Police hail success of ‘close pass’ initiative

12.00 | 16 January 2017 | | 5 comments

West Midlands Police say there has been a 50% drop in poor overtaking of cyclists by drivers since the launch of Operation Close Pass in September 2016 (road.cc).

Under Operation Close Pass, police officers cycle along 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 pass details of any offending driver to in-car colleagues who intercept at a designated holding point, where they give out advice and instruction on safe overtaking.

Repeat offenders and anyone deemed to have driven dangerously close to a cyclist – around 1% of those stopped to date under the initiative – face prosecution.

The Highway Code states that drivers should allow vulnerable road users as much room as they would a car when overtaking.

Operation Close Pass has been described as the ‘best cyclist road safety initiative ever’ by Cycling UK, and the Road Danger Reduction Forum presented West Midlands Police with an award last year, describing the initiative as ‘the highlight of 2016’.

In a blog published last week, West Midlands Police said: “The numbers of close pass due care offences we receive have dropped by about 50% since the #GiveSpaceBeSafe initiative took effect on our regions roads.

“Within a week cyclists were contacting us to tell us things had had not only improved, but improved considerably.”

Third party camera footage is also being accepted as evidence by West Midlands Police, and the force is launching a digital reporting portal to make it easier for people to submit footage.

Speaking at the time of the launch of Operation Close Pass, 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.

"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.”


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    I contacted the Force that created this Operation and in response to my enquiry it was stated that some 150 drivers stopped were spoken to over several days of the operation. 9 drivers were reported for road traffic offences but not admitted that they were relative to the Operation but otherwise general offences. No drivers were reported for the offence of S3 RTA.

    The distance of 1.5 meters was an arbitrary one derived one from the Highway Code where it advises a distance an overtaking car should be whilst overtaking a parked car. That being considered to be the width of a car door when opened. That said many drivers pass parked vehicles not being or giving that distance. This may be due to a number of circumstances. Some maybe due to the width of the road and some because of oncoming traffic, not driving over the central line etc. so should they also then be considered to be driving without due and attention under those circumstances.

    Each prosecution has to be taken on its own merit as there are many variables to consider.

    Bob Craven Lancs
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    I would agree but feel that the arbitrarily set measurement of 1.5 meters is to small an area. If the desired effect was to keep cyclist safe, some may have to avoid dangers in the road ahead and some may unfortunately fall off their bikes. That being the case then a mere 1.5 meters is insufficient a safety margin for riders and I would recommend that a greater safer distance of between 8 and 10 feet be given in order that any cyclists being overtaken and who may subsequently fall from their bikes does not end up being run over by a car. After all the Highway Code does suggest giving cyclists and motorcyclists (vulnerable road users) as much space as you would a car. R 163 and 212/213.

    Bob Craven Lancs
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    Well done to these guys at West Mids for an effective publicity and marketing exercise – the enforcement / no. of people stopped was not part of the bigger picture.

    It’s not clear if the 50% drop is due to fewer incidents or confidence that the police are already doing something.

    It’s a shame some people still can’t bring themselves to get over the ‘them and us attitude’.

    Nadeem up North
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    A good exercise and one that seems to have worked. Will the same approach to reporting cyclists to jump off pavements in to the path of cars forcing them to change directions.
    Will video footage be accepted and cyclists approached and prosecuted in the same manner.
    With this two pronged approach it should dramatically impact on reducing conflict.

    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    As this operation was considered such a success perhaps I can ask that some police service should consider taking similar action against another act of dangerous driving and one that concerns more than just cyclists but every road user.

    That actually does include all drivers, cyclists and also pedestrians and is a fundamental issue when it comes to all forms of road safety. One that has been abandoned and lost for many years but is justifiably one of the two most important considerations. One that should be brought back to the importance it rightly deserves and to the attention of all drivers on our roads today.

    The operation could be called The ‘Close following On [ Tailgating]’ Operation. It should be addressing the dangerous driving that occurs far too frequently by drivers who drive far to close to the vehicle in front.

    The Highway Code states that drivers should always leave sufficient safe space to be able to stop in the distance seen to be clear. That means should the vehicle in front suddenly slows down OR stop. Therefore one should never get closer than the overall stopping distance. Too many do disrespect this simple piece of road safety and as a result to many incidents and collisions occur. The cost is that too many road users are killed, maimed and injured and the cost to the country runs into billions.

    Bob Craven Lancs
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