Merseyside has become the latest area where a ‘close pass’ initiative has been introduced in order to better protect the region’s cyclists.
Launched on 21 July, Operation Safe Pass has been introduced by the Merseyside Road Safety Partnership’s safer roads team with the aim of educating drivers about the minimum space needed when overtaking cyclists.
The Highway Code stipulates that motorists should give cyclists at least the same distance as vehicles when overtaking, generally considered to be a minimum of 1.5 metres. Anyone encroaching within the safe passing distance runs the risk of being prosecuted for driving without due care and attention.
Under the ‘close pass’ scheme, first developed by West Midlands Police in 2016, plain-clothed police officers saddle up to identify motorists who do not leave the required space when passing cyclists.
The officers on bicycles pass on details of offending drivers to in-car colleagues who intercept them at a designated holding point.
Other areas of the country where a close pass initiative has been introduced include:
- North East – spearheaded by Road Safety GB NE (July 2017)
- Avon and Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire Police (June 2017)
- North Yorkshire – Operation Spartan (May 2017)
The Merseyside partnership’s first day of operations took place in Southport with a total of 21 motorists pulled over in a three-hour period.
A cycling mat was used to explain passing distances, with leaflets handed out to passing members of the public and cyclists.
Jane Kennedy, Merseyside’s police commissioner, said: “Since 2010 Merseyside has witnessed an increase in the number of people killed or seriously injured on its roads.
“This operation is designed to better educate drivers so they are aware of the space they need to allocate when passing cyclists, but it also carries with it a deterrent – those who continue to flout the law will be prosecuted.
Sergeant Ian McPhail, Merseyside Road Safety Partnership, said: “We know that the failure by some drivers to give cyclists sufficient space when overtaking is a significant factor in why people are put off from using bikes.
“Drivers need to be aware that by passing a cyclist too closely they are putting an individual in danger. I want to get the message out ‘pass safer, not closer’”.