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 (document in link below). 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…
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.
We have had a further meeting with the police, along with CTC and RoadPeace as the ‘Road Justice Committee’, and raised the following issues: Near miss and dangerous driving reporting We are continuing to press the police to introduce a near miss/dangerous driving reporting system. They have agreed to do this but, as yet, have not started work on its introduction; however, they reported that they plan to appoint an officer to do so. We handed over information on existing schemes run elsewhere in the country and suggested that they need to talk to them about what works best. Casework One of the cases we have taken up demonstrates the need for such a scheme and its potential value. Dr B. was cycling down St Johns Lane, Totterdown when she had to jump out of the way of an Argos lorry which had decided to overtake her just where the road narrowed. She tried reporting the incident to the police but was told that since she escaped injury there was nothing to report.
Here is a copy of the letter we’ve sent to the PCC on 8th December 2014 about our ongoing Road Justice work with police officers. We’re driven to address the social injustice whereby between 1 and 2 pedestrians/cyclists are being KSI (killed or seriously injured) in our community each week. The response we had was: Thank you for this very interesting and informative update. I will take up your comments with the Road Safety Lead within the Constabulary to ensure your message gets heard.
The Road Justice group met officers at Bridewell Police Station on 4th November 2014. It is clearly still a time of change for the police with a major reorganisation underway alongside the updating of all their computer systems. This possibly makes our engagement with them all the more important given the lack of continuity in terms of both personnel and focus on road danger reduction and enforcement. The main points discussed at the meeting were: Superintendent Richard Corrigan has been appointed to lead on the implementation of the Force’s new Policing Roads Strategy document. Chief Inspector Andy Bennett has been appointed Commander Bristol North and West and will be our main local point of contact. Both expect to be around for 2+ years. Police could not reassure us that they will attend all incidents resulting in injury to cyclists; on occasions they have to prioritise calls, but they will follow up all reports. New “Road traffic collision response and victim service flow chart” has been rolled out and all beat officers have attended training on correct process to follow in dealing with incidents. We reiterated our belief, backed up by evidence, that neither their 101 phone service or electronic reporting systems allow cyclists to report dangerous driving and near misses. Police said they are reorganising their reporting and dispatching service and claim that, when this is done, this will improve things.
The CTC have used our work in a national case study to help other groups. Of course the secret of our success has been the small group of committed individual (as always – “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead link). Original article: http://www.ctc.org.uk/case-study/bristol-road-justice-campaigners-put-pressure-police Bristol Road Justice campaigners put pressure on police printer-friendly version Bristol Cycling Campaign (BCyC) is an excellent example of a group of local campaigners who have wholeheartedly got behind the Road Justice campaign by ramping up pressure on their local force to improve roads policing. Road Justice map of police pledges One element of the Road Justice campaign is for campaigners to put pressure on their local police force to pledge to implement the recommendations in the report ‘Road Justice: the role of the police’ and then to monitor the force’s progress in implementing those recommendations, all of which are aimed at improving police handling of road traffic collisions. Here we give you an insight into how one cycling campaign group has managed to engage with their local force and what success they’ve had so far in getting them to improve roads policing. This case study can be used as a template for anyone wishing to engage with their police force. Bristol Cycling Campaign (aka BCyC) is a cycling campaign group led by a small team of volunteers with several thousand supporters. They have succeeded in setting up a working partnership with their local police force, Avon & Somerset Police, through well thought out actions and commitment to the goals of the Road Justice campaign.