Monday, 19 March 2012

Roundabouts and incidents

Anyone who follows me will remember my 20cm from Death incident. If you haven't come across this before, have a read here. As described in the blog, after a little convincing, the driver was charged with Dangerous Driving and it was sent to the Procurator Fiscal (equivalent to the English CPS). It was dropped on a technicality.

What I do know, is that the driver admitted to the police that he did not see me. He pulled out completely oblivious to my presence on the roundabout. It was right to charge him and a shame that it failed to get any further.

Fast forward to the 25th of November 2011. This is what happens at the very same roundabout.

Watch this video and then compare it to the '20cm incident'.

The similarities are striking. There are a few notable differences. The conditions in the new video were wet, when it was dry and cold in the first. It was darker in the new video, when it was bright in the original (I had bright lights on in both incidents), and the original one looked closer. However, that is only because the first was a longer articulated lorry that got closer after I stopped. One further noticeable difference is that in the original video the HGV continued without stopping or slowing whilst the HGV in the latest video slowed and (not seen on video) held his hand up in apology.

In all other respects the videos are very, very similar. My road position was almost identical, and my speed was very similar (17mph on entering the roundabout according to my camera's GPS).

Shocked by the incident I took the footage to the police. This is where the there are big differences.

Two police officers initially came to my house following my report. I showed them the footage and described the detail surrounding the incident. They were sympathetic, but to my utter surprise one of the officers stated:

'Unfortunately there isn't a lot we can do, as there hasn't been a collision....'

My hackles raised at this remark. However, I remained calm and pointed out that my previous incident, which thankfully did not involve collision, resulted in the driver being charged with Dangerous Driving. Grudgingly, the officers said they would take the footage and show it to a traffic officer for advice.

A month passed without any contact. So I started chasing it up. A day or so later one of the officers left a message on my phone. Here are the relevant statements

Sorry for not getting back to you, I've been off for a while, and no-one dealt with it whilst I was away...

Having reviewed the footage with my sergeant and with a traffic officer , the driver of the truck was actually not driving dangerously. Due to the position of my bike on the road it was concluded that he may have thought you were continuing right the way around the roundabout.

That wasn't what I was expecting. I wasn't expecting it for a number of reasons. Firstly, my position on the road was almost exactly the same as it was in my first incident (note that they were filmed with different cameras with different fields of view). Secondly, my speed at approach and during my time on the roundabout is far too fast to continue around the roundabout. It is quite a sharp roundabout that dips down in the middle and up as I exit. I would come off continuing around at that speed. Also, this is exactly the route taken by motor vehicles negotiating this roundabout.I've tried cycling on the left and it brings me into conflict with cars that are taking the normal line.

Finally, even if I had been continuing around the roundabout, at our relative speeds he would have been right upon me or to my left as he came around the roundabout. This in itself would be very dangerous. I could have been flattened by his cab. I can create a separate blog that looks in detail at my road position if people are interested.

So I decided to phone the officer back to get some more detail. I was also interested to know what the driver had to say about the incident.

On the evening of the 9th of January, I managed to get a hold of the officer. I asked her a few questions for clarification.

Magnatom: First can I clarify, is the driver to be charged at all? With Careless Driving for example?

Officer: No.

Magnatom: What did the driver say when you talked to him?

Officer: We haven't contacted the driver. It is very difficult to identify drivers of HGV's in this situation. I have had problems with this in the past....there is a lot of paperwork involved.

Magnatom: So you have based your decision on the video footage alone?

Officer: Correct.

Magnatom:  So we will never know if the diver thought I was going all the way around the roundabout or if he didn't look properly. I also dispute the fact that my position was at issue here. This is the route that a normal car would take...

Officer: You shouldn't take the same route as a car. Bikes are different. You should take cycle on the left around a roundabout.

Magnatom: Pardon?

Officer: We were taught in our cycle training that on a bike you take the left lane unless you are turning right.

Magnatom: This is a 5 exit roundabout, and I was taking the third exit. Do you agree that by taking a position further on the left of the lane (there is only one lane it should be noted) that I would plave myself in more danger if the tanker driver hadn't seen me? For example, I would have less time to react if he does pull out.

Officer: Yes.

I was very surprised by this phone call. Surprised that it was being taken no further, certainly. Surprised about the comments about my road position being contributory, yes, although I can to some extent understand why looking at the video in isolation that could be implied.  What surprised me the most though was that they came to the decision about the motives of the driver purely from my video. They never bothered to ask him why he did what he did. Too much hassle it would appear.

It seemed like I was at a dead end. Nothing was going to come of this. Before the end of  the phone call I asked if the traffic officer who looked at the footage could call me back. I was interested to find out how they came to the decision.

I didn't get a phone call back from the traffic officer. Instead a few days later the PC I had already been on the phone to called me back. They were now going to prosecute for Careless Driving. So why the change in heart? The PC explained that she talked to the traffic officer who she thought had looked at it (turned out she got the wrong one). When this officer looked at it, they had a completely different view of the incident, and thus suggested that the case should proceed. I was very surprised, but happy with this turn of events.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago. I decided to call the Procurator Fiscal (this is who decides what course of action to take with cases in Scotland). I wanted to find out what was happening to the case.

The driver was given a warning letter from the PF.

What?! That's it? An HGV virtually runs over the top of me, a very clear case of Careless driving (some would suggest Dangerous Driving), that, had I not been on the ball  could have become Death By Careless Driving, and they think a warning letter is sufficient!?!

I need to get to the bottom of this. To do so, I need to write to the PF office to find out how they arrived at that decision. They don't make it easy for victims of crime to find out what has happened when they report a crime. I'll blog about it when I find out more.

What this incident and my other dealings with the police highlight, is that dangerous/careless driving is not taken seriously. How can we expect the standard of driving to improve on our roads if drivers (remember I am one as well) know that they can 'literally' get away with  it.

For me, this highlights exactly why point 5 of the Pedal on Parliament manifesto is crucial. Please, read the manifesto and if you agree with it, sign the petition and come along to Edinburgh on the 28th April.

Yes, our roads are generally safe for cycling. However, they could be a lot safer. They won't be though, with police and fiscal attitudes such as those I have encountered.


  1. I hate this, my local police station have said the same thing.
    "No collision, no offense"

    Absolutely crazy and completed wrong.

  2. Expect some better news from the Bristol Traffic team on the topic of roundabout enforcement in the next fortnight.

    Key point: the police can enforce the laws if they want to. Your experience shows that they don't want to.

  3. You where on the roundabout so you have right of way, irrespective of your road positioning (which I believe was correct).

  4. I have had similar run-ins with a local bus company. The company have not responded to my emails so I got in touch with the company that hire them to transport their employees. I was asked if I had passed it on to the police and I said no. The reason I have not is because I doubt anything will come of it.

  5. Agree with above comment, you have right of way if you have entered roundabout, that's whole point of roundabouts! Both incidents are shocking: stay safe