I have to say that I am absolutely stunned by the Bolton police response to this one. Here is the video:
I made detailed calculations of the relevant information from the video and wrote up a statement, which I handed to the officers that I spoke to, along with a DVD containing the above video and copies of the original raw video footage from front and rear cameras. The statement I gave was as follows:
I was cycling along Manchester Road, past parked cars, in the centre of the lane (Primary Road Position). As I was approaching a pedestrian refuge on the centre of the road, the vehicle, registration number MM14PUU, came up behind me and was driven extremely close to the rear of my bicycle. The driver then switched the headlights to full beam and continued to tailgate in this manner for a distance of approximately 150 metres. As I passed between the pedestrian refuge and the parked cars, I made a signal with my hand down and palm facing backwards, waving for the driver to back off. His response was to drive even closer. I then had to negotiate broken tarmac in the road and pass a large, parked panel van, with this driver keeping a distance of 2.5 metres behind me, until I had passed the parked cars and was able to move to the left, at which point the driver overtook me.
I ride with a helmet mounted video camera facing forwards, and another video camera mounted behind the saddle of my bicycle facing to the rear. Using the video footage from these cameras, I am able to calculate, to a high degree of accuracy, my speed and the distance from the rear of my bicycle to the front of the following car. Throughout this incident, I was travelling at 20 miles per hour, or 9 metres per second, calculated using the fact that it took me just 4 seconds to pass 6 dashes of the lane markings (spaced at 6 metres). Using the size of front number plate of the following vehicle, I can confirm that the front of the vehicle MM14PUU was 2.5 metres behind my bicycle as we passed the pedestrian refuge, a gap of just 0.28 seconds.
After the car driver overtook me, I continued on my journey and caught up with the car waiting in the queue at a red light at the junction with Stoneclough Road. After checking there were not vehicles approaching from behind, I came alongside the car MM14PUU and asked the driver: “what was the point of that, endangering my life like that?” The driver replied: “You’re in the middle of the road, chief”. I replied: “I’m in the middle of the lane, where I should be”. The driver then started to repeat: “no, you’re in the middle of the …”. I cut him off and asked: “So you didn’t agree with my road position, so you thought you’d endanger me, Yes?”, to which the driver nodded slightly and replied “Yes”. I replied “OK” and informed him that he was recorded on video and would be having a word with the police. He replied that I was also on video and pointed to what appeared to be a video recording device attached to his car windscreen.
At this point the traffic ahead had moved off and the driver of the car behind had started sounding his horn, so I told him to “get moving”. I then followed the same vehicle up the hill, across the Kearsley roundabout until we reached the queue for the traffic lights at the junction between Market Street and LongCauseway in Farnworth. At this point I moved into the long ASL feeder lane to pass the traffic queue. As I passed him car, I stopped and asked him not to delete the video he had recorded as I may ask him to produce it in court, to which he replied: “be my guest”. I then filtered to the cycle box at the junction and carried out my journey after the traffic light turned to green.
I found the experience of being tailgated by a motor vehicle with the headlights used in an aggressive manner, just 0.28 seconds behind my bicycle whilst I had to negotiate parked vehicles, a pedestrian refuge and a badly damaged road surface, very frightening. I also found it very upsetting that a driver would use his vehicle, which weights more than a tonne and has an engine power in the region of 100 bhp, in a deliberate attempt to bully and intimidate me on my 13kg bicycle, simply because I was riding in the manner recommended by the Bikeability national cycle training scheme and he considered that I was in his way.
As a driver myself, with over 350,000 miles of driving experience, I am of the opinion that this person’s standard of driving fell far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver and that it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous. I also believe that, given the aggressive use of the headlights as well as the driver’s own admission, that this dangerous behaviour was carried out in a deliberate attempt to use his vehicle to bully and intimidate a vulnerable road user.
I didn’t hear anything back from the police officer dealing with the matter for three weeks (though the officer says they did ring me and left a voice mail, which I have never received), so I phoned up this morning for an update. I just heard back from the officer now, who said that they had interviewed the driver under caution and that the driver stated that he put the headlights on full beam to let me know that he was there as he was about to overtake me. After consulting with their sergeant, they had decided that they would not take the matter any further. When I asked why, the officer stated that the sergeant’s opinion was that the video showed no evidence of dangerous driving, and the driver had given a valid explanation for his behaviour.
I have asked the officer to talk to the people in the Traffic Division who are running Operation Considerate, and I have also asked the people running Operation Considerate to get in touch with the officer as they may be able to put a different complexion on the matter.
This is just getting beyond ridicule now. It’s easy to see why this driver felt he could be so blasé about being reported to the police. He knows perfectly well that they won’t do a thing about it and he can threaten cyclists with impunity!
Addendum 1: Rachel Aldred recently wrote an article about why it is important to pay attention to near miss incidents, of which this is undoubtedly one.
Addendum 2: (17th December 2014) This evening, I received a call from the Detective Sergeant that the officer consulted. The DS stated that, having viewed the video again, he was still of the opinion that it did not show evidence of dangerous driving, and that other officers who are themselves cyclists have said that this kind of thing is just a daily occurrence. (I consider the latter point to be simply more evidence that there is a serious problem on the roads, which the police are failing to deal with.) But they have agreed to consult the people running Operation Considerate to get a more informed opinion. I thanked the DS for keeping me informed.
Addendum 3: (15th January 2015) Last week (on 6th January), I called 101 again to ask for an update, as I hadn’t heard anything yet. I gave them the log number of the incident, and the name and shoulder number of the officer who dealt with the case, and they said they’d contact the officer concerned and ask them to get back to me. 9 days later, I still have not received a call.
Addendum 4: (19th January 2015) I received a call from the Sergeant this morning. He says that he has spoken to several officers in the Greater Manchester Traffic Policing Unit and they all agree that no offence has been committed. I asked whether he had spoken to the people running Operation Considerate as we agreed when we last spoke, but he hasn’t and will nit be doing so now. I’m not sure how to proceed now.