Tuesday 25 August 2015

I Am An Irresponsible Parent.

I'm not going to make any detailed comment on this, I'll let you guys do that for the time being. This is the response to the letter I sent yesterday to Bridon Contracts. You can read the letter I sent here, or find it at the bottom of the response.

My only comment on is to state, I did at no time hit, tap or come anywhere near anyone's window. That is a complete fabrication. I also didn't weave and any arm movements are explained in my original letter.

So, here it is.

Dear Mr Brennan

Thank you for your e-mail, however my operatives had informed us of the situation on Sat, I can appreciate that you were just making sure your children were being kept safe as far as your thoughts were on the road by the actions you yourself had taken by banging car windows and manoeuvring out and waiving your arms around which I am sure was also making your children nervous.

The industry we are in we have to carry out risk assessments every time we undertake any activity and I am sure if you were to have stood back and asked yourself what are the risks if I take my children on very busy road when as in your words they have not ascertained the main road confidence albeit you are experienced but to take young children on this type of road when you know that they could not keep up with normal traffic speed or become very nervous.

Although you say your children wanted to go this way home my comment to you as not only a parent but myself also being a grandparent I would have explained to them how dangerous this could be for them and agreed to provide extra training and waiting until they were older.

Please be assured I have spoken with the operatives and there is always two sides to every story and I have taken the view that both parties were at fault with regards to the situation that had occurred.

The purpose of being competent to use the road and like all equipment is to be trained prior to usage whether it be a bicycle, tools or a vehicle on the road. Have your children passed their cycling efficiency test or been trained to use the road in a safe manner.

What I would suggest is all parties think about their actions that day and as I say every time you point the finger at someone you always point 3 back at yourself!

My operatives are not please that you had taken photos of them as I am sure you would not be happy if they walked up to your children and had taken photos of them without your permission! It is ileagal.

Best Regards
Brian Whittingham

My original email:

Dear Brian,

Apologies for the long e-mail, but please bear with me.

I am a father, and as fathers sometimes do, I like taking my children on bike rides. I am fortunate in that my two oldest, D 10 and M 8, are very keen on cycling. On Saturday morning the weather was clement and thus I decided to take my two boys on a bike ride along the canal close to where I live. We live in Torrance.

Unfortunately the canal is not right next to our house. In fact we need to cycle a relatively short distance to get to it. There are two routes that we can take, one that requires us to on the path and then via some dirt cycle path, or via the road. On the way out we went the path way and had no problems in doing so.

After a while out on the bikes my two boys decided they wanted to return home, but they suggested to me that they wanted to come back the other way. They wanted to do this for two reasons, firstly because there is a relatively fast hill to come down, they enjoy the feeling of speed on their bikes, but secondly because they are keen to learn how to ride on the roads, just like their dad. You see, I am a cyclist who commutes by bike daily to my work at the Southern General Hospital, which is a round trip of about 24 miles a day, a commute I have been doing for a number of years. I have quite a considerable amount of experience cycling on the roads.

I am of course, not a fool. The roads are a difficult environment for a cyclist to be, especially the roads around Torrance. I have suffered my fair share of bad driving when out cycling. However, I also know how to keep my kids safe. I know the techniques for riding in a small group such as this and I know that my children are capable of it. Thus I agreed with M  and D that we would ride the alternative route of which 0.9 miles was on the road.

The first 0.5 miles on Torrance Road were uneventful. The road was relatively quiet and for a large part downhill, and when cars did come from behind us they passed with great care and gave us plenty of room. It was only after we joined Balmore Road for the last 0.4 miles that we noticed an issue.

D and M were ahead of me, I was behind and taking a strong position in the lane. This discourages close passes, especially on my children. We were cycling at the speed of my youngest which was probably about 10mph along this road. Yes it was quite slow, but it would not take us long to get to the turn onto Tower Road and to get out of the way of the following cars. A few vehicles did appear behind us, and unfortunately at first as the road was busy coming the other way, it was not safe to pass. A short distance further and I heard the first toot of a horn. I say toot, but it was angrier than that. It wasn't from the driver behind us, who was being patient, but appeared to come from the driver behind. This was an early indication to me that trouble was brewing.

Cycling with my children in this way means I need to keep communicating with them. "a bit further right M", "move a bit closer to your brother D", etc. So knowing that there could be an issue shortly I checked they were in the correct road positions. At this point my youngest, who was at the front said, "should I indicate yet". I suggested that it was too early. Then an opportunity arose for the first car behind to overtake. They did so without a problem. Then the second car, which turned out to be a grey van overtook. Their passenger window was down.

I have no idea exactly what was shouted by the two occupants of the vehicle, but I can assure you it was abusive, threatening and horrible for my kids to hear and be subjected to. I was understandably furious. Perhaps I shouldn't of done, but I waved for the driver to pull over. I did this mainly because I wanted to get a good look at their faces, so if I had managed to get enough details I could take this horrible incident to the police. They drove on.

The next two cars again passed without incident. At this point we were getting closer to the junction and my son had asked if he could signal yet. As he asked another car overtook and again we had horrible abuse shouted at us, for what I can only assume was the short hold up. At this point, feeling very flustered and concerned for the state of mind of my children and their safety I said "yes indicate", and he, I and D all did so. This was of course earlier than I would indicate if I was riding myself. However, I had two flustered children and an understandably flustered 'me', to get safely to the right hand turn and off the road that had very quickly turned hostile.

That is when your employee decided it was a good time to overtake, when myself and my two kids were indicating we were about to turn right. Your employee gave me a 'dagger' look as he drove past. My dismay at this maneuver was compounded by the fact that the driver them proceeded to turn right up the very road that we were about to turn right up. He saved himself a whopping four or five seconds at my reckoning.

If you can understand everything that I have written above, I hope you will understand that I was angry with your driver, who stopped just along the road from my own house. As I passed I indicated (and I at no time swore, which amazed me) that that was a terrible maneuver which had put me and my children especially in danger. His answer was that it was me that was dangerous and me that was putting my children in danger.

I took my kids back to the house and returned to speak to the driver. My intent was only to get his name. He refused to provide me with his name. He and I went on to discuss the incident. The driver agreed that he had overtook after I had signaled but suggested that he had done so as I "had been waving my arms around" and riding dangerously. Yes, I had perhaps been waving my arms around, but that was at the drivers who were abusing my children and also in an attempt to try and control my children. I was pointing to where they should ride at a stressful time.

What the driver repeated a number of times was that he thought I was dangerous. We eventually got to the bottom of that when he clarified that it was 'dangerous of me to take kids on the road' and that 'he would never do that'. Effectively he was suggesting I was a bad parent. At this point, I asked for his name once more. I was refused and so I took his picture (attached).

So am I a bad parent? Does the fact that your driver thinking that I am a bad parent excuse his overtake? If I was indeed waving my arms around and cycling dangerously, is that a good time to overtake? Should you perhaps wait behind?

We live in a world that values the motor vehicle above all else, and I say that as someone who owns and drives one. Delay of any kind is unacceptable. Drivers, not all of course, but a significant proportion, will endanger you or abuse you if they feel that their delay has justified it. On this occasion two drivers felt that a short delay justified abuse towards me and my children and one driver, your employee, couldn't be bothered waiting a few seconds to allow a father and his two boys to safely get out of that abusive situation.

Might I ask that you pass this message on to the driver and let me know what his response to it is. It may also be worth pointing out that I am one of the organisers of a campaign called Pedal on Parliament. This is a campaign that is pushing for the government to invest in proper cycle infrastructure to make the roads safe for all. This would include where appropriate segregated cycle infrastructure that would keep the majority of those 'pesky cyclists' out of the obviously much more important car drivers ways. I suspect though that this particular road would not suit such segregated infrastructure and despite my best efforts it might still be the case that me and my children might hold up your driver for a few seconds.

Perhaps next time he would chose to wait a few seconds instead. is that a lot to ask?

Best regards

David Brennan


  1. This appears to be written by a Nigerian email scammer.

  2. Sorry Dave, I'm not surprised. I've had a driver nearly "door" the kids, then shout at me for endangering them by letting them cycle on the roads.

    Whilst objectively the roads are safe to cycle on, as we know, subjectively they don't feel safe to the majority of people - until that changes the majority will not cycle for transport, and will consider it irresponsible to let children cycle for transport.

    Unless you stop cycling with them, I'm afraid it won't be the last time you and your kids experience such unreasonable aggression (from the drivers ahead of the van), such dangerous impatience, or such unsolicited advice.


  3. Even if I was zigzagging down a busy main road on a pogo stick while juggling with fire, it doesn't absolve drivers of their responsibility to patiently wait behind. End of.

  4. This is absolutely DRIPPING with ignorance. I was left open mouthed by your White van collision video this evening but I am utterly agape at the halfwittery of this reply.
    The roads are perfectly safe. No one gets killed or seriously injured by the road. It's the fuckwit drivers that are dangerous, and it's always the fuckwit drivers that moan at you for putting yourself and kids in a position where their ignorant behaviour can put you in danger. I was just about to go to bed but I'm angry now. Thanks!

  5. Staggering response - has this business any idea of corporate social responsibility? A small part of me hopes that they fold.

  6. Yep. If you look at the company website it's definitely a family affair and it's a fair bet that you emailed Brian Whittingham to complain about his (grand)son Brian James Whittingham. I'm thinking about apples, and trees, and how one seldom falls far from the other. Clearly this is a family who firmly believe that cyclists don't belong on the roads and no amount of rational discourse will abuse them of that.

  7. You would think that Mr Whittingham snr would learn to spell (or, at least, learn to use a spellchecker). Any email he sends out is representing his business, after all. I also believe he is in error regarding whether someone can take photographs of someone else in a public space...

  8. You are a self righteous trouble making tosser. Lets hope your children don't grow up like their father. Having watched your youtube videos, you have a down right cheek complaining about abusive language. I can't wait for the day that someone with a shorter fuse than you kicks your head in.

  9. I haven't watched your videos, but thought your letter was perfectly rational & reasonable. What a shame the company is run & owned by ignorant, selfish people.

    I don't really have anything else to add. Just didn't want the brave Anonymous (sarcasm!) to have the last word.

    1. Thanks Kath. What anonymous doesn't know is that my site has an IP tracker and that I can see he posted it from his/her work. I may just send a wee email.... :-)

  10. Sadly this attitude is not restricted to the archetypal white-van-driver :
    it has also appeared from learned counsel for the defence in (English) court.

    A driver, Dr Helen Measures, overtaking a couple of cyclists hit one of two cyclists coming the other way.
    Defence summed-up "Ben said it was a stupid decision to overtake. It was nowhere near as stupid as Ben’s decision to put Denisa on that bike in the first place.
    He ought not to have been so reckless with the life of his young girlfriend and he failed with terrible consequences."
    Verdict: Not Guilty.
    It seems the roads are a lawless place, where we venture entirely at our own risk, and those that are equipped to cause the most damage have their own way with impunity.
    Take care !

  11. I suspect is was trying to tactfully say it was three of one and half a dozen of the other; sadly he failed in that attempt.