Sometimes I find myself driving along when suddenly everyone begins to brake and slow down. The speedo reads 60kph and I wonder, why in a 100k zone. The answer usually presents itself a kilometre or two later in the form of a big van parked on the side of the road. The dreaded speed van.
The thought of being photographed breaking the speed limit and getting a fine and points on your licence strikes fear like a thunderbolt into the hearts of motorists. Photographic evidence taken by a private company is legally admissible and depended upon to enforce the fines.
Our local traffic warden takes more photos in a single day than Graham Watson during a mountain stage of the Tour de France. God help you if the front of your bumper invades the airspace overhead the beginnings of a double yellow. Again the photographic evidence is depended upon to enforce the law.
So, what has this to do with cyclists?
Nowadays, GoPros, Garmin Virbs and smartphones record much of what happens when a cyclist goes out on the road. This is good and bad. Some very exciting and entertaining footage can be created and it can also be used to view ‘close ones’ that happen when vehicles pass too close for comfort.
The downside is the amount of entitlement cameras seem to encourage mostly London commuters to feel, as they actively scout out their next motorised attacker. Some camera laden cyclists deliberately antagonise motorists and over react. However they are in a minority.
The vast majority of clips that appear all too regularly are posted by genuine cyclists who just want to enjoy a safe and enjoyable spin on their bike without a one tonne motorised missile piloted by an iPhone yielding, Facebook checker inner, sipper of a latte who sometimes gets confused between a windscreen and a tv screen as they are both secondary to their smartphone screen.
This is where the minimum safe passing distance of 1.5 meters being made into law is so important and why the Staying alive at 1.5 campaign deserves a huge amount of support. Currently if 300,000 people view a car on youtube with a very visible number plate passing within 15 mm of a group of cyclists at 120kph the most that seems to happen is an occasional ‘talking to’ by a Guard. That’s just not good enough.
Imagine the effect it would have if every time a driver saw a cyclist they had the same sinking feeling as when they see a speed van. If many cyclists had cameras and the footage was used to prosecute motorists and those prosecutions were widely publicised cyclists would be much safer out on the roads. Many drivers will only behave themselves if they fear getting caught.
In England they seem to be getting serious about the issue of road safety for cyclists. The example below will show how far off the mark enforcement in Ireland currently is.
These are tweets from Oisín Ó hAlmhain the Green Party spokesperson for Health. He was recently knocked off his bike by a motorist and tweeted a photo to the Garda Traffic twitter account asking what he should do. Then ‘data protection’ kicked in and he was asked to delete the tweet before being blocked by the Garda Traffic twitter account. His Grand Uncle was President of Ireland. If a political activist related to a former President gets this sort of reply what hope does ordinary Joe Cyclist have.
The reply to that tweet 12 minutes later was as follows :
There is a stark difference to tweets and enforcement by the West Midlands police in the UK as can be seen from last Fridays tweet :
The campaign ‘#opclosepass’ has even been featured on the BBC One show. Imagine the difference in behaviour if Miriam O’Callaghan, Claire Byrne and Pat Kenny all had features on drivers who were prosecuted for dangerous overtaking maneuvers on cyclists that were filmed by the cyclists themselves.