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The (UK) Highway Code dictating that motorists should pass a cyclist no closer than 1.5 meters is only useful to protect us if it can be enforced. Indeed, it's hardly the odd occurrence that I'm close-passed by motorists; the law is largely ignored. And laws which are unenforceable offer no protections from their violations.

As a cyclist, how can I enforce my rights as a vulnerable road user under the law by submitting my helmet camera video to the Police- what is the process? (NOTE: This is not a question asking for legal advice but procedure and answers from other countries such as the US, EU, AU, NZ and other countries on reporting motorists welcomed)

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    As you're in the UK, have a look at @ markandcharlie and @ mikeycycling on twitter for some pointers - the first is a road policing specialist, and the second someone with many reports leading to police action. Both have useful tips
    – Chris H
    May 31 at 17:55
  • @ChrisH Thanks! The reason I went to this effort was precisely because there I couldn't find any "HowTo's" on this sort of thing ;-)
    – F1Linux
    May 31 at 17:58
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    Having been active on cycling twitter for a while, it also seems like it varies considerably between police forces. Some have a good understanding of cycling safety issues, and some don't, and some have easy video upload portals, and some don't.
    – thosphor
    Jun 1 at 10:20
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    @Tim Well one thing is for sure: "Close-Pass" is really an emotive subject and it's clear from the interest in this post that skimming cyclists touches a raw nerve with us! ;-)
    – F1Linux
    Jun 1 at 14:40
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    I would imagine it is not too different in the US than in the UK, but in the US defendants have a right to face their accuser in court. The police are not going to ticket violators based on your video cam evidence, but might facilitate you issuing complaints. There are 3 issues: (1) police are lazy and don't want to do work (who does?); (2) if you the complainant do not show up to court and the defendant does then typically the case is dismissed; and (3) how are you going to prove proper id? (Typically the police stop people and demand drivers licenses which establishes id)
    – emory
    Jun 1 at 16:21

5 Answers 5

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Intro:

I've heard lots of cyclists complain they submitted their helmet camera video of motorist encounters to the Police who "did nothing". To avoid wasting cyclist's time- and the Police's, I've documented the process I followed to have an aggressive motorist enforced who almost killed me. BTW, I'm myself a former Police Officer, so I understand the rigamarole of the Court process.

This is a master class on bringing dangerous motorists who threaten the lives of cyclists to the Police's attention.

Assess Your Cycle Cam Evidence:

  1. Is the camera's time correct? Incorrect time on the video won't in itself get your video rejected by the Police, but it could be used by the driver to aver they weren't the motorist if you can't nail-down the time of the incident with precision. In such a situation they'd still be obliged to name the motorist or face 6 points on their license and a £1,000 fine here in the UK, but best to avoid any ambiguity. As you're recording video that's being used as evidence in a prosecution, always ensure your cycle camera's time is correct. It's also not a bad idea to just video your watch before you set off on a cycle to validate the camera's clock is correct.

  2. Can you see the motorist's plate clearly? If not, you're wasting your time; Police won't bother considering your evidence. If you can, it might be considered by the Police.

  3. Is the incident recent? Don't wait too long to report as the Police are required to send the letter notifying of their intent to prosecute within (I believe) two weeks. However, I think they need to get the letter out by the 10th day after the offense. Even if your video shows the motorist breaking every law in the Highway code, if the complaint is submitted out-of-time, the Police won't consider it.

  4. Next, determine the SEVERITY of the incident. The video should evidence that it was sufficiently outrageous and not a small technical driving error that merely peeved you. The Police are busy and need to be selective about the cases they pursue, so the incident should be of a certain seriousness. For an example of what is considered "outrageous", here's the (edited) version of the video that I submitted to the Police. It should be clear this was pretty bad.

  5. Was the incident INTENTIONAL? Generally, intent matters in respect to violations of the law. If the incident could be explained away by the motorist as an inadvertent error they made, will be more challenging for the Police to enforce them. Indeed, if a collision almost resulted because a cyclist failed to signal their directional intent, I can understand the Police's reluctance to enforce the motorist. And I'm both a former Police Officer as well as an avid cyclist.

  6. Can you articulate a specific law you believe was broken by the motorist? Being "offended" by obnoxious driving is certainly frustrating, but not an offense. Review these (UK-specific) DRIVING OFFENSES against what your video depicts. If you feel confident that it does- and you're willing to testify in Court if the motorist declines to admit guilt- then you're NEARLY ready to submit the video.

  7. Did you commit any offenses under the law while cycling? The Police are going to scrutinize the actions of both the cyclist as well as the motorist they're seeking to have enforced. The Police will not allow you to give them a convenient clip neatly trimmed to only show the offense committed by the motorist. When I submitted my helmet cam video, the Police wanted me to produce a clip with one minute BEFORE and one minute AFTER the incident to determine if my own actions where to any degree contributory to the dangerous situation. So if you're cycling through red lights, not yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks and generally ignoring the Highway code, the Police might still enforce the driver- but so too they will likely enforce you for offenses in the video. Be prepared to have your own actions closely scrutinized by the Police when submitting your video.

Prepare Your Evidence:

  1. Preparing video evidence: The Police asked me to provide a clip with 1 minute before and 1 minute after the incident. I used HANDBRAKE to create a shortened COPY of the GoPro video. Never alter the original video. If the driver denies guilt, you better have the original copy or the charge(s) will be dropped.

Submit Your Evidence:

Staffordshire:

It appears that Staffordshire require video from 2 or 3 cameras before they will consider your evidence. Yes, I kid you not. Apparently Staffordshire is open-season on cyclists and can expect no help from the "Police":

https://road.cc/content/news/nmotd-781-no-prosecution-cyclist-only-used-one-camera-293511

Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Hertfordshire

It appears that Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Hertfordshire have pooled their resources for processing digital evidence of traffic incidents reported by the public. The link that I used to submit my complaint & evidence to Herts Police was:

https://www.herts.police.uk/news/hertfordshire/2022/march/north-herts-rural-road-safety-campaign-wants-your-footage/

Initially the Police will ask you for the incident details and then an investigator will contact you by email with a link for you to submit your videos & stills (if any).

PLEASE NOTE: The Police will not give you a copy of ANY of the information you submit to them. Probably worth copying the complaint details into a text file to ensure you don't have to rewrite the whole thing from scratch if the browser crashes.

If they are satisfied that the motorists driving was so bad it requires Police sanction, they'll tell you, albeit due to Data Protection they'll give only broad details.

The email I received from the Police was:

Dear Sir / Madam

Thank you for the submission of your footage, we have now reviewed the footage and will be taking the most appropriate positive action, in relation to the incident you have reported.

These options include the following:

*Warning letter
*Course offer
*Points and fine
*Court

Due to the Data Protection Act 2018 we are unable to provide you with the exact outcome or action that your submission has generated. Further information about the Data Protection Act can be found at https://www.gov.uk/data-protection

Yours Sincerely

Digital Evidence Team

Although the Police's response is very generic due to GPDR laws, a retired London Metropolitan Police Officer that I cycle with who viewed the video said the the motorist could expect at the least to receive 3 points on their license and £100 clue. He also said somebody who drives like that probably already has points on their license. And if that's true, the motorist could potentially be at-risk of losing their license. In any event, any points for a moving violation- especially if the charge is "driving without due care and attention" as is likely here- on one's license translates into increased car insurance premiums for 5 years. So the financial sanction could be very material.

And it's still possible that you could learn what action the Police took if the motorist denies their guilt and your appearance at Court is then required. Which of course I'd be most happy to give evidence if asked.

Conclusion:

It's certainly VERY possible to have violations of laws made to protect cyclists enforced using your helmet camera video. Indeed, unless cyclists DO report outrageously dangerous motorists to the Police, these murderists, erm "motorists" will feel they have impunity to continue to take risks with our lives. I've got a more detailed page on this which explains how to use Handbrake to process your helmet camera video evidence at:

http://www.penny-farthing.org/enforcing-dangerous-drivers/

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  • This is helpful but point 6 is very much debatable. If the police request additional footage you may deny that request, particularly if it is self-incriminating. I regularly send footage to my local force and they seem to appreciate short clips (typically 5-10 seconds, usually a close pass). They want to put a perfect case together which is understandable, but perfection does not exist and cyclists should not accept such an arbitrary "1 minute" rule to justify inaction. Anyhow thanks for the comprehensive Q&A and your perspective. Jun 1 at 20:59
  • @TomBrossman The minute of footage before & after the incident is the standard that Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Hertfordshire has created; can vary in other jurisdictions. And you have the right to not provide the contextual footage, but if you don't, then the Police won't consider your evidence. In any event, the HC is a standard which defines agreed ways of doing things and ensures our actions are predictable to other road users, so only a downside to deviating from it I feel.
    – F1Linux
    Jun 1 at 22:54
  • This seems to demonstrate that police cannot have any hope of effectively enforcing traffic regulation. Singling out individual bad drivers for punishment will never fix the dangerous conditions created through road and vehicle designs.
    – SamA
    Jun 1 at 23:42
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    @SamA You are right that there are physical systematic issues that contribute to road dangers, but I don't think it's as binary as you suggest. A good part of the issue is cultural, and the cultural contributions can (and do) improve. Part of improving them is going to be the actions of law enforcement, which not only discourage people from taking risky actions by providing consequences, they also contribute to society's perception of morally acceptable behaviour.
    – Clumsy cat
    Jun 2 at 9:01
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    @mcalex this you? urbandictionary.com/…
    – Swifty
    Jun 3 at 8:44
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It depends where you are in the world, and even in countries with the same laws it can vary in difficulty depending on the local police force.

Here in Scotland, Police Scotland recently received funding to create a portal designed for uploading exactly this type of footage.

https://www.cyclinguk.org/article/campaign-win-new-police-dashcam-reporting-portal-scotland

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    Thanks for posting the link Andy for our Northern cycling friends. So far we have Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire plus Scotland. Hopefully others will give links for submitting evidence in their jurisdictions. Would be better though if there was a unified portal on a national basis instead of this disjointed per-force regime we have down South!
    – F1Linux
    May 31 at 19:54
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The Highway Code does not mandate 1.5m.

Mandatory requirements in the Highway Code are indicated with capitalised letters as "MUST" and covered by legislation. These words do not appear in either rule 163, or rules 211 to 213 (which cover overtaking cyclists). Since the Highway Code is not itself law, its guidance can only be punished if breaking that guidance infringes on another basis, for example if it meets the threshold for punishment under "driving without due care and attention", or used to establish liability in the event of an accident.

So unless your video shows particularly gross behaviour by a passing car, it is not punishable whether or not your video can be submitted.

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    In assessing dangerous or careless driving, the Police will rely on the standards set forth in the Highway Code. Indeed, without defined standards, how would the Police articulate you drove carelessly or dangerously. So even without the word "MUST" featured in a rule, it very much has enforceable legal consequences if disobeyed. Also, if you read my answer fully, in part 5 you'd see that I provide a link to traffic offenses and direct the reader to ensure that at least one of these is evidenced in their cycle cam video
    – F1Linux
    Jun 1 at 8:12
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    @F1Linux: Yes, careless driving, for example, is what I meant by "infringing on another basis"; but it cannot be directly punished ("failure to comply with the other rules of the Code will not, in itself, cause a person to be prosecuted" as the gov.uk site puts it). A driver who merely passes closer than 1.5m is extremely unlikely to meet the threshold for "driving without due care and attention". Jun 1 at 8:27
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    While the 1.5m figure does not appear in the rules themselves, it is used by judges in several countries (check your jurisdiction!) to determine what is too close and what is not. In my country, the unspecific rule of "enough" is interpreted by judges to mean at least 1.5m for normal car - normal cyclist encounters, and at least 2m if the car is a truck, the cyclist has a kid on board, the cyclist is an elderly person, the incident is not in urban area, etc. pp. What's important is, that the usual 0.5m that motorists are willing to give you are way below this threshold. Jun 1 at 8:47
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    The numbers do vary around the world - here in NZ its 60 cm at posted speeds below 60 km/h rising to 90cm above that. Which is not a lot of space - thankfully most drivers do much better.
    – Criggie
    Jun 1 at 9:19
  • @cmaster-reinstatemonica The figure of 1.5m does appear in the highway code, rule 163 specifically ( highwaycodeuk.co.uk/using-the-road-overtaking.html ) "As a guide: leave at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph, and give them more space when overtaking at higher speeds" Jun 1 at 9:21
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In , there are legal restrictions that the camera and recording need to fulfil to be legal, balancing the data privacy rights of other (inoffensive) people on the road with your legitimate interests.

The legal situation is AFAIK not entirely clear, but some points stick out:

  • recording is only allowed for short sequences
  • with an actual occasion
  • that personally affects the one who records.
  • (posting such a video with identifyable people in the internet is illegal without their consent)

In my understanding, being endangered by a closely passing car is an occasion that clearly affects one personally (as in OP's example video).

However, I also think that it is a feature (not a bug) that the legal setup here prevents people from stalking other people until they get video footage that shows some offense and then file a denunciation*.

So IMHO the only real solution is the police doing their work. Maybe speaking up with local politics (newspaper?) and police whether they could put some more focus on this problem would be a good idea as well.
(They won't have someone stand at a rural road where maybe 3 bikes pass per day of course. But there are likely known problem spots. E.g. close to a school in the morning or just after school closes. Or close to train stations where people commute by bike + train. Bike-passing-safety days like they do "speed action days")

* Reporting someone who did indeed endanger your life is not denunciation.
Still, some years ago a local newspaper cited the county veterinarian office that they estimated about 1/3 of the reports filed with for animal neglect them are to the sole purpose of creating trouble for the one who was reported.


BTW: road traffic law here says that on urban (includes inside village) roads at least 1.5 m, on rural roads at least 2 m distance must be kept when passing bikers.
I may say that I'm in the rather luxurious situation that in my rural home area I rarely feel endangered by motorists. I haven't been biking much in cities like Berlin since those distances entered the law, though...


I interprete a bunch of court cases (with rather different outcomes) as follows:

  • there are technical ways of operating cameras that are privacy-friendly, and you need to use them. In particular, recordings can only be short and there needs to be an actual occasion ("konkreter Anlass").
    E.g., a camera in (short*) loop mode that permanently saves the footage only in case of an incident. The latter possibly automatically via acceleration sensor; or by manually hitting a button.

    * short: court cases found sequences of 30 s (autmatically triggered crash ± 15 s) and 5 min manually started recording in an aggressive driving criminal court case admissible.
    (I guess this would be close to OP's video)

    • It is not permissible to permanently record on public roads (which will include recording many other, inoffending people and thus violates their privacy rights) just because there may be an accident.
  • there have been court cases where at the same time the recording was found to violate privacy rights (leading to a fine), but still be allowed to determine guilt after an accident when that could not be established by other evidence.

  • One court case decided it's not a legitimate interest to film other people's behaviour in road traffic which does not personally affect you in order to report that to the police.

    • Its the police's responsibility to enforce laws, not up to private persons.
    • This court case was about a fine wrt. violating privacy rights that the privacy officer of the Land Niedersachsen had issued against the guy who was operating the dashcams. He had reported about 50000 (suspected or actual) violations in the preceeding years, and had again submitted videos within few days after the privacy officer had stated that they'll drop a case against them but would proceed and fine in case of repeated offenses.
  • A newer court decision (after GDPR came into force) holds that the dashcam video in question was not admissible since it was acquired without the knowledge of the other (accused) party, and also that proper judgment would have required a long video sequence, which has never been admissible. (There was a question of whether an illegal motorbike race took place - which would have had consequences for the question of guilt causing the accident)

    • That decision states that it is not acceptable to create a situation where people wear bodycams (for their own defense) just in case someone sues them for something. (An older court decision made a similar point)
      Moreover, they hold that iff legislative powers think such videos should be permissible, proper legislation would give legal certainty.

    • The decision has been questioned, in particular whether the court thought also that cameras recording only a short time around the accident would be inadmissible in general.
      There are statements by privacy protection officers also under GDPR that still say the legitimate interests of getting evidence in case one is involved in an accident can be balanced with privacy protection by technical means such as listed above.

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    Thanks for giving us insight into how German cyclists deal with evidencing dangerous motorists; apparently they can't. Whether we like what you tell us or not, +1 for telling us German standards. Standards which appear to be essentially: if a mass murder mowed-down 100 cyclists with a bulldozer, if an unrelated third party appeared in the clip they'd prosecute the person who made the video and let the mass murder sue them for a GPDR violation ;-). In a court process any unrelated parties could have their faces obfuscated making the requirement to stop people from videoing them an irrelevance
    – F1Linux
    Jun 2 at 22:15
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In case of the accident, you will need to document the event and draw the schema of it, anyway. Any kind of recording will provide more in depth information than such a drawing. Even when possibly not an evidence on its own, it would supplement other evidences well, will hint where to look for scratches on the car, etc. If the driver left away, it may picture the number plate. It will be possible to check if traces on the road match the recording.

As a result, a camera is a useful enough equipment even where the recording alone is not recognized as a complete evidence.

As a result, I assume a car driver would be more careful with the cyclist possibly bearing a camera, so even fake one, or even just larger box on the luggage rack, may add to the safety.

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  • I've been hit by a car as a cyclist in the UK. It's not universally true that you need to draw a schema of what happened, or provide footage or anything. That probably only comes up if there are contradicting accounts. In the case of an actual collision, it's certainly worth reporting the accident at the time, even if that's all you can do.
    – Clumsy cat
    Jun 2 at 9:10
  • I do not say do not report the accident if you had no camera, for sure.
    – nightrider
    Jun 2 at 9:46
  • My point is that it's not always true that "you will need to document the event and draw the schema of it". If you have actually been hit, you should know that whatever you are able report is worthwhile. This question mainly caters to the more general event of a motorist driving badly necessarily without colliding with you, in which case the level of evidence needed is a bit different.
    – Clumsy cat
    Jun 2 at 9:52

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