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National newspaper warns of "cycling wars" after near miss video sparks media meltdown

Despite police, Crown Prosecution Service and court finding fault with driving, many media reports said the punishment "splits opinion"...

Last week our Near Miss of the Day 752 showed footage released by Sheffield North West Neighbourhood Policing Team, in which an approaching driver passed a group of cyclists too closely, resulting in a £417 fine and five penalty points.

The force added that "if anyone thinks this is an acceptable manner of driving, let this be your warning". However, despite the police, Crown Prosecution Service, and court finding fault with the driving, the footage has been reported less definitively by many media outlets who have since shared the video.

> Near Miss of the Day 752: “If anyone thinks this is an acceptable manner of driving, let this be your warning,” say police

A quick search of news stories relating to the incident reveals several written from the angle of the video "splitting opinion" or the punishment being controversial.

Yorkshire Live published one such article headlined: "Sheffield driver fined £417 for getting too close to cyclist as punishment splits opinion", before a follow-up piece went live this morning, titled "Angry drivers say 'cyclist to blame' as Sheffield motorist hit with £417 fine for overtaking bike".

Likewise, The Scottish Sun opted for: "Driver fined £400 for being ‘too close’ to cyclists on other side of country road – but it has divided opinion", while Manchester Evening News asked "Do you think that this driver deserved his fine or not?"

Most eye-catchingly, however, was The Telegraph's coverage, which warned of "the cycling wars taking over the countryside", and compared January's Highway Code changes, brought in to better protect vulnerable road users, as feeling like a "relegation to serfdom on the streets" for "miserable drivers".

Writer Harry de Quetteville said there had been a dispute between motorists and cyclists about who was at fault and "far from settling the issue, however, the film inevitably inflamed the spat between fans of four wheels or two".

Telegraph story

Part of the "digital collision" over videos like the one from Sheffield, he argues, is: "Because, according to the new Highway Code, there is indeed a new hierarchy of culpability, with cars one up from the bottom (above only lorries) and cyclists one down from the top (one down from pedestrians). It is a pecking order based, logically enough, on the vulnerability of potential victims. 

"But for miserable drivers already sucking up rampant petrol price rises, never-ending (or never beginning) roadworks, and general gridlock, the result can feel like relegation to serfdom on the streets. Gone are the princely postwar dreams of independence behind the wheel, replaced by demonisation as a manic pedestrian – or planet-killer. It all seems a bit unfair."

Elsewhere in the piece, De Quetteville, without nuance, says the new Highway Code encourages cyclists to ride two abreast, or in the middle of the road.

The Highway Code actually states, as per Rule 66:

Be considerate of the needs of other road users when riding in groups. You can ride two abreast and it can be safer to do so, particularly in larger groups or when accompanying children or less experienced riders. Be aware of drivers behind you and allow them to overtake (for example, by moving into single file or stopping) when you feel it is safe to let them do so

Inspector Kevin Smith, lead of the Sheffield Northwest Neighbourhood Policing Team, commented on our story to explain how the close pass case played out: "I can't take all the credit though I was just sent the footage, realised it was very close to the NIP (Notice of Intended Prosecution) date and sent officers out to personally serve the S59 warning and the NIP. 

"Chap responsible clearly thought he had done nothing wrong and took it to court.  The courts agreed with me and not the driver. By putting the videos out there I hope there is a bit of a database of what constitutes an offence to encourage other forces to have confidence in prosecuting videos like this.  

"I have issued hundreds of TORs and very few elect to go to court. When they do, and the court agrees with my assessment, that is worth sharing as validation  especially where there is video evidence. Anyway, the Telegraph has now gone with it."

The "splits opinion" headlines surrounding last week's video are not the first time the national press has taken an interest in issues of cycle safety this year.

Following the aforementioned Highway Code update in January, two major newspapers wrongly claimed drivers face fines if they do not use the Dutch Reach technique when opening car doors.

> Highway Code changes: Daily Mail publishes "error-strewn" Richard Littlejohn column attacking cyclists

In the same week, The Telegraph also published a provocative opinion piece titled "Pedal-pushers have taken over British roads – even as a cyclist, I think it’s time to rein them in".

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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60 comments

Avatar
NOtotheEU | 1 year ago
4 likes

Just noticed this headline when I turned on Microsoft Edge.

‘I was banned from driving for three years for knocking a cyclist off her bike but still believe I shouldn’t have been punished’

just when you thought you'd heard it all!

Video footage from a passing cars’ dashcam was sent to police

nice surprise, shows how bad it must have been for a fellow driver to report it.

the man claims he didn’t actually see the woman before, after or during the event he was later banned because of.

You're not doing yourself any favours mate.

I was over the speed limit by only five miles, not many people who drive do so at the exact road speed and it was only a 20mph zone.

keep digging

He was taken to court and given a two year banning order for dangerous driving. He was then given another year because he sped in his first week of returning to the roads.

and he still thought publicising it would be a good idea? I give up.

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brooksby replied to NOtotheEU | 1 year ago
3 likes

This one has been dealt with on the forums - https://road.cc/content/forum/penalised-driver-complains-292299

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NOtotheEU replied to brooksby | 1 year ago
0 likes

brooksby wrote:

This one has been dealt with on the forums - https://road.cc/content/forum/penalised-driver-complains-292299

Thanks, i'll check it out.

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jaymack replied to NOtotheEU | 1 year ago
4 likes

And sadly there are drivers like this on a road near you right now. As good an advert for mandatory re-testing every so often as you're ever likely to see.

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WeLoveHills | 1 year ago
1 like

The media are largely funded by advertising. Advertising brings in money according to how many 'hits' news stories genrate. "Culture wars" generate a lot of hits. The media have an interest in creating and fuelling "culture wars". Hence "cyclists" vs "drivers" and all other opinons that the media split for their own survival. Fabricated controversy. Manifactured polarization. Anything goes. "Cyclists" vs "drivers"; "brexiteers" vs "remainers"; "cancel culture" vs "freedom of speech"; "anti-vaxxers" vs the rest of the world and so on and on and on and on. 

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Roulereo replied to WeLoveHills | 1 year ago
0 likes

Unless it's the huge Government advertising (on Covid) in the Media, then there's one clear narrative only - theirs. Never a dissenting story about Lockdowns or Mandates, just more fear and propoganda as pushed by their advertisers. 

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to Roulereo | 1 year ago
7 likes

Why should there be a dissenting story? Most people actually care for other humans when a disease is around? Can people remind me how many people died from wearing masks. Afterall the "dissenting voices" and Alt-Truth News were spouting bollox about Oxygen deprivation and other reasons not to wear them as they were dangerous.

I would state it was a Global Pandemic but then that would be pushing two things you probably don't believe in.

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Hirsute replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 1 year ago
4 likes

Has BTBS come back again ?

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ktache replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 1 year ago
1 like

Millions died because of mask wearing, but the socialist main stream media covered it up...

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chrisonabike replied to ktache | 1 year ago
1 like

A cover-up of the cover-up?

"My commander told me that the entire planet was in imminent danger of being eaten by an enormous mutant star goat!" (Sorry all this conspiracism and debunking has brought me out in Hitch Hiker's Guide half-remembered quotes again).

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chrisonabike replied to Roulereo | 1 year ago
2 likes

Why are they pushing electric cars but surpressing any mention of the perpetual motion machines which would allow us all to travel without destroying the planet?!  #FREETHEENERGY

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essexian | 1 year ago
1 like

"Black Belt Barrister" on Youtube covered this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhW08Z5wyqA

And supported the cyclist in doing so.... I've not been below the line as its like the Daily Hail down there at times.

Shockingly, he also made this video showing how poor the knowledge of the Highway Code is out there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FUytUx6pIA

Sorry but we need five yearly re-tests for all drivers... well apart from ones like me who drive a BMW..............

 

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hawkinspeter replied to essexian | 1 year ago
2 likes

essexian wrote:

"Black Belt Barrister" on Youtube covered this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhW08Z5wyqA

And supported the cyclist in doing so.... I've not been below the line as its like the Daily Hail down there at times.

Shockingly, he also made this video showing how poor the knowledge of the Highway Code is out there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FUytUx6pIA

Sorry but we need five yearly re-tests for all drivers... well apart from ones like me who drive a BMW..............

Just watched that and was disappointed that he was just giving his opinion (which I agree with) but not quoting any specific laws or details.

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IanMSpencer replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
1 like

I've watched a few of his videos and he is very much an opinion person rather than a law person, and when he did quote law or HWC a bit keen on saying what he thought it meant rather than any reference to case law. Can't think of a specific example, but I wasn't impressed and I'm really not interested in his "lovely wife"'s cooking.

I saw a few Audit the Audit videos (American rights are peculiar and fascinating) and they go through reams of case law to assess police interactions - normally rating the police as F!

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Surreyrider | 1 year ago
3 likes

The (factually inaccurate) Telegraph piece (& many others across the national media) is tantamount to inciting hatred until the final third that nobody but cyclists will read. 
But what is even more alarming is the number of comments that the driver did nothing wrong and the cyclists were at fault, despite being on their side of the road the whole time. 
I went for a ride after the video was released and took notice of the huge number of vehicles in my area of Surrey that treated road markings as decoration. 

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Yorkshie Whippet | 1 year ago
5 likes

Sadly, this site is no better than the rest of the gutter press quoted. If you read the twitter feed it's not the close pass that's the offence, it's the speed and crossing of the white line.

 

 
 
 

 
 
If he had simply driven to the conditions at a less dangerous speed and stayed on his own side of the road he wouldn’t have been prosecuted.
 
But still why let the truth stop a bit of stirring?
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Roulereo replied to Yorkshie Whippet | 1 year ago
0 likes

Yet another thing old Donald Trump was right about...Fake News.

The old legacy Media is mostly fake, biased and clickbait, the majority of people across the world agree that. But it's only when those lies conflict with your own views do you rail against it. People still think the Media can publish lies and biased rubbish like the above story, but then be truthful in reporting about say Covid, or China. 

Cue hysteria and betwetting replies, calls for censorship etc.

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Rendel Harris replied to Yorkshie Whippet | 1 year ago
4 likes

Yorkshie Whippet wrote:

Sadly, this site is no better than the rest of the gutter press quoted. If you read the twitter feed it's not the close pass that's the offence, it's the speed and crossing of the white line.

What on earth are you talking about? The Twitter feed says:

Quote:

The driver of this vehicle decided to pass a group of cyclists at excessive speed and far too closely.

Neither the speed nor crossing the white line would be an offence if there was no oncoming traffic, the driver was sanctioned for careless driving for making a close pass. Not sure what point you're trying to make but this site is right and you're not.

 

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Yorkshie Whippet replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
0 likes

Guess you haven't read the feed and are just quoting the same single headline. The paragraph was copied from the fourth or fifth of the tweets made by the police. 

Click on the near miss link, scroll down and click on the read full tweet conversation. 

Also stop talking Bolloxs, inappropriate speed be that within limit or not can be reported as careless driving. Cossing the white line into the path of oncoming traffic is also careless driving.

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Rendel Harris replied to Yorkshie Whippet | 1 year ago
3 likes

Not interested in engaging with someone who solely wants an excuse to abuse others, be it the editors of this site or its posters. Cheerio.

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mdavidford replied to Yorkshie Whippet | 1 year ago
5 likes

Yorkshie Whippet wrote:

Cossing the white line into the path of oncoming traffic is also careless driving.

You mean, so that you pass close to them. Hmm.. there must be some way that we can describe that... let me think...

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hawkinspeter replied to mdavidford | 1 year ago
6 likes

mdavidford wrote:

Yorkshie Whippet wrote:

Cossing the white line into the path of oncoming traffic is also careless driving.

You mean, so that you pass close to them. Hmm.. there must be some way that we can describe that... let me think...

Let's agree to call it "a pass that veers into the realm of not enough distance" unless anyone can think of a more snappy phrase

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to Yorkshie Whippet | 1 year ago
8 likes

Hmm as you asked nicely.

Quote:

COURT RESULT: CARELESS DRIVING. The driver of this vehicle decided to pass a group of cyclists at excessive speed and far too closely. Fined £417 in total, licence endorsed with 5 points. If anyone thinks this is an acceptable manner of driving, let this be your warning.

Then some extra bits on the investigation, followed by:-

Quote:

Quite a few replies seem to focus on the cyclist in the frame as though the footage was obtained from a following car or drone. For clarity - there’s a bike in front of the one you can see, the footage is from another and there are others behind.
The driver didn’t just endanger one cyclist, he was also too close to those following. He would have seen a group of bikes in a line, and chose to accelerate to a speed increasing the danger to all of them and swerve over the white lines towards them.
If he had simply driven to the conditions at a less dangerous speed and stayed on his own side of the road he wouldn’t have been prosecuted.
If people do choose to endanger vulnerable road users by poor driving, they need to remember that any pedestrian,horse rider, cyclist or vehicle may be recording. We will be happy to make sure that there are consequences to endangering others.

I've marked in bold the multiple times the Police mention he was too close, and italicised the one bit they mention he came over the line. IF the lines were unbroken, then that would be an offence, crossing dashed lines at any time isn't..... UNLESS you come TOO CLOSE to the vehicles on the other side. 

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Awavey | 1 year ago
5 likes

Im less worried about the papers printing the articles themselves, it gets more eyes on what the Sheffield police team are doing prosecuting bad driving, and you know what I might be imagining it but I kind of feel people have been giving me a bit more room on my bike on the road since the story hit the mainstream.

and whilst the highlighted Telegraph piece was annoying for the most part, it actually runs out of steam part way through and the last third wasnt that bad I thought, it was likely just an article that journalist was told to write on the topic to cover it again so I wont criticise them for it, because the news article https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/04/24/motorist-handed-five-points-... attracted over 3000 comments.

it was a similar story in the other larger papers sites that publish comment counts, the Mail had 4300, the Express like 500, the independent well they had 6.

but its those comments under the articles that are the problem, because yes you can dismiss alot as bored trolls, idiots and so on, but theres clearly still a large group of people, who think its not only perfectly ok to drive like the Peugeot driver did, but the cyclists were completely in the wrong

and its that attitude which leads to so many NMOTDs, close passes we experience as cyclists in different situations that fills the narrative of this  "war" the media like to perpetuate.

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open_roads | 1 year ago
11 likes

People might find their opinion was less "split" if they had to stand in the middle of one carriageway whilst a car was deliberately driven at them at 50-70mph and only missing then by 20cm.

For starters this should be a mandated experience for all drivers prosecuted for close passes - and also for most drivers prosecuted for exceeding the relevant speed limit by more than 15%.

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Awavey replied to open_roads | 1 year ago
3 likes

ask them to stand them on a railway platform the wrong side of the yellow line with their back to a train coming through at full speed, then ask them to do it again in the same spot riding a bike.

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belugabob | 1 year ago
7 likes

Opinion is split, over whether this is about punishing drivers or punishing bad drivers.
Ignoring the hierarchy of road users aspect, for a while, I can categorically say that my daily commute, by car, involves encountering few (if any) cyclists, but does involve frequent bum clenching moments, courtesy of the rapidly falling driving standards

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ubercurmudgeon | 1 year ago
4 likes

"Harry de Quetteville" sounds like someone so posh that Jacob Rees-Mogg would've had to fag for him at Eton. I'm imagining he's seven feet tall, with no chin, and an Adam's apple that looks like he's trying to swallow a ballcock. And who lives in either Saffron Walden or Walton-on-the-Naze.

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Velophaart_95 replied to ubercurmudgeon | 1 year ago
0 likes

Somebody is a fan of Blackadder.....

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alchemilla | 1 year ago
9 likes

We all know newspapers make stuff up to sell more copies, and the 'splits opinion' headline is just an example of that.

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