Undercover police ride bicycles and don Lycra to catch dangerous drivers

Cyclist faces prosecution after reporting driver for using a phone behind the wheel

Tables turned on do-gooder by police — despite law against phone use while driving

A cyclist who caught a Range Rover driver using his phone behind the wheel faces prosecution after police said he was breaking the law.

After Dave Clifton, 56, videoed the motorist holding a mobile phone while driving through Belgravia, London, he submitted his helmet cam footage to the police.

However, Clifton was informed that he would be charged with riding a cycle on the road without due care and attention, as the police believed the footage showed he was riding on the wrong side of the road — a claim Clifton denies.

The driver of the Range Rover has reportedly received a police “advisory letter”, but according to The Standard newspaper will not face criminal charges.

That’s despite Clifton’s video reportedly showing clearly that the driver was using his handheld phone while in slow-moving traffic. The law was changed in 2017 to double penalties for such offences, and now attracts six points on a driving licence and a £200 fine. Those who passed their driving test less than two years before the offence face losing their licence altogether.

Cyclist performed u-turn to capture footage

In the video, Mr Clifton was riding his bicycle along Pont Street in Belgravia on the afternoon of August 22, 2023 when he spotted the Range Rover driver passing in the opposite direction.

The cyclist performed a u-turn to capture the footage of the driver using his handheld phone, it was reported.

Natasha Springford, a Metropolitan Police staff member, said Clifton was riding “in the middle of the road” and was “very close to the Range Rover on the opposite side of the road while a motorcyclist was oncoming with a passenger.”

She also said the motorcyclist was forced to “ride in between the cyclist… and the Range Rover.”

Clifton argued that the police accusations are unfounded, particularly as there are no road markings on that part of the street, and described the allegation as “malicious”.

He added that he will refute the charge during the trial at Lavender Hill magistrates court next month, telling The Standard: “The ‘other side of the road’ doesn’t begin wherever my accuser wants it to begin. This is a ludicrous allegation.

“The police have ignored the filtering motorcyclist and the driver using a mobile phone, and have chosen to prosecute me. This seems to be malicious.”

Is this the same Dave Clifton?

This is not the first time someone by the name of Dave Clifton from south-west London has made headlines for capturing drivers on a helmet cam. In 2018, a Wimbledon-based IT consultant called Dave Clifton published a video of a man driving a stolen Audi on false number plates on his YouTube channel, MrClifcam. The footage resulted in the driver being named, with police calling for information from the public.

The YouTube channel features videos of both drivers and cyclists using mobile phones or otherwise breaking the rules of the road.

It’s unclear if this is the Dave Clifton who is being prosecuted this year, as the Range Rover video is not listed on the MrClifcam channel, though for legal reasons it may have been removed while the case is in court. The Standard’s news story from August 2018 puts Clifton at 50, suggesting they could be one and the same person.

Taxi drivers on the lookout for ‘vigilante cyclists’

So-called ‘vigilante’ footage has split opinion, with some claiming dash cam and helmet camera users are trying to catch out drivers, while others applaud the work of those exposing dangerous drivers.

Such is the prevalence in such video submissions to the police that the general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, Steve McNamara, called on taxi drivers to be on the lookout for “vigilante cyclists”. The issue is particularly fraught for taxi drivers, who will have their taxi licence revoked if caught using a handheld mobile phone behind the wheel.

Speaking to The Telegraph, McNamara queried whether police would take context into account when deciding on punishments.

“We’ve come to a penalty points system where someone driving at 70mph while texting with the phone on your lap, is given the same punishment as a cab driver looking at their phone while stuck in 40 minutes of traffic on the Euston Road,” he said.

“Yes, I fully accept they have broken the law, but is it the same, and should they lose their livelihood?”

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