Here’s a video sent in by a road.cc reader of the type of behaviour that gives all cyclists a bad name, as they ignore a red traffic light and carry on through a junction … except here, it’s not bike riders at all, it’s motorists, and for some reason not all of them get tarred with the same brush as the ones who break the law. Moreover, in this case, the police did not respond to the cyclist after he sent them the footage of the drivers breaking the law.
You don’t have to spend too long in the comments section of any local newspaper article to realise that the actions of a few cyclists who ride through red lights or on the footway – in both cases, often on grounds of safety – equate, in some people’s minds, to all bike riders doing that.
At the same time, motorists ignoring traffic lights, or driving onto the pavement, does not attract the same venom, and where such instances are reported – all too often where someone has been killed or injured as a result – the incident is attributed to the specific individual, not motorists as a whole.
The clip above was filmed by road.cc reader William, who submitted it to police but did not receive a response.
He told us: “I was approaching this junction on the A6 from one of the side roads when a car shot past at 70, obviously crashing the lights.
“I heard that this was commonplace at this junction where 3 roads cross, so decided to film it – and it is! This is just 1 of 4 offences that occurred within 40 minutes or so – but there has been the anticipated complete absence of response from Lancashire Constabulary to the online incident report of 21.6.20.
“Lancashire Constabulary just uses that system as a quick way to file reports in the bin,” he continued.
“Certainly, reporting to the Police and Crime Commissioner or the local MP is useless in Lancashire – they just refer everything back to the police, who promptly ignore it again. I have tried it over close-passing to no effect,” he added.
That last point echoes a story we published last week, which looked at how some police forces are treating close passes of cyclists by motorists, and other law-breaking behaviour by drivers, as a “victimless crime” according to Cycling UK.
A road.cc reader had contacted us to say that they had been told by Hertfordshire Police that they wouldn’t act on a close pass video submitted to them because there was no “victim” – ie someone who had suffered harm, whether physical, mental, emotional or economic, as a result of a criminal act.
Cycling UK’s head of campaigns said: “Most police forces accept reports by cyclists of careless or dangerous driving, often close passes captured on camera, as a complaint by a victim. They’re then providing information about the investigation in compliance with the [Victims] Code [of Conduct].
“Unfortunately, Hertfordshire Police and some other forces seem to have concluded that close passing a cyclist is a victimless crime, and are treating the person making a report and submitting evidence merely as a witness, to whom the entitlements under the Code don’t apply.
“Many cyclists reporting close passes and other incidents will have been shaken, distressed, and frightened by what’s happened, so the careless or dangerous driving isn’t victimless. It’s really disappointing that a few police forces are applying a narrow interpretation of the Code, to avoid providing information to people endangered by someone else’s driving.
“The refusal to do so implies that their report isn’t been taken seriously, because there’s no victim, so we’d implore Hertfordshire Police to follow the lead most police forces are taking, treating road crime as real crime and cyclists reporting close passes as victims,” he added.
Last year, we reported how a study from the Danish Road Directorate found that less than 5 per cent of cyclists break traffic laws compared to 66 per cent of drivers.
The study was conducted by consulting firm Rambøll using video cameras at major junctions in cities including Copenhagen.
As we noted at the time, there is a widespread perception among non-cyclists that people who ride bikes ignore red traffic lights.
Commenting on the study, privately-funded NGO the Danish Cycling Embassy, suggested that visibility was a key factor, saying that while law-breaking cyclists are “easy to notice for everyone,” it is harder to spot motorists breaking the law, for example through speeding.
There has been a sharp increase in the number of drivers caught breaking the speed limit across the UK over the past three months, with some motorists taking advantage of quieter than usual roads during lockdown to drive well beyond the permitted speed limit.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.