Knocked off your bike and abused - and it's partly your fault
A Nottingham cycle instructor is aggrieved to be told he bears some responsibility after a driver rushing to a funeral knocked him off his bike
This is something of a vignette, but an illustrative one: to me, it sums up the common complaint of cyclists that they are too often failed by the police (and the legal system). Often, as this example shows, it's less a matter of malevolence as sheer misunderstanding and ignorance.
This all begins in April this year, when a Nottingham-based man was cycling through the city on his Brompton bike.
The 42-year-old, who has asked not to be named, is about as sober and careful a cyclist as they get. He has spent seven years as a cycle instructor and as a volunteer leader of public bike rides.
As the helmet camera video above shows he was riding along a suburban A-road near the Trent Bridge part of the city, seeking to turn right. He very clearly looks behind him several times (the positioning of the camera means it doesn't look back as far as he did) and waits for two funeral cars to go past. After a gap, a private car goes past, and then there is another gap.
At this point the rider (who, he says, is signaling clearly) starts to move across the road to turn right. The driver of a car behind clearly sees the cyclist – he sounds the horn – but is so seemingly impatient his red Peugeot clips the bike, which tumbles to the ground, a very unsettling view.
If that wasn't tough enough for the cyclist, he is then abused and threatened. The occupants of the car are especially agitated as they are en route to a funeral – they had been following the funeral cars. The cyclist responds calmly throughout.
With the camera footage it would seem a pretty straightforward case for the police. In the end, the driver was ordered to attend an awareness course and the female passenger who abused the cyclist was cautioned. The cyclist says this process took longer than it should, and was very stressful for him.
However, what interests me most is an email he received from a sergeant in Nottinghamshire police's Rushcliffe district, part of correspondence in which he was seeking information about what officers planned to do. This is the relevant section:
Also to be considered is that the vehicle that collided with you was the second vehicle following a hearse and limousine as part of a funeral cortege. Whilst you had the right of way in accordance with the Highway Code and Road Traffic Act a road user should be aware of traffic conditions around him/her. This would include any emergency vehicles at junctions that have an exemption in law regarding speed limits and traffic signs that whilst they still have to be prepared to stop at red lights for example, the drivers depend on the courtesy of other road users to allow precedence.
In the same manner, I would personally expect that if I were to see a hearse being driven with a coffin in the rear that there would be other vehicles following and I would allow the cortege to proceed by giving way even though I actually had the right of way. This is also something that the court would consider as mitigation were we to prosecute the driver in your case.
To my eyes, this seems like victim-blaming, all the worse because it appears almost unconscious. Of course, it's a perfectly normal courtesy to allow a funeral cortege more space. But as the video shows, there is quite a long gap after the second funeral car goes past before the cyclist is passed by a plain white hatchback. There is then another long gap, during which he signals.
The sergeant seems to be saying that the cyclist should have known, perhaps by telepathy, that the red car was also carrying mourners. He also seems to indicate that it is somehow his fault that he was knocked to the ground and abused by a driver who had clearly seen him and did not want to allow him what would have been a couple of seconds to turn safely.
Of course, emotions run high at funerals, and sensible policing takes this into account. But the email seems pretty insensitive about the cyclist's own traumatic experience. He says he feels the police's attitude has not helped:
My life has been very difficult for the last 3 months - physically and mentally painful - and these injuries have been greatly aggravated by the shockingly poor response demonstrated by Nottinghamshire police.
Perhaps it's instinctively more natural for a police officer to empathise with the feelings of someone heading to a funeral, something most people have done, rather than a cyclist.
I put this to Nottinghamshire police, and they are equally vehement nothing wrong was said in the email. They also say the sergeant is, himself, a cyclist. They sent a statement from Phil Hallam, the neighbourhood inspector for Rushcliffe:
I am satisfied that the officers involved in the case have acted appropriately. In his email the sergeant, himself a cyclist, clearly explains his course of action and is very open about the route of disposal that was taken and why. There was no intended inference of blame and it is unfortunate if this is how it was taken.
I truly do not understand the mentality of the driver, and in particular the shrieking woman, when they can be involved in a collision that leads to a cyclist on the pavement at speed, and they can go about haranguing and threatening the injured person. I've met people who have this uncouth accent and it really gives me a poor opinion of those from the north I'm sad to say. Horrible generalisation I know but there is an arrogant "me, me, me" attitude in the nagging voice.
Riding bikes in traffic - what seems dangerous is usually safe; what seems safe is often more dangerous.
Of course, it's a perfectly normal courtesy to allow a funeral cortege more space. But as the video shows, there is quite a long gap after the second funeral car goes past before the cyclist is passed by a plain white hatchback. There is then another long gap, during which he signals.
Not having any rear view footage from the cyclist makes it difficult tell whether the "long gaps" are because there is a significant distance between each vehicle, or because each vehicle is waiting for a safe opportunity to pass the cyclist.
Regardless, there's no circumstance that can excuse a vehicle deliberately hitting a cyclist (or pedestrian, for that matter).
That's absolute madness from the police. If they are intent on blaming the cyclist for failing to give way to a funeral procession, which isn't in their highway code (or whatever their appropriate rules are), surely some of the blame would be on the driver of the hearse, who overtook a vehicle without providing sufficient distance for all accompanying vehicles to overtake the bicycle safely? If the rider were in a car, the hearse would have had to stay behind him and then he would've been able to indicate and leave the road safely, but he doesn't have that right because he's on a bike?
Dunno, the police must've taken a leaf out of my local plods book