As a vulnerable, minority road user group, we need to ensure that vehicle drivers know that they can not just go around physically and verbally abusing cyclists.
I was recently involved in an attack by a vehicle driver on a cyclist. I am not a legal expert, but following discussions with police, other cyclists and on various internet discussion forums, I have developed a list of actions to maximise the chance for legal justice to be served.
Before an incident has occurred
1. Smart phone.
Always carry a smart phone with an enabled GPS tracking app, such as Endomondo or MapMyRide. With a smart phone you can phone 000 for police assistance immediately, take photos of the attacker’s vehicle and the scene, record details of the scene including the vehicle’s registration number, and use your GPS tracking app to provide evidence of your actions before and during the event.
2. Road rules.
Obey the road rules. I know we do not always obey the road rules, even as a car driver. But from what I have seen, cyclists disobeying road rules is the single greatest contributing factor to attacks on cyclists. Of course, many car drivers are ignorant of cyclist road rules, such as the ability to ride two abreast on roads. A cyclist breaking road rules DOES NOT give a vehicle driver the right to physically or verbally attack them, or use their vehicle to cause harm to a cyclist.
In the seconds after an incident
1. Stay safe.
Make sure you are safe – move away from your attacker and out of traffic that may hit you. If you are in further immediate danger, phone 000 for police assistance or ambulance. Flag down other cyclists for assistance or to act as witnesses.
2. Stay calm!
Do not inflame the situation by counter-attacking the vehicle driver. If you use the following steps, the power will be with you later.
3. Record details.
Record the colour, make and type of the person’s vehicle as well as its registration number. Record this in your smart phone (send a text message to yourself if necessary), but even better to take a photo of the vehicle with all these details shown.
Take as many photos of the scene as possible.
Record details of any witnesses. If you were a witness, be prepared to support your fellow cyclist in making a statement to the police. This may be time consuming, but is well worth the effort to get the law to take action against these drivers.
When you get home
1. Record details.
As soon as you get home, record as many details as possible of the incident. Write down what happened leading up to the event, during the event, and after the event in as much detail as possible. Use your GPS track to identify the exact time and location of the incident. Transfer details of the vehicle and any witnesses to your report.
2. Go to the police.
Take your record of the incident and relevant photos to the police and discuss your options with them. If you have been physically harmed, the police will likely encourage you to press assault or dangerous driving charges. If there has been no physical damage to you or your bike, it may be sufficient that the police phone the attacker to get their side of the story – at least then the attacker knows that their actions have been reported to the police and have been placed on file. If you happen to get a friendly police person, they may even give the driver a bollocking at the same time!