Thursday, 27 February 2014

McGill's Madness - Response

I received an email earlier today from Ralph Roberts, Managing Director of McGill's Bus Service Ltd., in response to my complaint about this piece of driving.

In summary, Mr Roberts (and, by extension, McGill's Bus Service Ltd) has found there to be nothing wrong with this driving and he gives three reasons:
  • He estimates that the driver doesn't ever get closer than 1 metre from me;
A metre is quite long, isn't it?  Well no, not really.  The last time most of us saw a metre-stick was in school.  Remember how Wagon Wheels used to be the size of dinner plates and if you fell in a bag of Hula Hoops you'd be lost for a week?  Everything seems bigger when you're littler.  

Is a metre (a real metre) really a safe distance to leave between a cyclist and a bus weighing in at perhaps 15-20 tonnes?  If it were your child cycling down the road and a bus went by only a metre away would you be happy?

And if you think a metre is safe, what about 50cm?  Watch the video again and you'll see my reflection as I reach out and tap on the bus door.  I haven't adjusted course to move closer to the bus but not only do I not need to lean over to reach the window, I don't even need to straighten my arm.  I've just measured it (with a real-life metre stick) and that puts the bus a little over 45cm from me.  Safe?  I hardly think so.
  • He points out that the driver doesn't enter the feeder to the ASL;
Bully for him.  Does he want a medal?

Does it really need to be said that the feeder to an ASL is not a target for drivers to aim at?  As I said at the time, I'm perfectly entitled to use the entire lane.  That there is paint on the road does not make it compulsory for me to cycle on that paint.  It also doesn't give drivers license to use their 20-tonne vehicles to force me into a space on the road where they think I should be.  
  • He asks me to consider the issues that the driver faces 'in relation to the available road space'.
Mr Roberts seems to be saying that this is acceptable driving because there wasn't enough space on the road for safer driving.  I really don't understand this.

This is a dual carriageway and the right-hand lane was completely clear.  If the driver felt that I was going to hold him up sufficiently to justify overtaking, why not use that lane?

Of course, we were approaching traffic lights which were red and the driver, having pointed to the feeder and told me it was my lane, clearly expected me to use the ASL.  So if he knew I was going to end up in front of him at the lights anyway, why overtake at all?  Especially if, as Mr Roberts suggests, there isn't enough space on this road for a safe overtake?

You might notice that Mr Roberts chooses not to mention the subsequent punishment pass (again, far less than 1 metre).  

You might also notice the part where he refers to the driver having been 'provoked by an angry member of the public'.  Victim-blaming much?

Anyway, here's the full text of his email.

Dear Mr Soap,

I am responding to your complaint on behalf of McGill’s, I am the managing director and the person ultimately responsible for road safety in this business.

As a regular cyclist and motorcyclist, I am very aware of the issues you highlight in your email and video. We train all of our drivers in cycle awareness and we take part in various cycling initiatives, the next being the filming of a cycling awareness campaign in conjunction with Glasgow City Council at Pollok Park.

I have reviewed your video a number of times and I am sorry to say that I can find no real fault with the actions of the driver in question. I accept that he moves into the nearside lane in anticipation that it will allow approaching traffic from behind him, the ability to occupy the offside lane and make progress away from the traffic lights. I estimate from the road markings that he comes no closer than 1 to 1.5 metres from you, and yes, I am familiar with the road traffic act and the highway code. Your approach to the cyclist’s box at the traffic lights is clearly marked and at no point does our driver come close to encroaching upon that area.

Regarding your point about the driver offering you his pencil, I concede that this is less than optimal behaviour. In my driver’s defence, we employ human beings, not robots. Sometimes, when provoked by an angry member of public, they may respond in a sub optimal fashion and I apologise for this and would assure you that he will have his customer service skills polished within our training academy.

Please don’t feel that I am making light of your complaint, I take all complaints seriously and personally review complaints made on a weekly basis in order to understand where our shortcomings are and to help shape our organisation’s thinking moving forward.

I will not preach to you about what to expect on our nation’s roads, you will have plenty of experience of that given your level of preparedness and practiced ability at conveying your message. However, on this occasion, I would ask that you look at what is an acceptable driving standard from a driver of a large vehicle, and have a think about what issues they may face in relation to the available road space.

Yours sincerely

RALPH R. ROBERTS | Managing Director
McGill's Bus Service Ltd  
And here's the email I originally sent to McGill's (CC'd to Govan police, Frank McAveety, the Scottish Traffic Commissioner and SPT):

Dear Sir/Madam,

Cycling home from work today I was involved in an incident involving one of your buses: SJ57 DDZ / J2403.  As I approached a set of traffic lights on Paisley Road West the driver of your bus drew level with me and needlessly moved into my lane forcing me into the gutter against a metal barrier.  When I asked if he couldn’t have simply held back rather than pull alongside the driver pointed to the narrow strip of paint which leads to the advanced stop line and told me that was the cycle lane I should be using.  

A video of this incident is available to view here:

I wonder if you could please tell me whether this driving meets the standards which you require from your drivers.  In particular, do you believe that this meets the requirements of Rule 163 of the Highway Code which states that drivers should “give vulnerable road users at least as much space as you would a car” and is the driver’s understanding of Rule 63 correct?  I would also be interested to know your reaction to the clear ‘punishment pass’ the driver made once the traffic lights had changed to green, where he overtook me in such a way as to come within only a foot or so of the back of my bicycle whilst accelerating past me.

If you do not believe this driver met the standards you expect, can I presume you will be taking action to ensure that he, and all of your drivers, are clear that this kind of dangerous driving will not be tolerated?

I would also like to draw your attention to the driver’s reaction when I took note of his number plate.  I am sorry to say that this is not the first incident of dangerous driving by one of your drivers which I have encountered and I am also sorry to say that the reactions of your drivers has, rightly or wrongly, given me the impression that such behaviour is institutional at McGill’s.  Having your driver laugh and offer me his pencil to write down his details today has only served to reinforce this opinion.  

I commute to work by bicycle on a daily basis.  As you can imagine, having somebody put me in danger like this is not something I am willing to simply ignore.  I am therefore copying in several other individuals and organisations with this email who I believe will have an interest in knowing that you take seriously your responsibility to the safety of vulnerable road users who come in contact with your buses.

Yours faithfully,


1 comment:

  1. "I estimate from the road markings that he comes no closer than 1 to 1.5 metres from you" = BS. That's the distance he is from the kerb.

    "Your approach to the cyclist’s box at the traffic lights is clearly marked and at no point does our driver come close to encroaching upon that area" - but that is clearly not the line you are taking and he starts to push you before you even reach the feeder lane.

    Was he is expecting you to deviate from your line in order to use the ASL feeder and then loop back in front to primary position as he will have been taught you will do in his cycle awareness training? I'm beginning to agree with the vehicular cycling lot about cycle lanes eroding our right to use the carriageway. There were no issues here about a large vehicle needing more space, just simple impatience.