I have an awful memory, it gets me in trouble on a daily basis with my other half. I read a blog the other day and under it someone had made a good comment along the lines of drivers and cyclists need to try and get along, show each other a bit more respect, how can we show drivers that we are just humans and don’t mean them any harm, etc. I have completely forgotten where I read it or who it was by, sorry.
It did get me thinking though, a few weeks ago I was riding through Liverpool early one morning, up ahead of me a Tesco wagon pulled up to a junction, wanting to turn left off a side road ahead of me and continue in the same direction. At this point there is a slight gradiant and I am on a 27kg Gazelle town bike going nowhere fast. Nine times out of ten a driver would pull out and if that meant I had to give way, well, sod it. Tesco guy was different though, he waited, gave me a nod as I passed, pulled out behind me then overtook me at a considerate speed and distance. I was impressed. I shouldn’t be really, he just did exactly what a considerate driver should do, it’s just rare that it happens.
Further along the road I saw he was waiting at some lights, I pulled up behind him and saw that he ad a “How’s my driving?” sticker. I’m sure you’ve all seen them and can probably guess what they are for but here we go anyway… On a sticker on the back of the vehicle will be a short vehicle code and a phone number, you note the short code, call the number (it’s free from landlines, or go to the website) and make a report to a central call centre, they then inform the employer signed up to the scheme that a report has been made about a driver, the employer then has the opportunity to take whatever action it deems appropriate. I would hazard a guess that most of the reports they get are quite negative.
I have had a lot of dealings with distribution and commercial vehicles and believe it or not some of them do take this quite seriously. For many companies the drivers are the public facing branch of the company, if drivers leave a bad impression the company’s public image can be affected. Furthermore, companies really don’t want to see their signwritten vehicles on the news involved in fatal crashes. If you ever watch F1 and see how they drape a big sheet over cars that get smashed up, same thing, bad image. Each company will use the information provided differently, though in my experience, negative reports are put on the driver’s record, but positive reports can lead to vouchers, bonuses, certificates.
So how can cyclists use this to improve cyclist-driver relations?
Well you can do as I did, phone up and commend the driver for his courtesy; but make it clear that it was for the considerate way in which he dealt with a cyclist or pedestrian. It doesn’t even have to be you that was affected, you might see a driver do something nice for someone else. A couple of days later I received a letter from Tesco thanking me for the report and that they would be talking to the driver concerned about it. The message soon gets out to that driver and his colleagues that considerate behaviour = personal gain. It doesn’t even have to be anything major, maybe even just leaving an ASZ box clear “It was so nice to see, so few drivers are that considerate even though it is the law”
Commercial drivers are involved in a disproportionate number of cyclist fatalities, but those same drivers will also be involved in a proportionate number of private vehicle deaths, changing their attitude and behaviour particularly through positive reinforcement can have good rewards.
NB, I do not recommend behavioural changes as a satisfactory means of improving road safety (see the Hierarchy of Control), however until the glorious day the country is bathed in cycle paths it is a contribution we can all make that does not distract from proper campaigning issues.
A couple of other points to note.
How’s my Driving is not the only scheme, but it is the biggest.
- Even if you don’t get the short code or Reg, it might be worth phoning, a time and location should be enough to identify the driver.
- If there is no driving scheme sticker you can still phone/email the company who own the vehicle.
- You can (should) of course also report drivers for poor performance, but I would like to focus on the good.
If you like the idea and if you report someone let me know via a quick tweet
give me date, company, approximate location and whether it was a good or bad report. I intend in future to try and report all instances of good driving, rather than just moaning about the bad ones on Twitter.