Police to ‘actively target’ close passing motorists

12.00 | 16 September 2016 | | 6 comments

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.”



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    So whilst we are talking about simple safe distances between cyclists and all other road users why not extend that to tailgating distances between other motorised vehicles. As yet there is no police force bothered by the legisation that makes it an offence. Maybe that’s because they haven’t yet had guidance as to what may constitute such an offence. I will start with let’s say not giving sufficient distance behind another vehicle where one cannot guarantee stopping in the event of an accident or other emergency. If and when the vehicle in front suddenly and unexpectedly slows and or stops with or without the showing of brake lights.

    Last week on a dual carriageway I saw two HGVs travelling at their max speed of say 60 mph and the rear one was only 15ft behind the leading one. It doesn’t need any understanding of the law to know that it’s completely wrong and bonkers to allow that sort of driving on our roads. In accidents it’s considered that a contributory factor of tailgating was present in 7% of all recorded collisions.

    Bob Craven Lancs.
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Let’s not miss the spirit of this exercise. It is aimed to get drivers to think outside the comfort of their cars and to consider vulnerable road users a little more. I think the key to this is patience – waiting for the right safe time to overtake. The cost of waiting a few seconds could save the cost of a life.

    Simon InsureTheBox London
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Will a cyclist be expected to give 1.5 metres when undertaking vehicle? I think not. Unless of course they mount the pavement!

    Peter, City of Westminster
    Agree (0) | Disagree (1)

    Why is it always the motorist at fault, many cycling clubs ride 3 or 4 abreast, also all cyclists should wear protective head gear. Motorcyclists have to.

    David Worcester
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Passing too close can be symptomatic of a bad attitude generally, so an exercise like this could be a good way of targeting and improving driver behaviour generally and not just with regard to one particular vulnerable road user.

    The maxim “if in doubt…don’t!” applies to a driver contemplating any hazardous manouvere and not just passing a cyclist. If you can’t pass wide – wait until you can. It does require self-discipline and patience which unfortunately do seem to be lacking amongst too many motorists.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    I do applaude the police for addressing this issue but in the scheme of things is this a perceived risk or not? Has it resulted in KSIs to the same degree of conflict with HGVs?
    The Highway Code states that drivers should allow vulnerable road users as much room as they would a car when overtaking. “Anyone encroaching inside that safe passing distance, widely considered to be a minimum of 1.5 metres, runs the risk of being prosecuted for driving without due care and attention.” One of the basic techniques in persuasion and propaganda is the implication that the concept is accepted by the majority. Apparently the distance is widely considered but by whom? Ok, so it is down to the driver to determine. The gap given when overtaking a car will depend on many factors, width of road, speeds of vehicles, weather, road surface conditions, volumes of traffic etc. In slow moving traffic in an urban area one could argue a metre is sufficient! On a rural road at 60 mph 2 metres may well be insufficient. It may even be that the driver is also a cyclist or has had altercations with cyclists earlier on on the journey!

    It would be interesting to read the guidance given to those officers on bicycles and even to find out the qualifications and experiences of the author(s). I hope the police officers actually riding can use their experiences and judgement and recognise that some days 1 metre is enough and others when it is not. Do I now need cameras pointing in all directions from my vehicle with calibrated distances? DISCUSS

    Peter City of Westminster
    Agree (0) | Disagree (1)

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