Thursday, 19 March 2015

So Sue me?

I had an incident recently on my way to work, one which some of you may have seen. Have a watch here.



I cycle that road every day and the vast majority of the time I don't have any issues. Most drivers keep a distance, which is important here, as I need to slow to enter the cycling lane at the end. This particular lane is a famous one, often filled with mud and standing water, and was one of my entries for the #glasgowcyclenfraday. On this particular occasion it wasn't too muddy, but there was a film of muck and some deep standing water, so I have to reduce speed before entering it. Thus, this is not a good place to have a car close to your back wheel. Not that there is a good place for that of course.

Anyway, I decided to write to the company, Kitchen Bathroom Designs. This is what I wrote:

Dear Sir/madam,

I am unfortunately writing to you with regards to the driving of one of your livered vehicles on the 10th March at approximately 8:30am.

I cycle to work, and as part of that journey travel down Balshagray Avenue before turning off using a designated cycle lane onto Balshagray Drive. On this particular occasion I noticed a white car attempting to overtake me on approach to a traffic queue. I signalled with a palm facing back gesture that there was no room for the overtake. At this point the lady driver slowed down and pulled to a stop behind me.

I pointed out, in a friendly manner, that there was no room for the overtake. The lady ignored me and only yawned.

Upon setting off once the lights had changed the driver, instead of giving me ample rear clearance, started driving closer to me, well within the suggested minimum of 2 seconds. At this point I signalled further for the driver to pull back, at which point the driver got closer and for some reason put her hazard lights on. I felt literally ran off the road, and was understandably furious.

Having faced driving of a similar nature in the past I wear a helmet camera and have a rear camera on my bike. Therefore, I have footage of the incident which can be viewed here ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jen687tXBxA).

I would be interested to know why the lady driver felt the need to drive with this proximity to my rear wheel. Does she understand how driving in that way is not only intimidating, but particularly dangerous? Why did she put her hazard lights on?

I would also be interested to know what action you as a company will be taking to ensure that there will be no incidents of this nature in the future.

I look forward to your reply.

Best regards

Dr David Brennan
 I have not received a reply to this letter at the time of writing this post.

Unknown to me, another person (let's call him Joe) who viewed my video decided to e-mail the company. After the company had responded to him he decided to contact me via my blog contact page to inform me of the correspondence. This was his original message to the company:

I was appalled at the dangerous driving from one of your drivers (see https://youtu.be/Jen687tXBxA). This has certainly changed my mind about where I will be buying my new kitchen.
Was Joe a genuine potential customer of Kitchen Bathroom Designs? I don't know, but the message certainly elicited a response from the company. This was their response:

Sorry you feel that way Joe.

We did nothing wrong the cyclist was cycling in the middle of the very busy lane in morning rush hour not allowing us to overtake and holding up lots if drivers behind us. A very selfish cyclist out to proof points.

 The cyclist has lots if the same videos cycling in the middle of the road upsetting lots of drivers. The police should have a word with him, as much as everyone wants a safe journey to work he is not showing any respect to other road users by cycling in the middle of the road as all his videos all show clearly.

This was an interesting reply, especially considering what had preceded this incident. Watch this video which shows footage from the few minutes leading up to our interaction. Was I holding drivers up? (Apologies for the typo in the video)




Before contacting me Joe replied to Kitchen Bathroom Designs. This was his reply:

I'm sorry you feel that way sales@kitchenbathroomdesigns and am quite franky disgusted by the tone and ignorance shown in your email, which gives the impression that you have a complete disregard for your fellow human beings.
 
The cyclist in question was following the government guidance which can be found by a simple google search at the link below. The police should have a word with your driver for dangerous driving. As this person is driving one of your liveried vehicles and is therefore representing your company, you may wish to suggest that they try reading and following the guidance in the highway code as is required under the conditions of thier licence.
 
http://www.cyclescheme.co.uk/community/how-to/road-positioning
 
I look forward to purchasing a kitchen from one of your competitors in the near future.

Kitchen Bathroom Designs (I'd like to use a name, but none was provided) responded thus:

Yes we checked out this cyclist he has hundreds of u tube videos all with the same complaint. All in the same area. Upsetting road tax paying motorists. He clearly wants to command the road and shows no respect for other road users.

Good luck with your new kitchen.

At this point Joe contacted me.

I was shocked by this response. So I decided to write an e-mail to them about this:

Dear Sir/madam,

I wrote to you last week with regards to the driving standard of someone driving one of your livered vehicles. I have yet to hear back. However, someone else contacted you about the driving they saw in the video and they forwarded me on your responses. Please see these below.

I write a blog about road safety with specific focus on cycling safety which you can find here (http://www.magnatom.net/). I feel your response is definitely worth publishing. I would however, like to allow you a chance to respond directly to me before I publish my blog on this particular incident and your response to the other gentleman. Therefore, I would be grateful if you could reply to my original e-mail and perhaps comment on the thread below so that I can include that in my blog. I plan to publish this blog either tomorrow evening or Wednesday evening.

Many thanks


David Brennan

I received no response. So on Wednesday lunchtime, I decided to send a quick chaser e-mail:

Hi,
Just a last wee reminder I was planning to blog about this incident and your response below. If you have any issues with me doing this or if you wish to add any comment please send them to me by the end of this afternoon.

Best regards

David Brennan

I received the following e-mail, which might explain my slightly different writing style to normal....:


Yes we do Dr David Brennan have an issue with you publishing an email sent out to your friend and posting out your videos online and internet bullying. 



We are currently speaking to our company solicitor about a claim for loss of business and company damage as we have received emails from potential customers stating so.

So let me clarify the situation. I am (allegedly) internet bullying the company by posting a video of what happened in a public place and for asking the company to respond to my complaint. That is all I have done up until now. This blog itself serves as a record of that incident, and of the correspondence that the company had (and does not deny having) with a concerned member of public. That member of the public decided that I should know about this, and I have decided that, due to the attitude shown, to share that with you, via my blog.

I strongly believe that this information is in the public interest. I believe we all need to know about companies who think cyclists DON'T have a right to choose their road position and DON'T have any rights to a decent amount of road space behind them as a safety buffer, as I think is demonstrated by the driving.

I am very sorry to hear that the company might be losing business. That is a shame, as I am sure there are decent employees within the company and I don't want them to suffer. However, in my opinion (and for clarity, I think this is a very reasonable opinion) I think it is very important to highlight attitudes to road safety that appear to depend on the 'Road Tax' paying status of those who are deemed to be in the way. 

As for 'Road Tax', well, we all know that doesn't actually exist. However, vehicle excise duty (VED) certainly does. What I found particularly interesting was that whilst at least one staff member of Kitchen Bathroom Designs thinks that I am upsetting VED (let's assume by road tax, they mean VED) paying motorists, it would seem that this does not apply to them when driving this particular vehicle, at least not according to the governments own VED checking website.....




This was correct as of 19th March 2015.



Sunday, 15 March 2015

The Glasgow Cycling Infrastructure Day Response.

It's been quite a while since we had our Glasgow Cycle Infrastructure Day or #glasgowcycleinfraday on Twitter.

What?! You don't know what it is? Oh OK, you can see for yourself here.

Pretty shocking, isn't it.

Well, it has taken a while, but Glasgow City Council, though Frank McAveety, has replied to it. Here is his reply.

Just a brief note to indicate that the City Council are reviewing the list of measures raised and we are in the process of responding to them.

We would hope to address some of them through our cycle works budget and through the general maintenance budget.

In terms of overall repairs notification I am sure you are aware of the various ways to contact the Council to deal with specific repairs.  I hope they are of assistance and if there are continued problems relating to lack of response do not hesitate to contact me.

OK, it's not the most detailed response ever, but it does suggest that there will be individual responses to each of the issues raised. Therefore, I suggest that you all look at the list of infrastructure issues highlighted in the above linked blog and let me know if you've seen any improvement.

 Oh, OK all the ice and snow will have gone, but are the areas being maintained? Have barriers been removed? Has the infrastructure been improved? If not, let me, and of course Frank know.

If we keep quiet, nothing will change.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Katie Cycles to School: Little Things Bring Big Changes

Kids change everything.

Anyone who has kids will know exactly what I mean by the above statement. No-one or nothing can prepare you for having children and for the ways that they will change your life. My own life is very, very different from what it was pre-kids.

Is it better? Absolutely. Am I happy with every change? Of course not. My social life is a shadow of its former glory...(OK not exactly glory.....). Would I change a thing though? Not a chance. I can honestly say that I love them to bits.

Some changes though are totally unexpected. One of those was cycling.

I started cycling when my first child was born, just as a cheap means of getting to work. It saved buying a second car. Little did I know that I would end up becoming a mildly 'infamous' helmet camera cyclist, and I would help set up a cycling safety campaign. Cycling hasn't taken over my life, but it is certainly a big part of it now.

My kids have changed me in another way.

There was a time when I truly believed that the roads were fine as they were and that all we needed to do to make the roads safer for cyclists was to ask people to drive better. To educate. Then my kids started growing up and my oldest showed some enthusiasm for cycling. Very quickly I realised that, there was no way I could take him on the roads as they were, and that no amount of driver education would change that.

My kids taught me that education wasn't the answer, investment in properly designed infrastructure was.

My kids have not only given me great joy, they have show me the way. It's time to give them something back. It's time to stop talking about how we can make the streets safer for them and everyone else. It's time to make it happen. To make it happen though we need to get the message beyond cyclists. We need to spread the word that cycling and designing for cycling isn't about helping a minority of Lycra clad cyclists. It's about making our cities, our countryside and our country a happier, safer, and less polluted place for everyone.

We all benefit from safer cycling.

Thus we at POP have released a video that we hope will send the message out that cycling and investment in cycling is for all. Its for Katie, its for her family, its for you.

Please spread this video. Not just to your cycling friends, they probably already get it. Spread it to your non-cycling friends and ask them, do they want a future dominated by more road, more cars and more pollution, or do they want Scotland to become a people friendly country?



Pedal on Parliament. 25th April 2015. The Meadows. Be there on bike or foot, and let's send a message that now is the time to build a fairer Scotland.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Responding to a Complaint Letter - The Very Good, the Good and the Ugly

Unfortunately over the years I have had plenty of experience at writing to companies about the conduct of their drivers. On the very odd occasion I have written to praise a driver, however, the vast majority have been to complain about about a drivers 'road skills'.

I've had a variety of responses from companies, and I thought I would share three recent examples. One I think is very good (Chubb), one good (Clockwork), and one....well, downright ugly (Wellocks). Let's start with the very good....

The Very Good: Chubb

Cycling home one night on the Switchback Road I was approaching some traffic lights. This particular section of road is going uphill, so I'm not going my fastest, but I'm not dilly dallying either. As I approach the lights they start changing so, being the responsible road user that I am, I decide to stop. Unfortunately the driver behind me has other ideas...



That was terrible driving. So I wrote to Chubb, and my message was as follows:

Dear Sir/Madam,

Unfortunately I writing to you with regard to the driving of one of your employees. On the evening (approximately 6pm) of the 10th February as I was cycling home heading north on Switchback Road I was very nearly hit at speed by a car marked as Chubb. Unfortunately I did not get the full registration of the car, as it passed me at speed. I only got BG64....
and it is possible that this could be wrong. However, I suspect that you will still be able to identify the driver from the location and approximate time.

As I approached some traffic lights they started to change from green to Amber. I therefore came to a stop. At this point I heard a car approaching fast behind me. I turned and saw that rather than stopping behind me it was going to continue through the light, in the lane I was in. Fortunately I had the presence of mind to get out the way before the car shot through the red light. I shudder to think what would have happened had I not moved out of the way.

For a number of reasons, I use cameras whilst cycling. I have one on my helmet and one on the rear of my bike. Thus, the footage of the incident can be viewed here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCJ6Gw5Aw1E).

Please could you investigate this incident and deal with the driver appropriately. I would be well within my rights to take driving such as this to the police, however, on this occasion I feel that you could perhaps deal with this incident and this driver. I would be particularly interested to hear the drivers side of the story and what he thinks when he views the footage.

Thank you for your help in this matter.

Best regards

Dr David Brennan

 Here is the response I received a week later:

Dear Dr Brennan,



Thanks for contacting Chubb and bringing this incident to our attention. My colleagues in our fleet department and in our Glasgow branch continue to investigate the matter to try and identify the driver concerned and take the appropriate internal action. As we have a large vehicle fleet and partial plate information we have not yet been able to identify the driver involved. Nevertheless, as the safety of our employees and other road users is of paramount concern, we take this report seriously and propose to use the information you have provided to conduct re-training of our whole team. We have already scheduled “toolbox talks” with our engineers in the area. We would like to use your video footage within this re-training, could you grant your permission for that?

I look forward to hearing from you.
Yes, I was disappointed that the driver could not be identified, however, the fact that they wanted to use my video for driver training was impressive. I questioned them a little further to find how they would use it.

It will be shown to drivers of company vans and service cars at their monthly EH&S briefing by their line managers.  I trust the personal nature of this particular EH&S briefing will reinforce our safe driving policy.
 I'm certainly pleased with this outcome.


The Good: Clockwork

 The letter that I wrote for this particular incident can be read here. The incident itself can be watched here:


A short while afterwards I received the following letter:

Dear Dr Brennan,

Firstly I would like to apologise on behalf of Clockwork Removals and the driver in question. I have watched your footage online and as you say in your email the driver did start his overtaking manoeuvre safely but the overhang at the back of his vehicle certainly does come closer to you than I am sure any of us would have liked. Having spoken to our driver, he certainly did not intentionally move closer to you, but on this occasion has misjudged the relative speeds between our van and your cycle, whilst also fully moving into the left hand lane.

The driver is an experienced HGV driver and has completed his Drivers Certificate of Professional Competence as well as other driving assessments. He is fully aware of his responsibilities for his vehicle and other road users and these have been reiterated to him and all our drivers.

I do hope that you accept our apology in the spirit it is intended for what was clearly a distressing incident for you.

A good and thorough reply. They had obviously spoken to the driver who it would seem, admits that he did come too close. Ok, he didn't entirely answer the issue surrounding me 'not being in the cycle lane' but at least the company itself was contrite. I did write back though:

Dear Jamie,
Many thanks for your reply, it is appreciated. The issue that most annoyed me with regards to the incident was the drivers suggestion that I should be in the cycle lane, and how that somehow justified the incident (be it through intent or through fault). Have you made it clear to your drivers that cyclists do not have to be in a cycle lane if they feel safer elsewhere? A fact that is clearly stated within the Highway Code itself in rule 61.

No road users (including cyclists), have entitlement over others. Unfortunately though, I find that some of the worst driving I experience tends to result from a misunderstanding that cyclists should not be in the position they are in, and that the cyclist is in that position to try and antagonise other road users. Nothing could be further from the truth. I personally have changed the route previously to try and avoid conflict.

I am more than happy to take you or any of your drivers on a cycle along that route to demonstrate the issues as I see them. Perhaps that would be a good way to get some positive publicity for your company from this. Let me know if you are interested.

Once again thank you for your reply.

Best regards

David Brennan

I received the following reply:

Dear David,

I understand your annoyance and I have asked all my managers and operations managers to reiterate to all our drivers the need to give cyclists a good safe space throughout any overtakes. I have also clarified that the use of cycle lanes is not mandatory for the reasons you and the highway code give and pointed out the lack of real protection cyclists have against impact. The last thing I, or any of my team, want is for anyone to be injured or killed in an incident involving one of our vehicles.

We have no cyclists in our Milngavie Branch so I will decline your offer of a demonstration ride along that route.

All the best.

A good response I think. Hopefully the driver with think twice about passing like that, and making comments about cyclists' road position in future. Just a shame that no-one in that Clockwork branch cycles. Perhaps they think the roads are too dangerous.....


 The Ugly: Wellocks

I was very surprised by the response from Wellocks, especially considering the very professional responses from the two companies above. First watch the video:



I'm sure you'll agree that this video displayed not only poor driving, but a terrible attitude. I sent the following letter to Wellocks.

Dear James,
Unfortunately I am contacting you about one of your drivers that I came across whilst on my way home on last week.

It was whilst I was cycling home past the ASDA in Mingavie (just outside Glasgow) that I noticed a van pass by me. I could see that the driver was driving along whilst paying attention to his phone. At this point I called out to the driver that he shouldn't be on his phone, to which the driver gave me two fingers.

I wear a helmet camera on my cycle journeys to and from work. Therefore I have video footage of the incident which you can watch for yourself here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lLdZOC3NoQ)

As I am sure you are aware, driving whilst using a mobile phone is not only illegal, but particularly dangerous. I'm sure the driver is fully aware of this as well. However, his reaction to my request only serves to demonstrate how much contempt he has for this law, and the safety of others on the road. It is road users such as myself that drivers like this put at the greatest risk. His driving and attitude do not reflect well on your company.

Please could you investigate this incident and this driver and inform me of your conclusions.

Best regards

David Brennan

A reasonable letter I thought. So here was the reply:


Dear Mr Brennan

Thank you for your email and link to your you tube. 

Having seen the film on twitter over the weekend the matter is already in hand. It is however, disappointing that you have published this against our companies name publicly rather than allowing us as a responsible employer to deal with the matter in the appropriate way in accordance with employment law, as this is one individual out of over 250 employed at wellocks I would therefore ask that you kindly remove our company name from the postings as this is grossly unfair to our other employees who could be tarred with the same brush.

We are acutely aware of our responsibilities as an employer and of the responsibilities of our employees to drive within the laws and the matter is being dealt with, with this employee.

Once again thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.

Regards,

Jo Wellock

They are disappointed in me.

Ummm.....

I must admit I was pretty angry when I received that reply. I decided, wisely, not to respond straight away. In fact I let it sit for a while. What I did decide very early on, was that I would not remove the companies name.

To some extent Jo is quite correct. This was one driver and yes, their company may have 250 other drivers who all act entirely responsibly (although I know one person in Edinburgh who is having ongoing issues with Wellocks vans parking inconsiderately). However, on this occasion this driver driving a liveried vehicle decided to act in an irresponsible and rude manner.

Remember though, they are disappointed  in me.

So why do I publish company names? I do it because companies have corporate responsibility for their drivers. They have a duty to ensure that they drive in an appropriate manner. It is entirely possible that this company does everything in its power to ensure that its drivers behave, although this is not evident from the letter above. It is also possible that the company does not give a toss and that their drivers are regularly causing trouble for other road users.

Imagine if myself and others kept company names out of our videos. How then would we ever discover that there was a problem with company x (I can think of one particular cab company in London that fits this description) and how it instructs its drivers to behave on the road?

I put company names on my videos so that when others have issues, they can find my videos and use that as leverage against the company to have action taken.

What I also do and have certainly done in the past is highlight companies that respond well. From the above responses I am happy that both Clockwork and Chubb have dealt appropriately with my complaints. The fact that the video and this blog are now searchable means that others can discover this. It's a bit of good press for these companies.

Unfortunately this has somewhat backfired against Wellocks.

Am I saying that Wellocks are a bad company? I'm sure they aren't. However, in my opinion, their response to my complaint shows a poor understanding of how to deal with complaints of a driving nature, and it concerns me that they don't take complaints seriously in general. Again, that may be wrong, but I and you can only go on the evidence before us.

No Wellocks. You should not be disappointed in me. I, and I am sure many others, are disappointed in you. Not your 250 employees who I am sure are upstanding citizens, and I wish them well, but with you and your management style, approach and your generally condescending letter.

You may understand your responsibilities under the law, but do you understand your responsibilities to the communities that you interact with on a daily basis, and your responsibilities for taking complaints from the public and the public themselves seriously?

What do you think?








Friday, 13 February 2015

The Way Ahead is Clear?

Sometimes the truly amazing can happen. Sometimes just when you think all is lost, victory can be snatched from the jaws of defeat. Sometimes politicians listen.....or do they?


If you've been paying attention recently you'll have noticed #glasgowinfraday. You might have noticed this tweet from me about a particular piece of 'cycle infrastructure'....

This particular 'cycle lane' has been full of this muck as long as I can remember. I'm pretty sure that I reported it in the past, but I gave up reporting it as nothing was ever done. And so yesterday I was not surprised to see that it was still in the same condition.



However, after I had dismounted my bike to avoid the one or two inches deep mud-bath I noticed a council worker driving a road cleaner, so I approached....



We had a chat about the bike lane. The worker agreed that it was in a terrible state. He had apparently spoken to his boss on a number of occasions about it (after quite a few different cyclists had approached him), and his boss suggested using the road sweeper vehicle to clean it. This chap then pointed out that it probably wouldn't do the job properly and that it would need men shovelling up the mud.

The boss would apparently shrug his shoulders at this, and nothing would get done.

Anyway at the end of the chat the driver said he give it a go with the machine to see what happened, so I left on my merry way, looking forward to seeing the results the next day.

So this morning, this is what I saw...



The vast majority of the mud was gone!

Great news!!.....Well, unfortunately not. Whilst the majority is gone, we are now left with a film of mud and oil (you can see the tyre tracks in it. I had to be very careful riding in it to avoid falling off. That'll be fun when it next rains....

So, 'road cleaners boss', the road cleaning chap was right. He tried to clean it, and whilst it has solved it in one way, it has left a very slippery surface behind. It needs properly cleaned.

Is there a moral to this story? I think there are two. Firstly, reporting it makes bu%%er all difference. I know this particular lane has been reported many times. In fact I saw a letter recently (a fellow campaigner) from someone at GCC that said this lane was cleared weekly and would be cleared again on the 31st January. It wasn't, and it is absolutely not cleared weekly!!! Reporting it to politicians doesn't make a difference either, at least sending them multiple tweets about it certainly doesn't as I have discovered.

It amazes me how responsive Edinburgh's politicians are to comments made on Twitter, and how completely unresponsive Frank is.

The second moral is, that....well....as I think readers may have worked out by now....that Glasgow City Council does not give a hoot about cycling, about cyclists, or about cycling infrastructure. We can all go to hell as far as they care.

I'm happy for someone to correct me on that, if you can.

So here we are.

Glasgow, languishes in the cesspit of backward looking cities, whilst our friendly rival, Edinburgh is now investing 8% of it's transport budget on active travel, is introducing 20mph zones across the city (click here to encourage Glasgow to go 20mph!), and is often well regarded in the way it maintains the cycle infrastructure it already has.

Whilst I don't live within the Glasgow boundary myself at the moment, I have lived in or around Glasgow all of my life. I am a west coaster and a Glaswegian and proud of it. However, if work opportunities should ever offer the option of moving east to Edinburgh or equally cycle friendly Fife, I will do so.

I am sick and tired of the utter sh!t that I put up with in Glasgow on a daily basis. I am sick of the total lack of 'give a toss' that politicians (not all, but we know who I'm talking about here) give about active travel and the way that Glasgow is fast becoming the transport back-water of Scotland.

Oh but wait, this rant of mine needs some balance, so here's a recent quote from Alistair Watson to finish off...


Improving the safety of all road users in Glasgow remains a top priority for the council.

Pass the sick bowl.