How to request CCTV from Dublin Bus using GDPR

Making a complaint to Dublin Bus or another vehicle operator can be enhanced with a request for the CCTV footage. This is your right under GDPR.

In early August on my way home from work, I was travelling down the Drumcondra Road towards the city. It was a nice evening during the summer heat wave, with a few not totally untypical hazards up ahead. A taxi stopped in the bus lane beside a bus stop and a bin truck parked in the cycle lane. I lined myself up to go past the expecting minimal problem, when suddenly the Dublin bus that was following behind me, passed with speed with the bus whooshing past including the side mirror.

For me, this was too close. I’ve been cycling this route for a year now and I’m well used to the challenges that are faced are various points along it. Interacting with buses is fairly common as there are sections with no cycling provision that make you cycling in bus lanes, or beside bus lanes with on road cycle lanes, and off road cycles tracks, to just being in general traffic lanes. I have made 1 complaint along this route before that was out beyond Santry on the 60kph section and noted some others along the Drumcondra Road, but this was too close of an overtake to let slide.

Interestingly, as the driver goes past me, the pedestrian lights change to red. I get to stop along side the bus and ask with a gesture why?. He gestures back, which looks the typical answers of, there’s plenty of room or suggesting that I should be over to the left out of the way. Realisitcally, how was I going to get anything meaningful out of the driver anyway. This whole mixing cyclists with buses is just plain crazy anyway.

Making the complaint

So, I decided to raise this as a complaint to Dublin Bus. I noted the details of the incident as the date 2nd of August 2018 and the time 18:25, bus details 41b, registration 06dxxxx and the direction heading towards the city along the Drumcondra Road Lower and location outside DCU. I sent this to their email customer.comment@dublinbus.ie along with raising the points needed. Giving these key details is crucial to making it easy to trace down the event amongst all the buses in all the city across all the days. It’s also important to note what you were doing at the time and what you look like. In my case, a person on a bicycle wearing a pink shirt.

This time, to make it different, I decided to ask for the CCTV footage under the GDPR rules which allows you to ask a Data Controller of any organisation for the footage. Under those rules, they must respond within 30 days to your request. As I found out, Dublin Bus is very good at responding to these requests. They churn out these requests all day every day, typically for the Gardai, but also for crash investigations, and concerns from members of the public. That’s a right that we have these days, made stronger by GDPR not just to ask of Dublin Bus, but to anyone that operates CCTV.

In the case of Dublin Bus, they are also required by contract from the NTA to hold a minimum of 4 days CCTV, then it can be overwritten. It may be slightly longer for some of the newer buses, so be quick in putting in your complaint and request to ensure that it is processed in time.

Very quickly after sending the email, I get a standard response from Dublin Bus acknowledging my email and giving me a case reference. A few days later, I get a follow up email outlined below. This is the same response that is given everytime a complaint is made, however the difference this time, is the short paragraph about the CCTV request. Here it is for comparison to any replies you might get in the future from Dublin Bus. It would be nice if it was a bit more personal.

Dear Mr. Byrne,

Thank you for your email regarding our driver on route 41B, 2nd August 2018.

We apologise for the inconvenience this has caused to you.

The safety of our customers, staff, pedestrians and other road users is our primary concern. We are committed to the highest standards of safety and our Safety Manager monitors and reviews all practices to ensure we provide a safe and efficient service across the network. It is compulsory for all our drivers to attend the annual Road Safety Authority approved Certificate of Professional Competence.

All reports regarding unsafe driving are taken very seriously and investigated thoroughly. From the information you have provided me with I have been able to identify the driver involved. Management here in Summerhill will be interviewing the driver regarding this incident and whatever action is deemed necessary to prevent a recurrence will be taken.

Regarding a copy of the CCTV I have passed your correspondence onto our Data Protection Department who will revert back to you in due course.

We appreciate our customers letting us know if they have experienced an issue with our services and thank you again for bringing this matter to our attention.

Regards,

Within a day of getting that response, the Data Protection Officer get’s in touch to assure me that the footage is being prepared, but must know how I would like to receive the video. The choice is, 

Dear Mr Byrne,

I refer to your email of 2 August regarding accessing CCTV footage of an incident, which occurred that same evening, under the Data Protection Acts 1988/2003/2018 and the General Data Protection Regulation. I will commence your request now and will have it completed before the legal deadline of Saturday 1 September. Please be aware that, in compliance with Irish and EU Data Protection legislation, all personal data relating to third parties within the footage will be pixilated.

When your request is ready, I will contact you to arrange a method of delivery of the footage which will be issued on a USB stick. If you wish, I can have the USB issued to you via registered post. However, in adherence with Data Protection legislation, the footage will only be released to you upon the production of identification that includes a photo and signature e.g. driving licence or passport. In this instance, I will request that you please mail a scan of either your driving licence or passport to this email address.

Alternatively, you can choose to collect the footage in person and I will arrange a date and time that suits you to collect the USB stick from Dublin Bus, O’Connell Street. When collecting your footage, please bring identification that includes a photo and signature e.g. driving licence or passport.

If you have any further queries, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly.

Kind regards,

I opted to turn up at the O’Connell Street office, but I didn’t do that until very recently due to being quite busy during weekday business hours. The great thing was, the video was ready well within the 30 days and available for collection whenever I got a chance to pop in.

When I went to pick it up, I simply sent an email before hand, admittedly at short notice as it was on the morning of the day I knew I would have time. Thankfully I got a reply promptly advising that it was ok in the afternoon. I went to the customer service desk who then made a quick call to the Data Protection Officer. They popped down with all the details along with a form to sign for their records and verified that I was who I said I was and I was the same person in the video. I must say, a very nice person to deal with and really made the whole process straight forward.

Viewing the details

Loaded on a brand new USB key were two videos from two of the cameras on the bus. One front facing observing the road, the other side facing from the bus drivers seat which can see out the glass doors, but is more for when people get on or off the bus.

The video has a lot of pixelation to obscure any person or car registration for privacy concerns for third parties. There is just about enough to observe some of the other details around to understand the road layout, etc.

To watch the footage from the Dublin Bus perspective is very interesting. I can assure you that this was a close enough pass that I felt strongly enough to make a complaint. It’s curious to see that anyone looking at this video might think that this doesn’t look too bad. However, I assure you this was bad enough, also I don’t know why the GPS info isn’t available on the video as it shows “NO GPS LOCK”. I was expecting the speed of the vehicle to be overlayed on the video.

The bus is from 2006 and the CCTV equipment is not as good as the newer buses. There is only 2-3 frames captured each second, where the the newer buses capture much more frames a second which makes viewing much smoother and gives a better understanding of what is happening.

Recently I spotted a Dublin Bus kitted out with extra cameras and a few official personnel on board monitoring the cameras in real time and making notes. It might be how driver training is happening these days or Dublin Bus is researching the placement of cameras to get a better understanding of where people are around their buses and what’s too close, or too risky. I really do hope they add more cameras to the side of their buses. I have noted that some of the newer buses have better placed cameras.

Other opportunities

There’s a great opportunity in requesting CCTV footage for your incident from Dublin Bus. It helps raise awareness both within and outside the organisation and if you have footage yourself, to also share this with Dublin Bus. It can help tell the story from the different perspectives and work towards a better understanding and improved training for bus drivers.

It’s a next step to request the same from Aircoach, Bus Eireann, other coach operators and anyone else that uses CCTV, e.g. construction trucks such as Kilsaran Cement and an increasing number of HGV operators. I’m sure you have had some notable incidents while out on your bicycle or even on foot that are worth following up on.

In November 2014 a Dublin Bus driver struck Mary White while she was cycling her bicycle on Burlington Road. She was wearing hi-viz and a helmet, but it’s important to note that putting priority focus on PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) for cycling safety is a distraction from the more beneficial actions of creating a safe space for cycling.

Since that incident Dublin Bus has improved its training and created a new educational video called “The Urban Jungle”. It now forms the basis of driver training along with the required CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence) that all drivers of buses and HGVs must complete.

Conclusion

Making a complaint to Dublin Bus and asking for CCTV is straight forward but might not be easy with other companies. I dislike making complaints, as it takes a bit of time to put it together and follow it up, not to mention reliving these episodes again. However, it is a necessary proponent for change and raising awareness.

If you find yourself making a complaint at some point in the future, consider requesting the CCTV footage as per GDPR rules. You can use the info above to help make your complaint, understand what to expect and deal with any push back or fob off that the company may give you.

If you are willing to share your experiences, I would really like to hear them, including seeing any footage you get back from such requests. It’s a tactic in improving the interactions between cyclists and other vehicles. In my case, It may not be damning evidence, but it helps to understand what the people on the other side see and may even explain why things have been slow to change. You’re incident may be similar or worse but could look quite different to them from the inside looking out.

I’m hoping that CCTV equipment used on vehicles improves, become widespread and are mounted to better show the proximity to vulnerable road users along with the speed of the vehicle. More HGVs are using CCTV as a driver aid to show blind zones within the cab and to help with insurance fraud.

I would also prefer to see where we don’t mix cyclists with buses and where cycle lanes are easy and attractive to use. They must not be easy to park in, especially just for five minutes. I hope a lot more of the cycling environment becomes safe for people of all ages and abilities to cycle in and doesn’t scare them off with daunting experiences by mixing them with faster and bigger moving vehicles.

I’m looking forward to the Bus Connects infrastructure consultation that will be launched very soon. It will redesign many of the key routes in Dublin City to allow for better bus and cyclist movements. I do hope we see quality improvements on key elements such as placing good quality seperated space with buffer from bus lanes, and a focus on not mixing cyclists with pedestrians at bus stops and junctions.

It’s also important to note the need to for MPDL (Mandatory Passing Distance Legislation) which helps raise awareness of the need to give space to cyclists when overtaking. It would make a clear disincentive through enforcement of this law that would make big difference particularly on higher speed roads of 50kph and above. You can find out more about the great work of Philip Skelton on StayinAliveAt1.5.

 

Examples of mounted cameras on vehicles spotted on 1 morning in October 2018 in Dublin

 

Bus drivers in Cariacica, Brazil experiencing what it feels like to to be passed close by a bus while on a bicycle. It’s not known if Dublin Bus use this method to show drivers what it feels like to be passed close at speed by a bus. 

 

 

I advocate for cycling and currently heading up the DLR Cycling Advocacy Group. Former chair of the Dublin Cycling Campaign and part of Cyclist.ie. I typically use Dutch Bikes, Electric Bikes and occasionally cargo bikes.

8 Comments

  1. Hi Keith excellent article. Very informative and balanced. Especially like the Brazilian video.

  2. I don’t like the Brazilian video to be honest. The bus drivers temporarily pretending to be cyclists seem to be treating it more like a funfair ride, which is understandable since they know they are completely safe. I wonder how they’d react if they weren’t locked in place.

  3. Where is your helmet?? I know its not a legal requirement. But in my opinion a bit foolish especially for an experienced cyclist negotiating Dubl
    in streets

  4. Excellent piece. Well done.

  5. @Mark, I used to wear a helmet, but I have no faith in the effectiveness. I don’t believe they are as effective as perceived. My helmet is at home in better use as a hanging basket.

    @Eric, it’s unfortunate that appears to be the case, and I do hope those people didn’t take away from the experience that it was a joking matter.

    Thanks all otherwise.

  6. Excellent and informative article, thanks.

    Re helmets – I’ve commuted and raced for 40 years and I always wear one and my ability to read and comment on this article is a testament to their effectiveness. But up to you ultimately.

  7. Excellent article and a lovely bike!

  8. Great read!

    A compact version of the steps to follow would be great. Something like:
    * get in touch quickly before footage is cycled out and erased
    * make sure to state this is a GDPR request
    * state exactly the time, date and location of the footage (including bus reg/number if you can)
    * give identifying details of yourself in the footage to verify its you

    Anything else?

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