Until last autumn, cyclists submitting video camera footage of dangerous driving would be told by the police what action they would be taking. This used to be one area where local police worked with the cycling community to address bad driving. Members of the public submitting evidence helped mitigate the force’s withdrawal of resources from roads policing, and, anecdotally, we hear that bad drivers often became of interest to the police for other offences. In 84% of cases drivers either received a warning letter, were sent on an educational course or were prosecuted. While we might have had disagreements over individual cases and about being kept informed about the outcome of prosecutions, generally it was felt that submissions were dealt with professionally and those submitting evidence were given basic information as to outcomes. This obviously encouraged cyclists to make further submissions.
In the autumn a new head of the unit responsible for assessing footage was appointed. Procedures were reviewed, and from then on those making submissions were sent a new standard letter telling them that they were not victims and so would not be told what action the police would be taking. Initially the police claimed that this change was due to “data protection issues”. This was clearly rubbish as personal details, such as names of drivers, were not being divulged or even sought. More recently the police have been informing cyclists whether action would be taken, but not what action, and have refused to enter into further correspondence.
Bristol Road Justice (of which Bristol Cycling is a partner) and several individual members have responded by writing to the Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens. One member has challenged the Chief Constable Andy Marsh about the matter on the radio, and numerous complaints and Freedom of Information requests have been made. The head of the police unit responsible apparently has over ten on her desk at the moment waiting to be dealt with. The chief has said he wants to encourage cyclists to make submissions, and the Police and Crime Commissioner frequently champions the right of victims to be kept informed. We will continue to press Avon and Somerset to follow best practice and keep cyclists fully informed as to the results of their submissions.
One cyclist was cycling along Trench Lane having dropped off his daughter at school. He submitted camera evidence of a vehicle passing him. “It was frighteningly close, along part of the road which has potholes and drain covers to avoid. It was also recklessly fast. The driver made no effort to give me space although the opposite carriageway was clear. The dangerous driving made me feel threatened and distressed, and worried about using this road in future.” Avon and Somerset replied telling him he was “not a victim” and that they would not be entering into further correspondence about the matter.