Saturday, 27 October 2012

Roadrage!

On Tuesday, 23 October 2012, I was cycling along Embankment Road in Plymouth when I was overtaken by a Dial-a-Cab Plymouth taxi in a dangerous manner. Swearing under my breath, I let it slide, and further along, at the junction with Elliot Road, I filtered past the same Dial-a-Cab Plymouth mini-bus taxi (and some other vehicles) to get to the Advanced Stop Line for cyclists - just like I'm supposed to do.

Clearly the Dial-a-Cab Plymouth taxi driver took exception to this, and overtook me again in a manner that cyclists call a "punishment pass". This was even closer than before and gave me quite a fright. So much so that to my regret I must admit I swore at the driver (who was well past me at that point). 
He may not have heard what I said, but he must've heard me shouting, as the next moment he came to a screeching halt, and hopped out of his Dial-a-Cab Plymouth taxi to rapidly advance on me.

At this point I was convinced he was going to turn violent. In the end, he didn't turn violent, but he was shouting and swearing, right up close, and pointing his finger at me all the time.

The video is further below - watch it and draw your own conclusions. 

The fact is that I was well within the Highway Code, while the Dial-a-Cab Plymouth taxi driver twice did not leave me sufficient space when he overtook. The Highway Code clearly states under Rule 163 "give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car" and it even has a nice picture showing what a GOOD overtake should be like.



When you compare the car in the photo above with how the Dial-a-Cab Plymouth taxi overtook me, the difference is immediately obvious. 
I'd also like to draw your attention to the location of the cyclist in the picture above - he is NOT riding in the gutter, but instead about 1 meter out, like he is supposed to. 
The Dial-a-Cab Plymouth taxi driver shouted that I should be riding "there" - when he said "there" he pointed at the gutter. Yet more proof that a) he doesn't know the Highway Code particularly well and b) this was the real cause of the incident- like many other drivers, he feels himself more important than cyclists, and therefore resent being "stuck" behind them (even only for a very short while and despite not being in any emergency rush). He is simply one of those drivers who believe cyclists belong in the gutter.

The Dial-a-Cab Plymouth taxi driver was very put out that I filtered to the front, to get to the ASL, which to me simply suggests he doesn't have a clue what an ASL is meant for. So let's enlighten him by looking at the Highway Code again:
Rule 178 tells us "Some signal-controlled junctions have advanced stop lines to allow cycles to be positioned ahead of other traffic." In other words, when filtering to get to the ASL, I was following the Highway Code.It goes on to state "Allow cyclists time and space to move off when the green signal shows". 

Apparently our taxi driver isn't aware of these aspects of the Highway Code, despite loudly claiming to know it. Rule 239 states "You must ensure you do not hit anyone when you open your door – check for cyclists or other traffic" yet it is quite clear that had I not stopped I would have been doored by this driver. There are various other rules that he broke, including stopping in the middle of the road.

Initially I was quite shocked, and I did consider simply reporting the matter to the police, as well as the Plymouth City Council Taxi Licensing Department, but then I decided to first try a different strategy: I emailed a certain Chris, who it seems is the owner/manager/director/boss of a company called Executive Hire South West (of which Dial-a-Cab Plymouth taxis is a sub-division) because I wanted to sit down with him (and hopefully his drivers) and explain why I was not in the wrong. Rather over-optimistically, I hoped that in doing so I could perhaps lessen their frustration as drivers a tad, while increasing the safety of all cyclists on Plymouth's roads that little bit.This is the email I sent this Chris at Executive Hire South West:

"Dear Chris,Today, 23 October 2012, at approximately 16h10 I was cycling along Embankment Road, in the bus lane as I'm entitled to, travelling in the direction of Marsh Mills. Your driver, taxi number 124, reg number SG07PXX overtook me in a dangerous manner. The Highway Code clearly states that when drivers overtake cyclists, they should give them at least as much space as they would a car. There's even a helpful photo showing how much space a driver is supposed to give: https://assets.digital.cabinet-office.gov.uk/static/hc/hc_rule_163_give_vulnerable_road_users_at_least_as_much_space_as_you_would_a_car.jpgLater, at the junction with Elliott Road, your driver was waiting at the lights, which were red for him (and me and everybody else travelling in the same direction) at the time. I filtered through to get to the Advanced Stop Line (ASL) or as some drivers refer to it, the cyclist box. Do note that cyclists are supposed to do that as it increases their visibility, and therefore their safety. That is exactly the reason why ASLs exist at all, and drivers who have passed the Institute of Advanced Drivers' exam are taught that. It also clearly states in the Highway Code, under Rule 178 "Advanced stop lines. Some signal-controlled junctions have advanced stop lines to allow cycles to be positioned ahead of other traffic" and "Allow cyclists time and space to move off when the green signal shows."

I set off again as soon as the lights turned green, and very shortly after your driver overtook me even closer than before. When I yelled at him he came to a screeching halt in the middle of the road, blocking it entirely, and got out of his taxi. He rapidly advanced at me and was extremely aggressive in his manner. He was shouting and swearing at me and continued to do so after I told him not to.He tried to claim that the particular bit of road was a bus and taxi lane, despite signage clearly showing cyclists are permitted. He further shouted that I had no right to go in front of him and other vehicles, and that I should cycle "there" - he said "there" while pointing at the gutter. DfT guideline for cyclists, which is taught under the official Bikeability scheme, states that when the road narrows, we are SUPPOSED to move to the centre of the lane, to avoid dangerous overtaking. It also states that we're supposed to keep left, where safe and practical to do so, and explains that cyclists should NOT ride in the gutter, but instead ride about 1 meter away from it. I was in that 1 meter away position, which wasn't enough for him.He wasted my time, he wasted his own time, and he showed quite clearly that he cannot control his temper. As such, I'm not at all convinced that he is of suitable character to hold a taxi license. He also breached several other Highway Code rules, including causing an obstruction and being inconsiderate towards a vulnerable road user.I would very much like to discuss this with you, face to face, during which time I'll be happy to show you the video footage I have of the entire incident. I would also like to hear whether you feel this behaviour was acceptable for any driver, let alone a taxi driver. If not, I'd like to discus with you ways of moving this forward, which may include me or other members of the Plymouth Cycling Campaign talking to your drivers, and explaining some points about cyclist behaviour that a fair number of drivers don't seem to understand. In doing so, we may yet make the roads that tiny little better for all of us, which'd be a great result, wouldn't you agree? After all, in case you hadn't noticed, year after year the number of cyclists on the road just keeps growing.I look forward to hearing from you."

In the end, he DIDN'T reply, so I followed up with a second e-mail:"Dear Chris,I must admit I am rather disappointed that I haven't heard from you. I was fully prepared to try and resolve this outside of formal channels, but I can only do so with your co-operation.As a result, I regret to say you leave me no choice but to take my complaint further, to both Devon and Cornwall Constabulary as well as Plymouth City Council."

He replied to this second email:"Dear William         Sorry to say this is the first email I have received from you, so could not reply any earlier, I would like to point out that all our drivers are self-employed and are issued a licence by Plymouth City Council and this entitles them to work as a taxi driver, and they then undertake work for an office, I may add, reading your statement I have come to the conclusion that you were not happy with being overtaken by said driver and at the next set of lights saw your opportunity to place yourself in front of the taxi to get a reaction, when the driver passed you again you shouted and made gestures which I am sure is not in the Highway CodeBest Regards, Chris"

Clearly he wasn't accepting that his driver was even slightly in the wrong, and instead pretty much blamed the whole thing on me, so I sent him the following e-mail: "Thanks for your reply. Am I correct in saying my understanding of your response is that you feel I was at fault, that I didn't follow the Highway Code, and finally that your driver did nothing wrong?"

His reply, and the last I heard from him is below:"What I am saying is if you feel the need to go further that is your choice, but i gave my personal thoughts on reading your statement, you admit that you shouted first and to me this is what has escalated the problem,"Again, he obviously places all the blame on my head.

I have reported the driver to the police, and I gave them a full, unedited video showing the entire route I cycled that day. I told them that I am confident they would find I had not broken the Highway Code once during the entire commute, while the video shows the Dial-a-Cab Plymouth taxi driver broke several Highway Code rules.

Anyway, here's the video. You judge for yourself, though I would appreciate your thoughts on it, via a comment to this post.
Remember, the date and time on the camera is wrong, but at the end of the full video I filmed my phone showing the correct date and time. Also, my camera is situated just above my face, making my voice sound louder than what is is in relation to the environment I may have been in. In parts you can hear my breathing, which makes me sound like a steam engine, when in fact I was neither out of breath, nor tired at the time. Judge from that how loudly I shouted.



Now I cannot tell you what to do in your life, but I will make a suggestion that I hope you will follow, and indeed suggest to others: I'd like you to avoid using ANY services from Executive Hire South West, or from Dial-a-Cab Plymouth taxis, as clearly neither the driver I encountered, nor the owner of the firm cares even slightly for the safety of cyclists, human beings, on our roads. With road rage like what is shown in the video above, this Dial-a-Cab Plymouth taxi driver must be stopped before he either kills, or seriously injures some innocent cyclist.

As a professional driver, he should be setting an example, and his driving should be of a higher standard than the average. Sadly that is quite evidently NOT the case. In addition, again as a professional driver, he should be exercising better control over his emotions. Somebody who loses it so easily, especially given that he was in the wrong, in my opinion is not of suitable character to be a professional driver.