[See also this later article about another incident I reported in 2015.]
On 2nd May, I wrote to Arriva to complain about the driving of one of their bus drivers on 23rd April 2012. Yesterday, after speaking to them on the phone four times in the interim, I finally received a written reply. I will put the reply here first, and then have a look back at the incident to consider the quality of their investigation and response:
Customer Services, 487 Dunstable Road, Luton, Bedfordshire, LU4 EDS
Customer Services 0844 800 4411
I am writing further to your communication with Arriva on 2nd May 2012 regarding the incident you experienced with a route 538 bus service.
I can confirm that your comments have been forwarded to the manager of the Bolton garage and he has completed his investigation and reported his findings back to me.
The manager has stated that he has viewed the vehicle CCTV from the nearside camera and this shows the bus to be well clear of the cyclist which we believe to be you as it overtakes, you would have been aware the bus was overtaking.
In the managers opinion you should not have moved to the centre lane until the bus had completed overtaking you. However he does accept from our CCTV that we cannot judge the speed of the bike.
The footage on U Tube appears that the bus does cut you up and he presume this was from an off side head mounted camera, the footage therefore is only from one angle whereas the nearside bus camera shows there was a safe distance from the bike.
The driver has reported that he did make a comment towards you and therefore the driver has had a driving assessment, we continue to monitor our drivers with driving standards officers as well as covertly.
I am sorry to learn that you have had cause to complain about our bus service and offer my sincere apologies for the distress this has caused. We aim to provide a reliable and best possible service for our customers and I am sorry that we have been unable to do so on this occasion.
Please do not hesitate to contact the Customer Service team should you encounter further problems‘
OK, so here is the video of the incident, which I posted on YouTube:
The observant reader may already notice one or two discrepancies between what was said in the Arriva letter and what is shown in the video clip. In particular:
- “[the vehicle CCTV] shows the bus to be well clear of the cyclist which we believe to be you as it overtakes”
- Well, the company refuses to let me see the vehicle CCTV, but my own video footage shows this to be simply not true. Either they are looking at a completely different incident, or their CCTV system is extremely misleading or they have a weird idea of what constitutes “well clear”.
- “you would have been aware the bus was overtaking.”
- I really cannot see what the relevance of that remark is. Is it intended as in: “you would have been aware that I was driving the bus at you, so I did nothing wrong”?
- “In the managers [sic] opinion you should not have moved to the centre lane until the bus had completed overtaking you.”
- (There is no “centre lane”, so I assume this means the centre of the lane.) It is quite clear from my video footage that I didn’t move to the centre of the lane at all, but maintained my line across the junction. In fact, I ought to have moved to the centre of the lane before approaching the junction to prevent idiots from trying to overtake there, but the fact that I didn’t does not excuse the driver’s behaviour. Now, it would be true to say that the manager didn’t actually say that I moved to the centre, but the words (s)he used would lead any reader to believe that I did. That is a well known technique, which is called “lying by implication”.
- “… he [the manager] presume this [my video clip] was from an off side head mounted camera, the footage therefore is only from one angle whereas the nearside bus camera shows there was a safe distance from the bike.”
- By mentioning that the camera is mounted on the right of my helmet, the writer is trying to imply that this somehow affects the interpretation of the video footage. This is, of course, nonsense; the centre of the camera is exactly five inches to the right of the centre of the bicycle, and is just inside the rider’s right shoulder. Unfortunately, the company refuses to let me see the vehicle CCTV footage so, again, they must have a very weird idea of what constitutes a “safe passing distance”.
- “The driver has reported that he did make a comment towards you”
- Although I did overtake the bus further along the road, at no point did the driver and I exchange words, so I fail to see how he could have “[made] a comment towards [me]”. This is a very mysterious remark in the circumstances.
Finally, I think it is worth mentioning what the Highway Code has to say in relation this situation. The following are extracts from rules that I consider are relevant:
Rule 162: Before overtaking you should make sure … there is a suitable gap in front of the road user you plan to overtake.
Rule 163: Overtake only when it is safe and legal to do so. You should … Allow plenty of room. Move back to the left as soon as you can but do not cut in … give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car.
Rule 167: DO NOT overtake where you might come into conflict with other road users. For example … approaching or at a road junction on either side of the road, … where the road narrows, … when you would force another road user to swerve or slow down.
Rule 212: When passing motorcyclists and cyclists, give them plenty of room (see Rules 162-167). If they look over their shoulder it could mean that they intend to pull out, turn right or change direction. Give them time and space to do so.
Rule 213: Motorcyclists and cyclists may suddenly need to avoid uneven road surfaces and obstacles such as drain covers or oily, wet or icy patches on the road. Give them plenty of room and pay particular attention to any sudden change of direction they may have to make.
This driver has broken every one of these rules.
I asked the lady I spoke to on the phone what is the next step in the complaints process if I want to take it further. She said there isn’t one, but in fact there is: my next port of call will be the North-Western Traffic Commissioner.