Posts Tagged highway code

Towergate Insurance and the Death Wish Cyclist

This is a comment I’ve sent to Towergate Insurance about their “Death Wish Cyclist” video, about which they recently put out a press release:


I’m writing about your recent press release at:

In the press release you quote the truck firm, who appears to think his driver is completely innocent. This is a view which Towergate Insurance appears to endorse to some degree, as you have put the video on Youtube with the title “Death Wish Cyclist“. As a car driver and regular cyclist, I think it’s worth pointing out that the video shows the truck driver’s behaviour is far from perfect. Regardless of whatever blame may be attached to the cyclist, there are a number of problems with how the truck is being driven:

a) The Highway Code advises that cyclists should be left plenty of room when passed by motorists (rule 163 and 212). The road concerned is single-lane in each direction, and there is oncoming traffic, so the truck driver could not have changed lane. Yet they were still preparing to overtake, and even accelerated to 44mph as part of this. Had they passed the cylist, it would have been far too close and at too high a speed. The lorry driver was not intending to leave any margin of safety, needed in case the cyclist had to weave or move for some reason, e.g. from a mechanical problem or because of potholes. Motorists who close pass cyclists are driving irresponsibly, especially so when done with heavy goods vehicles which are almost to certain to kill cyclists if there is any contact.

b) The road is through Southampton Common and appears to have a 40mph speed limit. Yet the video  shows the driver reaching 44mph as they prepare to overtake. They appear to be committing a quite obvious offence with their aborted overtake, presuming the data from your system is accurate.

c) There is a side junction ahead, which presumably is easily visible given that the cyclist was manoeuvring to take it. The Highway Code rule 167 states “DO NOT overtake where you might come into conflict with other road users. For example: * approaching or at a road junction on either side of the road“. The Highway Code says this precisely because road users are likely to be manoeuvring to leave or enter the road ahead – as the cyclist is.

d) The Highway Code also states that motorists should take extra care around vulnerable road users, such as motorcyclists, cyclists. Further, though it’s impossible to be certain because the camera lens is extremely wide-angle and doesn’t show enough detail, the cyclist looks like they perhaps may be young – a teenager. The highway code specifically advises motorists to be particularly careful around young and inexperienced road users (rule 204).

Road safety requires that we not only avoid making mistakes, but also that we take care to allow for the inevitability that mistakes will sometimes be made by others. On this basis alone, the driving shown by the truck driver was less than perfect. Further, the driving shown appears to directly contravene a number of rules given in the Highway Code, with which all drivers should be familiar. Finally, contingent on the accuracy of your system, the driver may even have been speeding.

All together, it’s very hard to see how this driver is “blameless” for the narrowly averted accident shown in this incident. Without intending to absolve the cyclist in any way of blame for their part, I think it’s important that anyone watching that video should also realise that the driving shown falls far below what is expected of motorists.

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