(This relates to a cycle ride from around September 2020)
Last night, I went out cycling for the first time in a few weeks. The last time I cycled anywhere, I went to meet a friend for lunch, and then as I was coming back through the city centre, a BMW driver pulled out from behind the car that was behind me, overtook both of us and then continued at what must have been about 40 mph, charging towards a visually impaired lady who was just crossing over the street on the other side. This was a very rare situation where rather than having a driver endangering me as a cyclist, I was a witness to an extremely inconsiderate piece of driving that caused considerable anxiety to someone else.
I honestly don’t know whether the police will have been able to do anything with the video, because the car was going so fast that the point where it came close to the lady was crossing the street was still some distance away, and as is so often the case, the danger that is very clear for anyone who was there to see didn’t really come across in the video that was recorded. However, in this case, the victim was happy to give me a statement, which was recorded in the same video and then sent to the police for them to decide what to do with it. My gut feeling says that these 2 videos combined might not be sufficient to issue a “notice of intended prosecution”, but because of the unique nature of this situation, that’s not really something that I can tell. However, I mean absolutely no doubt that if this driver ever did get a ticket and if he then contested it in court, then the testimony of 2 witnesses would be more than sufficient to result in a guilty verdict.
So I digress slightly, and that was a few weeks ago, and that was just one example of how running cameras really doesn’t necessarily mean that dangerous drivers will get any action taken against them at all, and even if they do, this offence would still have only got the driver 3 points, when clearly someone who thinks it appropriate to be driving at this speed in a city centre with a 20 mph limit really, as we all know, shouldn’t be driving at all.
Now when I say that I hardly cycle these days, and that I still avoid going out at all more often than not, I should also point out that the sort of anxieties that stop me from cycling aren’t just about having to deal with aggressive bully boy drivers, nor are they even just about the state of the roads and other infrastructure.
An additional reason why it tends to take me several weeks to get back cycling again after a stressful incident is that I just find it so much hassle to get everything ready again. Just consider how easy it is to get in the car and to go and drive somewhere – all you really need is your key or key fob, and then you unlock the door, open it, get inside, switch on the ignition and drive off. It’s all very simple! But even if you are reasonably well organised and even if you don’t run any video cameras, just going round the corner on a bike, especially in autumn and winter still needs bits which actually have to be physically attached to the bike (mainly lights), together with a lock, and maybe a puncture repair kit and similar (I confess that in the end I rarely carry these tools when I’m cycling locally as it’s far easier just to drag the bike back and do the repairs at home), and also as I went out on my mountain bike yesterday, I still need to think about what I’m wearing because trousers can still get shredded in the outer front cog.
Now in addition to all the organisation needed just to get going at all (and this in itself is still in addition to the things I need generally like house keys and wallet and phone and so on), I just won’t go anywhere now unless I’ve got a fully charged camera ready and mounted on both the front and rear of my bike. Yesterday, because I went out on my mountain bike, the rear camera was clipped into the backpack that I was carrying, rather than mounted on the frame – this is far from ideal, but anything to do with cameras isn’t always about ideal, sometimes it’s just about having something.
So finally, about half an hour after deciding that I was at last going to go out and enjoy a bike ride, I set out, both cameras running, on a route which is already quite deliberately selected so that as much of it is possible is going through parks or is on greenways or at the very least is on the quietest roads. The suggestion that anyone would go out cycling and would deliberately be looking for some kind of sense of provocation to me is frankly so bizarre and so ludicrous that it does make me wonder why people even mention it. Sure, if you drive behind me and beeped and tailgate and rev then I’m going to stand my ground, but why anyone thinks that people would honestly go out and seek this kind of situation is frankly beyond me – I do absolutely everything I can to avoid it, but the one thing I can’t avoid is the fact that all the strands of relatively peaceful roads still have to be linked by roads which invariably are not, and typically these roads might well be the sort of street that is busy enough and that might not look that bad to the untrained eye, but that is typically full of the kind of street furniture that always leads to these aggressive situations – in other words the bus stops and traffic islands and side road junctions and all the places with completely inappropriate parking that mean that the only way to maintain any kind of safe position is to ride right in the middle of the lane, in a position that drivers somehow managed to think is actually provoking them!
Anyway, I digress, so yesterday’s route was very much one where I want to avoid any unnecessary aggravation, but also yesterday was a situation where although I encountered quite a few incidents of extremely bad driving, there was nothing that is going to end up on any video that is remotely worth sending into the police. Hence for all this alleged trouble seeking that I have been engaged in just for the act of actually getting on my bike, nobody is going to get a ticket, nobody is going to appear in court, and nobody is even going to get a warning.
So here goes:
Driver one – Cromwell Lane, this is a row did I know is diabolically bad because it’s going gently uphill and it’s extremely narrow, but I still need to ride on the road for a short stretch. It doesn’t matter, it’s not good enough for the bully boy Toyota SUV driver who appears behind me about a minute after I joined the road. He is going left in his clearly indicating left and I’ve clearly turned around because I’ve seen that is indicating left, but of course my own speed is actually quite low, maybe just 10 mph, who knows, I don’t have an on-board computer and I shouldn’t have 2. He still continues right on my tail, but in fairness at least he doesn’t feel the need to beep or rev his engine. No doubt, this is all driving test fail stuff, and I think if I was a police officer doing a close pass exercise then I would pull him over, but this driver would probably just get a warning. This driver clearly need educating, and is also the prime illustration of why we need driving tests to be taken every 10 years, but I very much doubt that tailgating alone would result in a ticket for a due care offence.
Driver 2 – by now, I’ve been for a very muddy mountain bike ride across some footpath’s which are all around the roots of the new HS 2, and let’s just say that that’s another story, but as (yes, footpath, sorry) the footpath emerges onto a farm, there is an S bend in the road, so I can see a stream of cars approaching from the right and I know that another car is approaching from the left. Far better to let this car go past, so then I can at least start with a clear road as I’m turning right. To be absolutely clear – I really don’t want to be on this road at all, and in any other situation I would avoid it completely. It’s a nasty rural rat run, and it would still be nasty even if we had a rural backroad limit of 40 mph, yet of course it could actually quite easily be filtered and made for local access only, but that’s another story. It’s a rat run between business parks on the southern side of Coventry and the town of Kenilworth, and I know this, and given that it’s about 4:30 by now, I absolutely don’t want to be here, but I have no choice.
So within a few seconds of joining this road, driver 2 is coming towards me at a fair speed, and then his car suddenly veers into my path. Now this road is a country lane but it’s wide enough for 2 cars to pass, as long as they both slowdown. It is possible he was moving to avoid a pothole, but I don’t think so. I think he was choosing to be outwardly aggressive, and that he wanted to intimidate. Either way, I start shouting and as his car passes, this time back on the right (left) side of the road, I turn round and it’s quite clear that his numberplate has been deliberately tampered with because it is simply illegible. This driver and his car need to be taken off the road, I mean absolutely no doubt about that, but equally, there is nothing I can do about it. It’s getting dark at this stage and it’s a country road with no ambient light at all, I may be wrong, but I don’t think there’s a street and he was properly approaching at about 40 mph.
I may be wrong but I don’t think that any video camera on the market would get anywhere near capturing a numberplate in this situation – and even if it did, a situation that felt very intimidating to me as I was cycling might look completely innocuous when actually replayed.
Either way, he’s just another driver who needs to be taken off the roads to get away with it.
Just a couple of minutes later, driver for approaches very rapidly from behind, as the beam of light from an approaching car coming round the corner is clearly visible to me, so I make a hand signal which I guess is like signalling to turn right except I’m probably pointing back about 45°. To any even halfway competent driver, it’s extremely obvious that this is not the place to overtake – there’s clearly a car oncoming and the road is narrow and winding at this point.
But as ever, this driver must get in front, and getting front he does. Is it the worst overtaking move ever? No – he completed overtake just in time, and then slams on the brakes to go past the oncoming car. To me this is the clearest possible example of why bicycle camera is on helmet cameras and – cameras are essential safety devices, but again, given the lighting conditions, I’m not even going to look at the video.