West Midlands Police has launched a new initiative to actively target motorists who ignore Highway Code rules on overtaking cyclists.
The operation, which was first trialled last month, will see police officers saddle up on some of the region’s busiest routes looking out for motorists who do not leave the required space when passing cyclists.
The officers on bicycles will pass on details of any offending driver to in-car colleagues to intercept at a designated holding point, where they will be offered educational input on safe overtaking.
Repeat offenders, or anyone deemed to have driven dangerously close to a cyclist, will be prosecuted and taken to court.
The Highway Code states that drivers should allow vulnerable road users as much room as they would a car when overtaking.
In June, the Evening Standard reported that the Government is considering introducing legislation requiring motorists to give a minimum passing distance when overtaking cyclists.
It was a move criticised by the RAC, who said the legislation would be both ‘unworkable and unenforceable’.
PC Mark Hodson, West Midlands Police traffic officer and cyclist, said: "As a police force we must do our upmost to protect vulnerable road users and show that anyone who puts them in danger through poor driving will be dealt with.
"Cyclists may suddenly need to avoid uneven road surfaces or obstacles like drain covers so it’s important to afford them plenty of room when overtaking.
"We know through our work with the Birmingham Cycle forum that close passing is the single biggest deterrent stopping more people from taking to their bikes.
"Some drivers get tunnel vision; they’re only focus is on getting from A to B as quickly as possible. They don’t pay any attention to vulnerable road users and we’ve attended some horrific scenes where cyclists have been wiped out by drivers who’ve not even seen them.
"Drivers need to consider that a cyclist they are overtaking could be a police officer – and if they don’t pass them safely they could be prosecuted.”
The West Midlands Police initiative has been enthusiastically supported by the lobby group Cycling UK, who describe it as ‘the best cyclist safety initiative by any police force, ever’.
In an article published today (16 Sept), Cycling UK (formerly CTC) says West Midlands is the first force in the country to ‘commit to a bold and intelligence-led enforcement operation to protect vulnerable road users’.
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s senior road safety campaigner, said: “Cyclists have been campaigning about close passes for years, with limited success. The priority given to tackling close passes, and the appreciation of the danger they present for cyclists, has varied between police forces.
“This is the first time a police force has come forward with a plan to prioritise enforcement against close pass drivers. It is quite simply the best cyclist safety initiative by any police force, ever.
“West Midlands Police plan to combine enforcement and education to make sure drivers get the message that cyclists need space when being overtaken, and those who don’t give them space risk prosecution for careless driving.
“It is a simple but effective way to combat a long-standing concern and we hope other police forces around the country will follow their ingenious lead.”