Tag Archives: Road Danger Reduction

What are the police doing about collisions resulting in injury to cyclists?

Cycling road casualty numbers appear to have stabilised with collisions per million km cycled having dropped. But the police still recorded 250 incidents* of injury to cyclists in 2015 1 with 38 being detained in hospital 2. So what are the police doing about this?

Well the answer is, as far as enforcement action is concerned, not much.

Bristol Road Justice Group has been monitoring the police’s response to incidents. We looked at three areas of enforcement:

  • Incidents involving serious injury
  • Incidents on the Gloucester Road, one of Bristol’s busiest cycle routes
  • Car doorings 3

In the first two areas, we looked at a sample of cases in 2015 where the injured cyclists had been hit by a car or van manoeuvring, e.g. pulling out of side roads, crossing the carriageway or parking, or where the vehicle hit the cyclist while overtaking or from behind. In all cases the police report of the incident suggested the driver was at fault.

We therefore expected that in most cases police enforcement action would have followed. Instead we found:

  • In 18 cases we looked at resulting in serious injury to cyclists the police only prosecuted 4 drivers, while a further 3, despite the consequences of their dangerous driving, were simply allowed to attend educational courses 4.
  • In 11 cases of injury to cyclists on the Gloucester Road, the police only prosecuted 1 driver 5.
  • In 16 cases of injury to cyclists caused by the careless opening of car doors, the police only prosecuted in 1 case and that was unsuccessful. You could be forgiven for thinking that their lack of action has effectively decriminalised the offence 6.

The police have responded to our concerns, claiming that they bring enforcement action in all cases where the victim wishes them to and where there is the evidence to support such action.

However, it is worth looking at these prosecution rates in the broader context of overall enforcement rates. There has been a huge reduction in the number of fixed penalty notices issued for the use of mobile phones while driving, down from 1,601 in 2011 to 276 in 2015. Even the police’s recording of incidents seems to have declined. For example, the number of pedestrians the police recorded as being killed or seriously injured on Bristol’s roads has reduced significantly. But hospital admissions have in fact remained almost the same. In 2011 the police recorded 59% of such hospital admission; by 2015 this number had fallen to 43% of admissions.

These figures would seem to suggest that the continued low rate of prosecution of motorists causing cycling injuries is more to do with resources and priorities than with difficulties in securing evidence.

 

P.S. Please remember – whilst these injury numbers are serious, cycling is overall a safe activity, with cyclists being healthier overall than non-cyclists – despite the dangers imposed by motorists. The number of people injured by a motorist whilst cycling in Bristol is about the same as the number of people injured by a motorist when out walking around the city.

*Incidents in the central (Bristol City Council) district of the Bristol conurbation only.

Sources

1.   Interpreted Listing of Police Road Traffic Incident Reports 2015 – BCC Strategic Transport
2.  Bristol Emergency Admissions to hospital due to transport related accidents 2003 – 2015
3.  Under Section 42, Road Traffic Act 1988 it is an offence for a person to open “any door of a vehicle on a road so as to injure or endanger any person.”
4.  FOI response 16 September, 2016
5.  FOI response 07 October, 2016
6.  FOI response 27 September, 2016

Police start a ‘Give Space, Be Safe’ initiative to tackle near misses

Avon & Somerset Police officers went to a seminar last week by West Midlands police on their award winning ‘Give Space, Be Safe’ initiative (Best Practice Education and Enforcement in the West Midlands). Since the initiative began last September in West Midlands it is credited with halving the number of incidents of ‘close passing’ reported by cyclists in Birmingham.

We’re very pleased to hear that the scheme is coming to our area (Undercover police WILL target Bristol drivers who pass cyclists too close). Near misses are the main issue identified as stopping people (particularly women, children and older people) from considering riding a bike. It’s an issue our Road Justice group has been working on with the police Police Near-Miss Reporting Figures to April 2016 Released.  This was also one of the key issues identified in our Manifesto for Police & Crime Commissioner Candidates at the May 2016 elections:

Low level intimidation from motor vehicles is an everyday experience for most people cycling and for many pedestrians. Two thirds of people say they consider the roads too dangerous to consider cycling due to the behaviour of traffic. In any other area of life this fear of crime and anti-social behaviour would not be tolerated. Will you ensure that policing the roads is prioritised according to its impact on the lives of most people?

BristolCycling
Can @ASPolice confirm officers attended @Trafficwmp event on #ClosePass works? twitter.com/i/web/status/8…”
13/01/2017, 23:03
ASPolice
@BristolCycling @Trafficwmp We did indeed 👮🏽
16/01/2017, 08:37
BristolCycling
Excellent. Can we have an update on what you’re thinking? “@ASPolice: @BristolCycling @Trafficwmp We did indeed 👮🏽”
17/01/2017, 20:50

In a very insightful blog post by West Midlands Police Traffic Unit they discuss the effective use of stick instead of carrot:

The only way to change driver behaviour and concentrate minds on looking out for vulnerable road users and change driving habits is through enforcement, and the resulting fear of being prosecuted. Now for those who will no doubt be spitting out their finest percolated roasted bean brew at this moment screaming “what about the cyclists !” well…….statistical analysis shows they aren’t to blame, innocent in the majority of KSI collisions it would be a waste of our time, and thus public time and money to concentrate on cyclist behaviour. The figures speak for themselves…….driver’s don’t let your prejudices get in the way of the truth…….

The fact is that EVERYONE benefits from active intelligence-led traffic policing, and in particular the vulnerable road users walking and cycling who bear most of the risk. There are other benefits as well Essential Evidence on a page: No. 99 Intelligence-led traffic policing: Motoring Offences and Other Offences

Top line: Most motorists are not criminals but most criminals are motorists. Intelligence-led policing following up traffic violations can be a cost-effective means of addressing other criminal activities

Now, about speeding… Essential Evidence on a page: No. 52 Is speeding a “real” anti-social behaviour?

Top line: Speeding traffic is rated as the greatest antisocial behavior in local communities. On the basis of results reported in the British Crime Survey police could argue that any enforcement programme currently operating is compatible with public concern.

The Mayor’s leaky boat – a parable of RPS and 20mph

Settle down while we tell you a story:

Imagine, if you will, the King of Bristol.

He sets sail in a big boat, given to him by a chap wearing red trousers. OK, says the King, I know Red Trousers has given me a leaky boat, but I’m sure it’ll stay afloat for a while.

But to his horror, the King discovers a giant hole in the bottom of the boat as soon as he sets sail. Water is gushing in, and the other passengers are turning mutinous!

The King desperately looks round for things to jettison to stop the boat sinking further, or at least to distract attention.

There’s no dead cat to hand, but then he finds just what he needs! Two heavy-looking boxes put there by Red Trousers, one marked “20mph”, the other marked “RPS”.

Over the side they go.

Some of the passengers seem happy, at least for a while, even as the boat continues to sink…

There are rumours circulating that Mayor Rees is seriously considering scaling back two of Bristol’s most progressive transport policies of recent years: residents’ parking schemes and 20mph zones.

BCyC can only hope those rumours are not true. We feel sure our Mayor would not attempt to gain cheap publicity, and distraction from the Council’s financial crisis, by ditching these two policies which have provided huge benefits in increasing cycle and pedestrian safety and preventing Bristol’s suburbs becoming one huge commuter car park.

Can Bristol Council confirm that any Council-led initiative to scrap or scale back these initiatives is firmly not on the Mayor’s agenda?

‘We need to change our roads so drivers can see cyclists’

How refreshing to read a thoughtful article in a local paper (Cambridge News) about why and how to make everyday cycling normal in the UK. There’s an excellent plan of a proper roundabout that works for everyone. When will we see the first of these in Bristol?

Research shows that we don’t perceive things at the edge of our vision – and that’s putting cyclists at risk, says our cycling columnist

Source: ‘We need to change our roads so drivers can see cyclists’

Author Robin Heydon of Cambridge Cycling Campaign looks at recent research confirming once again the imperfect nature of human perception, and the need for road designs that are forgiving of the inevitable errors, a concept known as ‘Sustainable Safety‘ and widely used in Europe.

The visual system we have appears to just make up the details. Filling in the gaps in our visual field with things that it thinks are there, and ignoring the things that it doesn’t see. So, as you approach that roundabout, you are looking at the car, and the area around the fovea is not seeing the person on the cycle also coming around. And this doesn’t just apply to people on cycles. It would also apply to people walking across a side road as you turn into that side road.

Robin goes on to say that given that we probably can’t change the human brain to enhance our peripheral vision, could we make the roads safer, using this knowledge?

One thing we could do is design junctions where we don’t have to look for multiple, different-sized things near each other at the same time. Roundabouts, for example, that put everybody in the same physical space.

You should also take a moment to read the excellent A Fighter Pilot’s Guide to surviving on the roads.

If Chris Grayling had doored a cyclist in Bristol?

In some areas of Bristol up to 20% of collisions injuring cyclists are caused by motorists recklessly opening car, van etc. doors. In the last six years the police have recorded 139 cyclists being injured in this way – and 18 of them seriously (defined as requiring a stay in hospital (note 1)). Due to under-reporting these figures are likely to underestimate the extent of the problem (note 2). Injuries from this type of incident are caused not only by impact with the vehicle but also, and often in the more serious and fatal cases, when the cyclist is knocked into the carriageway and the path of other motorists.

Safe cycling organisations recommend keeping out “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 close to the side of the road. Some cycle lanes even encourage cyclists to cycle through the door zone and danger, most notoriously outside the BRI hospital.

Note that a number of the injuries were caused by car passengers opening nearside doors to hop out of cars which had paused in congetion.

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”. Would that include Minister for Transport Chris Grayling?

So what are the police doing to deal with these crimes? Figures obtained by Bristol Cycling under Freedom of Information requests show that in these 139 reported incidents of injury caused to cyclists by motorists, the police brought prosecutions in only 11 cases (9 of them successfully (note 3)). Given the police’s generally low rate of prosecutions for road traffic incidents involving pedestrians and cyclists, and given the recent finding that for the CPS even fatal road traffic incidents “no longer enjoy the priority they had in earlier years”(note 4), these figures are perhaps not surprising. However it must be of considerable concern to most cyclists that so many are being injured with so little being done about it.

 

note 1        Source: Bristol City Council Highway and Transport Management Service.

note 2       Reported Road Casualties Great Britain 2013, Department for Transport

                   page 34 “Under-reporting of pedal cyclist casualties”

note 3      FOI responses dated 20 April, 2015 and 27 September, 2016.

note 4      Joint Inspection of the Investigation and Prosecution of Fatal Road Traffic Incidents, HMIC, 2015.

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