Cyclists without lights "a danger for motorists" claims newspaper

Comment accompanies police in Peterborough clamping down on unlit cyclists and those with lights fitted incorrectly

by Simon_MacMichael   November 18, 2011  

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Cyclists in Peterborough riding without lights, or with red lights attached to the front rather than the rear of their bicycles, are “causing a danger for motorists,” according to the Evening Telegraph’s website, Peterborough Today.

The claim is made in an article highlighting a police campaign running over the next fortnight to make bike riders aware of the need to be visible after dark. From next month, cyclists failing to display lights will receive a £30 on the spot fine.

While ensuring that all cyclists display lights is an objective we fully support, a study published two years ago based on an analysis of Department for Transport road casualty statistics and the police reports that provide the raw data found that cyclists riding without lights was a factor in just 2 per cent of incidents resulting in serious injury to bike riders; it also found that cyclists were not to blame in 93 per cent of the incidents analysed.

Nevertheless, the newspaper’s message that it’s the occupants of cars that need protecting is a theme sadly picked up in some of the comments, with predictable calls for cyclists to be licensed and pay ‘road tax.’

Police, too, seem to be highlighting the danger posed to car drivers by unlit cyclists, rather than expressing any concern for the safety of bike riders themselves.

PC Steve Godfrey, described in the article as a keen cyclist, said: “It is definitely getting worse. The biggest problem is people not riding with any lights, but the issue of putting them on the wrong way round is one of our biggest concerns.

“If you are driving a car and see a white light in front of you, you think it is a cyclist coming towards you. That is particularly dangerous at junctions.

“The driver could misjudge the space and it could end up being very dangerous,” he continued.

“Up until the end of the month we are giving advice to cyclists about what they should do, because a lot of it is that they just don’t know the law.

“A lot of people say ‘it’s all right, I’m just on the pavement’, but that is still illegal.

“After that we will be giving them £30 on-the-spot fines. Of course, if their lack of appropriate lighting causes an accident the punishment could be a lot worse.” PC Godfrey added.

The newspaper adds that cyclists in Peterborough who purchase bike lights at certain local bike shops during November will receive a 10 per cent discount upon mentioning the words, ‘Cambridgeshire Police.”

Those shops are Bristows (Orton Longueville), Marstons (Whittlesey), Greenwheel Cycles (Fengate), Woodston Cycles (Oundle Road), On Yer Bike (Lincoln Rd) and Richardsons (Queensgate).

PC Godfrey added: “All the shops tell people how to properly fit the lights, and some even do it for them at no extra cost.”

Clair George, road safety officer for the SaferPeterborough partnership, commented: “All road users are at risk of not being seen as the dark nights draw in. People are often hurt in crashes simply because they are not easily visible.

“The problem is worse in winter, as heavy rain and fog and shorter daylight hours cause poor visibility.”

34 user comments

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Thanks for the comment, Vikeonabike.

As we say towards the top of the article, "While ensuring that all cyclists display lights is an objective we fully support..."

The critcism in our article, and we think it's a valid one, is of the way the newspaper reported it; the comments to that article, and many others regarding cycling in the national and local press, show that there is a significant number of people who reckon cyclists have got it coming to them.

We are of course responsible for our own safety to the extent that we can do so, and equipping a bike with functioning lights, as required by law, is of course part of that. We regularly highlight that at this time of year, including reviewing lights.

However, the fact is that in the vast majority of cases that result in injury to cyclist, the rider is not at fault; so citing that particular study is again valid in this context.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8034 posts]
18th November 2011 - 17:44

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@vikeonabike - I'm now on nightshift and have lost count on the number of vehicles with defective lighting.

I've 3 red lights all on constant and three front all constant regardless of the highway code requiring only one of each. My shoes, clothing and back pack all have reflective strips and my bike and pedals have reflectors.
All of this has not prevented me from being clipped twice by wing mirrors within pinch points. broadsided by a van (fortunately a glancing blow and no injuries) and a car pull out of a side street with 3 feet to spare and forced me off my bike. NONE of these drivers stopped. I have given up reporting these instances as the polis just shrug their shoulders and say there is nothing they can do Angry And you wonder why some get frustrated when the police (rightly so) target errant unlit bike riders. It come accross as easier to have a peeler standing on the highstreet stopping these individuals than to have a car pulling in motorists.

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posted by giff77 [1051 posts]
18th November 2011 - 17:45

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vikeonabike wrote:
However if you think that those statistics make it safe to ride without lights and you believe all statistics are accurate then crack on, turn your lights off!

I don't think anyone's saying that.

What we *are* saying is that, as usual, the response to the problem of unlit cyclists is disproportionate to its actual impact. It gets singled out *every year* as a major problem even before we've finished adjusting the hands on our clocks. I've *never* seen a local news article about:

1) drivers being targeted for defective lights when the clocks go back
2) drivers being targeted for defective tyres when it's icy out
3) drivers being targeted for driving with steamed up windscreens when it's cold

It's all about balance. By all means go after the unlit cyclists. i hate to see unlit cyclists too. but let's not pretend that's going to be the main cause of road carnage this winter, eh?

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7324 posts]
18th November 2011 - 18:03

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dave_atkinson wrote:
vikeonabike wrote:

It's all about balance. By all means go after the unlit cyclists. i hate to see unlit cyclists too. but let's not pretend that's going to be the main cause of road carnage this winter, eh?

+1

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posted by TiNuts [93 posts]
18th November 2011 - 18:20

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Point taken, Maybe I'm a little defensive as I was the cop spoken to in the article. I feel a little frustrated
and let down by the press on this article.

The time of heroes is dead: the christ god has killed it, leaving nothing but weeping martyrs, fear and shame!

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posted by Vikeonabike [50 posts]
18th November 2011 - 18:21

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Vikeonabike wrote:
"PC Steve Godfrey, described in the article as a keen cyclist, said: “It is definitely getting worse. The biggest problem is people not riding with any lights, but the issue of putting them on the wrong way round is one of our biggest concerns"

That will be the paper putting their own spin on things. The ten minute conversation I had with the reporter was about lack of lights. Seeing someone riding with a red light on the front was mentioned once.

As usual people will get on their bikes / high horses etc on a subject which is really just a matter of common sense.

This in no way was supposed to be an article about how cyclists are a danger to cars,it merely attempts to save people from injury.

The message that is being sent by the Road CC article appears to be that our safety is not our own responsibility. We don't need lights because only 2% cyclist involved in serious injury RTC's were due to lack of lighting.Or is that an article being taken out of context to make more readable column inches?

However if you think that those statistics make it safe to ride without lights and you believe all statistics are accurate then crack on, turn your lights off!
Thinking

I read the article on the newspaper site and didn't think it sounded like you... Thinking

However I do think the 2% is as close to accurate as you can get for any data being broken down. Its also only a small part in what is always an on-going data collection by both your Force and other agencies/parties.

If it does say one thing its this: somehow the antisocials manage to avoid getting hit by cars, certainly in that section studied.

I'm happy for any Ninja Cyclist to get fined, bike taken off them, etc (can they not do a sect. 58? Is it?), its the anti crap we need to have stopped though. There's no recognition in these places of the many good cyclists, they get the flak for the plums who ride Ninja.

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posted by downfader [201 posts]
18th November 2011 - 18:27

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giff, believe me I know how frustrated you are. I'm one of you, lit up like an xmas tree, commuting into work at all times of day and night.Suffering the same incidents (although occisionally I get to do something about it) I'm also one of them (ooo er), a cop. It would be better if more of us were on the street (on bikes, preferably) however there aren't enough of us to go around. The police, at a local level are driven by what the public want. In my area, they are concerned this month about cyclists without lights. Next month it will be dogs dangerously out of control, speeding motorists or what have you. Trust me when I say this, I would love to stop everyone for everything, however I have to prioritise and a lot of minor stuff goes unpunished. It has to because I would never get the important things done otherwise (who mentioned donuts?)
Vike

The time of heroes is dead: the christ god has killed it, leaving nothing but weeping martyrs, fear and shame!

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posted by Vikeonabike [50 posts]
18th November 2011 - 18:28

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Vikeonabike wrote:
The police, at a local level are driven by what the public want

Therein lies the real issue, as i'm sure we've said before. ask the people what they want and invariably they'll moan about pavement cyclists and riding without lights and hoodies and noisy neighbours and such. police resources shouldn't be allocated on the basis of who's grumpiest and most vocal, like they currently are. That's the system we're stuck with right now though.

Not having a go at you, Vike. It's just a bit depressing having this same merry go round every year while competent and well-lit cyclists are routinely dying under the wheels of lorries, and nothing's getting done.

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7324 posts]
18th November 2011 - 18:43

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Some very interesting comments here.

I am extremely well lit as I cycle round London - 2 or 3 rear lights, one very bright front light - yet motorists still drive very close to me as they pass. It's almost as if they're thinking "I can see him really well. I'll drive within 2mm of his handlebars. He's obviously an experienced cyclist so he can handle it."

So the problem does not seem to be that drivers cannot see cyclists. It is that they love to whinge about the few cyclists who cycle without lights. Where can us cyclists complain about general bad driving? And how can we get the police to take it on as a campaign issue?

I was a passenger in a car driving back from Reading at night last weekend. We passed several cyclists in dark clothing with no lights. They are very clearly visible, even with no lights. Incredible but true. I am not suggesting that people should cycle without lights but the problem seems to be over-exaggerated.

Bad driving causes accidents. Considering how few accidents us cyclists cause, we seem to take a hell of a lot of criticism. And the reason? Motorists think they own the road.

posted by londonplayer [671 posts]
18th November 2011 - 19:26

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I didn't think the actual newspaper article was too imbalanced. Anyone using the road has a responsibility not to be an idiot, whether on two wheels or four.

Simon Mac I do think you have spun their article though, perhaps you should reconsider whether it is really that unreasonable?

Pete

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posted by PeteH [159 posts]
18th November 2011 - 19:56

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I've never seen anyone with red lights on the front or white on the back. It must be very rare and hardly needing a crackdown.

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posted by TheHatter [810 posts]
18th November 2011 - 20:58

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TheHatter wrote:
I've never seen anyone with red lights on the front or white on the back. It must be very rare and hardly needing a crackdown.

Oh, I've seen it alright, only a student type and only in Oxford.

You know, the place that's produced 25 Prime Ministers and 47 Nobel Prize winners..

Silly

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [8034 posts]
18th November 2011 - 21:03

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Really don't fancy your job Vike. Having to please the most vocal groups. The donuts sound good though Wink

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posted by giff77 [1051 posts]
18th November 2011 - 21:05

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I saw a cycle police officer riding without lights today on my way home from work.So maybe they should clamp down on each other first.The main problem for cyclist are side impacts,so lights wont help this.I always use the correct lights mounted at the correct height/position.car drivers should have there lights on too.so there lights should light you up anyway.I think all cyclists should complain about car drivers driving black cars and wearing dark clothing.Also all car drivers should be made to wear helmets as there is good scientific evidence that this would make them safer.Otherwise they should just shut up and stop complaining about cyclist.

bikemonkey

posted by robcrow [44 posts]
18th November 2011 - 21:15

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PeteH wrote:
I didn't think the actual newspaper article was too imbalanced. Anyone using the road has a responsibility not to be an idiot, whether on two wheels or four.

Simon Mac I do think you have spun their article though, perhaps you should reconsider whether it is really that unreasonable?

Your first paragraph, agree, taken as a whole it was fairly balanced - for the most part..

Your second paragraph... well, the bit in quotes in the headline, repeated in the opening paragraph, is a direct quote from their article. We haven't paraphrased it at all.

Would it have jumped out at us if it had (more accurately and neutrally) said "... putting themselves and other road users at risk"?

Probably not. But it didn't.

For reasons outlined by myself and others in the comments above, it reinforces a certain perception of ALL cyclists (not just those without lights) in much of the media, which in turn helps foster anti-cyclist attitudes among a big section of the public.

Just look in some of the comments to the original article for proof of that.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [8034 posts]
18th November 2011 - 21:23

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I also saw a manky old Peugeot on the way to work that was crabbing sideways down the road. If that thing had an MOT I'm a Martian. On the way back I notcied a strong smell of 'herbal' cigarettes as I passed a long tailback of cars on my motorbike. So how come the police can't deal with these people? They are in control of heavy, fast moving vehicles. One of the dope smokers was a van driver in a heavily laden Transit. Oh, and I saw several people phoning and texting at the wheel too, oblivious to those around them. A red top newspaper slamming thse idiots once in a while wouldn't be inappropriate.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2194 posts]
18th November 2011 - 21:29

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@vike etc - if there is lesson for yo in this it is this:

NEVER, NEVER, TALK TO THE PRESS.

They will twist your words to fit their own spin on a story.

In an entirely different context, I learnt this myself, the hard way.

posted by Paul M [309 posts]
18th November 2011 - 23:12

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Vikeonabike wrote:
Trust me when I say this, I would love to stop everyone for everything, however I have to prioritise and a lot of minor stuff goes unpunished.

What if a member of the public made a complaint about the kind of stuff that's being talked about here, e.g. a car with a dodgy lights. Something minor. Clearly without proof there's no point even going down this path, but what about when there is e.g. video evidence? (For example I wear a helmet cam when I'm riding in London, just in case...)

Is it a case of "someone has made a complaint therefore it needs to be followed up (even if it may be something we'd let slide had there been no complaint)", or does it lean more towards "go get yourself a life and stop wasting our time"?

Pete

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posted by PeteH [159 posts]
18th November 2011 - 23:23

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Sorry Simon, I've just re-read the article on PeterboroughToday and still think its perfectly reasonable. In a lot of the comments above (and probably a lot of the comments to follow!) it is portrayed as a "car vs bike" article and I'm afraid that's not what jumps out at me. What jumps out at me is "here's how not to be a dick on your bike".

Do we seriously think that because this guy criticises bikes where the lights are put on back to front, without mentioning dodgy car lights, that he's condoning cars with dodgy lights?

But then it wouldn't be the first time my views are in a minority...

Pete

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posted by PeteH [159 posts]
18th November 2011 - 23:26

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Is it really illegal to ride without lights on the pavement? I didn't know that. In fact sometimes when I haven't got a light I ride on shared use pavement/cyclepath and assumed it was OK. After all it's not on the road. What about the alternative of down the canal towpath (also a cyclepath) and through the woods on the common? Surely that's not illegal.

What is the actual law / highway code statement on this?

posted by outOfPhase [12 posts]
18th November 2011 - 23:51

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PeteH wrote:
What if a member of the public made a complaint about the kind of stuff that's being talked about here, e.g. a car with a dodgy lights. Something minor.

The point here is that the police are targeting cyclists not because of specific complaints or incidents or a body of evidence showing a known issue, but because they asked people what they want policed, and the people said "bikes without lights", regardless of whether that's an issue requiring a concentration of police resources. By *any* measure, it's not. Tell me how it is.

PeteH wrote:
Sorry Simon, I've just re-read the article on PeterboroughToday and still think its perfectly reasonable

If it's perfectly reasonable, why is the person they interviewed – vikeonabike – saying it doesn't represent what he said and it's all arse about front?

PeteH wrote:
What jumps out at me is "here's how not to be a dick on your bike".

Where's the equivalent article on "how not to be a dick in your car"? That's the issue here.

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7324 posts]
19th November 2011 - 0:53

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PeteH wrote:
What jumps out at me is "here's how not to be a dick on your bike".

dave_atkinson wrote:

Where's the equivalent article on "how not to be a dick in your car"? That's the issue here.

Ah, right. Now I understand the beef. But there again, there may be another issue in that some cyclists have a latent "them and us" attitude toward motorists.

I struggle to buy into the argument that says I am a different person when I'm behind the wheel compared to when I'm on a saddle. Sure, I become more dangerous, but that's a different point. I don't suddenly go from being "one of a fraternity" to being the devil incarnate. And speaking personally I'm quite capable of being a dick in either situation (although I try my best not to).

Pete

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posted by PeteH [159 posts]
19th November 2011 - 9:37

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I would think that its beacausethe footway is a part of the highway that lights will be required.

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posted by Hamster [72 posts]
19th November 2011 - 9:38

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PeteH wrote:
I struggle to buy into the argument that says I am a different person when I'm behind the wheel compared to when I'm on a saddle

That's not the point. the point is that the police response to, and the media coverage of, unlit cycling is massively disproportionate to the actual danger it poses and it masks the real issues. The fact that you become more dangerous in a car is a different point, yes. but that's never the one highlighted when it should be because it's the one that's relevant.

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7324 posts]
19th November 2011 - 10:15

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I ride on a shared use towpath which is well lit and I also have my four bike lights on. Unlit bicycles ridden by cyclists wearing dark clothing actually give me the heebie jeebies as they are practically invisible.

posted by mrsminx411 [86 posts]
19th November 2011 - 10:16

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dave_atkinson wrote:

Where's the equivalent article on "how not to be a dick in your car"? That's the issue here.

This was a start!
http://road.cc/content/news/47652-praise-car-websites-article-showing-dr...

posted by UrkB [6 posts]
19th November 2011 - 10:25

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dave_atkinson wrote:
Vikeonabike wrote:
The police, at a local level are driven by what the public want

Therein lies the real issue, as i'm sure we've said before. ask the people what they want and invariably they'll moan about pavement cyclists and riding without lights and hoodies and noisy neighbours and such. police resources shouldn't be allocated on the basis of who's grumpiest and most vocal, like they currently are. That's the system we're stuck with right now though.

No we're blooming well not! PACT is meant to be Police And Communities Together, which includes the Police telling the Community when they're being silly about something that they know is minor (unlit bicycles) and trying to steer it to something wider (unlit vehicles of all types?). It sounds like the Inspector who goes to their PACT meetings in Peterborough (or maybe they've dumped the job on a lower rank, showing their conempt for the scheme) is just agreeing to everything for a quiet life, not doing their job properly.

The flip side is: Cyclists! Find out when+where your local PACT meeting is, go along and have a grumble about defectively-lit cars! Like others above, I've lost count. It's very dangerous if other road users think something with one headlamp is a motorbike when it's actually about 2 metres of metal wide. And do other people find that one-light cars often put it on full beam, maybe trying to compensate?

The system is broken, but let's exploit it.

posted by a.jumper [698 posts]
19th November 2011 - 10:43

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I got drawn into a conversation in a local newspaper where they were spinning something like 200 road casualties a year as a drop and a good thing. I set these figures against casualties from our recent wars - much much lower. Interesting article in the Guardian today deserves wider publicity...
http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/interactive/2011/nov/18/road-cas...

robbiec

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posted by robbieC [62 posts]
19th November 2011 - 12:44

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Quote:
The flip side is: Cyclists! Find out when+where your local PACT meeting is, go along and have a grumble about defectively-lit cars!

So in what way is that not 'police resources allocated on the basis of who's grumpiest and most vocal' then?

I go to local PACT meetings but the fact is, there's more people moaning about hoodies and pavement cyclists and i'm in the minority and always will be.

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7324 posts]
19th November 2011 - 15:23

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dave_atkinson wrote:
Quote:
The flip side is: Cyclists! Find out when+where your local PACT meeting is, go along and have a grumble about defectively-lit cars!

So in what way is that not 'police resources allocated on the basis of who's grumpiest and most vocal' then?

I go to local PACT meetings but the fact is, there's more people moaning about hoodies and pavement cyclists and i'm in the minority and always will be.


Oh yes, this is exactly that! I wrote this was the flip side. The PACT system is broken in many places, so I'm saying cyclists should exploit it where it's broken.

I go to local PACT meetings too and there's very rarely any other members of the public at ours. (Of course, the fact that the police sometimes fail to show up doesn't help encourage them!) So if any cyclists show up and get vocal about the dodgy drivers, it will have a disproportionate effect.

posted by a.jumper [698 posts]
21st November 2011 - 14:35

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