Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Bexley Road Rage Updated

The driver in Bexley who attacked a cyclist has been sentenced.

John Nicholls pleaded guilty to common assault.

£400 fine + £100 compensation + £85 costs and £15 victim surcharge.

I think £600 cost for not being able to hold ones temper should make him think twice when deciding to bully another cyclist. Plus the criminal record.

It is interesting to note that, despite the image from the more tabloid of our press (ie: the Mail) that cyclists are lawless anarchists, many of the cyclist stories involve cyclists who are professionals. This one involved a lawyer in his late 40's. So despite the gutter press image, actually many cyclists are professional people who are often between 30 and 50. And many have the means and motivation to be recording their journeys. This should give the motorist pause for thought. There are cyclists, who not only have a record of incidents, but the knowledge and will to pursue wrong-doing through legal channels. For example, the excellent blog, The Cycling Lawyer, has posted about a motorist who pushed him into traffic, and the actions he has taken through the courts and police . And quite rightly so, this type of deeply unpleasant behaviour needs to be confronted. Normally, as a cyclist we cannot do this at the time against someone driving a car, but we should be able to pursue through a sympathetic police service.

Unfortunately as the Cycling Lawyer case, and the Bexley assault, shows, the police either don't take cyclist assaults seriously, or are so incompetent that anyone caught is sheer luck. I simply don't believe it is the latter - I think generally that cyclist assaults are treated by police and the courts as a bit of "argee bargee" and that many believe the provocation argument - even if the provocation is simply the cyclist being on the road. This is utterly unacceptable - the police and courts need to be more robust in their actions. They should also take note that many cyclists are au-fait with their rights and the law and record incidents for evidence. Not least because they can end up looking like Inspector Clouseau on a really bad day when the video and police follow-up is published.

The Bexley case does also throw up some interesting things. Firstly, the driver's license has escaped any sanction. And yet surely punching someone else over an incident whilst driving should surely be viewed as a driving related offence? Also, the police were initially stumped by the fact that the owner of the car claimed it had been stolen (and then returned in pristine condition hours later). This either means Nicholls stole the car, or the owner was lying. Either way, it should result in some action - surely people shouldn't simply be allowed to lie to the police to get away with a crime? Lastly, Nicholls was apparently, full of remorse, presumably for getting caught and being shown up to be a little thug to the hundreds of thousands who watched the video and read the reports.

The above Bexley incident has had satisfactory resolution in my opinion (even if some questions aren't answered concerning the ownership of the car). But I cannot help but wonder what would have happened without video evidence, even with the large numbers of witnesses. It is a sobering thought to think that we appear to have little protection from the law in these cases unless we happen to organise a myriad of witnesses and  video evidence and then run a press campaign that gets the story into local and national press.


  1. The key to the "satisfactory" legal conclusion of this case is that the driver used his fist as a weapon, rather than the more common and far more dangerous use of the car as a weapon. Fists are taken seriously in law. The far greater damage a vehicle can inflict is not. The assailant was able to be prosecuted for "ordinary" assault using part of his body, not for a motoring offence, so this is not a typical incident of motorist aggression against a cyclist.

    Vole O'Speed

  2. Not that it should make any difference, but in the inner London boroughs at any rate a high proportion of cyclists are "professionals". For example, the stats for hire bikes suggest that a great majority of their users are not only male, but relatively high-earning professionals, mature to middle-aged.

    There is one tabloid which gets it, the Evening Standard, presumably because its proprietor and editor give free rein to some of its staff journalists, including editorial level, who are evidently active cyclists themselves. It was here that we learnt of the investment banker who apparently demanded that the salary and benefits package offered by a prospective employer include a guaranteed secure cycle storage space. I would hazard a guess that this was because he has spent a considerable sum on his steed and doesn't want it exposed to risk of theft. In fact, purely anecdotally, my impression is that the machines being ridden around town could be worth more than quite a few of the cars they share hte roads with - Bromptons and Mezzos and Birdies for example, and high-end fixies, not to mention a smattering of carbon-frame road bikes.

    So why does so much of our press, our police and our courts system look down on us so? We all know that they are unduly impressed by wealth and power - you only have to look at how easily Murdoch corrupted our body politic, but what is that they cannot see?

    It is a fair bet that many of the staff at other newspapers and broadcast media cycle to work. After all, their jobs involve unsocial hours and it is not unreasonabnle to assume that some would prefer to ride rather than take a late-night taxi home. If they are unable or unwilling to influence their organs' editorial policy our way, I guess that is probably the power of money - the advertising bucks spent in copious quantities by the motor industry and motor trade. Any chance the current exposure of the Murdoch empire could knock on to other such peddlers of influence?

  3. A friend was driven at by a car driver who had just had an altercation with another cyclist up near Oval on Sunday. The driver hit my friend with the wing mirror, fortunately aside from some bruising on his rear, which will no doubt be worse in the next few days, burning his shorts due to the force no further damage happened.

    He reported this to the police. He told me that the officer said, "It is very difficult to prove that the driver actually drove at you, and that it wasn't an 'accident'."

    Given that the driver has to have a licence, how they could "accidentally" drive into a cyclist in a car is beyond me. I'd even give lorry drivers slightly more understanding given the large blind spots that they have.

    The driver didn't stop, had a partner and a child on-board. Yet, given that there haven't been more serious immediate consequences it is unlikely that anything else will come of it. My friend couldn't remember all of the number plate, so another potential killer is free to carry on and put other people's lives at risk.

    I get so cross at the seeming denial of road danger that exists in this country.

  4. I was kind of surprised the police chose not to dig deeper originally to identify the driver. I'm guessing the car wasn't registered to a static address. Congratulations to Road.cc for publicising it enough so that something had to happen.

  5. I know Jon Nicholls very very well and it was not published that this particular cyclist had not only banged on his car but had also kicked the wing mirror off and the car had been surrounded by aggressive cyclists. He was under extremem pressure as his mum had just had an agonizing death due to cancer for which he was the main person to deal with all of this. That aggressive cyclist picked the wrong person on the wrong day. I guess its normally he would be doing the intimidating. Karma!

  6. @ Jon Nicholls' very very good friend - the youtube footage shows very clearly that your mate bears all the hallmarks of a typical SE London / Kentish oik - shirt out of trousers, swaggering up to the bloke he tries to punch, feet sticking out sideways (a sure-fire way to identify a nasty little nerk) and undoubtedly as thick as pig-shit - exactly the type of gobshite with whom London cyclists have to contend every day.

    I'll wager he would have behaved in exactly the same way if his mother had, that very day, celebrated her 100th birthday and won the lottery. A pathetic specimen.