The Metropolitan Police has encouraged cyclists to wear cameras and submit footage of traffic offences. Detective Superintendent Andy Cox, who is responsible for road safety, said the growing prevalence of helmet cams could serve as a deterrent.
Last week film director Guy Ritchie lost his driving licence after being filmed texting at the wheel by cyclist Mike van Erp (Cycling Mikey).
A number of media outlets took an interesting tack with their coverage. Van Erp was branded a “lycra-clad vigilante” by the Mail, while the Mirror decided to focus on why he had “snitched”.
Auto Evolution headlined its story: “Vigilante cyclist rats texting drivers out to the police, keeps roads safe.”
This tone was predictably echoed on social media, where van Erp faced a veritable deluge of opprobrium for having the temerity to report a law-breaker to the police. (It’s worth pointing out that Ritchie himself immediately pleaded guilty to the charge.)
Tweeting in response to the Daily Mail story, Cox said: “The story here should be one of a driver penalised for using a phone whilst driving which greatly increases the chance of a fatal crash and the devastation that follows. Cycling Mikey should be praised for vast public service and considerable help and support to Road Safety.”
Speaking to the London Evening Standard, he went further.
“There’s a really significant surge in public reports of traffic offences via our portal at the Met,” he said.
“This is a game-changing moment for road safety. I encourage cyclists to wear a camera, we encourage it being referred to us and we will take action when we can. In terms of head cam and dashcam, in 2017 it was about 4,000 referrals, in 2018 it was about 5,000 but in 2019 it was 9,000 and this month alone we’ve had comfortably over 3,000.
“We know that word is out there that we’re getting far more referrals and I think that’s going to continue. We enforce about two thirds, so what you are getting is that deterrent effect. The police can’t be everywhere all of the time, but the public can. So drivers will be mindful.”
Expanding on this, Cox said: “There is evidence that when people are more aware of offences on headcam then they are more safety conscious around cyclists.
“In the past, the dangerous driver in London looked for ‘are the police there, is there a speed camera?’ and if not drove a certain way.
“But now it’s dramatically changed — we’re up about eightfold on our referrals from 2017 — and if you are now a dangerous driver you have to be mindful of the person driving next to you.
“More people died on our roads nationally than from terrorism and homicide last year, and every year, so you recognise that there’s a real need for safer roads.”