car driving toward cyclist

Police Prejudice

Internationally there are many examples of the inherent biases present within Police forces, so how does Victoria Police deal with a reported incident involving a cyclist?

Of course we can begin with the incident its self

Without warning a car pulls into the bicycle lane and collides with the bicycle carrying the video camera, then proceeds along the lane while the other cyclist is in their forward field of view. This was of course immediately reported as a hit and run incident to the Victoria Police, their first excuse was:

“the driver just failed to indicate”

Which is an offence in and of its self:

46 Giving a left change of direction signal
(1) Before a driver changes direction to the left, the driver must give a left change of direction signal in accordance with rule 47 for long enough to comply with subrule (2) and, if subrule (3) applies to the driver, that subrule.
Penalty: 3 penalty units

We do not need to explore the subrules as the driver at no point used the indicators fitted to their vehicle. But lets take for granted that the idea that police would not pursue a simple failure to indicate. The officer did not recognise or acknowledge (even after prompting) the failure to give way.

148 Giving way when moving from one marked lane or line of traffic to another marked lane or line of traffic
(1) A driver who is moving from one marked lane (whether or not the lane is ending) to another marked lane must give way to any vehicle travelling in the same direction as the driver in the marked lane to which the driver is moving.
Penalty: 5 penalty units.

Which notably has a higher penalty, and the irksome legal requirement discussed previously that giving way only requires the absence of a collision after the fact with all participants actions. Vulnerable road users are at such elevated risks of injury or death in an accident that drivers will proceed on the assumption that no reasonable pedestrian/cyclist/motorcyclist would continue their path into a collision. In Melbourne this has extended further to drivers routinely ploughing their vehicles into the paths of other cars again comfortable that the other road user will value their safety/property more highly and avoid a collision.

The view towards the point of the collision shows the clear road markings of a bicycle lane.

queued traffic next to bicycle lane

A collision having occurred on this occasion you might think that there would be a penalty for failing to stop, but we can head back to the road rules and disassemble this gem:

61 Duty of driver etc. of motor vehicle if accident occurs
(1) If owing to the presence of a motor vehicle an accident occurs whereby any person is injured or any property (including any animal) is damaged or destroyed, the driver of the motor vehicle

Failure to stop after a collision only becomes an offence after the fact if injury or property damage occurs, exactly how this particular driver determined there was no damage to their car, the cyclist, or the bicycle remains unclear but not an offence.

So a report was taken on the 12th of October for this accident, and the officer promised an answer to the action taken within 2 weeks. So here we are 4 weeks on and there has been no reply. Attending the police station again to enquire as to the progress, no records or actions can be found relating to this incident or vehicle. So the other driver failed to report the incident, and the police officer who took the report has failed to take any action.

How far can drivers push their harassment of the public before the police will take action? The current excuse given by the police is that

“the driver probably didn’t notice”

Which is exactly the point of reporting this sort of incident, having collided with the side of the vehicle despite braking as hard as possible to avoid them, and making substantial noise crashing both a bicycle and a person into their cabin they somehow didn’t notice, or did notice and chose to leave. We can return to this grab of the driver proceeding while a cyclist is scattering out of their way

car driving toward cyclist

With a cyclist in their forward field of view, instead of braking or stopping the driver instead accelerates away at speed. The Black BMW 135i here is not your average family car but instead a 2 door coupe with a 300 horsepower turbocharged engine, very much a performance (sports) vehicle. At what point is the driver allowed to ignore their surroundings and drive on regardless? How much ineptitude would the driver need to display to be considered for dangerous driving? And the reward for this drivers impatience? They save a fraction of a second getting past the van which is turning right in front of them.

While the threshold of failing to give way is having a collision it is placing a disincentive for drivers of enclosed vehicles to bother giving way, the outcomes of any collision with a vulnerable road user being trivial for the occupant of an enclosed vehicle so they don’t care. Cyclists or pedestrians pose almost zero threat of injury or death to occupants of cars/trucks/etc, but the pedestrian/cyclist/motorcyclist has a substantial risk of dying in an accident. The laws fail to recognise this distinction and efforts for changes such as the “a meter matters” campaign have failed to achieve any reform in Victoria. But even without new laws to further protect the public the Police are failing to apply the existing laws, dismissing these incidents as minor and of no consequence.

Ending with some comedy where possible, the date of the collision is quite notable.

volunteer holding water bottle out into bicycle route

It was in fact Ride to Work Day with the celebrations starting earlier in the day as this eager volunteer stands out in the shared path handing out water bottles and advertising the free breakfast available in the tent. No special treatment should be expected for ride to work day, the public should feel protected at all times and Victoria Police have once again failed in spectacular fashion.

Update

The second officer responded in email that they contacted the first officer who

has spoken with the driver and a [nondescript] penalty notice was issued

No details or dates, just vague assurances. Suspicious that nothing could be found initially.

Further Update

The vehicle involved didn’t renew its registration and is unregistered from the 3/12/2016

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