Last year Southwark cyclists came up with the Fumin' Pad: a slim Velcro-backed pad of Post-It notes for the bars of your bike.1 If you spotted a smoky exhaust, you made a note of the registration, and rang the smoky vehicle hotline when you got home.
Great idea, but the problems motor vehicles cause are not confined to excessive air pollution. Web aware London cyclists have come up with a proposal to take the project a stage further: by linking a Fumin' Pad database to the internet. Users report any incident in which a motor vehicle offended them using a web browser, then we complain on your behalf.
The kinds of incidents reported will depend on those using the system. As well as smoky diesels we envisage people will want to give feedback to the drivers of motor vehicles driven with excessive speed, or without regard for other road users. They may also wish to report unroadworthy vehicles, for example, if their lights are not working.
I envisage the database being completely public. Anyone will be able to search to see if a motor vehicle has been previously entered on the database, information that may be useful to legal representatives of those killed or injured in crashes. Anyone will be able to volunteer to enter data on the database, but we will validate their status in advance, issue unique passwords, and use secure servers. As the system would be legally vulnerable if vexatious or untrue entries were made on the database, volunteers must understand that when they use the database they are "on oath" and be prepared to defend any statement that they make in a court of law. The entry will be structured in order to facilitate this.
Smoky diesels and incorrectly parked vehicles will be reported to the appropriate local authority. Dangerously driven vehicles will be reported to the police. Commercial vehicles in either category will be additionally reported to the management of the company concerned.
Information to support the complaints process: relevant telephone numbers, addresses, and so on, will be made available. Additionally, written complaints will be generated from the database itself. The database will track progress with each complaint. Plainly, with current driving standards, a very large amount of information could be gathered in a very short space of time. If this is so, we will concentrate our efforts on vehicles which appear to be involved in multiple incidents.
Revised 9 February 2000NB The Estonians have beaten us to it.
1 Campaign News. London Cyclist 1998;June/July:p5Back to becoming a geek.