Those of you that follow me will know that I have been banging out the tweets this week for Road Safety Week and have been using the hashtag #RSW13
Those of you that have followed me for some time will also know that me banging on about road safety is nothing new. There may even be some of you who have been bored enough to read my bio to see that I mention it in there too.
During my service I spent just over 7 years working on a busy roads policing unit (Traffic to those as long in the tooth as me). During my time on that team I was exposed to every sort of carnage the roads can throw at people. I’ve seen pedestrians knocked down, cars into cars, trees, houses and every other vehicle you can imagine. I’ve seen cyclists nudged from their bikes, smashed into and crushed beneath the wheels of a car. I’ve seen people thrown from their car because they weren’t wearing a seatbelt. I’ve seen a motorcyclist damn near decapitated by the front underside of a car. I’ve seen an old lady get her legs crushed by a reversing van in a car park on Christmas Eve. I’ve seen a young girl dragged underneath a car for a distance of over 100m before coming out the other side and the driver not stopping. I’ve seen pedestrians obliterated by HGV’s and had to be present whilst their remains are picked out of road tyres or front grilles. I’ve seen minor injuries, extensive injuries and death. I could go on. I won’t but I’m sure even skimming the surface like this makes you realise why someone like me becomes indoctrinated with road safety.
I have tweeted about a variety of topics this week and have focussed mostly on the key topic of distraction. The RSW website says;
We’re all human: we daydream, get side-tracked, run late and make mistakes. But on roads, distractions can be fatal.
When using roads, we all need to tune in to road safety and give it our full attention – particularly if we’re at the wheel, but also when we’re walking, cycling, skating, running, you name it – to keep ourselves and each other safe.
I have tweeted about mobile phone use whilst driving, cycling and walking. I’ve covered seat belts, drink drive, excess speed, driving in the rain, the school run and multi-tasking whilst driving. I also tweeted this video about what HGV drivers can and can’t see down their nearside.
At the end of 2012 there were 34.5 million vehicles licensed for use on the roads in Great Britain, of which 28.7 million (83 per cent) were cars. I cannot find figures for the number of pedal cycles. I suspect an equally high number but not all will be used on the roads regularly as a method of commuting and daily use. Without wanting to get into a debate about numbers I think it is fair to assume that at any given time the roads are more densely populated with motorised traffic than cycles. As a consequence most of my tweeting has been directed at the motorist. I get the odd complaint now and again but generally I get wholehearted support for my road safety tweets. Only this week I created and posted this picture about texting and driving.
At the time of writing this image has been retweeted 306 times on my account. It has also been hijacked by other accounts and retweeted many additional times. It’s reach will be in the 100’s of thousands. Why did I tweet this? I posted this content because I have seen drivers taking their life in their hands and performing some very dangerous manoeuvres. I have had many replies from followers and non-followers. Many have said what a powerful image it is. Others have said they agree with me and how dangerous texting and driving is. Some have suggested that those caught using their phone should have huge fines and have their car crushed. What I haven’t had is replies from people accusing me of tarring all drivers with the same brush. I haven’t been accused of being ignorant. I haven’t been accused of being a ‘driver basher’, or making ‘snide’ comments about motorists. I haven’t had anything other than support. It seems in my experience that motorists tend to recognise quite easily that there are stupid drivers on our roads. They recognise that I’m not accusing all drivers of being stupid but accept there is a section of motorists within the group who are.
So today I tweeted this;
Why did I post this? I posted this content because I have seen cyclists taking their life in their hands and performing some very dangerous manoeuvres.
In response I got some support but by and large the most vocal were tweeters who criticised me. I was ignorant, a cyclist basher and tarring all cyclists with the same brush. I was accused of being unprofessional and asinine. I was also accused of focussing on ‘trivial’ risk factors whilst ignoring the major ones.
This got me thinking about my tweet and whether it was fair. Had I been harsh and singled out cyclists for something they don’t do. The answer came fast and was a resounding NO. One person posted a reply with a picture of a 30mph sign and applied similar wording to mine but in reference to drivers not adhering to it. A relevant point and one that I felt compelled to agree with.. after all I’m committed to road safety and excess speed is one of the #Fatal4 (Speed, Mobiles, Seatbelts, Drink Drive). So why wasn’t my response like that of those cyclists challenging my tweet? Because I recognise and accept that some drivers are stupid and some are responsible and law abiding.
I wondered about some other tweets that I or forces around the country put out about safety or crime prevention. If a force were to tweet about ensuring your house is locked and secure would some people complain that the police were accusing them of being daft? If someone left their iPad visible in their car and got it stolen would someone object saying that such a comment tarred all people with the same brush if the police tweeted about keeping valuables safe? The answer, in my experience is no. Not at all. So why do some cyclists jump down your throat the minute you raise an issue?
Do drivers exceed the speed limit? – Yes
Do drivers use phones when driving? – Yes
Do drivers get drunk and then drive? – Yes
Do drivers ignore the rules of the road? – Yes
Are they a risk to themselves and other road users? – Yes
Do drivers get upset and angry when those promoting road safety raise any of the above issues? In my experience no.
Do cyclists jump red lights? – Yes
Do cyclists ride listening to loud music on headphones? – Yes
Do cyclists ride on footpaths where they shouldn’t? – Yes
Do cyclists ignore the rules of the road? – Yes
Are they a risk to themselves and other road users? – Yes
Do cyclists get upset and angry when those promoting road safety raise any of the above issues? In my experience.. some of them do Yes.. very much so.
I understand and accept that cyclists are vulnerable. I understand and accept that when cyclists come into contact with stupid drivers they inevitably come off worse. In less than 2 weeks there have been 6 cyclist fatalities on the streets of London. I understand and accept that drivers account for the largest proportion of accidents, injuries and deaths on our roads. I understand and accept that within the motoring community there are people who don’t deserve a licence. I understand and accept that there is far much more that could be done to ensure cyclists are safer on the roads of our towns and cities. I also understand that whilst the vast majority, like drivers, are law abiding and generally safe, there are those who let the side down and those are the ones that are targeted with such road safety messages.
So do I regret the tweet? Not in the slightest. Was it directed at all cyclists or just those who run red lights? The latter.
Have cyclists died or been seriously injured by running red lights or other breaches of road law? Yes they have and I find it very hard to believe that the families of those people who lost their lives considered it a ‘trivial risk’.
Any death on the roads is a death too many. I don’t promote targets or low percentages. My aim would be to reduce it to zero.. completely. Whilst that may seem like a pipe dream I’m not about to accept that any low percentage is a ‘trivial risk’ and acceptable.
I make no excuses for the tweet. If you don’t like it.. then tough. I will continue to promote road safety to groups within drivers or cyclists no matter how large or small if there is even the tiniest risk of stupidity leading to serious injury or death.
Anyone who thinks that’s cyclist bashing needs to get off their high saddle and really look at what the message says and who it is directed at.