How about some real traffic law enforcement?

Developing a culture which opposes endangering others on the road – the core element of road danger reduction – will need the appropriate responses from the police to such behaviour. We are concerned that while claims are made about a “cycle safety crackdown” in London, in reality there was no real “blitz” on unsafe driving , and that fair traffic policing
is still not on the agenda. The cases below are mainly in London and concern cyclist safety, as this is the area that has a current high profile: but other cases are given, chosen just by what has presented itself to me recently:

1. Two cases of “dooring”.

About 8% of all cyclist Killed and Seriously Injured (KSI) casualties in London involve car doors opening on cyclists and either hitting them or forcing them into a collision (see TfL’s Cycle Safety Action Plan (p.16) . The RDRF has been instrumental in developing cycle training programmes which show cyclists how to ride outside the “door-zone” (often to the chagrin of some drivers) , and some separation is achieved by some good quality cycle facilities on main roads, but the fact remains that cyclists will often be close to car doors, and sometimes have to be.
Rule 239 of the Highway Code includes: you MUST ensure you do not hit anyone when you open your door. Check for cyclists or other traffic.


(a) Matthew Sparkes

He “has lost his faith in the Met’s ability to police our roads fairly” Read his story – it s worth reading in detail – here:


(b) GN

He is a well-known figure in the London cycle trade. Last October he was doored in an incident which left him with a broken vertebra, broken collar bone, broken rib and punctured lung. The driver confessed to having not checked his mirrors when a police officer attended – the incident happened to occur outside * Police Station in North London – but there have been no charges against him.


2. Jake Thompson

Jake Thompson was a teacher killed on a pedestrian crossing when hit by a lorry whose driver escaped conviction after police investigation errors, including failing to interview the driver for four months after the collision. This case, including the findings of the independent inquiry fought for by Jake’s parents, is described in the Western Daily PressNorthern Echo, Bristol Post and Durham Times .

As our friend Kate Cairns  (sister of Eilidh Cairns) says: “A catalogue of errors” – the same phrase eventually used (verbally and unofficially) to me. How many other cases have suffered the same? And are still doing so?
This is in the most serious case of a road death (only revealed after the persistence of action by Jake’s parents): no wonder there are questions about policing of incidents with less serious consequences, let alone rule- or law-breaking behaviour.


3. John Bowman

John is a transport planner working in west London. In this case no offence has occurred; it is, however, revealing of police attitudes at a time when a “crackdown” is supposed to be happening:
“I was cycling eastbound along Uxbridge Road in between Church Road, Hanwell and Eccleston Road, West Ealing when I was hooted at by a police van.
When I waved my arms to enquire what the hoot was for I was asked to pull over. I immediately pulled over and the officer asked me why I wasn’t wearing high visibility clothing: I explained that it wasn’t a legal requirement and they said that it was in my interests.
I asked why they had hooted at me and they responded saying I was cycling in the middle of the road. I explained to them that there was van parked on the road which resulted me in needing to be in the middle of the lane and that there was a bus in front of me which was about to stop at a bus stop some metres ahead. The police refused to acknowledge there was any bus even though a few seconds before they hooted at me, traffic came to a standstill including the police van, when the bus had to wait for oncoming traffic in order to pass the van parked on side of the road.
They insisted that I either use the cycle lane, a cycle lane which had pondings at a number of points and in which the ground is uneven pretty much along the length of it, with one officer stating that I should at least be close to the cycle lane. They also stated that I was causing delay to drivers, I questioned this reasoning as I had been delayed just seconds before by the bus in front of me needing to overtake the parked van and that cyclists on average go quicker than cars on this stretch ( I also pointed out to them that I first noticed the police van at the junction of Uxbridge Road with Dormers Wells Lane a distance of about 1 mile and I had caught up and overtaken the van in that time.)
I was doing nothing illegal and I get frustrated by car drivers hooting at me for doing nothing illegal. By having police vehicles hooting at me for doing nothing illegal gives out the wrong message to other drivers.”
RDRF Committee member Colin McKenzie suggests the following ten points that MPS officers should be trained to be aware of:
– Cyclists are not required to wear hi-vis, and there’s no evidence that doing so makes them safer
– Cyclists are not required to wear helmets, and there’s no evidence that doing so makes them safer
– Cyclists are not required to ride in the gutter, and there’s evidence that doing so makes them less safe
– Cyclists are allowed to ride on the carriageway of all roads in London except motorways
– Cyclists are not required to “get out of the way” of motor vehicles
– HGVs pose special danger, and cyclists should be discouraged from passing them on the left
– Cyclists need to use their positioning to ensure that they can be seen easily
– Cyclists should look behind frequently
– Cyclists are not required to use cycle facilities, and there is no evidence that doing so makes them safer
– No sticker on the back of any motor vehicle overrides drivers’ responsibility not to move into road space that is already occupied.


4. An incident in Chorleywood.

It is unusual, even for a transport practitioner with a special interest in safety, to witness a Road Traffic Incident from start to finish. Last autumn I witnessed someone driving with obvious uncertainty towards a junction to make right turn. Despite the obvious appearance of a cyclist approaching – and shouting a warning – she turned into his path and caused a collision, leaving him with, thankfully minor, injuries.

Even with clear evidence, no charge was brought, and the elderly lady driver was simply required to take a “driver awareness” lesson.
There is substantial debate about the value of “speed awareness” and “driver awareness” courses. Suffice it to say that in this case, even with the cost of the course borne by the driver, this is likely to be less than the cost of increased insurance following penalty points from a careless driving conviction and the (small) fine. And this is for learning what a motorist is required to know in the first place, after an innocent third party has been injured…

These cases have not been scientifically selected. If details of one day’s collisions or near misses in just one area of the UK, and the police (lack of) response to them were recorded, the picture would be far more forceful. I do, however, think it worthwhile recording these instances to give a snapshot which I’m afraid is indicative of how far we have to go to get civilised road traffic policing in this country.


3 thoughts on “How about some real traffic law enforcement?

  1. Peter Salter

    Letters in the Telegraph and the Mail have included the following:
    “Virtually every transgression by drivers is detected and punished”;
    “Errant cyclists should be relentlessly pursued and prosecuted”; and
    “Drivers who fail the breath test but have not been involved in an accident are being punished for what they might do, not what they have done”.
    With attitudes like these, we have a long way to go to getting safe road, with most drivers thinking they are “persecuted” by the police – something the press is happy to promote.

    1. rdrf Post author

      Couldn’t agree more. But they don’t neccessarily represent evry driver. Don’t forget all newspapers will include extreme views, not least the two you mention.

  2. Pingback: What kind of policing do we need? | Road Danger Reduction Forum

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