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Shocking footage shows fire engine driver responding to emergency call hitting cyclist

Rider sustained “non-life threatening” head injury in incident on Brixton on Wednesday, according to police

Shocking footage has emerged of the moment the driver of a fire engine that went through a red light as it responded to an emergency call crashed into a cyclist at a crossroads in South London. The rider sustained a head injury, which police have said is non-life threatening.

The incident happened on Wednesday morning at the junction of Coldharbour Lane and Atlantic Road close to Brixton railway station.

CCTV footage posted to the social network X, formerly Twitter, and incorrectly showing the location as Peckham rather than Brixton, shows the cyclist riding through the junction on a green light just as the driver of the fire engine, which had its lights flashing and siren on, comes through at speed on a red light.

The cyclist, said to be a man aged in his 50s, was treated at the scene by paramedics before being taken to hospital by the London Ambulance Service (LAS).

London Fire Brigade and the Metropolitan Police Service both said on Wednesday that they were investigating the incident.

In a statement today, the Metropolitan Police Service told road.cc that they were called to the incident at 11:48hrs on Wednesday 23 August.

“The cyclist, aged around 50s, had suffered a head injury,” the statement said. “He was taken by LAS to a south London hospital. His condition is not life threatening.

“There were no other reported injuries and no arrests. 

“Anyone who witnessed this incident or has dash-cam footage should call police on 101 or Tweet @MetCC quoting 2990/23AUG.”

Brixton Fire Station is located on Gresham Road, a short distance from where the crash happened.

The street layout and various railway lines running along viaducts mean that fire engines responding to emergency calls in areas to the south such as Brixton Hill and Brockwell Park would typically be driven along Coldharbour Lane.

The location of the collision, close to Brixton Market, is lined with shops and bars, and there is often heavy pedestrian footfall in the area, and the layout of the junction and surrounding buildings means that sightlines can often be blocked.

The video also shows one man crossing Coldharbour Lane on foot just before the fire engine appears, apparently oblivious to its approach.

According to the London Evening Standard, one eyewitness to the crash said that fire engines “come so fast up this road.”

Speaking about the cyclist, he said: “It was a green light and I don’t think he saw it [the fire engine] coming.”

Legislation allows certain exemptions from road traffic laws to drivers of emergency vehicles carrying out their duties, such as responding to a 999 call.

In guidance published on its website, the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) outlines that among other things, emergency vehicles are exempt from “observing speed limit,” “observing keep left or keep right signs,” and “complying with traffic lights, including pedestrian controlled crossings.”

However, the NFCC goes on to say: “Even where exemption exists, personnel must always give due regard to the way they drive, which should not put other road users or members of the public at a risk that cannot be justified.

“When exercising the exemption to pass a red traffic light, drivers of emergency vehicles should avoid causing a member of the public to contravene the red light. The public do not have an exemption in law to contravene red traffic lights.

“Only drivers who are trained to the appropriate standard are entitled to make use of exemptions,” it adds. “It is essential that the exemptions used are appropriate and their use in specific circumstances can be justified.”

On its website, the Occupational Road Safety Alliance highlights that while drivers of emergency vehicles are allowed to ignore red traffic lights, they “are told to treat a red light as a ‘give way’ sign, which means that they approach with caution and don’t pass through until they are sure the way is clear.

“When approaching red lights, emergency vehicles should use sirens and lights to warn the traffic ahead that they are approaching and give others the time to get out of the way or stop,” it adds.

In its statement released after the crash in Brixton on Wednesday, London Fire Brigade said: “At around 11.45am, a fire engine was involved in a collision with a cyclist at the junction of Coldharbour Lane and Atlantic Road in Brixton.

“The cyclist was treated on scene and taken to hospital by the London Ambulance Service.

“The fire engine was responding to an emergency call at the time of the incident. The circumstances surrounding the collision are under investigation.”

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.

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65 comments

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mattw | 5 months ago
0 likes

Unfortunate collision.

My one comment here is that I want directional sirens with the white noise pulse.

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Oldfatgit replied to mattw | 5 months ago
0 likes

I seem to remember that something similar was trialled over 20 years ago by Suffolk Ambulance.

If I recall correctly (and I might not due to age and driver inflicted brain damage), it wasn't very successful.

However, a more moden pulse is included in most of todays sirens that's is supposed to be more directional.

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Cugel | 5 months ago
2 likes

From a New Statesman article about the rise of armchair detectives and other ghouls making entertainment, on-line "status" and money from True Crime events they actually know nowt about at all other than what's drummed up in the mass media, often by themselves!

"This is an ugly human impulse, exacerbated by social media, in which unaffected individuals clamour to be part of a shocking societal event, no matter how tragic or disturbing that event may be, hoping their involvement will bestow on them relevance or authority". 

It's a slippery slope, probably, perhaps starting with an impulse to be an armchair expert on the various skirmishes of the car vs cyclist war imagined then created by mass media opinion-ghouls disguised as journalists, selling both newspaps and clicks.

 

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Muddy Ford | 5 months ago
2 likes

The two pedestrians in top left of video spotted the engine coming and waited. The cyclist crossed 3 seconds after they appear to have stopped and looked at the engine. A pedestrian is crossing in front of the cyclist. 3 seconds is not a lot of time for the cyclist to take appropriate action for the pedestrian crossing in front of them and hear and detect where the engine is coming from. It is unfortunate that they did not seem to slow down for the pedestrian and might therefore have noticed the engine or at least not been right in front of it. Reckless driving from the engine driver and inconsiderate cycling combined.    

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Capt Sisko | 5 months ago
1 like

A couple of more points for discussion.

a. The cyclist appears to be riding one handed. I know it's terrible quality video, but look the angle of his body and at his left arm. It's all sort of tilted and at a funny angle right up to the last fraction of a second.

b. The Fire Engine stops very promptly. It's impssible to tell from the video at where the driver would have been able to spot the rider and exactly when the driver hit the brakes, but given as the fire engine stopped in a very short distance, maybe the driver had slowed down. Only other CCTV and the Tachograph will tell us that though.

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Oldfatgit replied to Capt Sisko | 5 months ago
1 like

*Pedant mode*
Tachograph not tachometer
*End Pedant mode

Tachometers record the speed of a rotating object ... they are normally otherwise known as rev counters.

Tachographs are a device for recording vehicle speed, distance, type of work (driving/other duties/ break / rest) and hours.
Digital tachographs can record other telemetry such as gForce provided the relevant sensors are fitted.

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Capt Sisko replied to Oldfatgit | 5 months ago
0 likes

Thank you and corrected.

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Rendel Harris replied to Capt Sisko | 5 months ago
3 likes
Capt Sisko wrote:

A couple of more points for discussion.

a. The cyclist appears to be riding one handed. I know it's terrible quality video, but look the angle of his body and at his left arm. It's all sort of tilted and at a funny angle right up to the last fraction of a second.

Definitely riding one-handed, almost certainly with a phone in the left hand. He also meanders across the road so that he is actually in the oncoming traffic lane before he joins the junction. Wherever fault is ultimately found to lie, I think it's fairly certain that the cyclist was not giving the road situation his 100% attention.

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Hirsute | 5 months ago
0 likes

There's a HC requirement on both sides to mitigate any problems in this scenario but I'd hesitate to apportion blame as a %.
I'm assuming the fire engine did have a siren on. I only ask as Saturday morning I watched an ambulance stuck behind a Merc driver who was oblivious to their presence until they added the siren to the blue lights.
There are some TL junctions where I take a bit more care due to poor sightlines even in a car, but not all such junctions.

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Oldfatgit replied to Hirsute | 5 months ago
4 likes

Fire engine has siren on ... the video has sound at source.

The driver of the engine is a fault (see comments further down from AllegedlyAnthony - a fireman who agrees fault with the driver) ... however there is mitigation and some blame can be apportioned to the cyclist for not following Rule 219.

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Hirsute replied to Oldfatgit | 5 months ago
1 like

Thanks. I must have brushed the mute button on my phone when I watched it.

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Shaun TheDiver | 5 months ago
10 likes

How many motorists slow down when approaching a green light, just in case there's something coming through on the opposing red?

Most of them speed up to get through before it changes even when it's amber, never mind green!

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Oldfatgit replied to Shaun TheDiver | 5 months ago
6 likes

Difference 2 tonnes of armour and half a dozen airbags makes 😄

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cyclisto | 5 months ago
4 likes

The fire brigade was going I think too fast even for siren operations, unless the camera is misleading. The proper siren use I have seen, is proceed to junctions, slows down and then with the help of siren the others give priority and the emergency vehicle passes without fully stopping. In this particular car, I would have heard the siren, but until to understand what is fully going on, I am not sure I would have managed to give way to a vehicle going at full speed throught a junction.

On the other hand I know it is cool riding in headphones, especially if they are white Apple and wireless (I think headphones are now kind of fashion statement, since they became cool), but to me it just seems crazy. I feel very aware in the bicycle because I have very good visibility from high and unobstructed hearing apart from wind (I am not that fast!). Car drivers with dirty windscreens, wipers changed a decade ago, lately huge almost horizontal A-pillars and near deafening sound systems, can understand very little what is going on the road BUT, they ride a 1,5 ton steel box with multiple safety systems that has been certified for a full head on crash at 40mph. Cyclists have at best 2cm of foam, so they need all the sensory input they can have to avoid crashes.

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mattw replied to cyclisto | 5 months ago
1 like

Assuming the "headphones are cool" quip is ironic.

Who would want to have it known public that they are an Apple victim? It's like driving a BMW.

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Oldfatgit | 5 months ago
4 likes

Rule 219 of the Highway Code states:
"Rule 219
Emergency and Incident Support vehicles. You should look and listen for ambulances, fire engines, police, doctors or other emergency vehicles using flashing blue, red or green lights and sirens or flashing headlights, or traffic officer and incident support vehicles using flashing amber lights.
When one approaches do not panic. Consider the route of such a vehicle and take appropriate action to let it pass, while complying with all traffic signs."

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-highway-code/road-users-requiring-extra-...
Remembering that a green light does not mean "GO". It means proceed *if safe to do so* (links further down this thread)

So there you go. It may be a should, but the obligation is on you as a road user to be aware of emergency vehicles.

This does not give responding drivers carte blanche to do what they want ... but it does mean that *you* fellow road user and cyclists, have an obligation and a duty of care.

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sheridan replied to Oldfatgit | 5 months ago
0 likes
Oldfatgit wrote:

Consider the route of such a vehicle and take appropriate action to let it pass, while complying with all traffic signs."

Interesting, I've usually tried to get out of the way of emergency vehicles, even if it means creeping over a white line on a red light - looks like I shouldn't be doing that in future.

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brooksby replied to sheridan | 5 months ago
2 likes
sheridan wrote:
Oldfatgit wrote:

Consider the route of such a vehicle and take appropriate action to let it pass, while complying with all traffic signs."

Interesting, I've usually tried to get out of the way of emergency vehicles, even if it means creeping over a white line on a red light - looks like I shouldn't be doing that in future.

Yup.  Bl00dy RLJ cyclists.  Grrrrr.

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David9694 | 5 months ago
10 likes

No requirement for car drivers to be able to listen for nee-naws, or any other aural clues. See also "in-car entertainment" / "must have had my music blaring" 

Car or motorcycle licence

You don’t need to tell DVLA if you’re deaf.

https://www.gov.uk/deafness-and-driving

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chrisonabike replied to David9694 | 5 months ago
11 likes
David9694 wrote:

You don’t need to tell DVLA if you’re deaf.

...which is why cyclists should never use headphones while riding, so they can hear deaf drivers and pedestrians approaching.

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Capt Sisko replied to chrisonabike | 5 months ago
3 likes

Don't forget many cars are now fitted with noise reducing acoustic windscreens. Throw in some loud music and many car drivers might as well be deaf.

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LeadenSkies | 5 months ago
9 likes

As the article correctly states, fire service drivers are taught to treat red lights as a give way sign, slow to walking speed and then only proceed through the red light once they have confirmed it is safe to do so. The driver has his driving licence on the line if it goes wrong or they don't stick to those rules which would unfortunately appear to be the case here and I have no doubt this will be subject to investigation by both the police and the LFB. What amazes me though is just how many people are either so situationally unaware or so unbothered as to be totally oblivious to approaching sirens.

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Off the back replied to LeadenSkies | 5 months ago
3 likes

Any emergency service driver, police, fire or ambulance still have a duty of care to ensure their actions are not endangering other road users. Flashing lights and sirens are there to alert not to give the driver freedom to just plough through and expect everyone to immediately get out of the way. 

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LeadenSkies replied to Off the back | 5 months ago
2 likes

I suggest you read my post again, especially the bit about treating as a give way, slowing to walking speed and only proceeding when they can confirm it is safe to do so. Oh and the bit where I said it appears this wasn't done here. Then climb down off your high horse before you hurt yourself.

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Paul J replied to LeadenSkies | 5 months ago
5 likes

Deaf people exist, ergo emergency services can not drive in ways that depend on other road users hearing their siren to be safe.

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LeadenSkies replied to Paul J | 5 months ago
2 likes

Clearly which is just one of many reasons why I clearly stated "only proceed through the red light once they have confirmed it is safe to do so". The obvious corollary to that is stop if it isn't safe to proceed but that's so obvious I didn't think it needed stating. At no point did I suggest that emergency services can drive in a way that depends on road users hearing their sirens. I did say that some drivers are totally situationally unaware or just don't care. I stand by that. It comes from my experience of 25 years in the fire service where it isn't uncommon to see car drivers sitting in front of a fire engine with lights and sirens on, jiggling around to music, putting on make up, playing with a phone or doing just about anything but help that fire engine make progress. It is also clearly evidenced by 99% of NMotD on here where the tiniest bit or care or situational awareness would have prevented a dangerous close pass.

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Oldfatgit | 5 months ago
3 likes

From the video, it doesn't look like there was much of an effort to slow for the red by the fire engine.

I don't know the junction, but I would have thought that it would be on the drivers 'careful' list [a1] and would be part of their practice response drills [a2].

It doesn't look like the driver sees the cyclist until either fractionally before impact or until impact itself.

You would like to think that the cyclist would have heard the sirens and would have been slowing down ... but that doesn't look like that happens. The cyclist also looks like they are riding one handed and doing something with their left hand. I'm watching on a mobile, and it might be clearer on a full screen.

Legally ... the driver of the fire engine is at fault.
Not sure if the LFB operate a driver and spotter - so the driver has other eyes at junctions - if that's the case then the spotter could be in for an internal disciplinary ... but not legal action.

Morally... hate to say it, but I'd suggest that the cyclist is morally wrong here. The fire engine was operating under siren, so the cyclist *should* have heard the noise, been aware of the risk and have been ready to stop.

Emergency drivers have a shit job (and I owe my life to a couple if them), however ... they are not above the Law, even when responding to a situation.

[a1] this maybe unofficial and part of a verbal risk assessment between response drivers ... you like "watch that junction/bend as its unsighted / sharp / narrow and you need to slow down" etc.
[a2] if there is a budget to allow these to happen

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Paul The Wolf replied to Oldfatgit | 5 months ago
9 likes

So if you are deaf you can't ride a bike?  That's nonsense.  If the rider was wearing headphones or similar, he was damn stupid, but the fault is still 100% with the person who jumps a red light without taking any care, even if they have the legal right to jump it if clear.  The driver made no effort to slow and take care across the junction, just assuming people whould have heard him and kept out of his way.  For that alone, he should be punished appropriately. It was a "due care and attention" failure at best, possibly dangerous driving.

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Oldfatgit replied to Paul The Wolf | 5 months ago
4 likes

I'm partially deaf and wear hearing aids, including while riding.
I also slow down for unsighted junctions - even when green.

Funny though ... I actually said that the driver was legally at fault.

You do you.

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Capt Sisko replied to Paul The Wolf | 5 months ago
6 likes

Sorry Paul but Oldfatgit is correct in attributing some of the blame to the cyclist. The Highway Code states 'GREEN means you may go on if the way is clear." It doesn't mean you can ride through a junction without the basic minimum of safety checks. If you look at the video, on the LH side there is a pedestrian about to cross the road, he looks to see if it's clear, see's the Fire Engine and stops & waits. The cyclist appears to have done none of that. Life is not not Black & White and it this case both parties have made errors.

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