The actions of a small number of motorists when they encounter cyclists on the road continues to baffle us. Hand gestures and verbal abuse are easily ignored, but what is going on in their heads when they make a decision to endanger a vulnerable road user, ignoring the potentially catastrophic consequences of their actions?
Perhaps, cocooned in their metal box, they disassociate themselves from the damage a vehicle weighing well over a ton can inflict upon flesh and bones? Perhaps their intolerance of cyclists makes them devoid of rational thought processes? Maybe they are not paying attention or not aware of expected standards of driving, but neither are ever an excuse. No doubt there are many amateur psychologists out there who might want to take a stab at the reasons, but if you intend to suggest it’s because cyclists ignore red lights or don’t pay road tax or shouldn’t cycle on roads or offer similar uniformed positions, then please refrain!
Take the footage in this video, captured by one of our members, who was riding alone. He was keeping a consistent line. He had a 100 lumen rear light pulsing away. He was not wearing dark clothing. The skies were a little grey, but visibility was fine. There was traffic on the road, but it was not overly busy. So, in short, a scenario in which a cyclist should feel relatively safe, right? Sadly, as cyclists know only too well, that perception of safety is totally reliant on the behaviour and driving standards of other road users and what unfolds is a clear cut case of a motorist showing a total disregard for the rights of other, more vulnerable road users, to share the roads in safety.
Read on and you’ll find out how Thames Valley Police (‘TVP’) responded, but firstly take a look at the video footage. Note how the first two motorists overtake giving ample space – the second driver holds back a few seconds, ensuring it is safe to manoeuvre past. Thank you both! Then, for reasons that only the driver of the white transit will know, he/she subjects our member to an incredibly reckless close pass. The OCC member who recorded this commented that it wasn’t just the fact that the motorist passed within a matter of inches, but at high speed. He was just thankful he had no reason to deviate from his line to avoid a pothole or drain cover. Bear in mind that a close pass like this can never be anticipated by a cyclist and finally, and it’s depressing that we actually have to point this out, but it was totally, utterly unnecessary as there was clearly ample space to pass safely!
Rule 163 of The Highway Code was recently updated to give motorists clearer guidance for drivers when overtaking cyclists: ‘leave at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph, and give them more space when overtaking at higher speeds’. The TVP Roads Policing team have been doing much to impress this advice upon motorists, via social media posts, appearances on local TV, Close Pass Operations and the 2 wheel campaign in April and we thank them for their continuing efforts to educate that small minority out there.
In addition to this, In March 2022, the TVP Criminal Justice Team responsible for reports relating to traffic incidents, introduced a more consistent and hard-line approach to reports of such incidents. Clear and unequivocal video evidence is crucial, but if a TVP Process Officer takes the view that the driver of the vehicle has driven without care and consideration, they will now serve a notice of intended prosecution and offer the motorist a place on a education course, hitting both their wallets and time. In more serious cases, they may proceed straight to prosecution.
Anecdotally, it appears this new approach is already beginning to have an impact: cyclists tell us they have noticed a more robust response from TVP to their reports and the number of motorists attending Driver Education courses has noticeably increased in recent weeks.
With cyclists increasingly fitting on-board cameras, coupled with this new initiative by the TVP Traffic Criminal Justice team, motorists in the Thames Valley area would be advised to be a little more careful when overtaking cyclists in future. We can but hope.
Which brings us on neatly on to the driver in this video. The motorist was sent a notice of intended prosecution by Thames Valley Police and was offered a place on a ‘What’s Driving Us?’ driver education course, which he/she chose to attende. Hopefully they will learn from this episode, but if they don’t and they drive with total disregard for other road users in the future, they can enjoy a day in court!