YD06 RXH

Approximately 10:40 AM on Tuesday 14th February 2012, Spotland Road at the junction with St. Mary’s Gate, Rochdale.

On the approach to the lights (on red at the time), I was riding in the primary position in order to enter the right turn lane at the junction with St. Mary’s Gate. A man who appeared to be in his late thirties or early forties driving a black Vauxhall Corsa, registration YD06 RXH approached from behind and deliberately drove the car as close to the right-hand side of me as possible, attempting to force me into the left-turn lane. Being by far the most vulnerable party, I moved to the left in order to avoid being injured by this deliberate and aggressive action.

We both came to a stop at the lights, which were still red. Being in a vulnerable position, I asked, “What’s going on here then?” in a relatively calm and polite manner as the driver lowered the passenger side window. He leaned over his passenger, a woman of a similar age and proceeded to tell me that I should be over to the left, pointing to the left-turn lane, indicating that the dangerous behaviour he had just exhibited was undoubtedly deliberate. I responded by telling him that I was entirely within my rights to use the entire lane, especially as I was manoeuvring to make a right-turn. Oddly, he then called me a tosser and asked where my helmet was. Not having enough time during the traffic light cycle to make the points that the effectiveness of cycle helmets in collisions involving motorised vehicles is questionable at best, and that even if they were, there is a moral issue to be considered as to why I should wear a helmet in order to protect myself from his deliberate, dangerous and aggressive use of his motor vehicle as a deadly weapon, I instead asked him, “Where’s your helmet?” He seemed somewhat confused by this response, and our conversation was cut short somewhat by the traffic light finally cycling round to green, although he did call me a tosser again for some reason.

Coincidentally, he happened to be heading in the same direction as I was, and I saw him again after he had parked up somewhere around School Lane, near St. Chad’s Church. He saw me as I was walking my bike up Church Lane, about to resume riding (I have learned from experience that this steep, cobbled hills is not worth riding up). Again, he called me a tosser and I shouted to him as I rode away that he should re-evaluate his driving skills before he causes the death of someone’s child through his aggressive behaviour.

As a cyclist, I see first hand some examples of pretty terrible driving. What sets these sorts of experiences apart is that it wasn’t negligent, stupid or even selfish driving which put me in danger; it was an act of malice, an act of someone who had the need to intimidate someone who was more vulnerable in order to feel powerful. The driver of YD06 RXH clearly felt a perverse pleasure from the sensation of power he got through intimidating someone in a much more vulnerable position through the use of a deadly weapon, in this case a motor vehicle.

Having been through the process of reporting blatantly malicious, aggressive behaviour from motorists to the Police in the past, I know that without any video evidence or other witnesses it is likely to be a huge waste of time. It’s a shame that this type of sadistic behaviour is common enough that many cyclists are increasingly feeling the need to equip themselves with surveillance measures just to get from A-to-B on a bike.

To its Logical Conclusion

I was stunned this week by some quotes from the Association of British Drivers which were featured in a post from As Easy As Riding A Bike. Whilst the criminal behaviour of motorists being rationalised by a motoring organisation is far from new, I found the sheer unashamed stupidity of what was being said really quite shocking.


“Because speed limits are set below the level at which the majority of drivers consider to be reasonable, you get a very high level of non-compliance. And you get a greater disparity of speeds – you get more frustration, [...] that will result in a large queue of drivers behind, who simply want to drive at what they consider to be normal speeds, and that leads to frustration, dangerous overtaking… “


A responsible drivers’ organisation might suggest that a driver who gets so frustrated by having to drive within the law that they might attempt a manoeuvre which not only puts themselves in danger, but endangers the lives of innocent people might be better off not being allowed to drive at all, this is the ABD, and it is not an exaggeration to say that the ABD literally don’t know the meaning of the word ‘responsibility.’ It is interesting to try to apply the ABD’s logic to other areas:


Theft:


“Because the definition of theft is are set below the level at which thieves consider to be reasonable, you get a very high level of non-compliance. And you get a greater disparity of theft – you get more frustration, [...] as thieves try not to steal, and that leads to frustration, and when it gets released, events such as the August riots happen… “


Domestic Abuse:


“Because the definition of domestic abuse is are set below the level at which abusive partners consider to be reasonable, you get a very high level of non-compliance. And you get a greater disparity of beating – you get more frustration, [...] as abusive partners try not to beat their partners, and that leads to frustration, and when it gets released, it leads to serious injuries and even deaths… “


Road Safety:


“No, not lower speeds – lower speed limits. Because speed limits are set below the level at which the majority of drivers consider to be reasonable, you get a very high level of non-compliance. And you get a greater disparity of speeds – you get more frustration, because a small minority of drivers will obey the speed limit, even if they think it’s really silly, and that will result in a large queue of drivers behind, who simply want to drive at what they consider to be normal speeds, and that leads to frustration, dangerous overtaking… It also can lead to long queues of traffic, which prevent side road traffic from entering, or crossing, a main road. So you get these additional conflicts, even road rage, as a result. So if you have sensibly-set speed limits, which means set at the 85th percentile, which is the level that 85% of drivers wouldn’t exceed anyway, experience has shown – this goes back, certainly in the United States, to the late 1930s – that is the safest level at which to set speeds, speed limits, and you get the lowest casualty rates.”


Oh wait, that one was real. The ABD goes on to use that brilliant debating tactic of pretending that something which is bullshit is actually backed by science (brilliantly debunked later in the original post). Their website actually displays this crap proudly on their homepage, but they have made it even more entertaining to read: 


The ABD calls for the use of sensible speed limits that are based upon well established scientific road safety principles, not political correctness, emotive hysteria, or vociferous local activists.”


Ahh yes, that well established scientific principle of ‘Be safe: drive as fast as you want, wherever you want.’ I really admire the balls they show by calling their made-up science ‘well-established.’ In fact is it so well established that it goes against everything that every bit of real road safety research and every road safety organisation in the whole world is saying. If that’s not well established, I don’t know what is! To make this statement of idiocy even more delicious, they included the Daily Mail’s favourite phrase, ‘political correctness’ 
(They cleverly use the original meaning of the phrase, which is, ‘Stuff what I done don’t like’).



Places for People

I came across this earlier today in Macclesfield. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, a van parked illegally, partially on double yellow lines and at the intersection with a minor road, blocking the route for pedestrians and making it less safe when they do try and cross. The sort of thing you might see hundreds of times in a typical week in the UK. What tickled me was the company branding, the van belongs to a company called Places for People.

Recurring Themes

Once again we find ourselves in January, and once again I find myself writing about an incident where someone has attempted, without provocation, to use a motor vehicle as a weapon to either intimidate or assault me. Once again, the sole reason behind this appears to be something as innocuous as my choice of transport mode. Once again the driver and occupants of the vehicle were around 17-19 years of age and once again they were exclusively male.
The sad thing is that most regular cyclists have similar stories of unprovoked aggression from motorists. Most regular cyclists I have spoken to have at least one story of a motorist attempting to intimidate them or cause actual bodily harm for no other reason that they had the sheer audacity to choose to get around on a bike.
A significant minority of the general population seem to have the capacity to behave like this. When using public transport or on foot they might be a nuisance to others. On a bicycle they may risk causing injury to others and themselves in the process. In a car, they are able to kill and maim without any risk of coming to harm themselves. Interestingly, the behaviour of this fraction of the general public receives by far the most attention from the mainstream press when they also happen to ride bicycles.
Perhaps it is time to seriously examine the idea of including a thorough psychological examination in the process of licensing drivers. In addition to weeding out those who clearly are not able to behave appropriately when operating a dangerous machine in a public place, it will also help put people off driving in general by increasing the costs and hassle associated with learning and continuing to drive. This can only be a good thing for everyone.

Twats

One of the more serious downsides to cycling in the UK is, “The twat factor.” I think we will all have a story about a motorist who has consciously made the decision to attempt to intimidate a cyclist with their vehicle, verbally abused a cyclist or threatened them with violence, typically attempting using the car itself as a weapon (although this is not always the case). It is a markedly different experience from the constant stream of bad behaviour from motorists which we as cyclists endure on a regular basis, such as unsafe overtakes, left hooks, cutting in and ASL/cycle lane obstruction and intrusion, to name a few. The less cynical amongst us can dismiss this kind of behaviour as a symptom of ignorance or selfishness, rather than outright bigotry or malice.

I encounter similar behaviour sometimes in a non-transport context, after all, the person who tries to assault a cyclist with his car will still be a twat when he is away from his vehicle. However, in this context this kind of behaviour is much more easy to deal with, as the playing field is much more level. When an aggressor is armoured with a few tonnes of car which can accelerate to a high speed very quickly, and the victim is, well, not, such behaviour can be particularly intimidating.

It made me think of that quote attributed to Gary Fisher;

“Anybody who rides a bike is a friend of mine.”

Whilst this particular statement is a bit too rosy to sit well with my own slightly more misanthropic world-view, it got me thinking. Whilst the man who tries to assault a cyclist with his car will still be a twat when he is away from his vehicle, his ability to harm is severely reduced. If he were to ride a bike instead of drive, I’m sure it wouldn’t make him the sort of person I’d want to call a, “Friend,” but his very existence would suddenly become less of a detriment to the lives of others. So, I have decided to modify Gary Fishers quote to fit my own view of the world;

“Anybody who rides a bike, is less of a twat than they would be if they were driving a car.”

It perhaps doesn’t have the same ring to it, but I think the sentiment is similar enough. Feel free to share your stories of these sorts of encounters in the comments.

Attempted Assault Follow-up

As I discussed in a previous post, a group of men in a white Nissan Micra (V688 KWW, just so you know who to look out for) deliberately drove at me and later got out of the car and attempted to assault me. I gave a statement to the Greater Manchester Police and gave them the registration. I was informed that even though I had managed to avoid their attempts to harm me, the incident was still classified as assault, that they would investigate further and keep me informed. After a week or so I was told that they had submitted an order to the registered owner of the vehicle to inform them within a certain period of time who was driving the vehicle at the time of the assault, with a standard fine being given for not replying. A few days ago I received a letter from the Police informing me that all lines of enquiry have been exhausted and the case is being closed.
So, in conclusion a group of men, including one who is traceable by his vehicle registration, go unpunished for an unprovoked assault, whilst a fairly large amount of my time has been wasted in an attempt to get something done about it. If the situation were to arise again I think I might take a different approach in dealing with it.

Attempted Assault

At around 20:00 on the 2/1/2011 I was travelling along Oldham Road towards Manchester. A white Nissan Micra (Reg removed due to ongoing Police investigation), containing 4 men of Asian descent, pulled along side me  where they began to verbally abuse me for no apparent reason. The driver of the car then attempted to force me off the road by cutting me up. The driver then overtook and pulled up at this set of lights where the 4 men, got out of the vehicle and attempted to push and kick me off my bike and into the path of an oncoming taxi.


Thankfully, due to the incredibly poor standard of driving seen on our roads, I had the necessary reflexes to avoid their attempts to assault me and continued along. The car caught up to me at around here:


Where the driver attempted again to run me off the road by pulling in front of me and braking hard. I managed to avoid this again and they drove off. At this point I only knew the first 5 digits of the registration number, so I decided to catch them up to make a note of the rest of the registration number. I caught up to the car here:


I managed to get the last part of the registration number when the occupants spouted more verbal abuse and then they pulled into the street above (Houldsworth Street).

Although I have very low hopes for any appropriate outcome, I have contacted the Police and I will continue to update the blog with my experiences at the hands of the GM Police. Obviously these scumbags need to be taken off the road for the safety of the general public, but I expect the actual outcome will be much more disappointing.