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Stories from Trinity Mirror's Data Journalism Unit talk of 'undertaking' but don't seem to understand how traffic collision stats work...

Four remarkably similar stories have appeared in local newspapers across England in recent days warning about the number of cyclists injured in specific cities while ‘undertaking’ – even though the practice, also called ‘filtering,’ is not illegal, and official police reports after road traffic incidents do not list it as a potential contributory factor.

The story first appeared on the website of the newspaper  Cambridge News last Friday, with the headline Revealed: Hotspots in Cambridge for accidents where cyclists undertake other vehicles.

The story also named two junctions in the city where there had been more than one such incident in recent years.

Versions tailored to three other cities appeared yesterday on the websites of the Birmingham Mail, Manchester Evening News and, today, the Bristol Post.

All three of those titles  are owned by Trinity Mirror, as is Cambridge News, which confirmed to the Cambridge Cycling Campaign on Friday that its story had come from the Trinity Mirror’s Data Journalism Unit.

Its story, and those of its three sister publications, included a reference to “filtering” which was described as potentially being “a dangerous tactic – drivers may not always check their left-wing mirrors before moving off.”

Filtering is, however, perfectly legal, and the Highway Code specifically says that people should “be aware of other road users, especially cycles and motorcycles who may be filtering through the traffic,” as well as emphasising the importance of using mirrors.

The stories were based on data from the STATS19 form used by police forces to gather information about road traffic collisions which is then used to produce statistics such as the Department for Transport’s annual reports into road traffic casualties in Great Britain.

The form allows a standardised approach to what information is gathered in relation to road traffic casualties, and includes a list of 18 manoeuvres that one or more of the vehicles involved in a collision may have been making. One of those is “overtaking on the inside.”

That could also apply not just to filtering but also to a situation where a cyclist might be riding on a cycle lane with a queue of stationary traffic to his or her left.

It’s important to note that the information captured is intended as a factual record of the event and does not seek to apportion blame. There is a separate form, headed “contributory factors.”

That form allows an investigating officer to choose up to six factors that may have led to the collision – but none of the ones listed specifically mention overtaking on the inside.

So, while the data used as the basis for the four Trinity Mirror stories records that the rider was performing such a manoeuvre, there’s no evidence whatsoever that it was the cause of the incident; indeed, a driver failing to look often designated as a contributory factor in an incident in which a cyclist is injured.

Also, while each story mentions specific locations where there have been multiple incidents, they didn’t seek to explore factors such as road layout that might have explained that.

Nowadays, with so much data about on issues such as crime or health it makes sense for a publisher such as Trinity Mirror to look at running stories that can be written centrally then tweaked for each newspaper’s home market.

But with stories about cyclists being a staple of local newspapers – just look at the comments on each of those stories to see the passions that can be inflamed on both sides – it’s important to get the details right to avoid misleading and inaccurate stereotypes.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

30 comments

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brooksby [2218 posts] 4 months ago
7 likes

Ah - that explains a lot.  I'd noticed that the Bristol Post seemed to have a real bee in its bonnet about "undertaking" lately, which had really poked the below-the-line hornets nest.  Clearly someone at Trinity Mirror is a 'Friend of Grayling' (TM)...

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arfa [847 posts] 4 months ago
13 likes

Two reasons why knuckle draggers argue filtering is wrong:
1) they want to slow bikes down so that it isn't a faster way round towns than a car,
2) they want to argue bikes causes congestion (easier to do if static).
Both equally dim arguments and trinity mirror are pandering to the cheap seats

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Man of Lard [331 posts] 4 months ago
8 likes
arfa wrote:

... trinity mirror are pandering to the cheap seats

Given the inexorable decline of the printed press in almost all forms, they are reduced to centrally produced clickbait articles with a cursory 'local flavour' added to attempt to disguise the churnalism it represents.

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grumpyoldcyclist [44 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes

>>That could also apply not just to filtering but also to a situation where a cyclist might be riding on a cycle lane with a queue of stationary traffic to his or her left<<

Not sure I understand that part, most cycle lanes are on the left so the stationary traffic would be on the cyclists right. Have I missed something here?

 

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Awavey [286 posts] 4 months ago
1 like
grumpyoldcyclist wrote:

>>That could also apply not just to filtering but also to a situation where a cyclist might be riding on a cycle lane with a queue of stationary traffic to his or her left<<

Not sure I understand that part, most cycle lanes are on the left so the stationary traffic would be on the cyclists right. Have I missed something here?

 

car decides to turn left down side road to rat run the traffic queue,but doesnt check the cycle lane, or Im sure there was a video doing the rounds last year, van in a queue of traffic, got bored of waiting and just pulled into the cycle lane to get around the queue, only just inches away from collecting the cyclist with the camera.

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SingleSpeed [309 posts] 4 months ago
1 like

It may be legal but it's daft. Always filter on the right hand side, you've got a far greater chance of being seen and there is always a bigger gap down the centre of the road to filter through. 

Even better if you can get a motorbike escort through the traffic.

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atgni [428 posts] 4 months ago
8 likes
SingleSpeed wrote:

It may be legal but it's daft. Always filter on the right hand side

And painted cyclelanes are where again?

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beezus fufoon [673 posts] 4 months ago
3 likes
atgni wrote:
SingleSpeed wrote:

It may be legal but it's daft. Always filter on the right hand side

And painted cyclelanes are where again?

on the wrong side?

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Jitensha Oni [57 posts] 4 months ago
2 likes
beezus fufoon wrote:
atgni wrote:
SingleSpeed wrote:

It may be legal but it's daft. Always filter on the right hand side

And painted cyclelanes are where again?

on the wrong side?

and (painted) bus lanes?

"Oh that's different" /s

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beezus fufoon [673 posts] 4 months ago
1 like
Jitensha Oni wrote:
beezus fufoon wrote:
atgni wrote:
SingleSpeed wrote:

It may be legal but it's daft. Always filter on the right hand side

And painted cyclelanes are where again?

on the wrong side?

and (painted) bus lanes?

"Oh that's different" /s

seeing as the bus doesn't need to worry too much about being left hooked or whatever, I would concern myself with what I'm doing and leave driving the bus to the driver

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Man of Lard [331 posts] 4 months ago
5 likes
Awavey wrote:

car decides to turn left down side road to rat run the traffic queue,but doesnt check the cycle lane, or Im sure there was a video doing the rounds last year, van in a queue of traffic, got bored of waiting and just pulled into the cycle lane to get around the queue, only just inches away from collecting the cyclist with the camera.

Or indeed a cabinet minister randomly dooring an innocent cyclist as he passes by and failing to leave his details before he scarpered...

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ClubSmed [305 posts] 4 months ago
1 like
beezus fufoon wrote:
Jitensha Oni wrote:
beezus fufoon wrote:
atgni wrote:
SingleSpeed wrote:

It may be legal but it's daft. Always filter on the right hand side

And painted cyclelanes are where again?

on the wrong side?

and (painted) bus lanes?

"Oh that's different" /s

seeing as the bus doesn't need to worry too much about being left hooked or whatever, I would concern myself with what I'm doing and leave driving the bus to the driver

The bus lanes around where I live are mixed use bus, taxi and cycle lanes

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beezus fufoon [673 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes
ClubSmed wrote:
beezus fufoon wrote:
Jitensha Oni wrote:
beezus fufoon wrote:
atgni wrote:
SingleSpeed wrote:

It may be legal but it's daft. Always filter on the right hand side

And painted cyclelanes are where again?

on the wrong side?

and (painted) bus lanes?

"Oh that's different" /s

seeing as the bus doesn't need to worry too much about being left hooked or whatever, I would concern myself with what I'm doing and leave driving the bus to the driver

The bus lanes around where I live are mixed use bus, taxi and cycle lanes

yep, presumably they're on the left so they can stop to allow passengers to get on and off

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velo-nh [105 posts] 4 months ago
2 likes

Sounds like those other media outlets are #fakenews.

More likely they're clueless motorists themselves and are writing what they believe to be true rather than to dig into the actual facts.  There's a lot of that going around.  It's the dying days of the old media and they're going out without dignity.

 

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Yorkshie Whippet [597 posts] 4 months ago
5 likes
SingleSpeed wrote:

It may be legal but it's daft. Always filter on the right hand side, you've got a far greater chance of being seen and there is always a bigger gap down the centre of the road to filter through. 

Even better if you can get a motorbike escort through the traffic.

You've got a far greater chance of being hit by a nob head on scooter.

You've got greater chance of being left out to dry as the traffic picks up speed and does not let you back in.

You've got greater chance of an arsehole putting you onto the wrong side of the road facing on coming traffic.

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Christopher TR1 [117 posts] 4 months ago
7 likes

Basically there are motorists who do not like the fact that they are getting left behind by cyclists, regardless on which side they are being passed. I've been beeped at while overtaking and, on occasion, experienced drivers trying to block me from pulling back into the traffic flow (trying to block me by undertaking, in other words).

I guess a lot of motorists are just mega frustrated that they have to sit in the same traffic jams at the same time every day. Perhaps they really don't have another choice, although I'm sure that some are just too stupid to make a change.

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brooksby [2218 posts] 4 months ago
2 likes
Yorkshie Whippet wrote:

You've got greater chance of being left out to dry as the traffic picks up speed and does not let you back in.

That happens when you decide to be nice and pull into a (large) gap in parked cars to let a queue pass - nobody ever lets you back in.  It's why I stopped doing it.

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SingleSpeed [309 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes
atgni wrote:
SingleSpeed wrote:

It may be legal but it's daft. Always filter on the right hand side

And painted cyclelanes are where again?

 

On the left which is where you ride in moving traffic, in stationary traffic filter on the right, it's not rocket science.

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Bez [608 posts] 4 months ago
4 likes
roadcc wrote:

One of those is “overtaking on the inside.” That could also apply not just to filtering but also to a situation where a cyclist might be riding on a cycle lane with a queue of stationary traffic to his or her left.

To be pedantic, it's "Overtaking - nearside" rather than "inside", and I assume the final word in the above quote should be "right", rather than "left".

roadcc wrote:

So, while the data used as the basis for the four Trinity Mirror stories records that the rider was performing such a manoeuvre, there’s no evidence whatsoever that it was the cause of the incident; indeed, a driver failing to look often designated as a contributory factor in an incident in which a cyclist is injured.

I have the contributory factors data and yes, unsurprisingly it paints rather more nuance on top of Trinity Mirror's naive inferences. Oddly enough you have to put a bit of effort in if you want an accurate picture of what's happening, rather than to just tug out the first comments-section-tinderbox inference that seems vaguely plausible. I'll try and publish something on that soon.

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beezus fufoon [673 posts] 4 months ago
1 like
Yorkshie Whippet wrote:
SingleSpeed wrote:

It may be legal but it's daft. Always filter on the right hand side, you've got a far greater chance of being seen and there is always a bigger gap down the centre of the road to filter through. 

Even better if you can get a motorbike escort through the traffic.

You've got a far greater chance of being hit by a nob head on scooter.

You've got greater chance of being left out to dry as the traffic picks up speed and does not let you back in.

You've got greater chance of an arsehole putting you onto the wrong side of the road facing on coming traffic.

it sounds like you've done a cost/benefit analysis without ever actually experiencing it...

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Bez [608 posts] 4 months ago
8 likes
SingleSpeed wrote:

It may be legal but it's daft. Always filter on the right hand side, you've got a far greater chance of being seen and there is always a bigger gap down the centre of the road to filter through.

The last part of that is factually untrue, one of my regular commutes includes a lengthy stretch where the opposite is the case. Context is everything: in some places the left carries higher risk, in some the right. Dogmatic "do this, don't do that" instructions don't help if they don't work in all contexts. And they don't.

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mbrads72 [210 posts] 4 months ago
1 like

The Bristol Post recently claimed there were 3,000 cycling fatalities in the UK in a year. Since the total for all groups was around 1,700 that's a made up number of staggering proportions.

#fakenews

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Rich_cb [251 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes
mbrads72 wrote:

The Bristol Post recently claimed there were 3,000 cycling fatalities in the UK in a year. Since the total for all groups was around 1,700 that's a made up number of staggering proportions.

#fakenews

I suspect they've misinterpreted the Killed/ Seriously Injured (KSI) data, that isn't far off 3,000 per year but there are only about 120 fatalities a year. Still 120 too many though.

A good analysis of the STATS19 data here.

https://trl.co.uk/reports/PPR445

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ktache [519 posts] 4 months ago
2 likes

Bez, good to hear from you, not heard much from your excellent website or on singletrack for a while.

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justinkenya [12 posts] 4 months ago
1 like

Having been knocked off my bike while filtering many years ago, I recognised the accident as my own fault for not looking carefully enough when riding past a gap in the queue. At the end of the day it is a risky business, especially when there isn't a cycle lane. Take it slow and careful!

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FluffyKittenofT... [1579 posts] 4 months ago
5 likes
SingleSpeed wrote:
atgni wrote:
SingleSpeed wrote:

It may be legal but it's daft. Always filter on the right hand side

And painted cyclelanes are where again?

 

On the left which is where you ride in moving traffic, in stationary traffic filter on the right, it's not rocket science.

But how do you get from the left, where you were when the traffic was moving, to the right? And what do yo do when the traffic starts moving again and you are stuck on the right side?

Queues of traffic often stop and start constantly and unpredictably. Constantly trying to squeeze back-and-forth from the left to the right and back again, seems to me likely to create more danger than it would remove.

I just don't see how anyone can make absolute statements about this. "Always keep in mind the idea that it might be better to go on to the right" - sure...but to say that you should _always_ move to the right when the traffic grinds to a halt, seems impractical to me.

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beezus fufoon [673 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes
FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:
SingleSpeed wrote:
atgni wrote:
SingleSpeed wrote:

It may be legal but it's daft. Always filter on the right hand side

And painted cyclelanes are where again?

 

On the left which is where you ride in moving traffic, in stationary traffic filter on the right, it's not rocket science.

But how do you get from the left, where you were when the traffic was moving, to the right? And what do yo do when the traffic starts moving again and you are stuck on the right side? Queues of traffic often stop and start constantly and unpredictably. Constantly trying to squeeze back-and-forth from the left to the right and back again, seems to me likely to create more danger than it would remove. I just don't see how anyone can make absolute statements about this. "Always keep in mind the idea that it might be better to go on to the right" - sure...but to say that you should _always_ move to the right when the traffic grinds to a halt, seems impractical to me.

I think you're mistaking riding on roads like 40mph on busy times, to this idea when in more built up areas, with lower top speeds and less acceleration.

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FluffyKittenofT... [1579 posts] 4 months ago
2 likes
beezus fufoon wrote:
FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:
SingleSpeed wrote:
atgni wrote:
SingleSpeed wrote:

It may be legal but it's daft. Always filter on the right hand side

And painted cyclelanes are where again?

 

On the left which is where you ride in moving traffic, in stationary traffic filter on the right, it's not rocket science.

But how do you get from the left, where you were when the traffic was moving, to the right? And what do yo do when the traffic starts moving again and you are stuck on the right side? Queues of traffic often stop and start constantly and unpredictably. Constantly trying to squeeze back-and-forth from the left to the right and back again, seems to me likely to create more danger than it would remove. I just don't see how anyone can make absolute statements about this. "Always keep in mind the idea that it might be better to go on to the right" - sure...but to say that you should _always_ move to the right when the traffic grinds to a halt, seems impractical to me.

I think you're mistaking riding on roads like 40mph on busy times, to this idea when in more built up areas, with lower top speeds and less acceleration.

I think I'm not at all clear what situations and circumstances we are debating - or whether those are the same as the ones the original media articles were talking about (assuming those media outlets were even clear in their own minds as to what situations they were referring to - it doesn't sound as if they were clear on that at all).

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Ellenw [2 posts] 4 months ago
2 likes

I feel very nervous overtaking on the right and always filter on the left if I can. I wouldn't be sure that any cars would let me back in again if I started overtaking on the right then the traffic started moving again..