Police and cyclists at loggerheads over Surrey League race cancellation

Race was stopped for safety reasons but organisers say police were heavy handed

by Sarah Barth   July 26, 2012  

Box Hill, Surrey by lostajy.jpg

Our inbox was full and Twitter went wild on Sunday after the Surrey Leage Road Race was cancelled mid-flow, on the same day that Bradley Wiggins secured his win at the Tour de France.

The race, which takes some of the same roads as will be pedalled by the likes of Cavendish and Wiggins on Saturday at the Olympic Road Race, was halted after some cyclists were overtaking dangerously on the wrong side of the road.

A spokesman for Surrey Police told Roadcc that the race had been called off by the organisers, after the police let them know their concerns about the safety of the race.

Nathan Rees said: "The officers had concerns over the dangerous manner of some of the participants' riding and spoke to the organisers on a number of occasions.

"The officers advised that if there continued to be a risk to the safety of both cyclists and motorists using the road, they would have to recommend the race was stopped.

"The organisers of the race then took the decision to halt it.

Surrey Police recognises that there has been an increase in cycling across the county and we do not wish to discourage cyclists from using its roads. However the safety of all road users must be our priority."

But the Surrey Cycle Racing League reacted angrily, saying that the police had been heavy handed.

Glyn Durrant, the Surrey League Administrator, said: "As with all cycle road races, in the early stages it takes a while for the riders to settle down into a competitive event.

"Whilst the commissaires were happy that the early stages were run off with no compromise to the safety of other road users, Surrey Police asked that the race be stopped on the 2nd lap and riders be warned of their conduct.

"This duly done the race started off again and riders were even more vigilant about their riding conduct.

"The commissaires and other race officials decided to abandon the race after stopping the riders for a second time on lap 4 due to the actions of Surrey Police compromising the safety of the riders as well as other road users deliberately trying to impede the progress of the riders.

"Considering that the police are supposed to take an unbiased view in altercations between people with different views, Surrey Police in this instance have taken sides and have done everything in their power to work against cyclists who are only trying to participate in the sport they enjoy."

Michael Humphreys also contacted Roadcc about the event.

He said: "In the wider context of Britain's spectacular success at the Tour, those who've ever ridden events in any other country just wish the conditions and climate of opinion towards cycle sport on our roads could be improved.

"Police actions in this are key and their support is vital to lead public opinion, since Britain's roads are not exactly the most welcoming environment for training or racing."

Andy Rundle, Neighbourhood Inspector for Mole Valley, said: "We want to encourage cyclists to come and enjoy all the area has to offer but we have to ensure that the safety of everyone on the roads is maintained at all times. Sometimes that will result in our officers needing to make difficult decisions but road safety has to remain our priority.

"We are committed to liasing and working with cycle organisations to ensure that any events held in the local area do not put other road users or the cyclists themselves in any danger."

Were you at the Surrey League Road Race on Sunday? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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The Cycling Silk linked to an account from his blog, fwiw;

http://firstseasoncycling.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/corri-dorri-sl-23-road-...

--
"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [420 posts]
26th July 2012 - 12:13

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Posted this elsewhere, but have seen nothing to suggest I've misinterpreted the situation:

"Do chipper wannabe pros have the authority to cross solid lines on an open road circuit, or take blind bends on the wrong side of the road, all for the sake of moving up a few places in the bunch, while barging back in at the last minute to avoid oncoming vehicles? Why should I be put at greater risk, whether as a fellow racer or another road user, because some ignorant, selfish oik thinks the rules of the road don't apply during a race? One should forget what the police are doing and stick to the rules, thereby looking after oneself and others. Simple really."

I blogged on a similar kind of theme a little while back:

http://fiftyyearsandcounting.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/its-not-just-drive...

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posted by ColT [210 posts]
26th July 2012 - 12:24

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Im as big a wet liberal libertarian police hating whinger as the next man but i cant help thinking that gloves-off bicycle racing on unclosed roads is kinda asking for trouble.
Can i speculate that perhaps some of these chaps were getting a little bit carried away and just because one rides a bicycle and is therefore superior to other mere mortals it doesnt stop you being a bit of a div sometimes.

posted by Some Fella [748 posts]
26th July 2012 - 12:35

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I don't do the large cat 1 - 2 local chainy because of the risks they run - and that's just in training. It's always been the case but with the sudden influx to racing of more and more sportive riders who don't ride with clubs and don't know how to ride safely in a race group the situation is only getting worse.

Not sure what the answer is. For me I don't ride at speed in groups larger than 10. They're normally people I ride with regularly and so we have more reaction time and better reactions. Anyone taking risks gets a bollocking. It may sound bossy but as BW says 'It's just cycling'. I don't want to die stupidly on the chainy.

Silly me. You're probably right....

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posted by MercuryOne [1058 posts]
26th July 2012 - 12:42

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I agree with the comment on races on unclosed roads.

Problem is riders seem to think as they're racing the highway code does not apply to them.

Reading the link to the blog is also seems that far to frequent crashes are still happening and this probably spooked the police.

Reading the blog reminds me why not to get into road racing!

posted by gazzaputt [179 posts]
26th July 2012 - 13:14

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It's one of the things I hate about road racing - the riders that belt down the outside as the bunch slows for a corner and then chop-in at the front whilst further back you end up coming to a halt. They're often the same riders that get shelled as soon as you hit any form of incline or there's an acceleration from the bunch.

Perhaps fitting videos in commissaires cars and penalising (DQ) repeat offenders would force them to change their habits?

I don't endorse the behaviour of the police either, but feels like there's go to be a compromise it their somewhere?

Make mine an Italian with Campagnolo on the side

posted by monty dog [361 posts]
26th July 2012 - 13:26

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I've raced in a few of these open road races. The problem is that the roads are narrow and its hard to move up in the bunch without crossing the line. Provided that it isn't on a blind rise or corner I don't see the problem with it. However, I have seen 2 incidents when people have hit cars in these races from crossing the line and no matter what people say, these road races are dangerous. The roads in England, well Surrey are just too narrow for safe racing. Combined with the quality of the roads and parked cars etc its usually a bit of a dangerous affair. Still, it would be sad to lose proper road racing in the UK.

posted by andyindo [4 posts]
26th July 2012 - 13:56

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Road racing on open roads seems stupid. I'm not sure I could imagine that ever being safe.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3108 posts]
26th July 2012 - 14:20

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Ahhhhhhhh! Surrey League Smile (Waves of nostalgia flooding back to me Cool ) Got some of my best scars from these races Cool Pretty faded now. But it is good to see that it is still going.... and causing controversy. If someone is splatted all over the front of an on coming car after crossing a solid white line....Saying that 'he got carried away' is an understatement! Do not want to vouch for all Police officers but in general they demonstrate good judgement. Remember that if the officer let the race continue and someone did 'get carried away'; who gets the blame Thinking

posted by SideBurn [787 posts]
26th July 2012 - 14:31

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This will become more and more of an issue, and as mentioned above, with more and more riders competing whilst remaining outside of the traditional club structure, £6k carbon superbikes and the rest, crashes and accidents will become more frequent. Personally I don't believe there should be any such thing as racing for anybody below a 2nd cat ability - in other European countries it doesn't exist - 3rd/4th cat standard riders should go and do sportives like they do in France/Belgium/Italy. With scarce resources, we can't afford to indulge people who think that at 34 and with a new Colnago, they are the next Cavendish. Instead we should focus on junior, under 23 and E/1/2 cat racing and then have rolling road closures put in place for them. With less racing the police may find more love for us when we do put on something for aspiring riders and accomplished amateurs rather than for bankers and financiers from Dynarod CC. This would also lead to better quality sportives for those that are unable to race to a sufficient standard - this may sound harsh but it is the reality when we are competing on busy roads. No 3rd cat standard rider should be allowed to race on open roads with cars coming the other way. In a sportive, it's clear - you race your mates, but only 100% within the rules of the road.

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posted by theclaw [75 posts]
26th July 2012 - 14:34

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Some Fella.

Unfortunately we dont have the luxury of being able to ride races on closed roads. Rolling road block is the only way that racing can take place and that is the grass roots of racing that larger scale success is built up on.

In Wales the NEG have the power to stop traffic as the race passes but not in the UK. I think this would be a great help over here. Lots of cars do not slow down despite having at least 2 lead cars clearly signed and motorbike outriders passing.

Yes you do get some idiots partaking in stupid manouveres to move up the bunch but in my experience it is in the minority. They will also get a lot of stick from other riders about it.

posted by alwaysapleasure [16 posts]
26th July 2012 - 14:35

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theclaw

How would you ever get to that standard without competing?

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posted by phy2sll [26 posts]
26th July 2012 - 14:55

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In civilised countries, they close the roads for bike races, even little village fête and kermis affairs.

WTF can't we do that?

posted by JohnS [198 posts]
26th July 2012 - 15:13

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phy2sll wrote:
theclaw

How would you ever get to that standard without competing?

If you are ever going to turn pro, or even compete at a high amateur level, you would already be at 1st cat level by the time you were a junior. I did also say that junior/U23 racing should be kept as a major focus too. I'm sorry if that sounds harsh - we could still promote 3rd/4th cat racing on closed circuits like Hog Hill, but it's time we grew up a bit with our domestic racing scene. NOBODY in continental Europe at that level gets to race on open roads in built up areas - just the way it is.

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posted by theclaw [75 posts]
26th July 2012 - 15:25

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Not sure people race Surrey League because they genuinely believe they have a chance of becoming pro. Rather that they enjoy racing on the road? There are loads of 3/4 standard riders who don't do stupid stuff - why deny them that enjoyment?

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posted by phy2sll [26 posts]
26th July 2012 - 16:24

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For a moment I thought I'd accidently logged on to the RAC or AA news page!

Firstly, there's two sides to every story and in this case its no different. See the statement made by Surrey League:
http://ukcyclesport.com/all-news/82-lat ... ue-respond

They clearly felt that the police actually compromised the safety of the riders. From members of our club that participated in the race I hear this was also the view of other cyclists and the ambulance driver that accompanied the Marshalls at this event. Whilst I was not there, our club did help Marshall an event on the same circuit in May and we encountered unnecessary hostility from drivers and locals, eg. not stopping when being asked to wait 30 seconds at a junction for the peloton to pass.
I am not condoning cyclists that break traffic laws (such as crossing an unbroken white line) or put themselves or others in unnecessary danger during a race. They should be disqualified from the race immediately. However I have the impression there was some strong lobbying of the police from local NIMBYs.

Some of the comments accompanying this article are pretty thoughtless:
1. If you restrict road races to U23 or Cat 1s you will immediately cut off all grass roots support. These races are supported by volunteers why should they give up time to assist in events with such restricted access?
2. If all races under Cat 1 or Elite level had to be on closed circuits that would be the quickest way to kill any interest - imagine 80 laps of HogHill!
3. Why is it people seem to assume all crashes are caused by someone with a £6K carbon super bike - not that I have one.

posted by TimB [4 posts]
26th July 2012 - 16:34

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TimB wrote:
Whilst I was not there, our club did help Marshall an event on the same circuit in May and we encountered unnecessary hostility from drivers and locals, eg. not stopping when being asked to wait 30 seconds at a junction for the peloton to pass.

What power entitles a race marshall to request that other road users, on open roads, going lawfully about their business, wait for "30 seconds" at a junction for a peleton to pass?

Doing so probably falls into the category of questions not to ask as you may not like the answers. Answers which probably originate from locals whose weekends are regularly blighted, their words not mine, by weekend warriors riding the roads of, to, and from, the Surrey Hills, in bunches/groups without displaying much courtesy to other road users.

I'm fairly local. I see both sides or the case nearly every weekend.

Really, though?

posted by workhard [378 posts]
26th July 2012 - 17:15

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TimB wrote:

Some of the comments accompanying this article are pretty thoughtless:
1. If you restrict road races to U23 or Cat 1s you will immediately cut off all grass roots support. These races are supported by volunteers why should they give up time to assist in events with such restricted access?
2. If all races under Cat 1 or Elite level had to be on closed circuits that would be the quickest way to kill any interest - imagine 80 laps of HogHill!
3. Why is it people seem to assume all crashes are caused by someone with a £6K carbon super bike - not that I have one.

My comments aren't meant to hurt or offend - I am just calling a spade a spade - but to answer your points in turn:
(1)You will cut off all grass roots support - this is ridiculous! How do you think Belgium and France and Italy became cycling nations? By hosting races for 3/4th cats? Races for these abilities do not exist in these countries and they have far more grass roots support than we will ever have - virtually the entire Belgian population gets involved in supporting bike racing. If we had fewer but better races we may actually get more people out to help with organisation.
(2)If you are 3/4th cat level and you want to express your competitive instinct, go and do a sportive with your mates - these are timed for the most part, follow much more beautiful routes for the most part, and don't tend to encourage mass pile-ups. On a per-head basis, they also use up less police time and public goodwill.
(3)There is an influx of people into the sport at the moment. This will become even greater with the Wiggo win (this is a good thing, BTW). From my observations of the London scene, a lot of these guys like flashing the cash and the carbon superbikes. I have nothing against them, it's great for the bike industry and for the NHS if they stop quaffing beer and champagne, but it's not suitable for them to be racing on open roads pretending that they are leading the Tour under the 10km to go banner. Send them on a sportive with a great route and a clear message that the rules of the road are in force. Leave the racing to people who can actually race - juniors, under 23's, Elite's/1st's maybe 2nd's if they promise to behave.

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posted by theclaw [75 posts]
26th July 2012 - 17:43

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>(2)If you are 3/4th cat level and you want to express your competitive instinct, go and do a sportive with your mates

Funny, when I've looked up info on sportives the one point that appears is 'it is not a race'. The BC term/conditions for non-competive events say something similar. In any case, that rather assumes one's mates are the same ability.

Admittedly mtb racing is offroad (tho' trailquests - if there's any still around nowadays - involve road use) but there's nothing to say someone can't compete in an appropriate class if they're slower for whatever reason. Why should road racing be any different so long as people aren't riding like idiots ?

posted by JonD [180 posts]
26th July 2012 - 18:38

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Quote:
What power entitles a race marshall to request that other road users, on open roads, going lawfully about their business, wait for "30 seconds" at a junction for a peleton to pass?

Any member of the public has the right to ASK traffic to wait - you'd ask traffic to wait/slow down if there was an accident ahead for example or you might warn a fellow motorist of a hazard ahead. What the motorist chooses to do with that request is up to them - if they choose to go flying through regardless then you'd best hope that all the riders are behaving themselves and aren't on the wrong side of the road!

And some regions have legally empowered signs and trained marshals now similar to the signs that workmen or school crossing patrols use - the sign has the legal power to stop traffic and it's an offence for the motorist to ignore that.

posted by crazy-legs [509 posts]
26th July 2012 - 19:54

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I do wonder why cyclists crossing a solid white line is a problem when i am overtaken, often dangerously by Motorists crossing solid white lines every day?

Then again my dealing with Glos. Pol. suggest that cyclists are a nuiscance and if they all disappear so much the better.

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posted by mrmo [1074 posts]
26th July 2012 - 20:51

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cant help but think that maybe getting better relationships between BC and motor racing circuits might be the answer

but apart from that i'm one of these 3/4 racers and i prefer the open road to going round & round in crits, and the question is does behavior change round the country? i raced the cdnw series, and a few other rr in yorkshire area and i haven't experienced any of these problems with traffic being intolerant

there are a few silly riders but mostly they all seem sensible and understand what is ok and what isn't

i would understand if it was banned but i dont think it would be the right decision for the sport

posted by sam_bennett [55 posts]
26th July 2012 - 21:36

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This type of incident happens occasionally and when it does people tend to get upset and come out with "views" that are really not carefully considered thoughts. So here are my possibly not carefully considered thoughts.

To those who say we shouldn't have lower category races on open roads I would point out that it is not the category of rider that makes riders cross the white line.

I raced on open roads for approaching 20 years in 1st, 2nd, 3rd category and junior and Pro-Am events and during that time I saw riders of all categories (including pros) cross the line on the brow of hills and cross solid white lines and saw some very near misses. I also knew one rider who was killed making such a move - a devastating tragedy for family and friends.

There were a handful of occasions when I dropped back to the commissaires car or motorbike and argued with them for allowing dangerous riding.

My experience with the police has varied between excellent and rubbish but in this case I'll leave those who were there to comment.

So what is the solution?

1) Race officials applying the rules consistently and fully
2) Rider pressure on race officials to apply the rules properly because the officials are supposed to ensure the safety of all those riding
3) Peer pressure among riders on safety matters. I've seen many riders warned about dangerous riding by fellow competitors. We've seen the top pros in the world stop racing when conditions were too dangerous
4) Support the police whenever they take action against those actually braking the rules of the road in or around a race (cyclists and drivers)
5) Challenge the police through official channels when they fail to act appropriately

The solution should not and must not be to stop racing on open roads. The cost of road closures would be prohibitive and very few races would take place - hardly ideal development for a sport with ambition for the future.

Shay

posted by shay cycles [221 posts]
26th July 2012 - 22:43

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@theclaw

I know somewhere in the British Cycling rules it bans 4th cat only races on open roads due to the riders not having the racing exerience to race on open roads, but not allowing 3rd cats to race on open roads would be pointless. I am a 3rd cat junior but have been racing for nearly 10 years and have ample skills and experience to ride these events. If anything the E/1/2 races are worst on paper as the riders have not much more skill but are going faster and are more desperate to win. On another note, quite a few 3rd cats are riders who have been racing as an E/1/2 for years and have only dropped back down because they dont have the speed to get the points needed to maintain their category, but still have the experience.

regarding races in other countries, they have just as many races for lower categories, but there is more provision made for them. for example, some german and french people of my age that I know raced last year in U16 level races, and even for small regional races, they were run on closed roads, which shows that other countries support lower end races enough to make them safe.

posted by jamjam [61 posts]
27th July 2012 - 0:33

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Dont assume that applies everywhere. At the Australian National Championships last summer (yes, THE NATIONALS), the individual time trial was on an open road. Believe it or not.

Jack Bobridge got wiped out when in position and a large truck passed too close.

GeeTee

posted by GeeTee [5 posts]
27th July 2012 - 2:09

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jamjam wrote:
@theclaw

I know somewhere in the British Cycling rules it bans 4th cat only races on open roads due to the riders not having the racing exerience to race on open roads, but not allowing 3rd cats to race on open roads would be pointless. I am a 3rd cat junior but have been racing for nearly 10 years and have ample skills and experience to ride these events. If anything the E/1/2 races are worst on paper as the riders have not much more skill but are going faster and are more desperate to win. On another note, quite a few 3rd cats are riders who have been racing as an E/1/2 for years and have only dropped back down because they dont have the speed to get the points needed to maintain their category, but still have the experience.

regarding races in other countries, they have just as many races for lower categories, but there is more provision made for them. for example, some german and french people of my age that I know raced last year in U16 level races, and even for small regional races, they were run on closed roads, which shows that other countries support lower end races enough to make them safe.

JamJam great to hear you joining in the debate, it is good that Juniors get involved rather than having a bunch of old gits arguing their entrenched points of view. You are exactly the type of rider that resources and time should be spent on organising races for. The reality in and around London however is that there is so much traffic that we should use what resources and goodwill we do have for getting better quality races organised, rather than hundreds of little events for 3rd/4th cats that suffer from open roads and interference from the public. 1 proper race for juniors is better than 10 chippers for those either decending the categories (i.e myself) or those not good enough to get out of 3rd cat standard. In my dreams we would have racing for everybody every weekend, and you do make a good point about there being some lower category closed road racing in France/Germany, but they are in very rural locations mostly. There's not a lot in and around Paris for example - virtually nothing. Anyway good luck with your racing - hope you get down a track occasionally, it seems to be a good way forward...

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posted by theclaw [75 posts]
27th July 2012 - 9:52

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I wonder if any of the cyclists taking part were filming their progress and would be kind enough (if we could find someone brave enough) to send them to an independent adjudicator then the police could do the same because most (not all) vehicles are fitted with cams and then as they say the truth will out. I personally am going to remain firmly sitting on the fence on this issue.

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posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [584 posts]
27th July 2012 - 11:03

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Maybe the answer is cat 3\4 races are only run on circuits.

We have plenty of them now.

posted by gazzaputt [179 posts]
27th July 2012 - 11:53

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+1 theclaw

posted by 37monkey [143 posts]
27th July 2012 - 13:34

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"I do wonder why cyclists crossing a solid white line is a problem when i am overtaken, often dangerously by Motorists crossing solid white lines every day?"

When I was a newbie on the Traffic Dept I went out one day with my Skipper to do a bit of local familiarisation. I was fairly confident (as you are) at one point and started to 'wind-up' for an overtake on a relatively short stretch of road that led into a right hand bend. My skipper, bless him, turned to me and, gently placing his hand on the gear lever, said "Whenever you're thinking about an overtake, always imagine that I'm coming the other way on a shout"**

I have never forgotten that advice because I feel it is one of those gems of insight that keeps people alive.

One of the other insights I learnt from those days was "The more paint the more danger"

Solid white lines are there for a very good reason!

**My skipper was the smoothest, fastest and safest driver on the department, what he could do with a car was amazing and if I was ever in dire circumstances (which I was on a few occasions) it was always a relief to hear that my skipper was 'making progress' toward me.

posted by Hasis [36 posts]
27th July 2012 - 13:44

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