Action to tackle near-misses is being seen as an increasingly important part of a strategy to reduce road danger. The aim is not only to reduce the rate of injury of cyclists by motorists but also to improve cyclists’ experience of the road and encourage less risk-tolerant travellers to “bike it”.
Dr Rachel Aldred of the University of East London, who has led the way with her pioneering studies of the issue, recently addressed the Bristol Cycle Forum on the Near Miss Project. She pointed out that cycling was a relatively safe form of transport with riders typically experiencing a “slight” injury every two decades. However respondents to her research normally had what they classified as a “very scary” incident weekly and suffered some form of harassment every month.1
Bristol Road Justice Group, part of the Cycling UK national Road Justice Campaign, has long pressed Avon and Somerset Police to introduce an on-line system for reporting near-misses and they finally did so in June of last year. They have recently published figures for the first 10 months of operation and they make interesting reading (see the table).
504 near-misses were reported of which 421 (84%) were reported by cyclists. The large majority of incidents were in Bath and the greater Bristol area. 244 (48%) of the 504 near-misses were connected to overtaking, reinforcing CTC’s Space for Cycling Campaign’s call for better facilities for cyclists and in particular more segregated cycle lanes.
40% of respondents were women, this compares to the 29% of Bristol commuters who cycle who are female. The figure mirrors the findings of Dr Aldred who suggested it could possibly be explained by the fact that cyclists who made shorter trips and cycled at slower speeds were more likely to report near misses and more of these cyclists tended to be women. She also thought that women cyclists might be less tolerant of the close proximity of motor vehicles.
At present the police only use the statistics to identify the location and type of near-misses so as to help them to target their interventions. The Road Justice Group has been urging them to go further and use the information gathered to target fleet vehicles and confront dangerous drivers. Despite not specifically asking for it, in 21% cases the police are supplied with vehicle number plates and in 5% of cases the location of the near-miss is covered by CCTV. This shows the potential for the near-miss reporting system to be a much more pro-active tool in tackling bad driving.
Cyclists are urged to continue reporting near-misses on:
The Group welcomes feedback, good or bad, on cyclists’ experiences of the police’s responses to incidents and reports. They can be contacted via: RoadJustice@bristolcyclingcampaign.org.uk