Tuesday 10 November 2009

getting knocked off the bike

On 30th September, I was knocked off my bike in Clifton. I was turning right into Worcester Road from College Road, and a car that was waiting to emerge from Worcester Road pulled out into me, knocking me off the bike, and injuring me.

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Last week I got a phone call from the Collisions Support Unit, telling me that they were not going to charge the driver with anything, as they had received a witness statement claiming that I had been going too fast, and that I was not signalling, and that I was cutting the corner. None of this is true, so I was really rather upset. I wrote back to them, as follows:

To: Collision Support Unit
Avon and Somerset Constabulary
Re; ROAD TRAFFIC COLLISION Worcester Road junction with College Road, Clifton, Bristol. Time: 12:30 Hours Date: 30th September 2009
Dear Sir or Madam,
I refer to this incident, when I was knocked from my bicycle and injured, while turning into a side road, by a car emerging from that side road.
I received a phone call from a member of your unit on Wednesday 4th November, advising me that you did not propose to take action against the driver involved in this incident. I understand that a witness has given his opinion that I was to blame, alleging that:
  1. I was riding too fast
  2. I was not indicating
  3. I was cutting the corner
I am very concerned by this, on the following grounds:
  1. In my opinion, I was going at a safe and appropriate speed. What is ‘too fast’, and why did the witness think that I was going ‘too fast’?
  2. I was indicating, precisely as described in my statement. As I was about to turn into a junction where a car was waiting to emerge, it would have been foolish of me not to signal my intentions. I am a cyclist, a car driver, and a sometime motorcyclist. I understand the importance of making my intentions clear to other road users. I always indicate before manoeuvring when riding my bicycle.
  3. It would have been impossible for me to cut the corner even had I wanted to, as the Ford Galaxy that was waiting at the junction was straddling the white line at the middle of Worcester Road, the side road into which I was turning. The position of the car can be seen in the photograph which I attached to my statement.
  4. I understand that the witness in question was working in a house opposite the junction. The house is set back from the road, with a courtyard at the front, and the witness’ large white van was parked in that courtyard. He came across to the scene of the collision, and spent some time talking with the driver; I was sitting on the ground in a dazed condition, and missed what was said. I question how much of the incident he actually saw, and what grounds he had for venturing his opinion that I was at fault.
I appreciate that you are busy, but I feel that I have been wronged. As it seems that I shall be denied the possibility of cross-examining the witness at a hearing, I should be most grateful if you would question him further to clarify what he actually saw, as I am sure that he would not willingly be understood to have said something which is not true.
Yours sincerely,
Drusilla Marland
...well, I heard back from the police this morning; a police officer phoned me and said that they were not going to take the matter any further, as they can't just go around interviewing people who have sent witness statements in, in case it discourages them from doing it, or something. So I (and indeed the police) will never get to ask the mystery man why he said what he said.


  1. well, that sucks, as they say here in The Colonies...

    Can you take the driver to Civil Court and demand damages?

  2. I just wrote a lon sympathetic message to you about this only to find wen I put in my wordpress name it said I dont own that profile??? seems injustice is causing us both hassle this day!

    if this second attempt gets through to you please contact me and I will relay my original sympaties to you.

    Helen x

  3. Sorry about the typo's in my last message, cos I was re-typing too fast!!! I can spell!


  4. Why was the so-called witness chatting to the driver instead of helping you? I suspect it's a stitch-up.

  5. I imagine I could, Tara, but it's a long, expensive and stressful process, and if this witness is prepared to come forward and perjure themselves, I might even lose... I am far more concerned about being put into the wrong.

    Thank you, Helen!

    It seems a legitimate inference, Annie...

  6. I'm sorry to read that, I can't believe that they won't check up on the information. I wonder if the woman lives in the house he was working at?

  7. Even if you can't face the stress and expense of court proceedings, it's still worth the cost of a stamp to write to the driver's insurance company to make a claim. Who knows, she might not have informed them and that would *really* go down well with them!

  8. That sucks - big time.

    Is there any police complaints board you can go to? Can you ask if the "witness" knows the driver, and therefore has a vested interest in not being as honest as they should be?

    Can you contact your local MP? It's one of the things they are supposed to do - help constituents.

    You could also try the local Citizen's Advice Bureau; they might be able to help. Perhaps they can put you in touch with a lawyer willing to work pro-bono?

    (Can you find a lawyer willing to work on contingency?)

    Failing that, it just might be one of those things you have to accept. The driver got away with it, and while that's not right, sometimes it just happens.

    Sorry. I feel very disappointed for you.
    Carolyn Ann

  9. The police were once described as "instiutionally racist". Well I know from experience that they are institutionally anti-cyclist, despite the fact many of them cycle. I have sat in 3 PACT meetings and heard a non neutral stance on cyclists, and have other anecdotes as well. It is understandable that their decisions will be subtly but significantly influenced by such a worldview / entrenched way of thinking. I wish you some closure on all this anyway, and years of safe cycling to come. Mark.

  10. Unless you have a witness who is prepared to take your side there's not really anything you can do. If you'd been killed it would be different, but then you'd be dead. Must be a silver lining here somewhere!

    The motorist will never forget what happened and will probably be terrified of cyclists for the rest of her days.

    I recently encountered a driver who had narrowly avoided crashing headfirst into Dayna and I in a narrow lane in my parents' village. It was Boxing Day and she was driving like the clappers, took our wing mirror off, then said 'I didn't see you'. Tried to get her to pay for the mirror but her husband got quite nasty. Anyway we saw her recently and she looked extremely uncomfortable. I like to think that she has nightmares about what happened...

  11. An injustice indeed Dru, it seems. My take...reading between the lines...? Witness approaches driver, driver says "I didn't see her, she was going too fast, she wasn't signalling!!" etc etc. Witness absorbs this as 'what happened'...and there you are. There have been countless studies on how completely unreliable witness statements can be (just ask Derren Brown off the telly...er, if you had one).

    But at least you are still here to feel aggrieved, I guess.

    Did she pay for your bike to get fixed btw?

  12. There's an entire chapter of Richard Ballantine's "Richard's New Bicycle Book" (Pan Books, 1990) entitled "Fast is Safe", making the point that the safest way to cycle in traffic is in the main stream of traffic keeping pace with the majority of other road users, i.e. motor vehicles. As we know from the 20mph pilot zone consultation, motor vehicle speeds average over 24mph on wide roads such as College Road. So if you were going over that speed perhaps it could justifiably be judged "too fast". Bearing in mind that the stretch of road in question is slightly uphill, however, it seems somewhat unlikely you were exceeding 24mph unless you're a professional racing cyclist.

  13. The police force in the UK has been a joke for as long as I have been on this planet. I long ago lost count of the incidents of police abuse towards me as someone who did not fit neatly into their view of the world. They think they exist to record crimes to prove that they are needed even though they do so little to fight the reported crimes!

    My BP is rising so enough!!!!

    Caroline xxx

  14. Thank you, everyone, for your responses. I am fairly confident that the driver does not know the witness, as her address is in the far outskirts of the city.

    Josephine's suggested explanation seems the likeliest; the chap was rather hostile to me, expressing curiosity as to why I spent so much time flaked out on the ground... I hit my head and broke a rib, duh....

    I have got a lawyer on side now.

    I've also logged the incident with the CTC's "stop SMIDSY"...

    This incident has really brought home just how much quiet hostility there is to cyclists. I'd recognised that hostility in aggressive car drivers before -it's easy to spot when they cut you up dangerously or swerve at you- but it seems to permeate the system.

  15. Hi Dru,
    I wrote yesterday and had problems saving my post to you. I know clifton and the downs in Bristol very well. There are always joggers and cyclists running and riding around either on their way to Uni or just to keep fit so generally you would think car users would be used to looking out for cyclists. I was saddened by the witness saga, it seems indicitive of our times and ironic that so much campaigning for an eco friendly alternative to the car is still a long, long way off in terms of acceptance and understanding of what it means to be on the road without tons of metal around you and how little support there is from the police and the insurance companies for those who do try and get from A to B without using the car etc etc....
    I could go on.....

    I also wanted to thank you for leaving a comment on my blog yesterday, I really appreciated that. Its a new blog and every encouragement from people such as yourself who have been bloggging succesfully for some time was appreciated. Thanks, Please do keep in touch?


  16. How infuriating - especially the subjective judgement re 'too fast'. Not having an opportunity to challenge this statement is very demoralizing. If you can, keep on fighting...

  17. Over here there are some bicycle advocacy groups; if there are any there you might be able to find some help through one of them...

    Hope you're out of pain and on the mend soon-ribs are never easy!


  18. Thanks, Helen, Ben, and Alan. I shall plug away at this, though I'd prefer not to make a civil case against the driver if poss. I see the problem as being a prejudice against cyclists that's embedded in our culture, and that can only be chipped away at through propaganda and good works, I guess. I'm on the case with the advocacy groups, Alan!

  19. Keep plugging away Dru!
    I hope your rib feels better soon :-( xx

  20. given your photo showing the car's position, and what happened, I think you should pursue a civil claim. This will restore your sense of being wronged, penalise the driver by increasing their insurance cover and
    you can always give the proceeds to a cycling charity if you are uncomfortable with taking the compensation.
    I am no legal expert but a claim should succeed despite the witness statement as the car driver should still be deemed at fault. Signalling whilst preparing to turn can safely only be carried out briefly so the witness may have seen you after you returned your hands to the handlebars. Speed: unless you were exceeding the speed limit, which is highly unlikely, this should not alter liability.

  21. Hi! I am editor of the Bristol Cycling Campaign newsletter - one of our members pointed me to your post. I was sorry to hear about your accident, and appalled to hear about your shoddy treatment by the police!

    Would you be willing for me to include a short piece in the newsletter about what happened to you? To hear about what happened, and what options are available if you are fobbed off by the police in this way, could be useful for others who receive similar treatment.

    If this would be OK, please drop me a line at cathybike [at] yahoo.co.uk. Meanwhile I hope your're recovering from the accident OK!

  22. I'm looking into the civil action side of things, green tomato. But I'll not say too much until it's been sorted. Best to be cautious, I reckon

    I've e-mailed you, Cathy. Thanks; pretty well recovered now!

  23. Sorry to hear about this shitty reaction, Dru. I'm only just catching up with the net, having been away, or I'd have offered my useless commiseraion earlier!

  24. Oh, wow....this could have been so much worse..... and although it is bloody annoying that they aren't charging that idiot.... all I can think is... how happy I am to see you are not dead. Maybe a stick of dynamite up his arse in the future... I would probably hire a thug to brad his kneecaps .. and also his buddy in the trades ... how dare he come across to speak to the driver and leave you on the ground.... arrgghhh! makes so mad I could spit. Most drivers...pagh!

  25. Sorry I am so late in seeing this post and therefore for the late comment.

    It belies belief. I was taught that as a car driver, I had to so that I could always stop; no matter whether it is a car coming towards me on the wring side of the road, a child running out or a bicycle. The fact you were using the road correctly and are still penalised flies in the face of reason.

    I suppose it is a case of the Police not wanting to do anything as it will take up a lot of their time for little return. They seem interested in chasing targets for crime, not civil matters.

    I hope it has not put you off cycling.