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 (

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 (

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.


Jo Wellock

They are disappointed in me.


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, 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.

Tuesday 10 February 2015

The Battle for Middle Glasgow

Reality is often stranger than fiction.

Occasionally that is true, but, if I'm honest, I've seen some pretty wacky fiction that it would be hard to beat in reality.

Once in a while though something comes along that really rocks the boat. It's something so unreal that you really find it hard to believe that it isn't something that has been plucked out of some far fetched political satire type novel. 

The question is, is the following fact.....or fiction.......

Let's set the scene...

It is Glasgow circa 2015. The council (lets call the main party the Red Party) is run very dominantly by the Red Party. They have been in power in Glasgow for just about as long as people can remember. They have been voted in mainly because there wasn't a viable alternative, because of their strong connections to the trade unions, and an image that they cared for the people.

They may once have been a caring party, but power and the certainty of power over many, many years has corrupted their minds. They no longer care for the people of Glasgow, instead they care about their own standing within the council and how they can gain more power and more prestige. The people now are a hindrance.....and at best a payer of taxes....though certainly not enough.

Then comes along David. (No not me, I'm using David and Goliath imagery here!). In fact quite a lot of Davids. These Davids are cyclists. They cycle not because the city is wonderful for cycling, far from it. They cycle despite the terrible hostile conditions. However, the Davids, are sick and tired of cycling in such a horrible environment and they are actually quite keen not to be an outside minority any more. They want everyone to feel safe to cycle.

A bit more scene setting now...

Glasgow is a sick city. Yes it has pockets of wealth and health, but many areas within Glasgow have very low life expectancies and suffer from deprivation. There are a lot of historical reasons for this, but rather than look to the past, many feel it is time for the city to move forward, to regenerate and to prosper. The Red Party (OK, let's call them Goliath) think the way forward are big projects. They set up a Games for the people to encourage them to watch sports and perhaps take part in them. They build new sports centres and venues and they build really big roads to help get people to these venues. The focus is on BIG. Goliath in fact. Oh and the focus is also cars.

The Davids have different ideas. They think that cities shouldn't just be for cars, or big roads, they think it should be designed for people. They understand that in Glasgow about 50% of the people don't have access to cars and thus don't benefit from the BIG Goliath projects. So they start campaigning. They start asking for change. They go to demonstrations in the east of the country which in time might help, but they know they need change now and they need the local Goliaths to change. So they decide to visit the Goliaths and ask them, quite nicely, to invest in cycling and to set aside some budget for active travel.

NOOOOOOO! Bellows Goliath. We can never invest in cycling!!! More cars, more big roads! More congestion!!! We don't care what they are doing the east! This is the west and we know best!!

The Davids retreated with their tails between their legs. What to do? How can the Davids ever possibly beat the Goliaths.

Then, out of the blue, they spot a weakness. The Goliaths felt the need to pander to the masses. They thought they'd give them an illusion of democracy. They set up a petition site.

A petition site!?!

Yes, for the first time ever, Glaswegians could (online) directly petition their councillors (sorry, Goliaths....I keep dropping out of character) to do things differently. Yes, ok the Goliaths might laugh at the petitions, but it was a tiny chink in the armour of an otherwise unpenetrable mass. It was time to act.

Without further ado, and seeing the huge success in the east with their 80% of roads at 20mph thingy, a weary band of Davids set out to use the petition site to ask for default 20mph. If the east could do it, why not the west? So they filled the online form out, and waited......

It was a long wait but eventually the day arrived and an e-mail was received and opened.


The Goliaths had realised the threat from the Davids and decided to take the only action left to them..... refuse the petition!! It was a cruel blow. The Goliaths used the weapon of deceit. 'We canny do it, only them ministers at Holyrood can do it!'.

Lies, damn lies! The Goliaths parry was blocked when Transport Scotland corrected them. Damn. The Goliaths could no longer use deceit. They no longer had any lies to hide behind, or so the Davids thought....

The Goliaths brought out the ultimate weapon.....the biggest lie of all and it was delivered by their ultimate warrior, Alistair Watson....

The ultimate warrior with the ultimate weapon.

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

Cue wailing and gnashing of teeth and dramatic disaster music....

It was a disaster. Glasgow City Council ...umm I mean the Goliaths.... fell back on the weapon they knew the best. Tell everyone that actually, we are doing a damn fine job and we won't hear any of your negative nonsense.

Our heroes were in despair. The battle was surely lost now. How could you fight against such denial? What weapon on this earth (yes this is really set on this planet) could defeat such intransigence? All hope was lost......

But David, who's name was actually Bob, had an idea. Perhaps there was one more option, one last gasp option that could perhaps, at the very least, provide a stay of execution. It was dirty, it was messy, and it came with great risk, but, when all hope was was worth trying. He went to the press!!

Lo and behold the internet lit up with cries of 'the end of democracy is nigh' and 'Goliath canny do that can eh?'. Bob's last ditch attempt to save the day appeared to have some legs.....Perhaps.....just perhaps......

And then it happened. The Goliaths quietly and quickly retreated. There was no shouting, screaming or trumpets, they just melted away back to the froth pit from whence (I love using words like that in a blog) they came. Goliaths whilst not very bright understand that the ideal of democracy, even if the ideal is never acrtually realised in reality, is the most powerful weapon of all. They had to give the Davids and the people who weren't fortunate enough to be called David, back their little petition so that they didn't all fall from grace in the next election. They decided retreat was their best option.

The Davids had got their petition back and saved the day! The battle was won and Ewoks were seen dancing on Endor.....

Everyone from Glasgow started signing the petition....go on, it's here!!

But wait....just before the credits started rolling.....the music changed from joyous to dark.....and the colours faded into the background......

Whilst the battle had been won, the war (there is no war on Britain's roads before you ask) was not yet over. For the Goliaths had only retreated back to their ivory towers. They were just regrouping. They knew that whilst the petition will get the required numbers and that they would probably have to allow the petitioners to go before the petition committee.......they knew that they still had their most powerful weapon, and the still had Alistair Watson...I mean Goliath, to deliver it.....

"Improving the safety of all road users in Glasgow remains a top priority for the council.
While not every road in the city is suitable for a 20mph limit, we continue to explore innovative methods to reduce speed within our communities.
We have already introduced 20mph zones in residential streets right across the city and will continue to do so where appropriate."
The story continues.......

Monday 9 February 2015

Glasgow Cycle Infrastructure Day: The Truth.

Last week, at very short notice I suggested that we have a Glasgow Cycle Infrastructure Day on Twitter and Facebook.

A what?

Yes a cycle infrastructure day.

In effect, it was a day for a number of different cyclists to take photos and videos of the cycle infrastructure that they came across, good or bad. A snapshot of cycling infrastructure in Glasgow, the award winning cycling city......

Umm, errr....award winning??

If you read this blog at all, you will know I'm not normally short of words, but for once I'm going to say very little. The images and videos (they are at the end of the list) say it all.

I'll be sending this list to Frank at the council shortly. He never replied to any of the tweets. Feel free to write to Frank yourself if you've been moved by what you see, or keep this page bookmarked for the next time a politician says how great Glasgow is for cycling.

Oh and if you like infrastructure bingo, Bike Gob has it covered

Tuesday 3 February 2015

Day In The Life: Glasgow Cycle Lanes

I've not been alone complaining about the state of Glasgow's cycle lanes recently. There are the standard complaints of poor design, poor implementation and poor connection, however, recently we have added, poor maintenance. It would appear that our cycle lanes are at the bottom of the rung when it comes to keeping them clear.

One lane I fell off on, due to wet, mushy leaves has not been touched, despite my fall and despite me reporting it to the council and Frank almost a month ago!

So the time for action has arrived.

A cycle friendly city?

Do you cycle in Glasgow? Will you be cycling on Thursday? Do you have a camera, a mobile phone with a camera or a helmet camera?

Yes, it's short notice, but if you happen to be out on your bike (or just passing by on foot), why not take a picture or a video of a Glasgow cycle lane. Let us know why you want this lane recorded for #glasgowcycleinfraday. It may be because it is full of debris, or full of cars. It may be because it leads no-where, or starts and stops in the middle of no-where. It may be because it hasn't been cleared of ice, or that it has a road sign or a bus shelter plonked in the middle of it. It might even be...shock horror...that this particular lane is a rare example of a good one!

Let's make make Thursday 5th February a day where take a snapshot of the cycle infrastructure of Glasgow. Let's give them a 'lasting legacy', a day in the life of Glasgow cycle lanes.

We can then ask them.....

Are these the lanes of an award winning cycling city? Would you let you kids cycle there? Why won't you set aside some of your transport budget for active travel, when Edinburgh seems capable of doing it?

How do we collate the videos and photos?

If you are on Twitter you could use the hashtag #glasgowcycleinfraday when you post an example. Or you could contact me via my contact page, either with a link to your photo or video, or I could give you an e-mail address to send it on to. Or, you could post it in the comments section below this blog.

Once we have some videos and pictures collected I'd pass them on to the council for a response. Sure, it will probably be the same, 'we are doing really well' gibberish, but we'd once again be reminding the politicians that we are a noisy bunch, who won't go away until things improve.....drastically.

Get yer bike oiled, your camera memory card cleared and your route planned. Let's make this a bumper #glasgowcycleinfraday!