You have to be a special kind of dumb to post that kind of comment to Twitter, but, sadly, the UK driving test doesn’t examine emotional intelligence and this young woman is speeding around Norfolk with these sort of sick, mistaken thoughts rattling around her head. How could anybody be so callous? Why is it socially-acceptable to admit to such a crime as though it wasn’t a crime? How can somebody training to be a tax advisor not know that “road tax” hasn’t existed since 1937, doesn’t pay for roads and that all road users have an equal right to share roads? UPDATE 1: 27th June, Norfolk police have said they have referred Emma Way’s case to the Crown Prosecution Service. UPDATE 2: Norfolk police will be charging Way with “driving without due care and attention, failing to stop after an accident and failing to report that accident.”
FINAL UPDATE: At Norwich Magistrates court on 19th November, Emma Way was found not guilty of driving without due care and attention; guilty of failing to stop after an incident; and guilty of failing to report that incident. She told the magistrates her original tweet was “the biggest regret of my life so far.” So, no regrets about hitting the cyclist, just getting caught admitting she had hit the cyclist! Way was fined £337, ordered to pay £300 costs and had 7 points added to her licence for the failure to stop and failure to report collision. After leaving court she refused to answer reporter’s questions because she had “signed an exclusive TV deal.” According to her solicitor she’s to appear on ITV’s Daybreak breakfast show. But maybe some other vehicles (with wing mirrors) are being lined up for her? How about? I Pay Road Tax Get Me Out Of Here; Tis My Way or the Highway. Any more? #EmmaWayTVshows
Presumably she thought her comments would be read by only her 100 or so Twitter followers, not realising her thoughts are available to all see? She must have been surprised, then, when she received the following message from Norwich Police:
@emmaway20 we have had tweets ref an RTC with a bike. We suggest you report it at a police station ASAP if not done already & then dm us
— Norwich Police (@NorwichPoliceUK) May 19, 2013
The police had been alerted to Emma Way’s comments by twitter users shocked at her lack of compassion and her unbidden hate. She was quickly identified from her Facebook page and the police were sent other examples of her poor driving: she had taken twitter-available pix of herself tailgating other motorists, and even photographed her speedometer showing a speed of 95mph.
At first, folks thought she must have been joking when she boasted she had knocked a cyclist from his bike but the fact she felt able, among her friends, to make such a joke, and that she based her funny on the seemingly lesser road rights of her target, is worrying. The tweets collected by @cyclehatred have shown that a surprising number of anti-cyclist comments are not coming from traditional ‘white van man’ but from young women, many of them clearly new to driving. What is it that’s making some of these young women say such hateful things about cyclists? Perhaps it’s that some young female motorists feel safe in their cars and often rely on them to get everywhere? For such women, perhaps the thought of being a cyclist – unprotected from ‘stranger danger’ and open to the elements – makes them shudder, and the way to reject and despoil this “other” is to vilify and mock it?
In the comments section below, ‘Volcanic Plug ‘ (email address supplied), gave another possible reason:
“I am a young female motorist and I have to say, I don’t like cyclists much (sorry!). But it’s not because I feel safe in my car and feel I should mock cyclists…I am relatively new to driving and genuinely, I don’t like cyclists because I’m afraid of them. I’m afraid of knocking someone off their bike! Never in a million years would I do what this person has. She’s clearly a danger to all other road users, not just cyclists.
“I’m probably unlucky with my commute in that there are a fair number of cyclists but the roads are either very narrow, so I struggle to overtake or they are very steep so the cyclist is travelling very slowly while everyone on the other side of the road are streaming past at 60. It’s not the fault of the cyclist I know, but my problem is a lack of confidence in myself to deal with it. I would describe myself as a safe driver, but not a particularly good one – driving doesn’t come to me naturally and easily.
“I don’t think all of these young female drivers that ‘hate’ cyclists or pedestrians or horse-riders are seeing them as obstacles, but maybe of hazards that they should be wary of and perhaps haven’t yet gained the experience to deal with confidently.”
Perhaps the driving test could help out here? Maybe motorists should have to read and absorb a compulsory section on the highway access rights of *all* road users, not just the motorised ones? As I write elsewhere, Roads Were Not Built For Cars…
Cyclists, pedestrians, horse-riders, and others, should not be portrayed as obstacles – things to avoid, as though they’re stray and alien – but as fellow road users to be accorded the same civility as expected to be given to motorised road users. And it would also be good if new drivers were taught that roads are not paid for by motorists but by general and local taxation. (The fact that the majority of cyclists own cars, too, doesn’t seem to filter through to some people, it’s as if we’re still in the 1930s when cycling was “poor mans’ transport”).
The belief that “motorists pay for roads, cyclists don’t” is ludicrously mistaken but fervently held by a shocking number of people; people with the power of hundreds of horses under one of their tippity toes. How many deliberate close-calls on cyclists delivered by some motorists, so-called “punishment passes”, are the result of thinking roads are just for cars? Roads believed to be paid for by “road tax”? This now famous #bloodycyclists tweet shows that some motorists really do believe their little tax discs are some sort of “road user fee” and give them superior rights on the road. Cyclists are perceived to be freeloaders, even though they also tend to own cars, often expensive ones, that are charged more for car tax – do they have more right to be on the road than low-emissions cars which pay zero car tax?
TWIT AND RUN
Emma Way, the motorist who started this twitter and media storm did hit a cyclist. In a TV interview she admitted her guilt. The guilt of writing a stupid “spur of the moment” tweet, that is. She also, fleetingly, said sorry to the cyclist she hit, admitted she probably hit him with her wing mirror but said she didn’t realize he might be hurt. Her solicitor was present during the interview and said he hoped the police would separate the road incident from the twitter posting.
In a radio interview with BBC Radio Norfolk, Ms Way agreed she had been “stupid” to tweet as she did but was not pulled up on her beliefs in the non-existent ‘road tax’ or that motorists don’t have “right of way” on roads and do not pay road use fees.
An Iceni Velo cycling club member had been the first to alert folks that a cyclist was knocked from his bike by a hit and run motorist:
— James Lucas (@RabAusten) May 20, 2013
Club member @RabAusten said: “Police are on the case. They had already located her and were just waiting for the victim to come forward. He has contacted them…”
If, as the tweet claims, Emma Way did leave the collision scene without reporting it to the police, she could be in deep do-dah. And boasting about it on Twitter and claiming she had “right of way” because she believes she pays for the use of the road doesn’t exactly help her case.
TWEETS LIVE FOR EVER
Ms Way’s employer is now involved, too (in an earlier tweet the driver had mentioned who she worked for and Google cache knows all…):
“Thank you for taking the time to email Larking Gowen regarding the tweets posted by one of our employees on their personal twitter account.
“Please be assured that this is not a view held by the firm and we most certainly do not condone this behaviour. We are taking the incidents very seriously, and a full and detailed investigation will be carried out and appropriate action taken. We have already spoken to Norfolk Police.”
Ms Way was later suspended from her job (as a trainee tax advisor).
Norwich North MP, Chloe Smith , has also chimed in: “This may sound like a bit of dirty laundry being aired in public but actually it’s really important – road safety is crucial for all road users as is civility on the road.”
The cyclist who claims he was knocked from his bike was Toby Hockley, who was riding the Boudicca Sportive on Sunday, reports The Telegraph, basing its story on the Iceni club Facebook postings.
Hockley has also been interviewed by the BBC. He said: “”A car came tearing round the blind corner and narrowly missed a cyclist in front of me. She came on to my side of the road, I took the wing mirror off and I went flying off my bike into a hedge.
“She hit me hard, really hard. I am lucky to be alive.
“But I managed to get out of the hedge and stand up. The car was nowhere to be seen. She hit me, and she was gone. All I know is that it was a blonde girl driving.”
Over on Road.cc Hockley, a 29 year old trainee chef, gives a few more details:
“I have a sore elbow, a bruised knee, nettle stings from riding through the hedge, but nothing serious. The headset of the bike is loose from the collision, one of the levers got knocked round the bars and there’s bits of nettle in the chain, but I think the bike is intact.”
“Myself and my friend burst out laughing when we finally came to a stop, more out of shock than anything else. You count your limbs and carry on.”
On the interview with BBC Radio Norfolk, Ms Way disputes Toby Hockley’s version of events. She said:
“”He [Mr Hockley] and another cyclist were coming down the hill at quite a speed.
“He came on to my side of the road. I pulled to the left as quickly as I could. He was right in front me.
“I felt his handlebar just clip my wing mirror and my initial reaction was to brake, stop and look in the mirror.
“He did wobble slightly but he was upright, he was fine. I didn’t just leave the scene, because there wasn’t a scene.
I don’t really see I was in the wrong. If I had been in a bad accident I would have stopped.
“If I have hurt him then I am sorry. I am not against cyclists at all.”
Road tax doesn’t exist. The ironically-named iPayRoadTax.com helps spread this message on cycle jerseys.