‘Road peril’

On the 22nd September, the West Sussex County Times printed this article. Entitled Councillor warns of road “peril”* it runs

COMPLAINTS of ‘rogue’ road users in Horsham has [sic] driven a district councillor to brand the town’s ‘great deal of reckless driving and poor parking’ an ‘epidemic’. Christine Costin (LDem, Trafalgar) has called for a ‘safety campaign’ in the wake of public concern over ‘dangerous cycling’. She said: “Motorists, cyclists and pedestrians should be able to go about their business without the fear of confrontation with road users who have no understanding of what their actions could mean to other people. “We should be able to expect cyclists to show consideration and proper responsibility towards other road users and to the pedestrians using our local streets; the dangers of such irresponsible cycling need to be highlighted through a suitable safety campaign, naturally those who show a dangerous disregard for others need to feel the full force of the law.”

Mrs Costin’s concern was sparked when Brian Bateman, who lives in the Horsham Town ward, wrote to the councillor after he was confronted by ‘yobs racing up and down West Street on mountain bikes’. He told the County Times: “I walk to work everyday and my route takes me along the Bishopric and up West Street. There are now more incidents daily of dangerous cycling on the street and the situation has got steadily worse over the years. I was nearly hit by two people racing up behind me. These were not children they were adults in their twenties. I was so shaken I reported the incident to the police. To add insult to injury when I turned to walk into the tunnel past Laura Ashley just off middle street I was nearly hit by a woman on a racing bike. This is supposed to be a pedestrianised area. There are warning signs at either end of West Street. There are also ‘Cyclists Dismount’ signs in the Market Square which are totally ignored. There are too many incidents of this type happening all over town and the people responsible are not all yobs – they come from different social groups and are of varying ages.” Mr Bateman believes ‘harsher penalties should be put in place before someone gets killed’. The councillor has since written to Horsham Police in a bid to stamp out the ‘peril’ pedestrians face on the town’s streets. In response, a police community support officer (PCSO) was called out Tuesday morning (September 20) to patrol West and East Street.

It is noteworthy that although Councillor Costin’s complaint seemed, justifiably, to be about poor road behaviour in general – encompassing reckless driving and pavement parking – the article that has appeared in the paper about ‘road peril’ deals entirely and solely with the apparent problem of dangerous cycling.

This is all the more extraordinary in the light of subsequent events. Exactly a week later, on Thursday 29th September -

A HORSHAM cyclist was airlifted to hospital after a collision with a vehicle left him ‘seriously hurt’ yesterday evening (Thursday September 29). The 36-year-old man collided with a blue Audi A4 saloon in Blackbridge Lane, near Hengist Close, Horsham, shortly after 6pm.

This incident occurred in broad daylight. I attended the scene about an hour after the collision, after the man involved had been airlifted to a London hospital (St George’s, Tooting) with serious injuries. I was prevented, wrongly, from taking pictures of the crash site by the police, but from the position of, and damage to, the bicycle, it was quite clear he had been driven into from behind, at some speed, by the driver of the Audi parked some distance down the road. Given the smashed-in rear wheel of the bicycle, it is almost impossible to conceive of a scenario in which the man ‘collided with’ the car, contrary to the quoted report above. From my most recent inquiries with Sussex police, the man is still in a very serious condition in hospital.

The very next evening, minutes after stopping on my journey home to discuss with a friend the above incident, I was also crashed into by a motorist in Horsham. Fortunately my injuries were far less severe, amounting to nothing more than a painfully grazed elbow and bruised knees (from where I landed on the tarmac after flying through the air), and the cost only a damaged wheel, and a couple of sleepless nights. This ‘incident’ is still ongoing, as the driver attempted to claim, falsely, that I was cycling without lights – but I will write about it in due course.

Then last Wednesday, the 12th October, at a roundabout on Horsham bypass -

…  The vehicle was approximately five metres away from him and he feared that it was going to hit him so he left the carraigeway and mounted the grass verge. The victim stood up on his pedals so he could jump from his bike but before he could the front driver’s side of the car hit him causing him to fall from his cycle.

A young man on a bicycle was deliberately driven at by a man in a silver 4×4, in an unprovoked incident. Fortunately he escaped unhurt.

Two days later, on Friday, the 14th October, on King’s Road in Horsham -

TWO postmen were targeted by a laughing yob in a car. The Royal Mail postmen were carrying out their deliveries when the attacks occurred. In both cases a car pulled up alongside the cycling postmen and slowed down. In the first incident the front passenger failed to push the postman off his bike. He was more successful during the second incident. This time the front passenger leaned out, took hold of the postman and then pushed him off his bike. He grazed his hip and elbow. Both incidents took place in Kings Road, Horsham, shortly before 2pm on Friday, October 14.

So in a two week period alone, at least five people on bikes in Horsham – one of them your humble blogger – have been struck by motorists, three of them quite deliberately. Another remains critically injured in hospital. Meanwhile – while I fully acknowledge that there are reckless and stupid idiots cycling around, both in pedestrianised areas, and on the road – as far as I am aware, nobody has been injured by a cyclist in Horsham, at least in living memory. Certainly I know of no news story as long as I have lived here. CYCLIST HITS PEDESTRIAN stories are rather hard to miss, given that they tend to feature rather more prominently and extravagantly than equivalent stories involving cars and pedestrians, for whatever reason, as James D. Schwartz has written.

It is also worth noting that an elderly pedestrian in Horsham was left with serious injuries after being driven into earlier this year, and also that the police have, yesterday, finally managed to catch up with Horsham driver Robert Freeman, who ploughed into two men waiting at a bus stop in the nearby village of Cranleigh, and now faces charges of dangerous driving, perverting the course of justice, driving whilst disqualified, driving without insurance, failing to stop at the scene of an accident and failing to report a collision. As I wrote at the time of this ‘accident’, one of the men involved (both were waiting for a bus, some distance from the road) has been left with ‘life-changing injuries.’

With a large number of pedestrians and cyclists injured, often quite seriously, by motorists in the Horsham area, in the last few months, and not a single injury, or even a hint of an injury, inflicted as a result of people on bicycles, it is, of course, entirely natural that the ‘road peril’ we must most urgently address is ‘rogue cyclists.’

(By way of an addendum, each and every one of those five cyclists struck in Horsham in the last two weeks was using the road, and in the proper manner. This does, of course, go some way towards explaining why a large proportion of cyclists in Horsham are using the pavement in the first place, coupled with the general unpleasantness of the road network for cycling. This is a matter I will return to in my next blog post, which will also detail the rather confused, contradictory and even hypocritical policy of Horsham District Council towards pavement cycling.)

*Changed in the online version to Campaign to stop ‘selfish cyclists’, which reflects rather better the thrust of the article

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19 Responses to ‘Road peril’

  1. I really shouldn’t read this sort of thing before I start work – I’m now in a steaming bad mood at the injustice of the world.

    Hope you get to nail the lying toe-rag who ran into you.

  2. Glad you weren’t more seriously injured. I’m currently waiting for a response from Ken Clarke, following a collision I had with a car earlier this year. The owner of the car didn’t tell the authorities who was driving so probably got a lesser fine, and fewer points than for dangerous driving. I wrote to my MP about it which, he’s passed it on. Will let you know what the response is when I get it.

  3. Kim says:

    In 1970′s in the Netherlands people got angry about the rising tide of road deaths and as a result they got their now famous cycle path network, in Britain the same rising tide of tide of road deaths lead to “Tales of the road” and increasing car centric car policies. The question has to be why? Why are parents in Britain whiling to accept 4-6x the death rate? Why aren’t we angry about this?

  4. I really am at a loss to explain why it is that such a large number of red-in-the-face little Englanders seem to disproportionately target cyclists as the ones behaving lawlessly on our streets. All I do know is that the proportion of cyclist on ped deaths and injuries is almost negligible in comparison to the carnage caused by motor vehicles that takes place on the roads every day.

  5. Ben Bawden says:

    Most people who drive but don’t cycle, see road “accidents” as “one of those things” – a sad but necessary byproduct of the motor vehicle. Whereas cyclists are just “odd”, so the antisocial things they do are given much more prominence.

    It will change, as more and more people take up cycling, I hope.

  6. Liam says:

    It seems cyclists aren’t willing to take responsibility for anything. The blame lies with everyone else! As a very close friend of the man driving the Audi involved in the incident that occured on September 29th, I can say without question that he was driving within the speed limit, as he always does, and that the collision happened simply because he was momentarily blinded by the low sun. The first police officers at the scene even commented on it as they got out of the car. To suggest that the accident occured through reckless driving is insensitive and offensive and entirely sensationalist. Especially coming from someone who turned up at the scene an hour after it happened! It proves how eager cyclists are to blame everyone else whilst ignoring their own failings as road users. This was a tragic accident that really could have happened to anyone. I’m literally praying that the poor cyclist pulls through, my friend is absolutely devastated and despite driving for 20 years without serious incident he is now considering never driving again, he’s THAT shaken by what has happened. I only hope that when/if this goes to court that those overseeing the case are not as narrow minded and self righteous as you! Of course, my support for my friend is in no way meant to undermine the suffering of the cyclist and his family and my heart truely goes out to them and I know my friend shares that sentiment. Try to bare in mind that there are real people behind the assumptions you make in the name of your little crusade, try and be a bit more sensitive when twisting the truth to suit your needs.

    • Ah low sun, that’s all right then. For one moment there I though it was just another SMDSY.. Oh, wait..

      • Downfader says:

        @Chris – the driver who hit me in 2008 told the Police the sun was in his eyes. When the officer told me this I asked if he’d asked the driver what he’d done to prevent the sun from blinding him? Never got an answer from said driver or officer.

        The only result I could get from it was a driver safety course at his expense of £161 iirc.

    • Downfader says:

      Low sun is simply no excuse.

      What does driver training tell you about how to deal with low sun? Put on shades, lower the sun-blind/visor, drive a little more slowly and cautiously.

      Try to bare in mind that real people are suffering when going about their lawful business when riding their bike. They’ve grossly been let down by the judicial system (same with pedestrians and motorcyclists).

      You say we should take more responsibility. Was Gary Mason (Heavyweight Boxing Champ) to blame when the van pulled out and hit him a few months back? Killing him as a result. Dr Colin Hawkes, killed when a driver pulled out from a junction. To blame, also? He was a respected expert on child safety and the head of the NSPCC. Lewis Balyckyi, may have been 18 but deeply experienced as a road cyclist and a Brit Cycling Champ – was he to blame for the Transit Van that smashed into him from behind and threw him into the air? This list is extensive.

      I’m afraid you’ve spoken from a position of ignorance. These people are not the few you have seen acting like cocks, the Government data shows the fault to rest mostly with the motorist in motorist-cyclist collisions (via rear-ending, smidsy at junctions and left-hooks at bends and junctions).

      Blogs, campaigns and cyclists who speak about these things (including myself) do so because we have been forced to. More and more people – not just cyclists – are siding with us that something has gone wrong here in the UK with regards our roads.

      I would ask serious questions of your friend, they may well not be to blame. However I would ask the most important questions of yourself and why you haven’t looked more closely at the situation and have still felt compelled to comment generalisticly and negatively towards something you’ve no understanding.

    • livinginabox says:

      It seems [delete] cyclists [delete] motorists aren’t willing to take responsibility for anything. The blame lies with everyone else!….It proves how eager [delete] cyclists [delete] motorists are to blame everyone else whilst ignoring their own failings as road users. This was NOT a tragic accident, it was the result of dangerous driving that really could have happened to anyone, who continues to drive dangerously, when they can’t see.

      What would have happened, if instead of hitting a cyclist, your friend had driven of a cliff or into a hard and immovable object?

      Motorists need to take responsibility for their incompetence!

      BTW, your friend shouldn’t ever drive again, he’s a danger and a menace to the public..

    • livinginabox says:

      BTW, I for one don’t believe you. You are the Audi driver, aren’t you!

  7. disgruntled says:

    Liam – I’m sorry to hear about your friend’s experience, and I’m sure he’s devastated by the accident, as anyone would be. I’ve no idea of the ins and outs of this case either, but driving within the speed limit alone is not enough to make a driver blameless of a collision. Dazzling sun can be as blinding as fog and drivers really do need to slow down in those conditions or they risk hitting something. If not a cyclist, it could be a child. Too many times on my bike I see cars coming the other way, their drivers squinting into the sun, yet making no concession to the fact that they can barely see. It can’t always be up to me, on my bike, to do the drivers seeing for them – and it’s not just bikes that are vulnerable (I know this because my mother in law managed to hit a bus when dazzled by the sun, fortunately without injuring anyone). If you can’t see properly – for whatever reason – you MUST slow down to a speed that’s safe. Anything else risks putting yourself and someone else in a very nasty situation. If you take nothing else from this discussion, please take that on board, for all our sakes.

    • Downfader says:

      The advice I’ve read is also to lower the visor and put on sunglasses. Keep the windscreen and windows clean or dirt as this will impair vision in low sun. Opening driver or passenger windows may help, as will covering the brow at junctions when looking right.

  8. Pingback: Updates on Mark Leones and Margaret Conway, Box bites back on city bike ed and a bakfiets full of links « BikingInLA

  9. livinginabox says:

    The irony of your words when applied to you.
    The bogus claim:
    “Try to bare [bear] in mind that there are real people behind the assumptions you make in the name of your little crusade, try and be a bit more sensitive when twisting the truth to suit your needs.”
    Now for some assumptions:
    “It seems cyclists aren’t willing to take responsibility for anything. The blame lies with everyone else!”
    Now for some truth twisting:
    “my friend is absolutely devastated and despite driving for 20 years without serious incident he is now considering never driving again, he’s THAT shaken by what has happened. I only hope that when/if this goes to court that those overseeing the case are not as narrow minded and self righteous as you!”

    Because Liam, the thinly-veiled Audi driver might lose his licence!

  10. Liam says:

    There really is no point in trying to talk to most of you as you have clearly all made your minds up about what happened based on a brief paragraph written by the author. My friend was wearing shades (his shades are always perched on top of his head when not in use, it’s almost a trademark for those that actually know him. They are ALWAYS to hand, especially when he’s driving) but in this instance, being sunny, he was wearing them correctly, something people in the know are aware of, something people like you wouldn’t be aware of. He was driving within the speed limit. He was not using his mobile phone and his car was in pristine condition, no faults what-so-ever. The cyclist has since come round and has accepted that it was an accident. So what is it you lot all know that none of the people who were actually involved don’t know? Please enlighten me. Or, of course, you could once again ignore the facts that have been stated and just make something up to suit your needs, like your glorious leader seems to do.

    • Downfader says:

      The opening line of your first message was an attack. How do you expect people to respond?

      What you have to accept is that blogs like this (and other forms of discussion) are ways of sharing the news, the advances in campaigns and so on. It’s not a slight on you or your friend despite what you feel.

      I would also strongly point out from both experience and my basic understanding of causality and stats that there is usually no such thing as an “accident”. Even the Police are moving this way. Everything happens for a reason. Everything has a cause.

    • livinginabox says:

      No evidence is supplied by a source who is clearly biased.

      Lack of supporting evidence is always a bad sign. Such claims have to be treated as untrue, unless and until confirmed independently.

      Failure to supply independent confirmation of claims will be treated as an indication that said claims are bogus.

    • Angus H says:

      An accident is when my three-year-old forgets to go to the bathroom on time.

      Operating two tons of high-speed metal in conditions where you can’t see what’s in front of you, and hitting something/someone as a result, is not an accident. It’s stupidity & gross negligence, simple as that. In fact, there are really very few excuses as to why you should hit anything at all at speed in a car, other than gross negligence by another vehicle operator.

      At the same time, I can’t entirely blame your friend, because driving in a patently stupid fashion has been so utterly normalized by most of society. Were someone to make the same level of dumb, avoidable mistake as an aviator, rock climber, machine tool operator or ocean going yachtsman (to name a few dangerous occupations I’ve had some degree of involvement with), they’d be roundly and widely denounced by their peers and rightly so. It’s accepted as entirely normal that people drive at speeds & in conditions where if something unexpected, but really not that uncommon, happens – an animal in the road, for example – they’ll have no time at all to stop. As vulnerable road users, we believe a cultural change here needs to happen – motoring culture is massively out of step with the rest of society in terms of the amount of danger people seem willing to accept, and the degree to which they’re prepared to mitigate it.

      It’s actually very simple to avoid “accidents” like this – if you can’t see far enough ahead to anticipate what might be there, SLOW DOWN. The speed limit is a maximum, not a requirement.

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