We have been following with interest the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee review into road traffic crime. We fully support the joint submission from CTC, London Cycling Campaign, RoadPeace, Sustrans, 20s Plenty for Us and Living Streets. The issues and recommendations apply just as much in Bristol as in London. Illegal and anti-social behaviour involving vehicles should be treated as other types of illegal and anti-social behaviour. This is not the case at present. Treat road crime as crime and include in crime statistics. Adopt a harm reduction approach with the focus on reducing danger posed to vulnerable road users…
Our Road Justice group has been working with the police on the issue of car doors and cycling incidents. Up to 20% of road traffic incidents resulting in injury to cyclists are the result of motorists carelessly opening vehicle doors.
We had a question from an officer working for Bristol Council saying that there had been only one incident in the past five years at three of the most notorious locations: opposite the BRI on Maudlin St (pictured), Midland Rd and the recent one on Bath Rd. There was a collision in September 2014 on Upper Maudlin Street opposite the BRI due to a passenger exiting a queuing vehicle, not a parked one.
This raises the question of how the painted cycle lanes that form the bulk of what passes for ‘cycle facilities’ in Bristol are being used.
Could it be that Bristol cyclists already understand the contrary and subtle meaning of these lanes? They are not in fact ‘cycle lanes’, but prompts to motorist to be aware of cycles.
The message to those riding bikes is of course ‘Don’t Cycle Here’
Our more reasoned response to the Council is as follows:
Rachel Aldred attended the Bristol Bike Forum on Thursday 21st Jan 2016 to give an update on The Near Miss Project. She was last here in November 2015 briefing officers of Bristol Council and we were invited along. Some of her key messages were: Near misses matter Near misses may predict at least some types of collision risk Growing evidence that near misses strongly affect cycling experience Clarify relationships between ‘perceived’, ‘experienced’, and ‘objective’ risk Near misses are very common Comparing injury and non-injury incident rates Type of Incident Rate per year, regular UK commuting cyclist Death…
Every week in Bristol someone is either killed or seriously injured in road traffic incidents. If this happened on a building site it would be closed down. If one or two people were killed or injured at an amusement park there would be a HSE inquiry. On our roads these figures, and the pain and loss they represent, are accepted as the result of inevitable “accidents” rather than the predictable and avoidable incidents which they are.
Why do we tolerate this?
How can it be that 9 out of 10 cases will not be prosecuted, even when the police say the driver is at fault?
Our Road Justice group has recently provided evidence to the parliamentary Transport Committee enquiry on road traffic law enforcement.
This is following the Committee’s launch of the enquiry scrutinising the government’s policies to improve road safety. One of its items of reference “The impact of road traffic law enforcement on the safety of cyclists and pedestrians” is of obvious concern to us.
Despite very short notice, the Bristol Road Justice Group has made a submission to the Committee which can be viewed below. Our evidence drew on the work we have done highlighting the lack of enforcement in relation to incidents on the Gloucester Road and in relation to injuries caused by vehicle doorings (please see our Gloucester Road and Dooring articles).
There are two main sources of information on road traffic incidents causing injury and involving cyclists; both have their strong and weak points. Police incident records, known as STATS19 reports, give a specific location for the incident and a brief, sometimes too brief, narrative on what happened. In many cases, from reading these reports, it is possible to work out who was at fault in an incident. We however know that there is a degree of underreporting and the police themselves have some concerns as to the accuracy of reports. They are used by the Council’s Highway and Transport Management department to plot the location of incidents on their mapping website, analyse trends and rank contributory factors. The Council’s Directorate of Public Health also produce figures for emergency admissions of Bristolians to hospital due to transport related “accidents” (their use of the term). Whilst these figures only cover Bristol residents and cover their travelling anywhere in the country, the findings are considered to be representative of incidents occurring in Bristol. Whilst thought to be more comprehensive than the police’s reports, incidents are not identifiable by street location and, while the STATS19 records identify the types of road user, they don’t identify the factors causing the road traffic injuries. So what do emergency admission stats tell us about cyclists and road traffic incidents in Bristol?
In some areas of Bristol up to 20% of road traffic incidents resulting in injury to cyclists are the result of motorists carelessly opening vehicle doors. In the last five years for which figures are available, 128 cyclists were injured in this way, 17 of them seriously (defined as requiring a stay in hospital) , and due to underreporting these figures are likely to underestimate the extent of the problem . Injuries from this type of incident are caused not only by impact with the vehicle but also, and often in the more serious and potentially fatal cases, when the cyclist is knocked into the carriageway and the path of following vehicles (see the case of Sam Harding in the compelling An Open Letter to the British Judicial System).
Safe cycling organisations recommend cycling “a door and a bit more” away from parked cars but there are situations where this is difficult or cyclists feel intimidated, say by fast moving traffic, into keeping closer to the side of the road. Cycle facilities are sometimes installed which encourage cyclists to cycle into the door zone and danger.
Also, a number of the incidents were caused by car passengers opening nearside doors to jump out of cars which had temporarily stopped in traffic. Whether carried out by a driver or a passenger, it is an offence under section 42 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 to open “any door of a vehicle on a road so as to injure or endanger any person”.
So what are the police doing to deal with this issue?
Near misses are a common experience in the UK and have a significant impact cycling experience and uptake (see the Essential Evidence summary, and the Near Miss Project study). Our Road Justice campaign has been working with the police and this is what they’ve been doing Update: Following representations from the Bristol Road Justice Group the police have amended their near-miss reporting form. Previously the form was just intended to give the police intelligence as to what types of incidents were occurring and where, so allowing them to target particular types of dangerous driving at certain locations. The form will now ask those reporting near miss incidents to include details of the vehicle involved. This will allow the police to follow up incidents of dangerous driving with identified drivers and fleet owners. The Road Justice Group will be pressing them to do just this. Members of our Road Justice Group recently met Inspector Andrew Gilbert from the Bristol East-Central Policing Area to discuss issues of common concern. Inspector Gilbert reported that, after a slow start, the police’s near miss reporting system (see their web page) is now getting a significant number of hits and the information gathered is proving very useful in identifying problems that the police need to tackle. The Group had recently got the police to ask for more information identifying the driver / fleet involved in the incident and Gilbert expected this to further increase the usefulness of reports.
Our Road Justice campaign team have been working with the police for some time on trying to get a better outcome for the most vulnerable road users, pedestrians and cyclists. At the moment there are between one and two people injured every week in Bristol on our streets. We believe that a stronger enforcement response to the sources of the danger, based on evidence, is needed. One way of doing this is to gather more information on the ‘near misses’ that make cyclists feel so uncomfortable. Some are careless, others are intimidatory ‘punishment passes’. The police need to know where these…
We warmly welcome the long awaited road danger reduction strategy from Bristol Council, A Safe Systems Approach to Road Safety in Bristol – A ten year plan 2015-2024. This is the Road Danger Reduction Strategy we’ve been calling for as part of our Road Justice campaign. We do feel there is too much emphasis on the ‘fatal four’ (speed, drink, mobile phones and seat belts, also the centre of the police strategy above), as the cause for deaths and injuries. Important though speed is for more vulnerable road users, none of these factors appeared to contribute to any of the incidents in our Gloucester…
Three significant publications in the past few weeks will do much to decide how safe Bristol’s roads are for cycling in the coming years. Avon and Somerset police put out their Policing the Roads Strategy. Bristol Council issues their long awaited road danger reduction strategy A Safe Systems Approach to Road Safety in Bristol. Finally the prosecution service was heavily criticised in the Joint Inspection of the Investigation and Prosecution of Fatal Road Traffic Incidents. We discuss each of these and what they mean for Bristol.