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Firefighter had criticised bike riders after incident that left one with life-changing injuries

London Fire Brigade has moved swiftly to disassociate itself from comments critical of cyclists made by one of its firefighters following an incident that left a bike rider with what are described as “life-changing injuries.”

The cyclist, a man thought to be aged in his 30s, was struck by a Nissan Qashqai 4x4 on Friday evening at the car park of the Merton branch of Sainsbury’s, and suffered severe burns from its catalytic converter as he lay trapped underneath it.

The incident was attended by the London Fire Brigade as well as the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service.

It took around a minute to free the man, who was also having severe difficulty in breathing, reports the Wimbledon Guardian.

It is comments made to the same newspaper afterwards that attracted criticism.

The unnamed crew member said: “There is a big problem with cyclists at the moment generally.

“There are so many more cyclists on the roads that we have had a number of incidents ourselves with fire engines in recent months.

“What they do is tuck themselves between the 150mm gap of the kerb and lorry and really get themselves into places they just should not be.

“They are not respecting the road are getting themselves into dangerous positions.”

“If there is a small gap, just stay back.”

Many of the people making comments to the article, published yesterday, took London Fire Brigade to task for the comments apparently made on its behalf and the element of victim-blaming they complained.

Several commenters pointed out that it was insensitive to speak about cyclists in such sweeping terms when the alleged behaviour of some bore no relation to the incident at hand, which had left someone seriously injured.

One commenter added: “I have been to Wimbledon Fire Station on a number of occasions with children from my Cub Pack, and I suspect that I know who made these very insensitive comments.

“I for one will not go back there again until I see a retraction of what has been said.”

Today, London Fire Brigade’s borough commander for Merton, Rick Ogden, sought to distance the fire service from the individual’s remarks.

He said: “The comment published in the Wimbledon Guardian was from an individual and does not represent the views of the London Fire Brigade.

“We take our responsibilities to all road users very seriously and firefighters work closely with partner agencies to promote safety on London’s roads.

“Our thoughts are with the people involved in this incident.”

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.

28 comments

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sm [390 posts] 2 years ago
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The comment seems like a genuine piece of advice to me. Don't squeeze into dangerous spaces. I see it every day on every commute. Drivers and cyclists need educating. Maybe the comment was badly timed but the employers shouldn't abandon the message.

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a.jumper [846 posts] 2 years ago
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Where can you get these 150mm (6") bikes?

Idiot.

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VeloPeo [312 posts] 2 years ago
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sm wrote:

The comment seems like a genuine piece of advice to me. Don't squeeze into dangerous spaces. I see it every day on every commute. Drivers and cyclists need educating. Maybe the comment was badly timed but the employers shouldn't abandon the message.

Think the point is that, although sound advice, it was badly timed and irrelevant to the incident they were dealing with

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Actium [38 posts] 2 years ago
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However sound the advice not to squeeze into a small gap, to say there is a big problem with bikes generally is ridiculous when 80% of collisions are solely the fault of the driver of the motor vehicle. I suppose it wasn't an official statement and just reflects the stupidity of the general public, not that I have anything against the general public some of my best friends are generally public.

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Al__S [1053 posts] 2 years ago
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in the context of the particular incident, it's wrong and insensitive to try to tack on any message about general cyclist behaviour OR lethally dangerous driving by large trucks.

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alexholt3 [53 posts] 2 years ago
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Nothing wrong with what he said.

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theclaw [73 posts] 2 years ago
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News service: "Fatal car crash on the M25, mother and children killed in their burning car"

Fire service: "The problem is there are a lot of idiots driving these low-slung cars from McLaren and Ferrari into the first corner at very high speed. They don't leave enough space and they have dangerously small rear-view mirrors. Driving fatalities are the inevitable consequence."

Sack him. Oh no you can't - I forgot, he's unionized.

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farrell [1950 posts] 2 years ago
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alexholt3 wrote:

Nothing wrong with what he said.

Do you really believe that?

So you agree that “There is a big problem with cyclists at the moment generally"?

Do you believe that cyclists are, or even could "tuck themselves between the 150mm gap of the kerb and lorry" 150mm? Really? There are mobile phones that couldn't fit into that sort of gap, let alone a bike and a rider.

Also ask yourself, why if they are indeed having so many incidents with cyclists are they continuing to drive several tonnes of machinery 150mm from the kerb?

“They are not respecting the road are getting themselves into dangerous positions.” - This bit is just frothing nonsense, are you sure you agree with it?
It actually links in quite nicely with a blog post I read yesterday: http://beyondthekerb.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/the-most-basic-respect/

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banzicyclist2 [299 posts] 2 years ago
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A case of bad timing that's all. Squeezing down the side of a bus or HGV is just asking for it IMO. I get frustrated with busses blocking the cycle lane on the approach to lights, but it's not worth death or injury; I just swear a bit and hang back; or if save go round the right hand side..... never down the left!

Sounds like a terrible situation trapped under a red hot exhaust pipe.... doesn't bear thinking about.

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nuclear coffee [214 posts] 2 years ago
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It's not just badly timed, it makes the assumption that the cyclist is always to blame. Note that there is *no* advice for drivers in that message.

So yes, it is pretty awful, usual victim blaming bullshit.

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Bez [599 posts] 2 years ago
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Squeezing up the inside of large vehicles without being absolutely certain of getting visible in front of them before they move is A Properly Unwise Thing To Do, but the real problem is that the roads teach cyclists to do it.

http://beyondthekerb.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/tipping-out-the-paint/

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1750nick [12 posts] 2 years ago
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If anyone in the NHS/Ambulance Service had made a comment like that which was related directly to an incident, we would be instantly dismissed under the data protection act!

“There are so many more cyclists on the roads that we have had a number of incidents ourselves with fire engines in recent months". How? They can't go out more than once a week! How on earth can they come into contact with anyone.

Sack this idiot and get him to find a proper hard working job.

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lakeland bimbler [17 posts] 2 years ago
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The Data protection Act contains no provisions for sacking anyone!

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teaboy [311 posts] 2 years ago
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1750nick wrote:

If anyone in the NHS/Ambulance Service had made a comment like that which was related directly to an incident, we would be instantly dismissed under the data protection act!

“There are so many more cyclists on the roads that we have had a number of incidents ourselves with fire engines in recent months". How? They can't go out more than once a week! How on earth can they come into contact with anyone.

Sack this idiot and get him to find a proper hard working job.

They have to refuel them somehow, just in case they hit that 9% of their working time when they actually have a shout...

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edster99 [336 posts] 2 years ago
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Badly timed - yes.
Insensitive - probably, yes.
An increasing number of incidents - most likely, there are a lot more people on bikes. Lots of them may not have decades of riding experience.

Just stay back - yes, I would say so. I know it as 'riding defensively' i.e. assume that everyone else is an idiot and wont see you unless you make sure they do. If you ride up the inside of an HGV / PSV, that does not fall into that category. Then you put your safety in someone else's hands, and they may not even know it. I don't like that.

Sometimes cyclists (us) perform risky manoeuvres - and the consequences if it goes wrong are far worse than if we were driving a car / lorry / etc.

Even though 80% (?) of accidents are solely the fault of the motor vehicles involved, it's still sounds advice not to ride up the left of a lorry, and if the remaining 20% can be reduced lets do it.

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step-hent [723 posts] 2 years ago
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lakeland bimbler wrote:

The Data protection Act contains no provisions for sacking anyone!

Quite right. Employment contracts do though.

That said, I don't think it is a sacking offence. He's entitled to his view, as wrong as it may be. I have more of an issue with the paper publishing it, to be honest - that's where the damage is done, because people reading it give it a level of credibility it doesn't deserve and then assume they have no responsibility to look out for 'those idiot cyclists'.

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fancynancy [78 posts] 2 years ago
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I am very happy at him pointing this out. Not offended in the slightest. The more thats done to highlight the silly things some people do on bikes the better I say!  41

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bendertherobot [1150 posts] 2 years ago
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Staying back is, of course, a relative concept. The assumption that this sort of comment is based on is one which assumes that the cyclist has failed to do so. In some cases that is true. But, in many cases, the outcome (squished cyclist) is because the overtake has failed to be completed in a proper manner.

I never undertake large vehicles. Hell, I rarely undertake full stop. If it's safe to do so when turning left then, on occasion, I do. But otherwise, always on the outside, again, if it's safe.

But all too often now, even when taking primary, I'm made subject to an overtake which requires me to a) hold my line and be squashed or b) brake and come out the back. The fact that I am typing is clear evidence of the option I take but the lack of consideration of what is ahead is a major issue on our roads.

The statement made here is a sensible one. But it implies that this sort of accident is caused by the cyclist. Some are, of course. But, once again, we have a creeping generalisation which the motor vehicle fraternity will take as fact.

That the comment is also stupidly hyperbolic (my thighs are more than 16cm each) is indicative of a stereotypical view from the officer concerned.

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kie7077 [880 posts] 2 years ago
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Actium wrote:

However sound the advice not to squeeze into a small gap, to say there is a big problem with bikes generally is ridiculous when 80% of collisions are solely the fault of the driver of the motor vehicle. I suppose it wasn't an official statement and just reflects the stupidity of the general public, not that I have anything against the general public some of my best friends are generally public.

Correction, in 80% of collisions the driver is at fault, not solely at fault, cyclists share blame some degree of the time, to what degree I don't know.

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northstar [1108 posts] 2 years ago
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sm wrote:

The comment seems like a genuine piece of advice to me. Don't squeeze into dangerous spaces. I see it every day on every commute. Drivers and cyclists need educating. Maybe the comment was badly timed but the employers shouldn't abandon the message.

Again, more rubbish.

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nuclear coffee [214 posts] 2 years ago
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Al__S wrote:

in the context of the particular incident, it's wrong and insensitive to try to tack on any message about general cyclist behaviour OR lethally dangerous driving by large trucks.

The like button was just introduced in the "blue" website update wasn't it? Good idea responsible person.

I don't really care if what he's saying is a good idea. Not his place to pin blame on the individual in the crash either way, definitely not his place to criticise a whole group, and even more not his place if he's completely ignoring the actions of the other group, which according to the Transport Research Lab are actually the more likely to be at fault. Add these up together = one total prick.

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zanf [859 posts] 2 years ago
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kie7077 wrote:
Actium wrote:

However sound the advice not to squeeze into a small gap, to say there is a big problem with bikes generally is ridiculous when 80% of collisions are solely the fault of the driver of the motor vehicle. I suppose it wasn't an official statement and just reflects the stupidity of the general public, not that I have anything against the general public some of my best friends are generally public.

Correction, in 80% of collisions the driver is at fault, not solely at fault, cyclists share blame some degree of the time, to what degree I don't know.

WTF are you rambling on about?

The study that Actium is citing from stated...

Quote:

...With adult cyclists, police found the driver solely responsible in about 60%-75% of all cases, and riders solely at fault 17%-25% of the time.

[Source]

Please, if you're going to spout bollocks, at least have the decency to read the fucking study youre going to quote wrongly.

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Overweightrider [6 posts] 2 years ago
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VeloPeo wrote:
sm wrote:

The comment seems like a genuine piece of advice to me. Don't squeeze into dangerous spaces. I see it every day on every commute. Drivers and cyclists need educating. Maybe the comment was badly timed but the employers shouldn't abandon the message.

Think the point is that, although sound advice, it was badly timed and irrelevant to the incident they were dealing with

Indeed, it's sound advice, just delivered at the wrong place and at the wrong time. There are a lot of suicidal cyclists who squeeze into impossibly small gaps beside buses and HGVs. Unfortunately, sometimes they ended up getting squished. However, that has absolutely nothing to do with a cyclist getting run over by a small family car in a supermarket car park.

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Cauld Lubter [135 posts] 2 years ago
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Fair comment; some people, whether on cycles or not, are stupid bastards.
I really don't see why the LFB is bothering to pander to the moaners.

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kie7077 [880 posts] 2 years ago
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zanf wrote:
kie7077 wrote:
Actium wrote:

However sound the advice not to squeeze into a small gap, to say there is a big problem with bikes generally is ridiculous when 80% of collisions are solely the fault of the driver of the motor vehicle. I suppose it wasn't an official statement and just reflects the stupidity of the general public, not that I have anything against the general public some of my best friends are generally public.

Correction, in 80% of collisions the driver is at fault, not solely at fault, cyclists share blame some degree of the time, to what degree I don't know.

WTF are you rambling on about?

The study that Actium is citing from stated...

Quote:

...With adult cyclists, police found the driver solely responsible in about 60%-75% of all cases, and riders solely at fault 17%-25% of the time.

[Source]

Please, if you're going to spout bollocks, at least have the decency to read the fucking study youre going to quote wrongly.

Well 60-75% is rather vague, which is it? And neither number equals 80%.

And why are you saying Actium is quoting that study when he didn't mention any study and the figures don't match..

Some actual figures:

Pedal cyclist accidents contributary factors (by the cyclist) 2012 (including combinations of)
Vehicle defects 2%
Injudicious action: 14%
Rider error: 36%
Impairment or distraction: 7%
Behaviour or inexerience: 10%

Overall, cyclists are in part resonsible in 50% of their accidents according to the govt statistics.

Source:
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/fil...

So next time you go shouting your mouth off at someone, at least get the numbers right in your own post before slamming someone else without having any proof that they're even wrong.

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FluffyKittenofT... [1240 posts] 2 years ago
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So, a policeman responds to a racist attack on an innocent Pakistani guy, who has been very seriously injured. He then tells a reporter on the spot 'there's a big problem with Islamic extremists these days, they stir people up and commit acts of terrorism'.

You don't see a problem there?

And its not just 'bad timing' its very deliberate bad timing, that means something - victim blaming.

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FluffyKittenofT... [1240 posts] 2 years ago
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Actually, in the vast majority of cases, regardless of who made the biggest mistake, its the presence of the motorist that created the danger. The cars are the source of the problem.

Its very very rare for a cyclist to kill or injure another cyclist (yes, I noticed there was one such incident reported on this site a few days ago - its remarkable for its rarity).

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therealsmallboy [168 posts] 2 years ago
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Firstly, this kind of generalization is, as always, uncalled for.

However:

I think firefighters see a lot of horrific things and this is just a bloke who has his levels adrenaline up after saving a bloke, trapped under a 4x4. A bit like a fresh-from-the-race Cav interview. The circumstances might have pointed towards the cyclist being in the wrong and the firefighter felt that if he'd just used his brain it may not have happened. We don't know. Maybe the driver was doing his laces up!

It's easy to read "30 year old cyclist" and assume that they're like us. i.e, a fit lycra-wearing road racing type (ish). Anyone who commutes regularly knows what the officer is getting at- there is genuinely a 'problem' with some people, whether they're on a bike, in a car, horse etc. The clinch point is that when on a bike, the outcome is often much worse for them. When in a car, the outcome is worse for us (sensible cyclists). Unfortunately, firefighters really do see the worst case scenario that results from all of this idiocy and I think that this guy just had a bit of a vent.

A somewhat prejudiced vent, but a vent all the same.