will be closed down.
Karmarama has tried to suggest that they gave credit to the owners of the footage by this statement on their website.
All videos were taken by lovely riders who give a shit. Unfortunately we never saved their usernames and couldn’t track them back. Sorry lads, keep on uploading these to the net. Together we’ll make a difference.
It was right at the bottom of the website and almost impossible to read.
Karmarama has since taken down the videos but the original playlist “What a stupid TWAT” is still available for viewing.
Compare this to Silly Cyclists, a video series I do which highlights the mistakes that many road users with cameras record and send to me. My approach is not to victim blame or to call people “stupid twats”. Instead I use the clips to help show others how to deal with situations they may find themselves in. An approach which takes a potential negative and turns it into a positive to those who are watching.
I’ve received much praise from many people for the series, many people saying they have learnt a lot from it and now feel safer about cycling on the roads. Even motorists have said they now give cyclists more room as they now understand some of the issues we face.
It’s essentially a similar campaign to what Karmarama has done but the approach is completely different.
Yesterday morning at around 5am. A cyclist was involved in a RTC with a car on the A236 Mitcham Road. The man was pronounced dead at the scene by the air ambulance doctor. Rest In Peace!
For those of you that don’t know Croydon and Mitcham Road, it has been the talking point of many cycling campaigners. Nearly a mile of cycle lane in the door zone in either direction. Parked cars on either side of this very busy arterial road and plenty of pinch points that do absolutely nothing!
I contacted Croydon Council about this road in January. I highlighted the issue with the door zone, the debris in the cycle lane and the pinch points that do not prevent people from speeding. The response regarding Mitcham road is as follows
Most of the cycle lanes in Mitcham Road meet the recommended minimum standard width of 1.5 metres, however there is insufficient carriageway space available to increase the clearance from parked vehicles. This is why the lanes have been made highly visible with green surfacing used for the majority of the length, which should help to remind motorists that they should take care of cyclists using the route.
Some physical changes can be made as the resources become available; changing awareness and habits in respect of cyclists and motorcyclists is a longer term issue.
I did push further and got this response
I visited again this road on Monday morning with my traffic engineer and we have established two courses of actions.
Firstly as these lanes were initially implemented as part of the London Cycle Network Budget and Project, about five years ago, it is long overdue for a review. On measuring the width of the cycle lanes we found that some of the lanes could be widened. We aim to implement a review with a view to extend the cycle lane widths to give greater space for cyclists.
Secondly there is a view to create a parallel route for the Mitcham road on quiet residential roads via Ockley rd and Rochford way and Westcombe avenue, from just beyond the Lombard roundabout for cyclists who would feel less confident in using the Mitcham road.
The green paint mentioned in the first response has all but faded and is only the width of a car door! So this cycle lane is extremely dangerous to use, especially during the early hours of the morning when people are going to work and taking their kids to school.
The insufficient width they talk about is down to parking that is allowed on the road. The A236 is the only arterial road I can think of in Croydon that allows residential parking like this.
I was spurred on to contact the council about this stretch of road after my own RTC in which I broke my clavicle. At the same time I also queried what was being done with the £450,500 that was given to Croydon by the Mayor after being named a Cycling Borough. Unfortunately those funds where already being spent elsewhere (a cycling hub at East Croydon station) and could not be used to drastically improve one of the worst cycle lanes in Croydon.
I came across some new guidelines that all Police forces across the UK may take on board and apply to any footage taken by a road user. This came about from the below incident. I did the usual and forwarded the video on to RoadSafe London, they deemed that this was serious enough to warrant prosecution that they forwarded it on to the Traffic Criminal Justice Unit (TCJU) in Sidcup.
The TCJU looked at the incident and responded with the following.
After careful consideration of all the available evidence it has been decided that the other party will not be prosecuted for the offence of Driving without Due Care.
I can confirm however that this office has written to the other party and reminded them of their responsibilities as a road user, to drive safely and comply with road traffic law.
I thought the incident was clear-cut driving without due care. Quiet clearly the driver didn’t need to encroach into the cycle lane or come anywhere near it (watch the vehicle behind). I’m happy with the action that was taken, it is all I expected when I sent it to RoadSafe London. But I wanted to know more about why they had chosen not to prosecute. So I asked the TCJU if they could let me know why.
The TCJU responded with the following
Following guidelines of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) we decided not to initiate proceedings on this occasion.
In relation to the concept of prosecution of mobile phone and other minor traffic offences from video submissions where and accident has not occurred, the ACPO Roads Policing following guidance form the Crown Prosecution Service and expert advice from Road Policing bodies, concluded that prosecution for offences based solely upon video evidence submitted by members of the public are unlikely. The value of evidence that has not been seized and stored according to the police business processes is limited form an evidential point of view.
The ACPO recommends that a suitable letter to the registered owner of the vehicle would be proportionate where the submitted clips meet a high enough standard.
I find it strange, that the Traffic Criminal Justice Unit class mobile phone use as a minor traffic offence. We all know from research that it is more dangerous than being drunk at the wheel.
First lets look at the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) guidelines on Driving without due care
A person is to be regarded as driving without due care and attention if (and only if) the way he drives falls below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver.
Well that seems fairly clear cut. I think that is well below what would be expected of a ‘competent and careful’ driver.
Now onto the ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) guidelines, this took me several weeks to get hold of as it wasn’t a document that was already publicly available and the rest of it is a story for another day. The guidelines that were sent to me reference mainly an issue with a website policewitness.com and the fact that it is falsely advertising it self as having ties with the police, when it doesn’t. There is a small mention of video footage which I have quoted below, this is what the TCJU are referring to as ACPO guidelines.
In relation to the concept of prosecution of mobile phone and other minor traffic offences from video submissions from this company, I have sought guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and expert advice from Roads Policing colleagues.
It is the opinion of such experts that a prosecution for offences based solely upon this video evidence is unlikely and I have included further clarification in respect of this in Annex 1.
I also have concerns that such an approach effectively removes the level of discretion and professional judgement used by officers when dealing with incidents or offences of this type, the value of which cannot be underplayed.
A prosecution for an offence via a clip submitted in such a manner is unlikely and therefore the value of such clips should be taken as limited. If Forces are seeking an appropriate response, I would recommend that in most cases, a suitable letter to the registered owner of the vehicle would be proportionate where the submitted clips meet a high enough standard;
You may wish to consider making a clear policy decision not to act upon submitted video clips where the volume becomes unmanageable;
The idea of a ‘vigilante’ approach of members of the public standing by the side of the road with mobile phones and video cameras should be argued against for safety reasons.
And here crops up the ‘mobile phone and other minor traffic offences’, so it is Suzette Davenport Deputy Chief Constable, Northamptonshire Police, ACPO Lead For The Roads Policing Portfolio that thinks using a mobile phone whilst driving is a minor traffic offence.
Whilst the CPS and expert Roads Policing colleagues might think that it is unlikely that there will be a prosecution for an offence based solely on video evidence, the results that some video camera cyclists have had paint a different picture. There must have been at least 10 in the last 2 years.
It mentions concern for professional judgement used by officers, I don’t think anyone would question that, but why should that dismiss any video footage? The footage is information, information that you can analyse and use to make a professional judgement on a situation. Much better than a witness which may have forgotten something.
Is it not also telling that if people are concerned enough about the safety on our roads that they are making videos and reporting them to the Police, that there is a problem?
I contacted RoadSafe London about this and they forwarded my concerns to the Senior Manager of the Catford Traffic Criminal Justice Unit. Who said the following.
I have examined the case file and I believe the correct decision was made. It is of some comfort that you were not injured and that no damage was caused. Hopefully reminding the other party of their responsibilities will have the desired effect.
As I said before I’m happy with the action taken.
Whilst you are correct in that the advice was prompted by the activities of a private company who it would seem were flooding police forces with video material, the advice does clearly state that it is;
“An approach which forces may wish to adopt when dealing with video evidence submitted by this company, members of the public or any third party company”
As you can see the advice was intended to embrace all submissions falling into this category. I would agree that there have been instances such material has been used, but I would have to say that each case would have been dealt with on it’s merits and in close consultation with the CPS. This will continue to be the case. I think it is wrong to assume that the decision in this case represents a policy of rejecting submissions of video footage such as this without appropriate consideration.
He slightly misquoted what was said in the letter, that is minor. I’m pleased to see that he states each case will be looked at individually and with close consultation with the CPS, this is the way it was previously done and should continue to be. Are these guidelines adding anything to the standard process? Or are they using the power of the CPS and ACPO as a sort of reason why we aren’t prosecuting (I’m sure they can easily say why they aren’t, which is the confusing part)?
I contacted the officer marked as the contact on the ACPO guidelines and asked them if the letter was intended to be used for all forms of video footage taken or just those submitted by policewitness.com. I got the following response.
The letter gave advice on dealing with video clips submitted by members of the public or third party companies which identified ‘minor’ Road Traffic Offences. The letter detailed how video footage alone would be unlikely to lead to a prosecution in these cases without strong supporting evidence.
So it is meant for any report, which is disappointing to see.
It is a real shame to see this coming from London. There has been some fantastic work put in by RoadSafe London over the past 3 years, which has seen a massive increase in reports coming in over that time due to a huge growth in road users getting video cameras. At the moment none of us truly expect more than a letter sent to the driver from the Police, which is something that was very much unheard of several years ago.
What we don’t want to read is the following
the concept of prosecution of mobile phone and other minor traffic offences
Using a mobile phone whilst driving is a minor traffic offence?
A prosecution for an offence via a clip submitted in such a manner is unlikely and therefore the value of such clips should be taken as limited
Should a clip be deemed less valuable because a prosecution is unlikely?
minor traffic offences from video submissions where and [an] accident has not occurred
Effectively they are saying, unless you were hit by the vehicle, we are not interested in prosecuting the driver.
In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think this is going to change too much. It is still very rare for video footage to be used in a prosecution and where it has needed to be used, it has been. However it can easily have the effect that the Police do not care for road safety. As I said with so many road users up and down the country taking to the road with video cameras (not just cyclists) there must be something wrong with the way that some people are continually behaving on our roads. If they feel like they are being brushed aside because it is only ‘minor’, then they will lose faith in the Police force.