West Midlands Police has revealed that the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured (KSIs) on the region’s roads has dropped by a fifth since it launched an operation protecting them from ‘close pass’ drivers.
Under #OpClosePass – first trialled by West Midlands Police in August 2016 – plain clothes officers cycle along busy roads on the lookout for motorists who pass too close for comfort.
In the period August 2016 to July 2017, there were 92 cyclist KSIs in the region − a fall of 20% compared with the 115 KSIs in the previous 12 months.
PC Mark Hodson, from West Midlands Police’s Force Traffic Unit, believes the close pass patrols have contributed to this reduction and are saving lives.
#OpClosePass actively targets motorists who ignore Highway Code rules on overtaking cyclists, which state that drivers should allow vulnerable road users as much room as they would a car when overtaking.
Almost 200 offenders have been pulled over during close-pass operations in the West Midlands. Most were given an on-the-spot advice about safe overtaking, using a specially designed floor mat.
However, 13 drivers were prosecuted and around 350 others fined and given licence points, after officers reviewed helmet and dash-cam footage provided by the public.
Since the campaign launched last year a number of police forces and local authorities – many with the help of Cycling UK – have developed similar campaigns.
Areas where close pass initiatives have been introduced include Lancashire, Merseyside, the North East, North Yorkshire, and a joint initiative by Avon and Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire Police.
PC Hodson was among the traffic police hosting representatives from 28 other police forces at a ‘Close Pass Conference’ on 19 Sept, as traffic teams across the UK look to ‘mirror the success’ of the West Midlands scheme.
PC Hodson said: “I am in no doubt the operation has played a big part in that reduction: we regularly speak to cycling groups and their members are telling us that the message is getting through to drivers. They are, on the whole, being more considerate and understand we will prosecute them if they endanger cyclists.
“To see a fall of 20% in the number of serious collisions involving cyclists is incredible especially against a backdrop of increasing numbers of people cycling on our roads.
“We’ve seen reports of close-passes halve in the West Midlands since we started the project and it’s great that so many other regions are looking to adopt the approach."
UK Cycling has described #OpClosePass as the ‘best cyclist road safety initiative ever’.
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s senior road safety officer, said: “Cycling UK knew West Midlands Police were onto a winner when they rolled out their ‘Give Space, be Safe’ campaign… that’s why we backed it from the start.
“It’s a cost effective initiative that has proved highly effective at changing dangerous driving behaviour."
Lancashire adopts ‘close pass’ campaign
27 July 2017
Police to ‘actively target’ close passing motorists
16 September 2016