Lillian’s Law

Back in 2010 on the 26th of June, young Lillian Groves was hit by a car and unfortunately died later in hospital. The police found cannabis in the driver’s blood and a half smoked joint on the dashboard but the driver was only sentenced to 8 months in prison due to the driver only being tested for drugs 9 hours after the incident, at which point the levels of drugs in his system was not enough to prosecute under causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drugs.

Backed by the Croydon Advertiser, Lillian’s parents are calling for the government to change the law and procedures which deal with drivers under the influence of drugs.

It would include rolling out a drug test kit which can be used in the field. This is to attempt to catch and prevent drug using road users, who are involved in as many as 1 out 5 road deaths. These test kits are already widely used in Australia and United States of America.

Read more and sign the petition >

Passing Laws

All cyclists have experienced a close pass from another vehicle. It’s an uncomfortable experience and the larger vehicles can cause major issues due to the turbulent air that they throw off. Cyclists need to be given lots of space, we need to move around road hazards such as pot holes and we aren’t surrounded by metal.

Some states in the US and a few countries have a specific passing law. Usually 3ft or 1m space that overtaking vehicles must give to cyclists. In the UK we don’t have a specific law and the highway code suggests that you should give as much space as you would a car, I have commented on that before.

I see some problems with passing laws

  • How do you measure the distance?
  • Larger differences in speed require larger passing distances.

The DFT name the space a cyclist requires the dynamic envelope. The Cycle Infrastructure Design (CID), Department for Transport Local Transport Note 2/08, October 2008. Section 2.2.2 states that the dynamic envelope of a cyclist on the road may be taken as 1 meter. As the name suggests, the dynamic envelope changes depending on the situation but the basics of it is the required space a cyclists needs to keep in motion. Corrections are made to avoid hazards and to keep balance.

When a vehicle overtakes a cyclist, the space they should leave you is in addition to the dynamic envelope. The DFT recommend that in addition to the dynamic envelope of 1m, cars passing at 30mph should add another 1.5m when passing. In total that equates to 2.5m from the cyclist (this distances is measured from the wheel of the cyclist to the edge of the car). How many drivers do we see passing cyclists at such a distance?
The DFT recommends that larger vehicles (buses, HGVs) should give a total of over 5m when passing a cyclist at 30mph.

The distances which drivers give cyclists needs to be increased in situations like hills, cyclists will be going at a much lower speed and keeping a straight line can be more strenuous. In these cases more space will be needed.
To cover one of my concerns, as the difference in speeds increases then more space is required, if a cyclist is traveling at 10mph and a car passes at 3ft at 60mph then the turbulent air will push them off their course and could well blow them over if they are not prepared for it.

How can we measure passing distances whilst on the road? This is always going to be a problem, one persons 3ft is another persons 2ft and being on a bicycle the two will feel very different, the two will probably be very similar when you are surrounded by metal. In the case of reporting it to the police or speaking to the driver about it, this will be the same old situation which we are used to, your word against theirs.
I have a ‘litmus’ test for close passes, I’m normally aware of when they will happen, I stick my arm out as if i was indicating, if i feel a vehicle brush against my arm then I know the pass is about to be too close and I can move over to the left a little bit to give me more space. My arm is a little under 3ft so if I can touch your vehicle as you pass me then you are too close. I’ve noticed so far that this gives the drivers a panic and they either stop their over take or they move further out, it has the added bonus of making you look like you are turning right.

The guidelines for passing distances that the DFT state are well over what any laws are in other countries and anything that is proposed in the UK. I can’t see a 3ft law being brought into the UK whilst a DFT recommended 30mph passing distance is over 2.5x bigger. The minimum 20mph passing distance that the DFT recommends is 2 meters. Because of this I’m mentally against any passing laws that state 3ft as the minimum.

Helmet Cameras and the Law

I posted before about the use of cameras on the road and the laws behind it. But i feel i missed a few things out that are worth noting. From before we know that the general use of a camera is perfectly legal. The information commissioner confirmed that recording for personal purposes on the road is perfectly fine and that uploading footage to websites like youtube is fine, even if it includes faces or VRNs (Vehicle Registration Number). The information commissioner also confirmed that this is not braking any part of the Data Protection Act.

What about article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights

Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

Martin Porter wrote about just this, what is more important, the right to privacy or the right to live? Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights states

Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law.

People have tried to spin this argument against me but the European Convention on Human Rights only applies to a state and not an individual member of the public. Let’s also not forget that the roads are a public place and there should be no expectation of privacy on them.

The Human Rights Act in the UK applies the acts from the European Convention on Human Rights to all members of the public in the UK and not just the state. But again the question is what is more important, life or privacy? The Human Rights Act states

You have the responsibility to respect other people’s rights, and they must respect yours.

How much privacy is actually broken by posting a video online? I would say minimal, everything that is displayed is public information and only friends and relatives can identify the person by their face. There have been no cases so far that relate to this so it is hard to say what the outcome would be in a court of law.

There has been plenty of media coverage about helmet cameras this year already several court cases involving footage from cameras. So far there has not been even a hint from the Police, CPS or any other legal body that using cameras and posting footage of it online is against the law.

The legailty of Camera use

I often get the internet lawyer telling me that I’m braking several laws by videoing vehicles and posting videos of them, the drivers and the vehicles number plates online.
As we all know, vehicle number plates are publicly viewable and identifies the car. We can use these to complain about the drivers behaviour. What we don’t know from the number plate is any information about the driver.

I know in the past, that magnatom asked the information commissioner of Scotland what the position was, legally, of him doing what he does. The response that he got, was that it’s fine for us to do and it’s not breaking any data protection laws.
Magnatom has always stated that he isn’t sure if this applies to the England as well.

So to confirm where i and other helmet camera users stand on the matter of legality of posting videos online, i contacted the information commissioner in England and asked the following questions;

  • Is recording bicycle journeys made in england and posting footage on youtube breaking any laws? This includes posting footage of number plates of dangerous drivers that put cyclists life in danger and in some cases the faces and conversations with these drivers.
  • are there any restrictions to it, such as is advertising that you have a camera against the law e.g. a sign saying ‘video recording in operation’ on the cyclists back.

A few weeks later i got a response and it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. As magnatom’s response, i was also told that the videoing and posting videos would fall under section 36 of the data protection act. Which states

Personal data processed by an individual only for the purposes of that individual’s personal, family or household affairs (including recreational purposes) are exempt from the data protection principles and the provisions of Parts II and III.

This exemption means that individuals do not have to provide fair processing information to data subjects and so signs will not be necessary in a situation such as the one described. Equally, however, it would not be illegal to display such signs that warn of a camera.

Apart from the data protection act, I don’t think there is any issue with filming, and if there was, I’m sure I would have been brought up on it by now. My footage has been passed to various police departments in London, and none of them have come back to me saying I’m braking any laws.

Driving whilst on the phone

In 3 days of cycle commuting last week, i saw nearly 10 drivers using there mobile phone whilst being in control of a moving vehicle. This is a real pet hate of mine, and anyone i see doing so is named and shamed on youtube and more than likely the footage is passed onto the Police. What they choose to do with it is up to them. If they are in company vehicles, i will also contact that company and make them aware of their drivers using mobiles whilst driving.

Anyone that has been in control of any vehicle in a metropolis will know that concentration is very important, traffic levels are always changing and cyclist and motorcyclist can appear from ‘no where’ if you aren’t watching your mirrors. Pedestrians will cross as soon as the traffic has stopped. Why do some people think that it is acceptable to drive a motor vehicle whilst holding a mobile phone to ear?

Being in charge of a motor vehicle and holding a mobile phone is against the law in the UK and you can be finned £60 (up to £1000 if taken to court) and 3 points on your license. But with the dropping number of police on the roads the motorists know they can get away with it 99/100 and this isn’t just limited to using mobile phones. Any one that is subscribed to my youtube channel or regularly watches videos from cyclists, they will see that some people behave on the roads in an unacceptable manner.

A study run by the department of psychology at the university of Utah in USA named ‘Fatal Distraction? A Comparison of the Cell Phone Drive and the Drunk Driver’ compares the reaction time of drunk drivers and drivers on the phone whilst in control of the vehicle. In summary:

We used a high-fidelity driving simulator to compare the performance of cell-phone drivers with drivers who were legally intoxicated from ethanol. When drivers were conversing on either a hand-held or hands-free cell-phone, their reactions were sluggish and they attempted to compensate by driving slower and increasing the following distance from the vehicle immediately in front of them. By contrast, when drivers were legally intoxicated they exhibited a more aggressive driving style, following closer to the vehicle immediately in front of them and applying more force while braking. When controlling for driving difficulty and time on task, cell-phone drivers exhibited greater impairment than intoxicated drivers.

A copy of the study can be downloaded from here.

Below are a selection of the drivers on the phone.