Police Scotland’s Road Policing Unit has been slated on social media after sharing a five-year-old “cycle safety” video on social media that was widely criticised by cycling campaigners including Chris Boardman when first released in 2016. What’s more, the specific circumstances portrayed in the footage, is one addressed in forthcoming changes to the Highway Code which make it clear that people on bikes have priority when travelling straight on at a junction.
The video, produced as part of the Department for Transport’s THINK! Road safety campaign and entitled “THINK! Cycle safety: Hang back from lorries turning left,” was uploaded to YouTube in September 2016.
It begins with a rather jarring montage, including cartoons, of “Things you shouldn’t get caught between” – including a grand piano being dropped from height, a pair of boxers fighting, a gunfight in a Spaghetti Western and a butcher using a meat cleaver to chop meat – then inserts scenes of a lorry driver and cyclist heading towards a junction, where the driver turns left across the bike rider’s path.
The clip, viewed nearly 300,000 times, ends with a scene of the lorry stopped at the junction, the bicycle crushed beneath its wheels, and a police car and ambulance in the background.
At the time, Boardman said on Twitter that it was a “Desperately misguided campaign that a) tries to make death fun b) vulnerable road user responsible for vehicle not fit for road.”
“Companies, THINK buy lorries that let your poor drivers see more than 70% of the road, they exist,” he added.
Duncan Dollimore of Cycling UK said that the charity had “raised its concerns with this campaign at the earliest stage and we are very disappointed this was not taken on board. Hopefully, following the understandable widespread negative reaction THINK! has received from road safety campaigners, they will rethink and re-engage to learn from their mistakes.”
Dozens of comments beneath the video on YouTube point out the flaws in the message it sends out, with some commenters pointing out it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure they overtake and turn safely and others accusing it of “victim blaming.”
Despite the backlash to the video, Police Scotland’s Road Policing Unit shared it on Twitter yesterday morning, in a tweet referencing Project EDWARD (link is external), the acronym standing for European Day Without A Road Death, a Europe-wide initiative launched five years ago by the European Traffic Police Network and supported by the European Commission.
The tweet said: “We'll be speaking to cyclists today to improve their safety & re-iterate their own responsibilities to other road users.” Reaction to the post was unanimously critical.
One Twitter user highlighted the hierarchy of road users that will shortly be introduced to the Highway Code under new Rule H1, which says that “Those in charge of vehicles that can cause the greatest harm in the event of a collision bear the greatest responsibility to take care and reduce the danger they pose to others,” adding that “This principle applies most strongly to drivers of large goods and passenger vehicles.”
Meanwhile, new Rule H3, which applies to drivers and motorcyclists, is clear that cyclists have priority when travelling straight on at a junction. In full, it reads:
You should not cut across cyclists going ahead when turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane, just as you would not turn across the path of another motor vehicle. This applies whether cyclists are using a cycle lane, a cycle track, or riding ahead on the road and you should give way to them. Do not turn at a junction if to do so would cause the cyclist going straight ahead to stop or swerve, just as you would do with a motor vehicle. You should stop and wait for a safe gap in the flow of cyclists if necessary. This includes when cyclists are:
approaching, passing or moving off from a junction
moving past or waiting alongside stationary or slow-moving traffic
travelling around a roundabout.