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Police officer blames cyclist for taxi driver close pass – road safety experts (including another traffic officer) disagree

A West Yorkshire Police officer wrongly told a cyclist his not using a cycle lane contributed to a driver's poor decision making...

West Yorkshire Police are accused of victim blaming after telling a cyclist his actions contributed to a dangerous close pass by a taxi driver, because he didn’t use a cycle lane.

The remark was made by a West Yorkshire Police officer in response to footage of a close pass submitted by university lecturer George Holmes, who was cycling back from a police station. The officer said Holmes’ road positioning “contributed to poor decision making” by the driver because he didn’t use the cycle lane, taking up primary position in the road instead.  

The response was met with concern by road safety experts who believe the officer’s advice is categorically wrong, and road.cc now understands West Yorkshire Police is investigating the incident in question and training a “force-wide video submission team”, to improve officers’ understanding of submitted evidence.

In footage seen by road.cc Holmes, a lecturer at Leeds University, was cycling home from a local police station on 22 December 2019, where he was reporting a minor collision, when a taxi driver overtook him at close proximity, at speed.

That evening Holmes submitted the video to West Yorkshire Police by emailing their dedicated road safety enforcement team, Operation Steerside.

Cyclist's road positioning "prevents vehicles passing safely"

On 2 January a PC Hitchcocks replied to tell Holmes his primary road positioning outside of the cycle lane “prevents vehicles from passing you safely.”

“At no time do you utilise the cycle lane while cycling along the carriageway,” PC Hitchcocks wrote, adding “while certainly not an excuse for their manner of driving, I believe your road positioning has contributed to their poor decision making. Any solicitor acting on behalf of the driver would definitely raise issues and ask difficult questions of your road positioning.”

The police officer said he would not take action, and referred the taxi driver to the Hackney Carriage Unit instead.

However, both the national cycling charity, Cycling UK, and a close pass policing expert at West Midlands Police say the officer’s comments go not only against guidance on safe overtaking in the Highway Code, but also legal requirements for safe driving standards, and that Holmes was riding as he should have been under the circumstances.

According to the Highway Code, drivers must give a cyclist as much room as they would another car when overtaking, while cyclists are not required to use a marked cycle lane.

Yorkshire Police reviewing incident

West Yorkshire Police say they are now conducting a review of this incident and as such are unable to comment (since the review is ongoing, road.cc is unable to show the footage itself).

West Midlands Police PC, Mark Hodson, who co-founded what is considered the gold standard of policing operations for cycling safety, said there was “nothing wrong with the cycling at all,” adding, “I would have done exactly the same.”

He said the taxi driver’s close overtake in Holmes’ footage was a “clear offence”.

Hodson added: “It is not the responsibility of the road user in front to facilitate a safe and lawful overtake by a user behind.”

"Victim blaming language"

Holmes described the West Yorkshire Police officer’s response as “outrageous.” He said: “Firstly, I believe it’s wrong in law, because it’s implying cyclists must use cycle lanes, even though there’s a parked car in it. I can’t jump my bike over the cars.

“It’s victim blaming language,” he added, “suggesting it’s my fault and I shouldn’t be on the road in the first place.”

“They are basically saying cyclists who don’t use cycle lanes can’t expect any protection from police.”

Holmes said he bought his camera after he was assaulted by a dog walker on the nearby City Connect cycle route, but rarely submits footage as he forgets to charge the battery.

Following requests from Holmes to rethink his decision, PC Hitchcocks referred to Operation Steerside guidance on submitting camera evidence that “it is your responsibility as a driver to uphold the law (i.e - not commit offences yourself),” adding all decisions are final.

Hitchcocks added that “there was no need to have taken up [primary] position when a lane for your specific use has been provided and was clear of hazards,” before adding there was no implication cyclists must use a cycle lane.

Keir Gallagher, Cycling UK campaign's lead on close passes, said the organisation was concerned at the police officer’s response, but it understands West Yorkshire Police officers dealing with such footage in future will be better trained.

Gallagher said: "From the footage Cycling UK has seen, George was riding according to the teachings of Bikeability, and we are therefore concerned by this officer’s response and the suggestion that George was in any way at fault.”

He said the case highlights the importance of well-trained roads police officers.

Gallagher said Cycling UK has worked with West Yorkshire Police via its Too Close for Comfort campaign, and “we know they take the issue of close passing extremely seriously.”

“We believe the steps they are taking to develop a force-wide video submission team are very positive, as this will improve consistency and enable more effective training, so that all officers reviewing video evidence can effectively identify dangerous passes, and are familiar with Bikeability,” he added.

As the matter is under review by West Yorkshire Police road.cc has not published footage of the incident. 

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27 comments

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pockstone | 4 years ago
0 likes

Well, I suppose my analogy only works as far as their so called 'professional driving' is likely to end in death or injury.

Perhaps '... the Chuckle Brothers doing a decorating job.' might have been more apt.

 

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AlsoSomniloquism | 4 years ago
0 likes

On a sidenote, Just before the overtake, the cyclist had to squeeze between a parked car and a turning car. Now I didn't notice a gap that the turning car could have safely made without someone slowing down but I also don't think the taxi could have squeezed through so I do wonder what happened then to give the taxi enough time to pass where he did as fast as he did. 

And I have mentioned before, I wished we had such speedy feed back from WM Police when we submit them here. It is all well and good asking PC Hodson for feedback on these incidents when his force has a policy of only contacting the submitter if a court case is needed and not on any other reason. 

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zero_trooper | 4 years ago
0 likes

You would have thought that officers on Operation Steerside would be already fully trained in road traffic law. These vids must be their bread and butter surely?

Bit of an own goal by West Yorks Police, more Offside than Steerside 

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vonhelmet | 4 years ago
3 likes

There was no cycle lane at the point the overtake took place... so wtf is the copper talking about?

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Hirsute replied to vonhelmet | 4 years ago
1 like
vonhelmet wrote:

There was no cycle lane at the point the overtake took place... so wtf is the copper talking about?

The cyclist provoked the driver earlier by not using the lane. Just like I did tonight by not letting someone squeeze past me on the approach to a mini roundabout.
Tbh if someone has gone to all the effort of a) having a camera b) submitting footage, it might be better to err on them having a rather better idea of the line they took rather than what a casual observer thinks.

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alansmurphy | 4 years ago
2 likes

So many failings... blame the cyclist.

 

Another piss poor cycling lane. A lane that encourages drivers to give you no space. How could you pass someone in the cycle lane and give 1.5m where the bollards are in the road for the crossing. Car parked in the lane. Amd the pass happens where ther is no lane.

 

That road is plenty wide enough for no cyling lane, stick double yellows all along both sides and let all traffic take primary and do as they should. Fine and points for those who don't. 

 

It's not hard surely!

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Jetmans Dad | 4 years ago
0 likes
Quote:

His insurance company will insist he pays more for his insurance due to his business miles (so business miles are in relation to making money no?) Both hold the same qualification remember...

Except that's not true ... or at least not always. 

When I added business mileage to my car insurance a few years ago, the premium actually went down. According to the insurance company, their experience showed that employees using their own cars for business purposes were involved in fewer accidents than those just using them for SDP and Commuting purposes so, no, business mileage and its premiums are not determined by whether or not you are doing it to make money. 

Insurance is statistics based and premiums are based on usage. Carrying fare-paying passengers will likely carry a different level of risk than driving between customers. 

AsI said above, there are at least two related but distinct meanings of the word professional in English ... as there are many other words. 

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Captain Badger replied to Jetmans Dad | 4 years ago
1 like
Jetmans Dad wrote:
Quote:

His insurance company will insist he pays more for his insurance due to his business miles (so business miles are in relation to making money no?) Both hold the same qualification remember...

Except that's not true ... or at least not always. 

When I added business mileage to my car insurance a few years ago, the premium actually went down. According to the insurance company, their experience showed that employees using their own cars for business purposes were involved in fewer accidents than those just using them for SDP and Commuting purposes so, no, business mileage and its premiums are not determined by whether or not you are doing it to make money. 

Insurance is statistics based and premiums are based on usage. Carrying fare-paying passengers will likely carry a different level of risk than driving between customers. 

As I said above, there are at least two related but distinct meanings of the word professional in English ... as there are many other words. 

 

I suspect that because driving for work is likely to give you a higher proportion of motorway miles, this results in fewer incidents per mile as motorways are safer (being designed for motorvehicles).  It would be interesting to find out if my suspicion is correct, and if so how would the statistic look on incidents per driver rather than per mile.

I work for a well known internet delivery company, and  (when I was involved with the driving dept. about 10 years ago) around 10% of our drivers accounted for 80% of collisions.  The stats I analysed disregarded fault, but as you can see that figure does not look like a random distribution.... 

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Hirsute | 4 years ago
6 likes

Any solicitor acting on behalf of the driver would definitely raise issues and ask difficult questions of your road positioning.”

Really ?

Will the officer be issuing advice to the driver whose car was on the pavement , in a cycle lane and single line part of the road? Answer no, as the car was placed there by crane

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Gary's bike channel | 4 years ago
0 likes

i would have ridden further over than that once passed the parked car but i wouldnt have driven anywhere like that close to the rider if i was folowing. id have thought, this guys hooning along, im probably gona get stuck in traffic down the road, ill track his speed and see if he can compare to my average speed  4   but im a cyclist so im gona think this way. i dont agree with police calling themselves pro drivers, the only pro police drivers are traffic, not panda cops. you want to get this onto a traffic unit, not a panda car, they havent got any more clue on cycling than the average motorist. traffic cops have passed loads of high speed driving tests to be able to pursue, they are far more clued up how to drive than most people out there are. 

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kt26 | 4 years ago
1 like

There seems to be a fear in a lot of cases for the police to bring cases before a court because they know lawyers will present false (contrary to the highway code) public bias' to get their clients off. So the whole thing just results in a waste of public money.

Maybe lawyers presenting arguments that contradict the highway code should be subject to re-test to keep their driving licences - and it might give police more power to improve conditions on the roads.

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dassie | 4 years ago
2 likes

It would be useful to know how the cyclist managed to get the footage looked at by CyclingUK and a police close pass expert. I expect that submitted video of poor and dangerous driving, is often subject to  'no further action' for the wrong/incorrect reasons.

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Laura Laker replied to dassie | 4 years ago
2 likes
dassie wrote:

It would be useful to know how the cyclist managed to get the footage looked at by CyclingUK and a police close pass expert. I expect that submitted video of poor and dangerous driving, is often subject to  'no further action' for the wrong/incorrect reasons.

I sent the video to Cycling UK and the police in the course of writing the article - hope that helps!

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Jetmans Dad | 4 years ago
2 likes

It is one of the endless frustrations with the English language that we use the same word to refer to several related but disctinct things ... in this case "professional". 

On the one hand, we do use the term to refer to the likes of Doctors, Solicitors, Teachers, Accountants, etc. who are required to undertake significant training, generally beyond degree level in order to qualify to do the job. 

On the other, we also use the term to refer to anyone who is paid to undertake a particular job or activity. TV and movie writers, musicians etc. are paid to do what they do and would be considered professional artists and writers even with no training whatsoever. 

In this case, the driver is a professional because they are paid to be a driver. 

You would just hope that someone who drives for a living would understand the principles and rules of driving on the road and be skilled at carrying out the task. Sadly that does not appear to be the case a lot of the time. Taxi drivers and their general disregard for anyone else are a particular bugbear of mine. 

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iandusud | 4 years ago
6 likes

“At no time do you utilise the cycle lane while cycling along the carriageway,” 

As soon as I read this bit of "Police speak" (who uses the word carriageway) I knew what we were in for.

If police officers have to be trained to understand the law as to how cyclists should position themselves on the road and the responsability of a raod user when overtaking, what hope is there that your average car driver is going to have any idea?! I've been saying for ages that there needs to be better education for all road users about cycling. I often talk to car drivers who don't cycle and their perception of cycling and cyclists is very misinformed rather than just plain "anti-cyclist" as we often perceive it to be. 

In the past we've had all sorts of media campaigns on road safety issues to raise awareness. It's time that cycling was put high on the agenda for all sorts of good reasons. 

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roadmanshaq | 4 years ago
1 like

Just goes to show. Never report to plod yourself. Join Cycling UK or another federation that includes a legal guidance package and report it to them instead. Plod actually sits up and takes notice of material that comes in from solicitors, not ordinary normal people on bikes who they think they can ignore and/or demean.

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Mungecrundle | 4 years ago
5 likes

Cannot see a link to the footage, but from the still at the top of the story:

1. What cycle lane? I see none marked until after the junction.

2. The cyclist is perfectly positioned and sensible to use the dry line. Not to mention better visibility into and from the upcoming junction where the greatest danger of a vehicle interaction would flag up to me.

3. How does forcing the motorist to make an unsafe pass work? Some sort of hypnosis and thought suggestion over the driver or does the cyclist have direct remote control of the car steering and accelerator?

Edit: They've changed the still and made it a link to the video. Comment still stands though. No cycle lane at the point of the overtake.

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OnYerBike | 4 years ago
7 likes

Yet another case when poorly designed painted cycle lanes do more harm than good.

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pockstone | 4 years ago
1 like

Professional driver.

Bradford taxi and minicab drivers are 'professionals' in much the same way as Mafia hitmen are 'professionals'.

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Pilot Pete replied to pockstone | 4 years ago
1 like
pockstone wrote:

Professional driver.

Bradford taxi and minicab drivers are 'professionals' in much the same way as Mafia hitmen are 'professionals'.

I get what you are saying, in that they are not professional, but take issue with the fact that anyone who drives for a living is called a professional in the first place! Unless they hold a specific, recognised qualification for driving over and above a standard driving licence which anyone can hold (which is not a professional qualification) then I fail to see why they are even referred to as ‘professional’ when they possess no deeper insight, training or driving skill set than anyone else. 

Taxi cab drivers just hold a licence (not a specific driving licence qualification) from their local authority to pick up fare paying passengers. London black cab operators do The Knowledge, which is a memory test of local routes, not a professional driving qualification. LGV drivers do additional training over the basic driving licence test, but only in so much as basic training for the vehicle type that they want to operate - there is no deeper theory or advanced driving techniques, or vehicle handling above the basic safety requirements.

I hold a “C” class on my licence which I gained whilst in the military, but certainly don’t consider myself to be a professional driver because of it (not just because I don’t exercise my right to use it currently to earn money, or even if I did). Because it is the minimum requirement to operate the class of vehicle and you do it for a living doesn’t make you a professional.

I personally hold an Air Transport Pilot Licence and am a professional pilot. The significant extra qualifications and training, to a higher standard set me apart from someone who holds a Private Pilots Licence, which would be the equivalent of a basic driving licence. It took two years, £55k (most of which I didn’t have), fifteen written examination passes (minimum 75% in each), all to a deeper understanding than the basic level and numerous escalating flying tests.

I then had to spend 6 months once gaining my first job learning and passing qualifications to fly my first jet type aeroplane (a 757).

I now have to requalify by way of 3 x four hour simulator tests held over 3 days EVERY YEAR and have a pass/ fail observation of my operation once every 2 years (where an examiner sits in the flightdeck and observes two operational flights with passengers onboard). I undertake 2 days ‘refresher training’ in safety and emergency procedures with several exams to pass each year as well.

I am about to change aeroplane types and will spend 2 months re-training onto the new aeroplane, so will have to redo all those (re)qualifications which I just did in December over the next two months. 

Professional pilots are held to a very high standard of operation and you will find an incredibly small number who intentionally break any rules. Infact, in 2017 there wasn’t ONE passenger fatality in jet aircraft, GLOBALLY.

That is why I take issue with the use of the term professional in respect to basic driving licence holders, of which I am one.

PP

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kamoshika replied to Pilot Pete | 4 years ago
2 likes
Pilot Pete wrote:

I get what you are saying, in that they are not professional, but take issue with the fact that anyone who drives for a living is called a professional in the first place! Unless they hold a specific, recognised qualification for driving over and above a standard driving licence which anyone can hold (which is not a professional qualification) then I fail to see why they are even referred to as ‘professional’ when they possess no deeper insight, training or driving skill set than anyone else. 

They are paid to drive, therefore they are professional drivers - from https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/152053?redirectedFrom=professional#eid

"a. Of a person or persons: that engages in a specified occupation or activity for money or as a means of earning a living, rather than as a pastime. Contrasted with amateur."

 

 

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Pilot Pete replied to kamoshika | 4 years ago
1 like
kamoshika wrote:
Pilot Pete wrote:

I get what you are saying, in that they are not professional, but take issue with the fact that anyone who drives for a living is called a professional in the first place! Unless they hold a specific, recognised qualification for driving over and above a standard driving licence which anyone can hold (which is not a professional qualification) then I fail to see why they are even referred to as ‘professional’ when they possess no deeper insight, training or driving skill set than anyone else. 

They are paid to drive, therefore they are professional drivers - from https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/152053?redirectedFrom=professional#eid

"a. Of a person or persons: that engages in a specified occupation or activity for money or as a means of earning a living, rather than as a pastime. Contrasted with amateur."

yes, I get the definition of professional, ie you do something to make money from it. But the insinuation when used in the context of ‘professional driver’ implies that they are/ should be drivers of a higher standard than us mere mortals. Why? Just because they get paid to do it?

My point is they hold no professional qualification, simply a driving licence which ‘non professional’ drivers can also hold - does that make me an amateur driver? Should I (or we) expect them to drive to a higher standard than they are trained to do (the same level of training as the rest of us)? Yes we should expect them to drive to the standards in the Highway Code and many fall short, just as many of us non-professional drivers do, who should also be expected to abide by the rules of the road and the Highway Code.

As an example, take a sales rep who may well do more miles than a taxi driver in a year. Is he a professional driver because he uses his car to get from customer to customer? Or is he not because it is not directly his driving that makes him his money? Even if he drives more in a year than the cabbie? His insurance company will insist he pays more for his insurance due to his business miles (so business miles are in relation to making money no?) Both hold the same qualification remember...

IMHO neither are professional drivers, and neither am I.

PP

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Jimmy on wheels replied to Pilot Pete | 4 years ago
0 likes
Pilot Pete wrote:
kamoshika wrote:
Pilot Pete wrote:

I get what you are saying, in that they are not professional, but take issue with the fact that anyone who drives for a living is called a professional in the first place! Unless they hold a specific, recognised qualification for driving over and above a standard driving licence which anyone can hold (which is not a professional qualification) then I fail to see why they are even referred to as ‘professional’ when they possess no deeper insight, training or driving skill set than anyone else. 

They are paid to drive, therefore they are professional drivers - from https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/152053?redirectedFrom=professional#eid

"a. Of a person or persons: that engages in a specified occupation or activity for money or as a means of earning a living, rather than as a pastime. Contrasted with amateur."

yes, I get the definition of professional, ie you do something to make money from it. But the insinuation when used in the context of ‘professional driver’ implies that they are/ should be drivers of a higher standard than us mere mortals. Why? Just because they get paid to do it?

My point is they hold no professional qualification, simply a driving licence which ‘non professional’ drivers can also hold - does that make me an amateur driver? Should I (or we) expect them to drive to a higher standard than they are trained to do (the same level of training as the rest of us)? Yes we should expect them to drive to the standards in the Highway Code and many fall short, just as many of us non-professional drivers do, who should also be expected to abide by the rules of the road and the Highway Code.

As an example, take a sales rep who may well do more miles than a taxi driver in a year. Is he a professional driver because he uses his car to get from customer to customer? Or is he not because it is not directly his driving that makes him his money? Even if he drives more in a year than the cabbie? His insurance company will insist he pays more for his insurance due to his business miles (so business miles are in relation to making money no?) Both hold the same qualification remember...

IMHO neither are professional drivers, and neither am I.

PP

I think Mr Pockstone was commenting on the various uses of the word "professional"...

As far as I know there are 3 used for the word:
1) Somebody who does something as their profession. (e.g. musician or writer)
2) Someone who's profession required advanced training. (e.g. solicitor or pilot)
3) The coloquial use for someone who could be considered at a professional standard, but who's not nessasarily employed in such an activity. (e.g. a cook, with the skillset of an employed chef)

Your perception seems to be warped by the requirements of your "professional" (see #2) career, where as a pilot, all 3 uses of "professional" would be required.

But I think Mr Pockstone was commenting on the irony of someone who drives as their proffesion (so #1), even if they have had advanced driver training (NOT REQUIRED IN ALL PROFESSIONS) does not meet the 3rd use of the word.

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mike the bike replied to Pilot Pete | 4 years ago
0 likes
Pilot Pete wrote:

...... Taxi cab drivers just hold a licence (not a specific driving licence qualification) from their local authority to pick up fare paying passengers. ......  

 

Not wholly true sir.  Many, although not all, local authorities require their taxi drivers to sit a practical driving test.  Usually conducted by DVSA examiners, it looks at normal driving and also some manoeuvres unique to the employment.  This is not just a formality, candidates do fail, and  some never return for a second test.

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Hirsute replied to mike the bike | 4 years ago
1 like
mike the bike wrote:
Pilot Pete wrote:

...... Taxi cab drivers just hold a licence (not a specific driving licence qualification) from their local authority to pick up fare paying passengers. ......  

 

Not wholly true sir.  Many, although not all, local authorities require their taxi drivers to sit a practical driving test.  Usually conducted by DVSA examiners, it looks at normal driving and also some manoeuvres unique to the employment.  This is not just a formality, candidates do fail, and  some never return for a second test.

I think we can all have a good guess at these manoeuvres!

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brooksby replied to pockstone | 4 years ago
7 likes
pockstone wrote:

Professional driver.

Bradford taxi and minicab drivers are 'professionals' in much the same way as Mafia hitmen are 'professionals'.

Are you sure? I'd always assumed that Mafia hitmen were actually pretty good at their jobs... 

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hawkinspeter | 4 years ago
2 likes

Oops - let's hope they get the right message across to the officer.

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