Thursday, 25 April 2013

Your council is failing you

The title of this post may seem harsh, but it is nonetheless a fair and accurate description of the reality cyclists find themselves in.

This taxi driver came too close to CycleGaz
Spend five minutes talking to any cyclist that regularly rides on the road and chances are they'll tell you about near-misses and other run-ins they've had with especially buses and taxis. If you cycle yourself, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.

Should you be cut up, threatened or even assaulted by a bus or taxi driver, your options are basically to contact the police (hahahahahahaaa! sorry - couldn't be helped!), contact the council (whahahahahahahahahahahaaaa!!) or contact the company involved (insert hysterical fits of laughter here).

The reality is nobody is interested. To the police, cyclists are at best a nuisance they'd rather not have to deal with and at worst, pests to be actively persecuted. Councils are simply not interested at all, and as for the bus or taxi company, yes well, good luck with that and enjoy wasting your time.

And yet...

If I wanted to start either a bus or a taxi company, I would be choosing to enter a supposedly tightly regulated industry. That regulation is controlled on a local level by the local council, who holds the powers to refuse or grant me a license to run such a company, based on a long list of conditions, which include my character.

When a taxi or bus driver behaves in an abusive or threatening manner towards any vulnerable road user, it should automatically become the responsibility of the local authority to step in. This is because ultimately they hold the final responsibility as they have seen fit to grant an operators license to the firm or individual concerned.

It is very much like the British Medical Council being responsible if they failed to address valid concerns about a doctor that steps outside the boundaries.

As such, it is my opinion that all local authorities therefore should run educational programmes to explain to bus and taxi drivers exactly how they should and shouldn't behave around vulnerable road users, with the explicit threat that abusive or dangerous behaviour from such drivers will result in their operators license being withdrawn.

A local authority is meant to be from the people, for the people. It is meant to look out for all people in its area, with an increased focus and responsibility on people that are more vulnerable.

Cyclists are extremely vulnerable road users and local authorities are complete failing to take basic steps to ensure we are kept safe on the roads.

Lack of periodically repeated education of commercial drivers results in so many taxi and bus drivers being clueless about cyclists. For example, the average bus or taxi driver appears to have no idea why cyclists sometimes ride in primary position, nor how much space they should leave when overtaking. These points lead to frustration and anger on both sides, but sadly it is usually the cyclists that are on the losing side. It is after all rather hard to argue with several tonnes of steel.

Local authorities should implement an on-going programme of educating taxi and bus drivers, and the relevant license-issuing department should vigorously investigate any complaints of poor road behaviour and implement appropriate sanctions.

But this simply won't start happening all by itself. No, it is up to us to convince our councils to step up to the plate and to protect innocent people from those drivers they have allowed to use our roads. For this to work, each and every single one of us needs to lobby our local councilors until they start taking this seriously.