Tuesday, 21 April 2015

The Law is an Ass.

Today I went to court.

Well, I say I went to court, I actually didn't make it into court. I only made it as far as the witness room. There, I was waiting to go into court to testify against a driver who was charged with dangerous driving.

This is the incident for which the driver was charged.



As suggested in the video, I never got into the court room because the charge was dismissed. Let me explain what happened...

(Please note that what follows is either fact or my honest opinion. The driver is of course innocent until proven guilty....)


So I arrive at Dumbarton Sheriff court and find my way to the witness room. I am soon joined by another gentleman in a suit (yes I was wearing a suit!) and a police officer. Straight away I recognise the police officer as the one I reported the incident to and he is talking to the other gent in the suit. Very quickly I work out that the suited gent is in fact the driver of the oncoming car that had to brake in my video. We strike up conversation...

It turns out that the gent (let's call him Jim)...that Jim was not only a driver, but a cyclist to. Jim and I had a good long chat about cycling in general, about training, sportives, bad drivers etc. We obviously mentioned the incident itself, and I asked what his recollection of it was.

All I saw was a car coming quickly towards me in my lane!

Jim told me he was shocked by it and told people at work when he got there. Despite the police not catching up with him for a month or so (holidays), he remembered the incident and was able to give a statement.

We were both surprised that the case had got as far as court, as we agreed the driving (in our opinion's) had be terrible.

We also chatted to the police officer, who seemed a friendly chap. The officer pointed out that the driver might be defending himself as, and I didn't know this, driving charges don't qualify for legal aid. I wasn't sure I wanted to get cross-examined by the driver, but...it had to be done.

We later discovered via the court clerk that he was represented by a lawyer after all and that there was a legal 'issue' that was being discussed.

A while later, the clerk came in and informed us that the case was dismissed. He couldn't say why, though it was suggested it was a 'procedural issue' and I might be able to find out more tomorrow by phoning the Procurator Fiscal. I will of course do that.

That was that.

The driver walked away without charge.

I am not happy (to put it mildly).

Again, I stress this is my educated opinion.....but that driving was dangerous. End of. Pure and simple. I had to brake sharply. The oncoming driver had to brake sharply. Had either of us not reacted in time.....I dread to think what would have happened.

The driver in this video is free to continue driving, charge free.

This ladies and gentleman is....no, no...,....I'm not going to swear. He isn't worth it.


What I will say is this.... You cannot depend on the legal system protecting you. If the driver can hire a good lawyer, and if there is the slightest, tiniest gap in what the police or PF has done, they will get off. Don't believe me? Just read here.

I am not saying we shouldn't report these drivers to the police. Quite the opposite, I will continue to do so, and hopefully the police and PF will learn whatever lessons are needed to get the prosecutions. I have more cases to come over the next couple of months and I will of course keep you informed of my progress.

However, if we really want the roads safe for cycling, we cannot depend on the law to protect us. I also firmly believe that we cannot depend on education.

What can and will bring safe, mass cycling is investment in infrastructure. It is the only modification that has been demonstrated time and time again, in place after place, to make a difference. So we know the answer, and we know that we want more cycling and that we want it to be safe. How do we get there?



I cannot stress enough how much of a difference POP is already making and will continue to make, but we only have the clout that YOU give us. Let's turn out in our thousands and send a strong message that, enough is enough.

Let's make Scotland a cycle friendly nation!!


Monday, 20 April 2015

Just Do it!

Hello!

It's been a while. Sorry about that. Life has got in the way, (cars in need or repair, vacuum cleaners braking, boilers breaking, me getting flu...etc).

Anyway, enough of that. This blog has one simple message.

Go to Pedal on Parliament!!



Credit: Jon Davey Photography

Yes, I could write a huge long blog extolling the reasons why you should go, but I suspect you know them already. What you may not know is just how important it is that YOU go.

It's absolutely vital!!

Apathy is a huge issue with campaigns like this. Many of you will have been to POP before, and we are hugely grateful for that! It can though, be so easy to think.....well, I've been the last couple of years, so I'll probably take this year off.

Please don't!!

Your presence makes a difference. Each person there is one more person that the Transport minister will see calling for safer cycling (Yes he will be there!). He is a new minister and he has yet to set his priorities. So far the omens are good and he has said and done all we can expect of him up until now. But the big tests are to come, so now is the time to make your voice heard and your presence felt!

As well as coming along yourself, please try and bring someone else, someone who hasn't been before, along with you. Imagine if each person who came last year, brought one other person!! Remember you don't even need a bike! Come and walk with us!

There are so many terrible things going on in the world right now. Politics itself is often marred in negative stories and imagery. POP is however, a hugely positive movement. Come and join us and do something positive.

Help us help you, make Scotland a cycle friendly nation!!

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Dear John....

Recently I had the most shocking of replies from a company I have ever had.

You've not read it?! Oh....you can read it here.

Pretty shocking, isn't it?

Ok, so it was probably a one off. Attitudes similar to that are pretty rare. No-one else in a liveried vehicle would act like that surely?

Ummm......errr......

Watch this.





Oh, ok, so there are plenty of drivers who will try to push through where there is no space and there is no actual gain in pushing through. They haven't actually responded in a similar way........have they?! 

Well.....

On this particular occasion I e-mailed the 'gentleman' about the incident before I had had a chance to edit the video. I wanted to make sure that the incident was fresh in his memory when he read my questions. I must admit though, I actually thought this 'gentleman' wouldn't respond.

He did.

This was my e-mail to him:

Dear John,

I am sure you remember me from earlier on today. I was the cyclist who
spoke to you on Balshagray Avenue this morning at about 8:30am. I asked
you why you felt it necessary to drive so close to me. As we didn't have
time to finish our conversation I was wondering, could you please let me
know why you drove in that manner and why you felt it was necessary to
drive less than a car length from my back wheel? Why did you also feel
the need cut in very sharply after overtaking me?

I look forward to receiving your reply.

Best regards

David Brennan
To the point, but polite I think.

Later that evening I managed  to edit the video and put it online.

I received the following reply....:


Mr Brennan,

We seam clearly have different opinions on this said 'incident'. Why you suddenly jolted from the left side of the lane into the middle of the road as l was about to overtake is beyond my reckoning then give out gesticulations at rush hour? 1st rule of the road - keep left! You state that l cut back in sharply as I  did overtake but not to my knowledge. If l did get too close then l apologise as it was most certainly not  my intention to do so. Respect of the road and consideration to other users comes from both sides Mr Brennan not just for bikes.
I noticed that you have got your social media friends to do your dirty work for you on your say so  (two sides to every story ) but where l come from real men deal with these things themselves. 
I cosider the 'incident' and this conversation closed and the whole matter a misnomer.
I bid you a good day and safe travels in the future.

Regards

John Lamb
 Ok, let's break this down.

Why you suddenly jolted from the left side of the lane

Did anyone see me jolt? Anyone? Go and have a look at the video. Watch it as closely as possible. Watch particularly the rear footage which shows the tracking of my rear wheel and thus provides a good reference point for my position on the carriageway.

Do you see it?

Ah yes, I see it now. I do jolt, at approximately 2:19......Yes, I jolt towards the kerb, not out into the middle of the lane as John suggests. I did this because he started overtaking rather close and I felt the need to use my escape space....yes the space I create for myself by taking the road position I do.....to keep out of harms way.

I'm not sure why that jolt is beyond reckoning....

Gesticulations at rush hour.

I must admit I am a bit confused by this one. Is John suggesting that gesticulating at other times is acceptable, but not at rush hour? Is it that gesticulations, i.e. palm back towards the driver trying to dangerously overtake, is unacceptable? Should I keep my head down, keep quiet and let John drive through me?

Perhaps indicating isn't allowed either. That might make sense as John doesn't employ that technique here.


1st rule of the road - keep left!

Umm, errr......I'm assuming John means here that I should be keeping to the left of the lane. I've had good look at the highway code cyclists section and I cannot for the life of me find this rule 1 or in fact any rule that suggests that I should be cycling on the left, especially on a dual carriageway such as this. I can, though find a very interesting rule suggesting that drivers should give cyclists 'at least' as much room as a car when overtaking. Something like this....




Not sure how John would have been able to pass me with the car in the other lane, without crossing the lane separator and have left me as much room as in the picture above. Hmmm..

You state that l cut back in sharply as I  did overtake but not to my knowledge.

I think it's pretty obvious from the footage that John did indeed cut in rather sharp. It is my opinion, and it is only an opinion, that John did this to make a point. If however, this was not the case, then the driving was just crap. Very crap. Simple as. Yes there is an apology there, but as he does not accept that he did it, the apology is very hollow.


Respect of the road and consideration to other users comes from both sides Mr Brennan not just for bikes.

So John, exactly where did I not show you 'respect'. Was it when I dared to filter past about a mile of traffic and end up in front of you? Was it when I was 'gesticulating' for you to not run me off the road? Was it when I dared not to move out of your God given right to take up the road that I was occupying?

Exactly where did you show me respect? Not my bike, as you suggest, but me? Where does your 'respect' take into account that you have a large metal cage surrounding you and I don't? Where exactly?

I noticed that you have got your social media friends to do your dirty work for you on your say so (two sides to every story ) but where l come from real men deal with these things themselves. 

I can only assume that after I posted the video, some people contacted you. If they were abusive, I'm sorry to hear that. I do not condone that and I ask that if and when people contact drivers in my videos that they do so respectfully. However, I do not in any way take responsibilities for their actions. We are all responsible for our own actions, aren't we John?

In that regard, I will post this follow up e-mail that John wished me to share with you:

Additionally Mr Brennan,



I respectfully ask you to get your friends to retract comments made which l consider tantamount to slander based on no knowledge or facts.



Without predudice 



John Lamb 

As for suggesting I'm not a real man.....pfft. Enough said.

 
I cosider the 'incident' and this conversation closed and the whole matter a misnomer.
I bid you a good day and safe travels in the future.

I'm not entirely sure how an incident....sorry, 'incident' as John likes to label it, can be considered a misnomer.....oh wait, I get it, he considers that labeling this an incident is wrong. Hmm. Perhaps in your eyes John, but then, as mentioned above, you were surrounded by a big metal cage and I wasn't. You were in no danger whatsoever, and I was. Thus I have to say, it isn't your place to suggest this incident is closed. Far, FAR from it...

It will be closed when you agree you were too close. Would you drive that close to a family member of yours for instance? Would you be happy for your fellow passenger to be cycling on that road with people driving that close to them? Do you honestly think there was enough room to pass me safely within that lane? What would you have done had I not gesticulated? Would you have kept going?

If so, why not come out for a cycle with me John. Come commute with me to work. Let's see how you like 'incidents'. This is a real offer.

Is there a moral that we can learn from this story? I think there is. This is a driver who has been trained. He has passed a test. At some point he possibly even read the highway code, though he has a very poor recollection of it. He is licenced and insured. He pays tax. (Then again we all do....). He drives a van that advertises who he is and how to contact him. Yet, he still drives like this and has the arrogance to suggest that there was no incident and that I should be over on the left to let him pass me unsafely.

Education, licencing etc might work on some, but there will always be drivers who will take liberties with others safety because they feel aggrieved in some way. A road like this will never be safe for all.

We need to design the effects of bad driving and bad drivers out of our road. We need to make hard decisions and we need to invest in people friendly, not car/van/bus/HGV friendly infrastructure. That is why Pedal on Parliament needs your support, and needs it now.

Stop accepting that this is just the way it is. Stop accepting the lot we are given. Make your voice heard. Come to POP on the 25th April 2015 in Edinburgh.

Will I see you there John?


Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Head, Meet Table. Table, Meet Head....

I've had my fair share of moments. Oh yes, I have. Today I had one of those moments. It was one of those moments that is absolutely priceless and completely catches you off guard. I was almost.....almost speechless (which is saying something for me!). Anyway, let me explain...


As a cycle campaigner I occasionally take the odd day off on holiday to go to a meeting that interests me. Today was one of those days. The Glasgow Centre for Population Health (well worth a look) was holding a day discussing active travel, something close to my heart. I really like the work that comes out of the GCPH, so I decided to pop along.

It also turned out that the Minister for Public Health (Maureen Watt) was going to be there too.

No. The 'moment' was not anything to do with the minister. In fact her speech was exactly as you would expect, telling us how great things are (hmm) but at the same time accepting (just a little bit) that more needs to be done.

The 'moment' came before that.

I entered the venue, collected my badge, distributed POP leaflets and said a couple of hellos. I then looked for a place to sit down. Hmm, I'll sit near the front.....much easier to ask awkward questions from there.... So I spot a table, notice someone is already sitting there that I don't know, and make my way over to take a seat.

Hello

We both say our hellos and I quickly introduce myself as a POP campaigner. The gent hadn't heard of POP before (what!?!?), so I give a quick 30 second, this is who we are, this is what we stand for and this is what we do, as I hand him a leaflet.

The gentleman in question introduced himself as working for Glasgow City Council, for the roads department.

Anyway I explain that we are looking for investment in proper infrastructure, which given the nature of the meeting shouldn't have been too surprising. Then......then....ummm, then he said....


That's all very good, but when are cyclists going to start paying their way....

Umm, errr, paaardon?!

Yes, he confirmed exactly what I had thought he'd said. The suggestion being that we don't contribute, so why should we get investment....

So I quickly point out that we do contribute, at which point the gentleman clarifies the point...

But you don't pay road tax.

Damn. I'd left my Bingo card at home.

Once I'd had a quick look around to be sure there were no cameras filming me for some sort of practical joke show, I tried to explain that no-one pays road tax, instead he and I pay VED. I pointed out that road damage follows a 'power to 4' weight to damage law....that is, bikes do hardly any damage to the roads, cars do quite a lot. I pointed out that on average (as things stand) cyclists tend to earn more than non-cyclists (and so pay on average more tax), and that many cyclists own cars anyway and thus we are more than paying our way.....

He didn't buy it.

Fortunately at this point the gentleman decided that it was time to get a coffee. I was relieved as I wasn't sure I could take any more.

Wow. He works in roads......

So the meeting progressed and later we reached a 'roundtable' session, and yes, we were still at the same table. It all went relatively smoothly for the first couple of questions until we started talking about infrastructure, and the discussion went to ASLs. I and another person at the table pointed out that, we weren't in favour of them (see my reasoning here). The gentleman then came out with another cracker...

It's really frustrating that you cyclists don't appreciate the cycle infrastructure we give you. Each time we give you something you keep telling us you didn't ask for it. 

Umm, yeah, that's because you THINK you know what we want, you don't actually ask us what we want, you don't listen to us when we tell you what we want, and you go a build utter sh1t and then you're surprised when we don't want it!!

ARRRRGGHHH!!

Somehow I didn't scream.

Remember, he works in roads at Glasgow City Council.

We also heard about how people couldn't cycle short distances without getting sweaty as he used to work next to a smelly cyclist.

You really couldn't make it up.

Sigh.

Perhaps I should have offered to take him on a ride some time, it did cross my mind, but to be honest, I don't think he would have come, and I could tell that we were so far out of sync, we might have ended up having a wee 'set too'. We parted ways at the end with a hand shake.

Who was he? Actually, it really doesn't matter. I suspect that he is one of many within the council who think this way, and my experience suggests that this approach goes all the way up to some of the councillors. Glasgow has a long, long, loooooong way to go unfortunately to catchup with the 21st century.

I must admit though, I did do a wee Google search of the gentleman when I got home. Low and behold, the first item in the Google search brought up one of his social media accounts. His latest entry confirmed that he had signed the petition to reinstate Jeremy Clarkson to his BBC job.

Nuff said.

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.