OPINION: motorcyclists not keen on Operation Snap

08.20 | 14 June 2022 | | 13 comments

In this opinion piece, MAG’s Colin Brown explains why motorcyclists are not overly supportive of Operation Snap – instead favouring “greater roads policing by impartial police forces”.

I have been asked a couple of times now about Operation Snap, the generic name applied to the process allowing road users to submit video footage to the police of other road users committing offences on the roads.

It may seem logical to conclude that motorcyclists would be greatly in favour of this initiative. It is hardly unusual to hear riders discussing the SMIDSY response, complaining about drivers on mobile phones or the general poor standards of driving in the UK.

Of course, as we all know the natural tendency amongst most human beings is to claim that any incident was someone else’s fault. No matter what level of skill or training the other road user has, a collision it seems is always their fault.

Just listen to the Formula 1 drivers’ radio messages following collisions on the racetrack. You will generally see them automatically default to blaming even the undisputed current best driver in the world.

I personally have mixed feelings about Operation Snap. On one occasion when I expressed my concerns I managed to deeply upset someone from the cycling lobby. Whilst at the time my concerns were largely based on gut instinct rather than evidence, I explained to a group discussing the subject that I do not have helmet or bike mounted cameras and have no intention of getting them.

I explained that all my training as a motorcyclist focuses on taking responsibility for my own safety and ensuring that I don’t put myself at risk when someone else makes a mistake. The safest course of action is to assume everyone else is going to make a mistake or worse.

This has meant that I have developed a sixth sense that allows me to very often predict the ‘mistakes’ of other road users before they make them. Naturally I make sure, as a vulnerable road user, that I am not in the way when the mistake is made. My concern is that any desire to film another road user making the mistake could actually encourage me to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I was taken aback by the reaction this brought. His ire was based on the question – how can a cyclist possibly predict when a car is going to close pass? (I decided to avoid mentioning rear observation).

I had not been speaking from the position of any other road user, I had simply given my opinion based on my experience as a motorcyclist. I did not enter into the potential imbalance caused by the difficulties in identifying certain road user groups from video footage.

A short while later I had an opportunity to ask for data on what road user groups were submitting video evidence. I didn’t really expect an answer, but did get one. Please bear in mind that the figures were from one police force only, so I am not claiming an exhaustive study, but submissions from cyclists to this force outnumbered submissions from motorcyclists by a factor of 400.  I cannot see any evidence from casualty statistics to suggest that cyclists are exposed to 400 times more risk than motorcyclists, so I conclude that this differential must be the result of differences in attitude towards Operation Snap.

So, in my role as a representative voice for motorcyclists I have taken the time to ask riders opinions on the subject. It has to be said that in my straw pole of MAG members my gut instinct that riders are not overly supportive of the initiative was more than confirmed. The overriding opinion was that whilst footage may be of use in determining fault in an actual collision, there was little will to start seeking convictions for other road users’ poor behaviour.

Greater roads policing by impartial police forces receives far more support than anything with potential for mild vigilantism.

So, will Operation Snap have a big impact on road safety? I suspect not. I will certainly not complain if it does make drivers more mindful, but I think motorcyclists would prefer that the serenity prayer be written into the Highway Code.

Motorcyclists’ lack of interest in Operation Snap is perhaps a demonstration of their wisdom in knowing the difference between the things that, as individuals, they can change and the things they cannot.



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    I think we’re done here……..

    Elaine Hardy, Belfast
    Agree (1) | Disagree (0)

    Thank you for you opinion Elaine.

    My comment wasn’t sarcastic, it was merely outlining the third of a number of scenarios. And frankly, if I did own a motorbike, lost the keys and arrived with an angle-grinder to remove the padlock, I would be delighted to find the police arriving to inquire as to my motives. And as for the person informing them I would be quite grateful also. After all I might not have been me but someone with ulterior motives.

    And yes, I also am a “bloke” from “Cheshire”. Does that give you a problem? But I have never met Hugh, so I am not sure I could call him a “mate”.

    And as for noseying at your website – not me. But there are a lot of people in Cheshire.

    Rod King, Lymm
    Agree (3) | Disagree (3)

    Hi Hugh, I didn’t move any goal posts, your mate did. Seems that you blokes don’t like being challenged. I note that somebody from Cheshire has been having a nosey at my website (having trouble sleeping?)- If it was you, I hope you have seen that I have the experience and knowledge to comment on road safety matters.

    Once again, I repeat for the fourth time…. I gave my opinion, as did Colin Brown on behalf of the members of his organisation. Simply I do not agree that sending countless videos of road users who may or may not have behaved inappropriately on the road, will improve road safety – that’s all. That does not entitle other commentators to make accusations and be sarcastic, that’s just bad form.

    I think we’re done here.

    Elaine Hardy, Belfast
    Agree (5) | Disagree (2)

    Neat job of moving the goal-posts Elaine!

    Having re-read your earlier comments on this subect which, if I may say so, had a rather disparaging and condescending tone, I think Rod King’s comments entirely appropriate and proportional.

    As I know from the past on this news feed, you are a keen road safety researcher yourself, why don’t you, or even the gentleman from MAG, contact some Police forces direct to see what they think of Operation Snap to see if they agree with you. If it is, as you say, too much work for them, why are they still inviting videos to be sent in by “concerned citizens”?

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
    Agree (3) | Disagree (4)

    Well! Handbags at dawn Rod King. You have completely misunderstood, missed the point, didn’t read the article, whatever.

    As I wrote: “working with many police forces over the years, I understand that there is a lack of traffic officers who should be out there doing their job and not having to rely on somebody sending a video, then having to spend hours go through all the ones sent by the “concerned citizen”. That is an onerous task that takes up a lot of time which our police forces simply do not have”.

    Reference your views
    1) Fly tipping is not a road safety issue in this context (unless it was tipped in the middle of the road)
    2) If a scammer texts you asking for money. That’s something you should report to your bank, who have dedicated employees to deal with these situations – not the police. But again, that is not a road safety issue and once again, it’s not the point!

    You sarcastic comment about an “expensive” MC parked and potential thief who arrives to steal it, is in fact a crime. It certainly needs to be reported but that is not a road safety issue. To make my point – as a scenario – If that person merely lost his/her keys and had no choice but to grind off lock/chain and you being the good citizen, rather than confront the “thief” to determine what he/she was doing, you reported him/her to the police, the police turn up and based on your information, arrest the bloke. Would you leave your details so that he/she can sue you for malicious intent?

    As I previously wrote, everybody is entitled to an opinion. I do not believe that arming every motorist with a camera necessarily helps the police considering the time needed to view all the videos sent it. I also explained that there are certain scenarios where recording an event is helpful. But, wouldn’t it be far better if everybody respected the law in the first place?

    Elaine Hardy, Belfast
    Agree (5) | Disagree (1)

    No-one using a dashcam or headcam is “determining” whether someone is breaking the law, merely presenting some media footage for the police to use. It is the police who determine whether the footage is actual “evidence” and whether it constitutes evidence of a law being broken.

    ” Why should anybody want to do the police’s work for them?”

    Well the police actually work for the community. So as a member of the community, me helping the police is also helping the community. If when walking I see someone unloading a van and fly-tipping the contents at the side of the road would it really be wrong to take a note of the van’s registration.

    And when I get a text scam asking me to log on to my bank account to receive some money, should I just accept that its a scam and move on leaving the scammer to fool other people or should I report it.

    And how about seeing an expensive motorbike parked and a someone arrives with a angle-grinder to modify the lock. Call the police? Of course not. Just assume its a “pretty decent, law-abiding” member of MAG or BMF who has merely lost their keys. No need to call the police at all.

    Rod King, Lymm
    Agree (3) | Disagree (4)

    As marked police vehicles have a calming and deterrent effect on those road users in their immediate vicinity, perhaps camera-equipped private vehicles should display prominent stickers – especially at the rear (such as “Cameras Onboard” or even “You’re being filmed!”) to deter tailgaters and those about to consider a risky overtake.

    Overall, I think in years to come, looking back, Operation Snap will be seen as a significant road safety improvement tool by helping getting the irresponsible, collision-causing riders/drivers off the road, where they belong.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
    Agree (2) | Disagree (2)

    I would have thought that commenting on an article is to offer an opinion, not point the finger and make rather serious accusations. Colin Brown has given his view as representative of a motorcycling organisation, others have also given their opinions, (including myself) according to their interests and perspectives.

    Any road user is obliged under the law to respect the rules and regulations of the road and of course,other users. It’s that simple. Any offender faces the force of the law if he/she abuses this fundamental principle.

    It is not the role of any of us (apart from the police) to determine who is or is not breaking the law. The issue with becoming a snoop society is that we then end up taking on the role of the police. As I previously wrote – certainly in the case of an incident, it makes sense to video the event. But to deliberately set out to use cameras to monitor other road users? Really?

    BTW, working with many police forces over the years, I understand that there is a lack of traffic officers who should be out there doing their job and not having to rely on somebody sending a video, then having to spend hours go through all the ones sent by the “concerned citizen”. That is an onerous task that takes up a lot of time which our police forces simply do not have.

    Regards the accusation that the motorcyclists who are members of the Motorcycle Action Group don’t like a system that detects them from breaking the law, SteveC is clearly demonstrating his ignorance about the organisation, which like the British Motorcyclists Federation, is made up of pretty decent, law abiding people. As their representative Colin Brown offered his and their opinion and that is his right.

    Perhaps SteveC should take a hint and possibly explain to his ilk that just because you have an opinion, it doesn’t make you a bad person or a law breaker. Hmmmm?

    Elaine Hardy, Belfast
    Agree (6) | Disagree (3)

    Hmmmm! Motorcyclists don’t like a system that increases the likelihood of being detected in a non-compliant or law breaking situation on the road…but prefer a system (police officer enforcement) that has an infinitely smaller probability that it will be deployed and present when unacceptable driving is used.
    It is not news, a surprise or novel.
    Working with many police forces, I have yet to meet officers from a police area that vary from complete impartiality. Being impartial is not exclusive to police officers, automatic cameras and those cameras operated by dashcam users are largely or almost absolutely impartial until they encounter something worth reporting. Drive in a way that is worth reporting and you may be reported.
    If we rely only on road traffic or any other police officer enforcement, the chance of detection is, as explained above, very small, perhaps disappearing to an insignificant probability. No surprise therefore that Colin Brown is hedging his group towards a system that allows them to drive how they want to and with little possibility of apprehension. Preferring a chat with a real officer who, it is perceived, may just let them off after some opportune negotiation.
    Colin Brown could perhaps encourage his members to drive in a way that causes them absolutely no concern with enforcement, whenever and in whatever form it is encountered, but we know he will not do that.
    No need to wonder why I would say.

    SteveC, Carlisle
    Agree (3) | Disagree (11)

    Differing attitudes towards Op Snap between cyclists and motorcyclists are not surprising. The opinion piece illustrates a lack of understanding of the experience of everyday cycling on todays roads. Put simply motorcyclists do not face the same issues as cyclists so have less need of Op Snap.

    Many drivers attitudes and behaviour towards cyclists are based upon misinformation and a belief that cyclists should not be on the road. Drivers understand that motorcyclists pay fuel duty and VED so treat them as equals, whilst also equating speed with importance and priority.

    No amount of rear observation will convince some drivers that cyclists have a right to use the road, let alone be passed in a safe manner. No road position or action adopted by cyclists will stop drivers who are determined to deploy ‘punishment passes’.

    This will not change until there is widespread understanding and education of how roads are funded and the ‘but cyclists don’t pay road tax’ myth is finally busted.

    Regarding training, Bikeability also trains cyclists to take responsibility for their own safety and to pass parked cars at a distance to avoid being ‘dooored’. The anticipation of danger that the author mentions is often the very root cause of anger from motorists towards cyclists. Motorcyclists should also be riding in this position but as they are more likely to be riding at the same speed of cars do not incur the wrath of motorists who do not need to overtake them.

    The article alludes to an imbalance in identifying certain road user groups. If there is an imbalance anywhere it is between the KSI’s caused by the the different modes. West Midlands Police said it best “Offending cyclists are an irritant, offending motorists are deadly’

    Matthew McDonald, Exeter
    Agree (4) | Disagree (4)

    As a long-standing road danger reduction PR and marketing specialist, I’m hugely encouraged by the fact 1 in 7 cars now has a dashcam fitted. Add those to the many cyclists wearing headcams and larger vehicles with recording devices fitted, and the chances of us being filmed each time we use the roads are high.
    From a marketing perspective, this gives us an excellent opportunity to deter road users from committing offences and reduce the shocking number of road deaths and injuries that still occur on our roads.
    The police can’t be everywhere – but another road user, with a dash cam, can. As marketing professionals in the industry, we should spread this message of deterrence far and wide and publicise as many successful Operation Snap convictions as possible. As always, communication is key in encouraging behaviour change.

    Rebecca Morris, Loughborough
    Agree (6) | Disagree (1)

    The country is awash with CCTV and road cameras on major roads. Why should anybody want to do the police’s work for them? Except maybe those that have nothing better to do than spend their days filming other road users (and possibly endangering lives by doing so).

    Certainly we can and should use our mobile phones to video events in cases where there is a crash, why not?

    But to set out to film “life in the fast lane” as a matter of course, is just the next step towards a request from the police to have cameras mounted on our houses so that we can grass on the neighbours.

    If the police do not have the resources to do their job, then that is an issue for government, not the public and I am frankly concerned that the police would even ask.

    Elaine Hardy, Belfast
    Agree (9) | Disagree (9)

    I have a camera fixed to my helmet, and I also have one in each of me and my partners cars. I have only ever once sent a video clip to the police, and that was of a car driver who drove over a pavement (to get around me on my bike stopped at a red light) and went on to drive through a very red traffic light forcing oncoming traffic to stop. This resulted in the owner of the vehicle given a verbal warning because it couldn’t be confirmed who was driving at the time.
    The main reason I use the camera is to show what has happened in the event of an accident. With regards to my car, this proved useful when another driver hit my car and drove off, then denied it happened, then said he was stationary and I was moving. The video footage told a very different story. I ride my motorbike conservatively, so as of yet I have not had an accident.
    Nether of the video clips mentioned above are available publicly.
    When I watch some of these video clips online, I often find a tendency of the driver of the video car to drive more aggressively, or not follow rules of the road themselves and almost create the issue with the other vehicles.
    I support the use of cameras for insurance purposes, but I don’t really like using them to catch other road users out, and I’m not really sure that the system works anyway.

    Dazza, West London
    Agree (8) | Disagree (3)

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