‘Close pass’ campaign linked to fall in cyclist KSIs – West Midlands Police

12.00 | 26 September 2017 | | 9 comments

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."

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27 July 2017

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13 March 2017

Police to ‘actively target’ close passing motorists
16 September 2016

Categories: Cyclists, Enforcement.



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    The problem with people evaluating the results of their own work is two fold. First is human nature and they will look at things subjectively and not objectively and that can only result in a perspective that will support their actions. Understandably they have spent time and effort in an endeavour and therefore they will rarely accept any other conclusions other than a positive one resulting by their efforts alone.

    I am glad that at least there are fewer collision due to whatever interventions or other circumstances there have been but without independent scientific trails we cannot say absolutely that one intervention has actually worked. It could be that the amount of rain and standing water has had an effect for a specific period of time or location. Just maybe.

    m.worthington Manchester
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    Unfortunately Charles, road safety collision prevention measures are difficult, if not impossible to measure to prove effectiveness (or not) apart from say highway improvements (as one of the three ‘E’s) where at least you can see the difference.

    For education and enforcement measures, I think it’s a case of believing or knowing it’s the right thing to do, in the absence of any compelling evidence that it somehow isn’t. I don’t think anyone can doubt the sense in this close passing initiative or doubt that it is ‘right’ but if one is looking for ‘proof’ then I doubt you could prove it – collision stats may improve (or get worse) but we can’t necessarily say why. Professional instinct and expertise however can count for a lot amongst those who have this task.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    I think this is called marking your own homework. I think WM police are hoping that we will blindly accept their implication that correlation means causation. Why don’t they discuss how this year’s figures compare to the trend over recent years? Why don’t they remind us that last year’s cycling KSIs were much higher than the year before so a drop was expected anyway? Why don’t they discuss the effect that recent changes to KSI reporting procedures might have had on the figures?

    I hope they are right, but all this is reminiscent of the inflated and discredited claims made by road safety partnerships for the effectivity of their speed cameras a few years ago. No, to enable us to judge the effectivity of the police initiative, we need an independent, objective and scientific analysis of the data and preferably by a body that is qualified to and is competent at analysing such statistics.

    Charles, England
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    Before and after this incident Pat, he was seen to be driving aggressively, in the manner of a ‘man in a van in a hurry’ which leads to risk taking. When he began the passing manouveur he would not have been able to see around the bend. I wouldn’t have mentioned it otherwise.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    Objective point: A driver is permitted to cross the solid white lines to pass cyclists and slow vehicles, where it is safe to do so.

    Subjective point: The van driver may disagree with you about how much he could see around the corner and therefore whether, in his opinion, it was safe.

    Life is often not black & white and others may see things from a different perspective which is equally valid.

    Pat, Wales
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    Saw a good example of this earlier today. A tradesman’s van was being driven and was coming up behind a cyclist. He passed leaving a good distance from the cyclist……unfortunately he did it on a bend so was straddling the white line as he went around it, not knowing what might have been coming the other way. He was in a hurry you see and couldn’t possibly have allowed himself to be held up by a cyclist. Still he gave him a wide berth that’s the main thing obviously. Doh.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    Worth also bearing in mind Jeremy when using proximity sensors, is to be sure the measurements relate to the vehicle passing too close to the cyclist and not the cyclist passing too close to the slower moving, or stationary car.

    Another way to measure the effectiveness of the intervention and drivers’ acceptance of it, is to monitor passing gaps on the road and where less than desirable, simply ask the driver concerned if they had been aware of the campaign and if so, why had it not been heeded? Admittedly that may take a while but doing this on the same busy roads that had been targeted during the campaign by, in this case, West Midlands Police might be a start.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    This is an interesting initiative that reflects some of the findings of the Near Miss Project conducted by Dr Rachel Aldred – the project’s implications for practice being a core element of her upcoming presentation to RSGB conference delegates in November: http://nationalroadsafetyconference.org.uk/2017-agenda-speakers/dr-rachel-aldred-reader-in-transport-at-the-university-of-westminster/

    As a general point we’ll need to exercise the usual caution about making direct links between the initiative and collision downturns, certainly over a single calendar year and, in fairness to those officers and agencies involved in these initiatives, measuring effectiveness can be problematic. That said, if vehicle proximity is used as a proxy for measuring cycle risk then project outcomes should perhaps be measured (and more easily) in those terms – that is, improvements in the overtaking gaps provided by passing vehicles.

    Studies to do this could take a couple of forms and the old school approach would be traditional conflict studies using intervention and control sites. New technologies include vehicle proximity sensors attached to cycles – I’ve seen some overseas but not in the UK and I’d be very grateful for any information on this type of device being used over here. As an example see this article http://www.stuff.co.nz/motoring/80891106/the-device-that-measures-cyclist-passing-distances which also references an earlier cycle mounted device used in Chattanooga. It’s gratifying to see that Chattanooga’s commitment to sustainable travel modes has outlasted Glenn Miller!

    In measuring outcomes of any such initiative though, and using evidence and intelligence closer to hand and easily accessible, it would be appropriate to look at longer term trends in recorded cycle injuries – and, importantly, factor types, over say 10 years to see if there was any statistical significance in recent downturns in (a) injury numbers and (b) numbers involving contact with vehicles of which (c) the collision characteristics included close lateral proximity.

    Other factors might also be present which would be worth some attention – for example engineering schemes in the area that manufacture the same outcomes as the Close Pass initiative by providing facilities that remove cyclists from the traffic mix or provide greater separation distances using on- or off-carriageway cycle lanes.

    Given the number of these types of schemes coming into play, and the existing research that underpins it, it would be good to see a much wider study being undertaken about the observable effect on driver behaviour and, as Dr Aldred may mention, the potential for a corresponding positive effect on cyclist confidence. Outcomes well worth pursuing.

    Jeremy, Devon
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    Re-the collisions that were not prevented…. were they as a result of close passing by drivers, or something else? It’s a good initiative and should continue, but one has to be careful in making presumptions about its success. Like any road safety campaign, it is virtually impossible to confidently say what may have brought about an apparent improvement based on stats.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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