Letter to Stagecoach

Dear Mr Medlicott,

We write to you about the ‘cyclists pass with care’ stickers that have appeared on Stagecoach buses recently. Newcycling, Newcastle’s cycling campaign, is campaigning for safe space for cycling, better road designs and cycle infrastructure that promotes clarity of space and removal of conflicting movements between drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. Our cities’ road designs are terribly flawed, skewed towards driving a vehicle, and leave cyclists rather little space and more often than not reliant on ‘survival tactics’. In other words, oftentimes any action is put on the cyclist when it should be on the driver. For these reasons, we recently adopted Sustainable Road Safety as our first campaign policy, prevalent in the Dutch, Danish and German road designs.

First and foremost, we invite you to join us in lobbying the highway authority (the councils) to improve road design for all.

The use and design of these stickers concerns and worries us for the following reasons:

Legality of ‘staying back’

The stickers instruct cyclists not to pass on the inside of buses yet the Highway Code warns drivers not to turn left across the path of cyclists on the left side (left-hook). We believe that bus drivers have sufficient visibility along both sides of their vehicles and must exercise a responsibility of care. From a cyclist’s point of view, overtaking on the left side is perfectly lawful and can be a sensible action where traffic is slow-moving or has stopped – particularly when there is no chance for that traffic to turn left. Most cycle lanes and lead-in lanes to Advanced Stop Lines (ASL) however are located there. It’s a fraught situation from the start which we should campaign to change, not advise through a lazy sticker.

Driver training

Giving drivers the impression that cyclists are at fault if they are on the inside of a motor vehicle is a counterproductive approach. It is contrary to the changes in driver awareness and behaviour we need to see. Drivers have to take responsibility for people of all ages and abilities to feel they can cycle in safety and conveniently, including those new to cycling to move out into the road to overtake stationary or slow-moving traffic. Again, you may feel that it is the road layout that could be improved in the first place – so please speak up about it with us.

As cycling levels are increasing in cities such as Newcastle, and in the absence of safe cycling infrastructure like in the Netherlands, Denmark or Germany, it is even more important for professional drivers to be vigilant and show care towards vulnerable road users. We recommend that Stagecoach contact a cycle training company, such as Bikeright which has recently launched cyclist awareness and safe urban driving courses for professional drivers.

Victim-blaming

We are concerned how the use of these stickers might affect the attitudes and behaviour of drivers in general. Recently in court, a lawyer cited the presence of a sticker on the back of a vehicle as justifying a driver’s failure to check the nearside mirror before turning left. If lawyers can take this view, that suggests that some drivers certainly will.

In contrast, evidence from the DfT’s recent cycle safety study showed that one of the principal forms of collisions leading to cyclist KSIs is close proximity collisions. In this type, close driver overtaking and failure to use nearside mirrors is implicated. The responsibility must be on the driver, not the cyclist, to operate the vehicle in a safe manner. We repeat, if it’s thought that the infrastructure were at fault, do join us in lobbying the highway authority (the councils) to improve road design for all.

We request the immediate removal of the stickers, for reasons outlined above.

Yours sincerely,

Newcycling Management Committee

Letter to Phil Medlicott, (Managing Director, Stagecoach North East , Stagecoach in Newcastle, Shields Road, Walkergate, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 2BZ)

Copy to:

Nexus, Director, Mr Bernard Garner, Nexus House, St James’ Blvd, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4AX.
Go Ahead, Director, Kevin Carr, Go North East, he Go-Ahead Group plc 3rd Floor, 41-51 Grey Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 6EE