Companies that endanger cyclists – FedEx

FedEx broke the law and endangered cyclists – but they responded well to criticism when it was pointed out

Photographed 18 May 2010, junction of Sidney Street and Matilda Street in Sheffield, UK, approx 8:30am

Sidney Street is a one way street coming towards the camera, the red cycle lane provides a contraflow route away from the camera

The van is parked on a double yellow line making a delivery to the cream building on the left. There is an empty parking bay on the other side of the road just beyond the van about 15 metres away.

Cyclists are forced into the path of the oncoming traffic, because the van is so close to the junction cyclists, coming from  the left of the camera,  cannot see round it to check whether there are any oncoming vehicles, this is a commuter route to Sheffield Station, while I was taking the photo three or four cyclists came past needing to use the contraflow cycle lane.

The driver was very rude and claimed that he was entitled to park there because he was doing a job. Click on the photo to see the larger version, he’s the guy in the black shirt clearly identifiable, driver of Van no DX07GGF.

Is this Fedex driver breaking the law?

You’ll see from the comments below that there has been a conversation about this question. Becky has provided some examples from the UK Highway Code to illustrate the question and I checked out some of the facts.

HWC rule 140: You must not drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a solid white line during its times of operation.

Becky asked if the van was “parked” which may seem obvious but actually he was “loading” and that seems to be a different thing from parking in the eyes of the law.  So it may be that this rule does not apply. As Becky points out, the law provides for specific “no loading” markings on the kerbstones and there are none of those here

HWC rule 243: Do not stop or park opposite or within 10 metres of a junction, except in an authorised parking space. Do not stop or park where you would obstruct cyclists’ use of cycle facilities.

This seems to apply. The van is clearly obstructing the cyclists’ use of the cycle lane, forcing them into the path of oncoming traffic which includes buses which tend to swing wide as they come round the bend at the far end of the street to avoid the parked cars then follow a line close to the bike lane while being hidden from the cyclists view by the van. The red van in the photo below indicates the problem well, he would have come very close to the side of the FedEx van.

More straightforwardly, I went back and checked the distance by pacing out 10 long strides (I have short legs) from the junction. On the photograph below I’ve placed my bike at the 10m point.

You can see that the bike is opposite the third of the diagonal markers on the road (behind the traffic island) while the FedEx van had its front end over the second marker, clearly less than 10m from the junction even allowing for some error by my short legs. So that’s pretty unequivocal.

HWC rule 242: You MUST NOT leave your vehicle or trailer in a dangerous position or where it causes any unnecessary obstruction of the road.

In this case the obstruction is unnecessary because there is a parking bay very close, and even if he parked on the cycle lane the driver could have parked further back where the cyclist would have a better chance of seeing round the van before pulling out. Either way the driver could have completed his delivery easily without parking right there. He was just lazy, wanting to park right by the door.

And it’s demonstrably a “dangerous position” as it forces cyclists into a dangerous manoeuvre.

So I would say there are at least two ways in which this FedEx driver is breaking the law, possibly four.

Positive response from FedEx

I contacted FedEx using the contact weblink provided by Gareth. I received a quick and very appropriate response saying they had identified the driver and “this matter has been highlighted to the regional Manager to ensure that corrective measures are implemented to prevent recurrence”

I have previously complained to another company, Veolia, about a similar but worse incident by one of their refuse collection trucks in Sheffield and received no response, I attempted to complain to Sainsbury’s about dangerous driving by one of their delivery drivers (described in another post) and gave up because I could not find a website, email or snailmail address that was suitable. So I think that this response puts FedEx well up in my personal league table of responsible transport operators (so far at least).

My previous problems have led me to work out a clear strategy for dealing with this.

  • Carry a Camera
    I do this anyway for various purposes and it’s a good quality camera, as you can see by the way it captured a clear image of the driver’s face through the offside door window. I tried to photograph him directly later but he put up his hand to shield his face.
  • Don’t get involved with the driver
    In the Veolia incident I wasted time pointing out (politely I believe) to the crew that they were blocking the cycle route (it was completely blocked by their big wheelie bins at a point where the cycle lane left the road, making it impossible to get past by any means). That wasted time and got me into a pointless argument when I could have been getting a clear record of the problem, from a distance. When I finally got my camera out they started moving the bins so the problem was not visible by the time I was ready to take a photo. Of course if the crew had just said sorry and moved the bins in the first place I would have been very happy but I’ve come to learn that the great majority of van drivers become aggressive if questioned.
  • Take time to get clear photographs and other information
    Pick your spot, ensure that you have included any relevant detail, take a few photographs from various angles, try to get a shot of the driver and ensure you have the registration number and company name. Note the time and location, especially if you are in an unfamiliar place where you may not be able to track back with Google maps. If you have the location, Google Street View can give useful extra info. Becky used that to check out some details of the street like the parking markings.
  • Make it public
    By putting the details on the blog, with photographs, I can name and shame the company and put much more pressure on them than simply writing to them. Nobody likes bad publicity. Of course you still have to write to them or they’ll not notice, but a brief message with a web link is probably more effective than a long letter of complaint. What I didn’t do on this occasion is point out that my blog has over 100 visits per day and that I’m a senior manager in a large organisation that uses courier services including FedEx. People don’t get it that a lot of cyclists are professional people and customers.

Ian Oliver posted a message to the Bromptontalk forum in response to this strategy:

A chap at work had the same problem. A dray van habitually ignored the provided parking space and parked with two wheels in the bike lane instead. At this point, the bike lane has curbs either side, and slightly too hard for most people to bunny hop them.

One day he encountered the van and had also remembered his camera. Too make things even better, a wheelchair user was remonstrating with the delivery guys as they also had the pavement blocked with barrels.

A few choice pictures dropped off with the a half dozen Council depts, including their disabled access officer, and the dray started parking in the correct place and now they take the barrels in as they unload rather than obstructing the pavement.

Thanks to those who commented and helped me think this one through. Blocking cycle routes is almost endemic among delivery drivers and road maintenance people so I’d like to encourage everybody to take similar action. It’s a problem of awareness and here’s one FedEx driver who won’t be so casual about cycle lanes in future.




View all posts on lawbreakers

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13 Responses to “Companies that endanger cyclists – FedEx”

  1. Gareth Says:

    This photograph is clear enough for Fedex to easily identify the driver. They have a feedback form here:

    http://fedex.com/gb/contact/writefedex.html

    I suggest readers complete a complaint using the form – it might just get taken seriously. They make big noises about CSR so pointing out that they can talk about the environment but if they make the most environmentally friendly form of transport more dangerous people will recognise empty words when they see them might have an impact

  2. crosius Says:

    I’ve never heard of any rule that says company vehicles can park illegally as long as they’re doing a job. Maybe _municipal_ vehicles can, but I don’t think couriers qualify.

    Escalate that photo to a complaint. Get that driver sanctioned. Maybe it’ll even get mentioned to the drivers as part of an educational message.

  3. chrisrust Says:

    Municipal exemption? I’ve heard the same pathetic “doing my job” excuse from the driver of a Veolia garbage truck in Sheffield, blocking a cycle route completely (not just impeding a cycle lane) and simultaneously impeding traffic at main road junction in the rush hour on an urban clearway. In both cases I suspect they knew they were breaking the law and on the defensive. The Veolia crew were probably trying to cut corners on their schedule. The concept of “municipal” is quite interesting now that local government services tend to be contracted out to companies like Veolia, who often took over the staff and vehicles from the local authority but traffic laws are the law for everybody.

  4. Becky Says:

    It’s a tricky one. As one can easily see from a ‘street view’, the cycle lane all the way from Furnival St to Matilda St is also demarcated with a solid white line.

    HWC rule 140: You must not drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a solid white line during its times of operation. (Is the FedEx driver parked?)

    HWC rule 243: Do not stop or park opposite or within 10 metres of a junction, except in an authorised parking space. Do not stop or park where you would obstruct cyclists’ use of cycle facilities.

    The double yellow line mandates no waiting or parking at any time, but the driver is unloading which legally is allowed under the definition of a vehicle being stopped but ‘in use’ (for the loading or unloading of passengers or objects), as distinct from ‘parked’ or ‘waiting’, for which the vehicle must be stopped, without cause for passengers or objects, and whether or not the vehicle is occupied by the driver. Additionally, the kerbstones don’t have any ‘No Loading’ markings.

  5. chrisrust Says:

    Thanks Becky, I think this does it: “HWC rule 243: Do not stop or park opposite or within 10 metres of a junction, except in an authorised parking space.” I’d better pace it out to see but it looks less than 10m.
    But there is also an important catch-all: HWC rule 242: You MUST NOT leave your vehicle or trailer in a dangerous position or where it causes any unnecessary obstruction of the road.
    In this case the obstruction is unnecessary because there is a parking bay very close, and even if he parked on the cycle lane the driver could have parked further back where the cyclist would have a better chance of seeing round the van before pulling out.
    And it’s demonstrably a “dangerous position” as it forces cyclists into a dangerous manoeuvre.

  6. chrisrust Says:

    I contacted FedEx and received a very good response so I’ve updated the post to acknowledge that. I’ve also summarised the relevant Highway Code rules and evidence to make it clear that the law was being broken in a number of ways. And I’ve included a summary of the strategy I’ve worked out for dealing with this.
    Thanks to Becky, Gareth and Crosius for helpful comments

  7. Gareth Says:

    Sounds like an excellent outcome. Not wasting time debating with the driver sounds like good advice. It has taken me a long time to realise that it is a pretty good way to end up being threatened. These situations defy logic – I once saw a lone driver get out of his car on a country road and threaten a group of 12 male cyclists.

  8. Dave H Says:

    For Chris and all budding Victor Meldrews her is the website you need

    http://www.connectotel.com/marcus/ceoemail.html

    Meantime I must chase the CCTV footage for Firstbus 10144 at 17.55 on 17th May when he forced past me – practically touching my shoulder and possibly in collusion with the driver of the Arrive Bus which had been stopped and which I was overtaking began to close the gap between the vehicles, as both then moved forward..

    The driver of 10144 refused to give details when requested (s 170 and possibly also ‘Conduct’ regulations)

  9. andy platts Says:

    some people really need to get a life !!!. . . .have you nothing better to do than cycle round finding faults and being a complete arse !!!!

  10. chrisrust Says:

    Thank you for your insightful comments Andy.

  11. fred_dot_u Says:

    Andy, I think you’ll find that many cyclists aren’t “cycling round, finding faults.” With the skill level of today’s drivers, and many other factors such as cell phone use and texting, these faults come to the cyclist. It’s an awareness thing.

  12. Gareth Says:

    You are so convincing Andy. I am going to give up cycling and spend my time trolling round the internet making insightful observations. It sounds so much more exciting as a lifestyle

  13. Sean Evans Says:

    I’ve just purchased a Casio Exilim EX-G1 camera and will be mounting it to my chest strap on my camelbak. I can start recording video immediately and although I bought it for mountain bike adventure, it’ll come in handy the next time a taxi pulls a dangerous manouvre.
    Has anyone seen the disgraceful taxi behaviour on the junction of Fornham Street and Suffolk Road? Taxis 10-deep straddling the cycle contraflow several evenings a week at peak taxi traffic. And the smell of about 60 idling taxis is not too clever either!

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