Support road.cc

Like this site? Help us to make it better.

Rumble in Brum as "vigilante" cyclists stage bus lane protest

Taxi Vs cyclist confrontation with riders taking part in flash ride to highlight illegal use of lanes

A group of cyclists in Birmingham have been described as “vigilantes” following an incident on Monday evening in which it is claimed a taxi was surrounded by riders, with one of the vehicle’s wing mirrors ripped off. The vehicle was attempting to use a bus lane from which taxis are excluded.

The cyclists were taking part in a flash ride organised via Facebook to urge Birmingham City Council to enforce rules that prevent black cabs, also known as Hackney Carriages, from being driven in some bus lanes in the city.

That includes the junction of Belgrave Middleway and Horton Square where Monday evening’s incident took place.

Writing on the event’s Facebook page on 7 October, organiser Toby Draper said:
“Too many cyclists have been injured, endangered or felt at risk at this junction due to motor vehicles using it illegally.

“This flash ride is being organised to send a message to the council that if the plans improve safety for cyclists, we welcome them.

“But we are watching closely and we expect enforcement to take place and fines to be issued in the event of ALL future violations.”

The junction is one that Birmingham City Council specifically identifies on its website as being subject to the next phase of bus lane enforcement in the city.

The council has launched a public consultation into its proposals for minor changes at the junction, saying:

In February 2013 Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet approved a city wide civil Bus Lane Enforcement (BLE) regime to be implemented on a phased basis, starting with the city centre where enforcement commenced in summer 2013. As part of the next phase, we are looking to introduce BLE measures at the junction of Belgrave Middleway with Longmore Street and Horton Square.

There is a bus gate situated at this junction allowing bus movements to and from the City Centre. The Rea Valley Cycle Route (NCN5) also crosses Belgrave Middleway at this location. Only buses, cycles and emergency vehicles are allowed through the bus gate.

According to the time logged on a series of still images from the taxi’s dashboard-mounted camera and accompanying a report on the incident on the Birmingham Mail’s website, the cyclists positioned themselves for at least 27 minutes in front of the vehicle to prevent it from moving straight on through the traffic lights.

The taxi driver involved, 42-year-old Abid Hussain, gave his version of events to the newspaper and claimed that inadequate signage and an inconsistent approach form the council as which bus lanes black cabs are permitted to use caused confusion for drivers.

The image from Google Street View above, assuming that the sign and road markings are unaltered since it was taken, suggests however that it is clear that only buses and bicycles are allowed to go straight on.

Mr Hussain said: “They [the cyclists] were a law unto themselves. I couldn’t move anywhere because of the sheer numbers.

‘‘These people on two wheels, who don’t even pay road tax, were acting like vigilantes.’’

Road tax was abolished in the 1930’s, as documented on Carlton Reid’s website, IPayRoadTax.com. Motorists now pay Vehicle Excise Duty, based on their vehicles’ emissions, with no payment required for some low-emission vehicles.

The taxi driver continued: ‘‘I’d picked up a lecturer from Aston University and was taking her to Kings Heath.

“I could see a gathering of cyclists in the road. They just blocked me off and said I couldn’t pass because it was for buses.

“I had nowhere to go and they were becoming increasingly aggressive. I was concerned that one of them would jump in front of the taxi and get hurt, so I stopped.

“My passenger told me not to speak to them and she was the one who called police.

“The police arrived and it all seemed calm. I tried to move around them but, as I was crawling along, one of them blocked me again and another came up the side and ripped off the wing mirror.’             

“We are a public service. We are here to serve the community but we are being attacked.

‘‘Part of the problem is the city council and the inconsistency in road signage and rules for lanes. The council needs to decide whether Hackney Carriage drivers are included in public transport networks.’’

Comments from West Midlands Police, who were called to the scene at approximately 6.40pm on Monday, suggest that there is also confusion among officers about the bus lanes that Hackney Carriages are permitted to use.

A spokeswoman for the force told the Birmingham Mail: “Three police officers and a police community support officer responded to reports that a group of cyclists were blocking the path of a black cab driver.

“They were under the impression that he was not allowed to use the lane and the driver was saying that he could.

“Officers advised the group that they were causing an obstruction on the highway.

“The situation seemed to have been resolved, when one cyclist rode into the path of the driver who was moving away. A second cyclist broke off a wing mirror and rode off.

“The group refused to give details to officers at the scene.

“Officers are investigating a report of criminal damage and are examining CCTV.”

One cyclist who said she had taken part in Monday’s ride is Nazan Fennell, whose 13-year-old daughter Hope was killed by a lorry while cycling in November 2011.

Last month, the driver was jailed for six months for dangerous driving – as distinct from causing death by dangerous driving – with the court hearing that he had sent a series of text messages to his girlfriend in the time leading up to the collision, and had also deleted several messages afterwards.

Later in September, Hope’s mother staged a sit-down protest in front of a lorry during a ride in memory of her daughter.

Contacting the Birmingham Mail after Monday’s flash ride, Ms Fennell said: “This crossing is a vital link across the ring road for cyclists, but those cyclists’ lives are put at risk by other vehicles abusing this lane.

“The flash ride received strong support from passing pedestrians, cyclists and law-abiding motorists.

“Unfortunately a single taxi driver chose to block the entrance to the bus lane leading out of the city centre for over 30 minutes, and argued that he had the right to use the bus lane.

“Push Bikes is very disappointed that the first police officer to speak to this taxi driver was uncertain about the meaning of the clear signs at this crossing, and did not persuade the taxi driver to take the legal route out and argued that he had the right to use the bus lane.”

We have asked Push Bikes – founded in 1978 as the Birmingham Bicycling Campaign, changing its name a year later – for a statement on Monday’s incident, as well as whether Ms Fennell holds a position within the organisation and whether her comments reflect its views.

Ms Fennell added: ‘‘The message from Monday night is clear - our streets are made dangerous by a minority of bad drivers, and it is vitally important for the police and local authorities to punish drivers who think they are above the rules of the road.

‘‘Proper enforcement of regulations on highway infrastructure is vital to the success of Birmingham’s cycle revolution.’’

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

Add new comment

57 comments

Avatar
Matt eaton | 10 years ago
0 likes

Its no surprise to see such 'vigilante' action given that law enforcement on our roads is so limited and inconsistent. I suspect we will see more and more of this type of thing in the not-too-distant future.

Avatar
a.jumper | 10 years ago
0 likes

There's some rubbish above. Sometimes you can ask politely until you're blue in the face, but sometimes increasing the pressure with direct action works, as long as your desired action is the easiest way for the local government to stop it, rather than having people arrested.

Avatar
Rouboy | 10 years ago
0 likes

Perhaps if all the police officers and PCSO's were not issuing tickets to cyclists with no lights they may have been around to help the poor unfortunate taxi driver by giving him a ticket for not obeying the road signs??

Avatar
Bikeylikey | 10 years ago
0 likes

'The cyclists were taking part in a flash ride organised via Facebook to urge Birmingham City Council to enforce rules...'

Aggressive actions like this never work to 'urge' anyone to do anything. They just get people's backs up and make them much more likely NOT to do what they're being 'urged' to do. While I sympathise with the cyclists feelings, being one myself and not a driver or taxi user, this just spoils the campaign, loses respect for cyclists, and is likely to increase aggression from drivers, making things even less safe for cyclists.

Avatar
zanf replied to Bikeylikey | 10 years ago
0 likes
bikeylikey wrote:

Aggressive actions like this never work to 'urge' anyone to do anything. They just get people's backs up and make them much more likely NOT to do what they're being 'urged' to do.

They are being "urged' to obey the law just as everyone else has to. Direct action campaigns are in fact very effective and most of the legislation that protects your job, statutory holidays and enforces health and safety at your workplace, as well as a vast amount of other protections, has come about from it.

bikeylikey wrote:

While I sympathise with the cyclists feelings, being one myself and not a driver or taxi user, this just spoils the campaign, loses respect for cyclists, and is likely to increase aggression from drivers, making things even less safe for cyclists.

Which 'campaign' would that be? The one passively asking for space, or the recent farcical one asking for everyone to be nice to each other?

Exactly what respect is going to be lost when no respect is currently being shown?

People are being killed daily on the streets because the attitude is that the car is king, so this attitude of not wanting to upset anyone is banal, counter-productive and at best, victim blaming.

Avatar
FluffyKittenofT... | 10 years ago
0 likes

quoth Guyz2010:
"wilfull vandalism and hijacking gets NO SUPPORT WHAT-SO-EVER. It ain't helping our situation.
Reading this website, it does appear there are rather a lot of angry cyclist that need to chill out."

Seems a bit premature to decide it was willful vandalism (it could have just been an accident - why take the taxi-driver's account as gospel?), and I completely fail to see how it was 'hijacking' (did they climb in the taxi and drive off with it?).

Also - why do people need to chill out?

Sometimes anger is an entirely appropriate response. Its an emotion that evolution has bequeathed us for a reason.

Me, I confine my anger in relation to motorists to silent fuming and inaudible mutterings, and in general I'm more into despondent pessimism and cynicism than blockading taxis, but I don't see its your place to tell others what they should feel. There is quite a lot to be angry about.

Avatar
OldRidgeback | 10 years ago
0 likes

I used to get really annoyed at people driving cars in bus lanes when I was commuting up to North London. One of my favourite tricks was to slow down and stop and take a photo of them. People got really annoyed at this. But damaging a vehicle is a bad idea.

Passive resistance makes a better point.

Avatar
FluffyKittenofT... replied to OldRidgeback | 10 years ago
0 likes

Personally i am constantly annoyed at the way motorists gets away with ignoring the law on a everyday basis, and hence am not surprised if people decide to play vigilante. With regard to bus lanes, the worst is when a motorist decides to use them as a special undertaking lane to escape a queue of traffic, and suddenly cuts into it at speed, right behind me as if I'm not even there, forcing me to swerve to the kerb.

But if the account is accurate (though post-plebgate in particular, is there any reason to take the police version as automatically accurate?) then that action in particular was a stupid thing to do.

Avatar
zagatosam | 10 years ago
0 likes

I used to live in Hong Kong and ride with a group of locals who were not afraid to surround and have "frank and open discussions" with drivers of vehicles who put us in danger or made stupid manoeuvres. Not sure of the long-term effect on individual drivers but they certainly drove off rather cautiously.

Avatar
zagatosam | 10 years ago
0 likes

I used to live in Hong Kong and ride with a group of locals who were not afraid to surround and have "frank and open discussions" with drivers of vehicles who put us in danger or made stupid manoeuvres. Not sure of the long-term effect on individual drivers but they certainly drove off rather cautiously.

Avatar
dp24 | 10 years ago
0 likes
Quote:

“We are a public service. We are here to serve the community but we are being attacked."

Dear Taxi Driver,

Act like it then, instead of choosing which bits of the rules of the road you want to follow, based on whether it inconveniences you or not.

Avatar
Al__S | 10 years ago
0 likes

Another thought: is there actually a bus service using that facility? Surely if a bus had come along the cyclists would have let it through, so if early evening there's no bus for 27 minutes, I'm wondering what the point of the bus lane is.

Avatar
Al__S | 10 years ago
0 likes

Well yes, there is the cycle lane alongside the bus lane- but Sway seemed to think that becuase it isn't a motorway cycles are (lgeally) allowed to use the bus side.

Taxis aren't allowed at all in there, and from other sources apparently the taxi could have easily backed out very early and taken a legal route.

Also, not talking to the cyclists (at the behest of the passenger) was probably not a great move. Though he'd probably have just ranted about "road tax". Doesn't excuse any damage.

Avatar
shay cycles replied to Al__S | 10 years ago
0 likes
Al__S wrote:

Well yes, there is the cycle lane alongside the bus lane- but Sway seemed to think that becuase it isn't a motorway cycles are (lgeally) allowed to use the bus side.

No I just used motorways as a widely known example of a road where cyclists can't ride.

Would a cyclist break the law by cycling on this carriageway rather than the cycle path? Well; in this case the road markings are correct for a Bus Only Lane but these must be accompanied by the appropriate sign at the start of the lane which, if present, I can't see in the picture - if the sign is not indeed present then the lane cannot meet the requirements of its TRO, or does not have a valid TRO, either case making the restriction invalid (in which case the taxi itself was also unlikely to actually be breaking the law!).

I do agree completely with you that the design of this junction is bonkers.

I also completely stand by by points about on road cycle lanes and about driver education.

In addition I think that whoever damaged the car should be sought and held responsible, it was not a justified action and it helps to antagonise rather than to solve anything.

Shay

Avatar
Guyz2010 | 10 years ago
0 likes

Flash PEACEFUL protest rides I'd support from my screen, wilfull vandalism and hijacking gets NO SUPPORT WHAT-SO-EVER. It ain't helping our situation.
Reading this website, it does appear there are rather a lot of angry cyclist that need to chill out.

Avatar
edster99 replied to Guyz2010 | 10 years ago
0 likes
Guyz2010 wrote:

Flash PEACEFUL protest rides I'd support from my screen, wilfull vandalism and hijacking gets NO SUPPORT WHAT-SO-EVER. It ain't helping our situation.
Reading this website, it does appear there are rather a lot of angry cyclist that need to chill out.

+1

Avatar
a.jumper | 10 years ago
0 likes

OK, direct action is imperfect and this action didn't go perfectly, but where are the police and traffic wardens these days?

Avatar
peterblencowe | 10 years ago
0 likes

Good on these guys for taking action! Taking photos or reporting illegal use of the bus lane would change nothing. Its only when people get annoyed that changes will be made.

There's too many people in this country who are too comfortable in their armchairs.

Avatar
KiwiMike | 10 years ago
0 likes

Looks like the taxi driver was the typical arrogant arse that most of them seem to be. If I was the passenger I'd have gotten out after 2 minutes.

And it sounds like he went for one of the cyclists at the end - if a cyclist was in front of him ***he can't fucking well legally proceed under any circumstances***. So not at all surprised he lost a wingmirror. He's probably lucky he didn't need a micropump removing from a bodily orifice.

Personally, I blame the police. They fail to enforce the law regarding the bus lanes, fail to understand the law, side with the motorist, and end up looking dumb. I don't go in for hero worship. They are paid to do a job, they hold the most important position in civilised society as the enforcement arm of the state, but they systematically fail to protect and enforce. They are accountable.

Avatar
Flippa | 10 years ago
0 likes

I guess it would have made more of a point if a bus had blocked the bus lane to prevent the taxi driver from using it.
From that photo the cyclists shouldn't have been in the bus lane either, they have their own cycle lane.
But it has brought the whole problem to the public attention, and while cyclists may not be popular with a lot of drivers, taxi drivers aren't that popular with car drivers either.

Avatar
shay cycles replied to Flippa | 10 years ago
0 likes
Flippa wrote:

From that photo the cyclists shouldn't have been in the bus lane either, they have their own cycle lane.

Yet another post showing a lack of understanding of the rules of the road. The presence of a cycle path does not mean that cyclists either "should" or "must" use it, it is simply available to use if they wish to but they have every right to cycle on the carriageway except in specific cases such as motorways.

This reinforces the point I have made in various places that most on road cycle lanes serve no purpose other than to make drivers think that cyclists should be in the cycle lane and not in "their" carriageway.

So many drivers, so little driver education and so little chance of getting them to understand and then follow the rules!

Avatar
Al__S replied to shay cycles | 10 years ago
0 likes
shay cycles wrote:

Yet another post showing a lack of understanding of the rules of the road. The presence of a cycle path does not mean that cyclists either "should" or "must" use it, it is simply available to use if they wish to but they have every right to cycle on the carriageway except in specific cases such as motorways.

This reinforces the point I have made in various places that most on road cycle lanes serve no purpose other than to make drivers think that cyclists should be in the cycle lane and not in "their" carriageway.

So many drivers, so little driver education and so little chance of getting them to understand and then follow the rules!

You're wrong. The signs and road markings quite clearly show that particular lane is "Bus Only". You're only allowed to ride in Bus lanes where they specifically have cycle symbols. Similarly, taxis are only allowed to use bus lanes with the word "Taxi" on them. The most common "bus lanes" are actually "Bus/Taxi/Cycle" lanes.

This is not the only location with a true "Bus only" lane, but they are relatively rare. There are even rarer occurances of "Taxi only" restrictions.

Don't go on a rant about people not knowing the law if you're then going to display that you're ignorant yourself.

As an aside, the design at the junction in question is bonkers unless that cycle lane is phased seperately to the buses, as on the other side of the junction there's no continuing cycle lane; rather a narrowing to a lane not wide enough for bus+bike.

Avatar
a.jumper replied to Al__S | 10 years ago
0 likes
Al__S wrote:

You're wrong. The signs and road markings quite clearly show that particular lane is "Bus Only". [...] As an aside, the design at the junction in question is bonkers unless that cycle lane is phased seperately to the buses, as on the other side of the junction there's no continuing cycle lane; rather a narrowing to a lane not wide enough for bus+bike.

There is however, a cycle lane next to it, which has its own lights, but while the phasing might be enough for people on bikes to out-accelerate a bus into the narrower road ahead, it may well not be enough to out-accelerate the typical hard-accelerating Birmingham taxi.

That's quite aside from taxis making a movement which it appears is not possible without abusing the bus-only lane, so presumably this abuse also increases the numbers of taxis mixing with riders on the NCN5 north of the junction?

Avatar
Al__S | 10 years ago
0 likes

Taxis do form part of public transport- the help with moving people that would find especially bus or Metro systems awkward or even near impossible (mobility issues, lots of luggage etc). But in many places they're poorly regulated, and even where supposedly well regulated (London) there's endless tales of borderline murderous driving.

The one that does annoy me a bit is the even-less-well-regulated minicabs using bus/taxi lanes. In London, at least, this is clearly against the law and prosecuted (see the Addison Lee fuss).

Avatar
Gennysis | 10 years ago
0 likes

This article has made me think long and hard about how cyclists can get the respect they deserve on the road.

On one hand I am impressed that there are people who care enough about cyclists safety to stand up and highlight the fact that there are other road users who break rules and by doing so put vulnerable road users at risk. However I think that the way you put your argument across is often as important as the point you are making.

Deliberately causing obstruction while on a bike, to a taxi which was driving in a bus lane shows only that both are in the wrong.

As cyclists we have probably all been intimidated by other road users - a deeply unpleasant experience. Action like this highlights the issue, but it does something else.

It makes the driver of the taxi appear as the vulnerable road user.

You hand them one key thing that I rely on to be safe; the recognition of and respect for my vulnerability on the road.

If the roads are to become safer to me as a cyclist it will be because of mutual respect between those I share the road with, not by other road users being afraid of or intimidated by my actions.

It was clearly possible to make the point that taxi drivers use this road illegally without overshadowing it with a cyclists vs motorists confrontation.

Avatar
Colin Peyresourde | 10 years ago
0 likes

I feel a bit ambivalent to all of this. On one hand, like Gkam, I don't like Critical Mass. The members attitudes to ordinary folk is alienating and gives 'cyclists' a bad name, and certainly doesn't create a wider empathy for common cycling issues (which I presume it is trying to do).

But equally I feel like our police force and government (I should really say governments) are not doing enough to police our country and enforce its laws.

It is therefore not surprising that this sort of group and critical mass are gaining momentum. This may actually make the local police force and government confront some of the issues.

Avatar
northstar | 10 years ago
0 likes

If there was enforcement of the bus lane then this wouldn't have happened.

Avatar
Leviathan | 10 years ago
0 likes

Well my bike isn't public either. I do have sympathy for Taxi drivers who find themselves excluded from some lanes but not others, although they should know which ones if they have the knowledge. Still, blocking him and passenger for 27min in uncalled for.

Avatar
paulfg42 | 10 years ago
0 likes

Never understood why taxis should be allowed to use the bus lanes in the first place. How on earth can taxis be considered part of the public transport network? Is getting in a taxi any more transport friendly than getting in your own car?

Avatar
FluffyKittenofT... replied to paulfg42 | 10 years ago
0 likes

"Never understood why taxis should be allowed to use the bus lanes in the first place"

It seems pretty obvious - taxis (at least London Black Cabs) are used heavily by the wealthy political, financial, and media classes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZiL_lane

Pages

Latest Comments

  • mark1a 2 sec ago

    Not AFAIK, this is just a quiz devised by the Grauniad. An example of the real thing is here: https://www.gov.uk/take-practice-theory-test  

  • Car Delenda Est 2 min 35 sec ago

    It's the part were they don't slow down, wait till there's no oncoming traffic, then go into the oncoming lane for the overtake.

  • OnYerBike 2 min 57 sec ago

    If anyone is interested, according to the latest census 61.4% of households in Maida Vale have no access to cars/vans....

  • luk 8 min 5 sec ago

    some ebikes (with Fazua?) have USB output, so you could easily recharge this pump! that's sounds tempting.

  • chrisonatrike 4 min 27 sec ago

    Amen.  Who are the happiest children in the world (according to UNICEF, 2017)?  Dutch children.  Why?  Obviously lots of reasons (here's another...

  • henryb 1 hour 20 min ago

    I'd say it's fine to try and beat your mates up Box Hill when you all arrive at the bottom together, or to try and catch that wheel that you see 50...

  • HoarseMann 1 hour 35 min ago

    Many years ago, an uninsured, unlicenced driver in a vehicle with no MOT and registered as scrapped with the DVLA, ran into the back of my car....

  • boblo 1 hour 55 min ago

    The reviewer says 'you can send texts'. Are these still the silly predefined ones from Garmin with no option to define your own from either the...

  • mattw 2 hours 16 min ago

    That seems distrubingly similar to the "try and deceive the police, try and deceive the Court, then deceive yourself to avoid having to take...

  • EraserBike 2 hours 32 min ago

    Clearly these scumbags are not buying motocross bikes through normal channels. They are stolen, just like this poor guy's bike. Police are...