How to report bad driving

One of the perils of cycling in London is the likelihood of experiencing some bad driving, and the chances are that you’ve been on the wrong end of a careless taxi driver, a wreckless motorcyclist or a tired TFL bus driver who’s thoughtlessly crept into the bike lane.

Of course, having a close call due to bad driving isn’t as bad as actually having the collision (and we’ve written on the steps to keep in mind if you are ever in an accident), but you’ll no doubt want to make sure that where there’s a driver to blame, they can’t do it again.

Obviously, your insurance company can’t do anything when you’ve not actually been hit (and that’s a good thing!) but for the good of the cyclists union and for the safety of all road users, you should consider making a complaint to the relevant authority. Below are details of how to make that complaint, depending on what sort of vehicle it was.

Private vehicles

So you’re cycling along and get pushed into the curb by a boy racer in a Citroen Saxo. You somehow manage to keep cycling, but are shocked that the driver is allowed on the road. What do you do?

  • Make a note of the registration number (worth pulling over and saving it on your phone)
  • At the next opportunity write down your recollection of exactly what happened

When it comes to complaining, the first thing is to contact your local police station. Your statement will help with the Metropolitan Police’s RoadSafeLondon campaign, but don’t go thinking the driver will face immediate punishment: if it’s the first note against the registration number then police will see your complaint next time a complaint is made – and it may well be a matter of time.

While not an official measure, you should also consider reporting the incident to the CTC, whose ‘Stop SMIDSY’ campaign is aimed at making streets safer.

Taxis

Taxi drivers have much more to lose if they’re reported – driving isn’t just a mode of transport for them, but their livelihood. In the first instance you should contact the Public Carriage Office, although they will only look into cases where there may have been discourtesy or abuse.

If possible, take a note too of the driver number (black writing in a white box, usually on the rear of the cab) as this will be helpful to the PCO.

Follow the same steps above and report the taxi driver to the police. Given many taxi drivers often work the same areas, make sure you’re certain where the incident happened as it may be a regular occurrence that police can then look out for.

Buses

There are a number of details you need to take if you’re planning on making a complaint to TFL about a bus. As with other vehicles, you need the registration number, but you should also get as much of the following as possible:

  • The route number (from the front or back of the bus)
  • The bus’ serial number (usually on the front or back, but could be anywhere)
  • The driver number (usually in the driver’s window)

Of these three, the driver number is the most important as it shows who was driving the bus at the time of the incident – and makes it much easier (and more likely) that TFL will take action.

Think outside of the box

While you’re fairly restricted when it comes to complaining about buses, with private vehicles and cabs you can use a bit of initiative. In the case of company vans or cars, note which company the driver is working for and make a complaint to them directly. While you might not see a result directly, the driver might get a warning and drive more carefully as a result. Likewise with taxis, contact the businesses which have paid to advertise on the side – it’s unlikely they’ll want to be associated with reckless driving.

Patience is a virtue

You’re unlikely to see immediate results against a driver who you complain about. But think of the greater good – the more complaints, the more chance that bad drivers will be reprimanded, either by their employer or the police. And that’s only going to be a good thing for road safety for cyclists.

See also: 7 things you should give up in order to be a happy cyclist

Join 9,241 fellow cyclists who are subscribed to the London Cyclist newsletter

Sign up for our free newsletter to get...

  • Advice on the best cycling gear
  • A Friday roundup of all the latest London cycling news
  • Exclusive content not available on the blog

Subscribe today, and get exclusive access forever! (It's free)

*No spam, ever!

As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

18 Responses to How to report bad driving

  1. Simon M 03/04/2013 at 10:00 am #

    Have you actually tried these? And got results? I ask because my wife and I have direct experience of reporting taxis to the PCO and bus drivers to their company and both results were dire.

    In my wife’s experience, she was nudged coming off the lights at Old Street roundabout by a taxi. She banged her fist against the window after the driver intentionally clipped her rear wheel, and the driver looked at her as he passed and didn’t stop. She got the number plate and taxi number, description of driver etc. So complained to PCO and police.

    i) PCO said that they will only consider complaints now from passengers of their vehicles. This isn’t the first time we’ve been rebuffed by the PCO – they seem to act in the interests of their drivers, rather than investigate complaints. In this quite serious case they were rude, dismissive and unpleasant and eventually told my wife to go report it to the police, washing their hands of it.

    ii) The police then, of course, treated my wife’s complaint as an insurance matter, rather than any form of crime and sent the taxi driver my wife’s full details and complaint (and us the taxi driver’s full details), assuming it was just a matter for our two insurance companies to argue it out. They then seemed surprised that my wife was upset that a violent and aggressive driver who left the scene of an intentional ram had been given full details of her complaint, name, address etc.!

    In my experience, I’ve complained several times to bus companies about drivers in east London, where I ride regularly, and where bus drivers routinely cut up cyclists, drive past at high speed leaving scant gap etc. I’ve even had situations where a bus drive cut me up, I caught them up and they then quickly became abusive and threatening through their window or door to me, while I remained polite. Complaints to bus companies about such drivers are invariably met with a standard form letter or email that basically says “we will investigate, we cannot tell you any results of our investigation due to data protection laws, and by the way, all our drivers receive training”. I have zero confidence anything is actually done about these drivers – they’re probably not even spoken to.

    So… has any of this stuff actually worked for you? What has meant it has worked? And is it time for us to start campaigning in a more coordinated manner to make sure the PCO, bus companies etc. do take this stuff seriously in London?

    • Gaz 05/04/2013 at 3:50 pm #

      I regularly report drivers and my experiences are as follows.

      Roasafe is great if you have video footage. Those of us that use cameras in London use it regularly. If you are involved in a collision you must report it to a police station and fill out form 207.

      The PCO Is a joke. I’ve tried reporting stuff to them in the past and they are not interested. Technically they do need to look at stuff if it breaks their rule code (they have specific rules that apply to taxis). If it’s a serious traffic offense, the police should look at it although i’ve been in a position where both sides are saying it is each other.

      Reporting buses via TFL works fine. Always get a good response from those.

    • Zoe 05/04/2013 at 7:15 pm #

      Simon, you might want to complain to the Information Commissioner about the police as this appears to me to be a breach of your private data (though there may be specific police related regs that allow them to do this).

  2. Jason 03/04/2013 at 5:53 pm #

    I had an incident with a black cab on my Vespa whilst going round Parliamnet Square before xmas. The driver basically overtook me leaving a 2/3 inches gap between my handlebars and his cab which shook me up a bit as a slightl movement on my part would had me off.

    I complained to him at the next set of lights 20 metres away (yes, he put my life at risk to get to a red light 2 seconds earlier) and he waved his arms at me and did the exact same thing again, except even closer. At this point I had a cab on my right 2 inches from my handlebars and the concrete barriers to my left…could’ve been very, very serious.

    This was 100% deliberate in my opinion and designed to intimidate me for daring to question his driving skills….

    I got his number, gave full details to TFL and of course nothing happened. That area must be the most covered area by CCTV in the country, if they’d wanted to check out my story they could’ve, but they couldn’t care less.

    Next time I’m going to the police for what it’s worth.

  3. Miles Terry 03/04/2013 at 9:36 pm #

    How do you report bad cycling?

    • Gaz 05/04/2013 at 3:52 pm #

      Report it to Silly Cyclists :)

      Actually, if you know of a place where there are regularly bad cyclists, such as at a set of traffic lights. Get in touch with the Cycle Task Force and ask them if they can look at that spot.

  4. Micheal White 04/04/2013 at 8:35 am #

    I carry rocks in my pockets. When I get cut up, or passed aggressively, I throw them at their windows. Scares the $hit out of them. And as there are no witnesses, or video, I can not be charged, just as they can not be for running me off the road.

    • Big Al 04/04/2013 at 2:03 pm #

      Genius!

  5. Sven Ellis 04/04/2013 at 3:30 pm #

    Taxi clarifications:
    TPH (the PCO as was) is the licensing authority. It’s there to regulate drivers’ performance in relation to passengers. If you believe a driver has committed a driving offence, you need the police. If a driver is convicted, he’s required to notify TPH, who may then make a judgement on his suitability as a cabbie. They’re not there as a backstop if you don’t get the answer you like from the police.

    The black number in a white box (duplicated inside the cab) is the cab number, not the driver number. The driver number is on the front and rear windscreen, and should also be worn by the driver. This should only be a technicality, as there is required to be an administrative link between a cab and its driver(s).

    • Gaz 05/04/2013 at 3:54 pm #

      Technically, the drivers are bound by a code book that the PCO/TPH ‘enforce’. poor driving practices are included in that. So some things the PCO/TPH should deal with. Any serious motoring offenses and the police should be involved!

      Unfortunately from my experiences. The police and the PCO/TPH are not interested in deal with bad driving from taxi drivers.

  6. Sven Ellis 04/04/2013 at 3:33 pm #

    That should of course be “he or she is required…..their suitability as a cabbie”

  7. Gaz 05/04/2013 at 3:56 pm #

    Worth noting that serious incidences / collisions should be reported to a police station. You will need to fill out form 207.

    Roadsafe is best used if you have video footage, they won’t do much otherwise.

    I’ve written a post at Cycle Camera TV about reporting footage to the police, covers many countries not just London. – http://www.cyclecamera.tv/reporting-videos-to-the-police/

  8. Peter 05/04/2013 at 4:28 pm #

    There is a black-cab representative on the board of TfL. No cyclist or pedestrian reps per se. The trade itself is hostile to competition and TfL is afraid of upsetting it. Over-ranking on ranks that causes congestion is ignored by police and wardens. PCO is a joke.

  9. Gareth 05/04/2013 at 8:34 pm #

    I’ve reported dangerous bus driving once before and got a good response – an apology and an assurance that the driver would be spoken to about the incident, which I took to mean warned. I don’t, of course, know whether they did do that but I sort of trust that they did. I got a similar response when reporting a taxi who cut me up dangerously – they would issue words of advice sorry that this happened, not acceptable etc. Now that I’ve read comments here, I think I’m slightly less convinced that they followed up properly.

    With some of the more dangerous examples here, I’d go to the police though, I think, if I had all of the details of the vehicle. You generate some sort of action by doing that and, if I wasn’t satisfied with the response, I’d complain to the force. Of course, the flip side should be that, if you get a really good response from the police you should write to the force and praise them!

    • Gaz 05/04/2013 at 9:49 pm #

      Unfortunately without any witnesses or video footage, the police would not be able to do much. It will just be your word against theirs if they don’t fess up.

  10. Anon 14/04/2013 at 10:14 pm #

    A colleague was knocked off by a post office van which left the scene. Unfortunately despite having a witness the police did not prosecute as the post office could not tell who was driving at the time.

    Post office paid for the damage caused but colleague has had to have physio on his shoulder ever since.

  11. C. 14/10/2013 at 2:38 pm #

    I had a nasty “close call” last night (Sunday) at around midnight on an empty, large road in south london. I was streering clear of a series of pot holes so cycling in the middle of my lane as opposed to right up against the curb, which is clearly where this driver wanted me to be. So I hear this speeding car coming behind me, so I naturally headed back a little closer to the curb when he honked at me and attemped to overtake me at great speed level with an island. So I decided to stop as he was honking at me because it was clear that he was a dangerous driver, after noticing that I had stopped he slammed the breaks on and started screaming a slur of profanities at me, it was fairly clear that what he wanted was an argument so after 10-20 seconds of listening to his rubbish I decided to head on as I didnt feel safe there, he then sped right up again and pretty much headed for me leaving about 1.5 between the car and the curb to over take me level with the next island, this threw me off the road and my bike. I was left fairly unscathed, bent pedal, ripped handle bar tape and a scuff on my jeans but I dont feel comfortable with this driver out there. with no witnesses, registration plate or really even CCTV I fear that I have no hope in getting this reported..

    Just to set the scene; I had my lights on and regular clothing.

    Has anyone been in a similar position / have any advice?

  12. Lewismarshall 21/09/2014 at 4:22 am #

    Thanks for sharing this informative blog post with us, you have mentioned good tips on how to report bad driving. Thanks………….

Leave a Reply