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