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Traffic officer on bike will identify motorists who don’t allow enough room when passing

A new West Midlands Police scheme in which a traffic officer on a bike will be employed to target drivers who ignore Highway Code rules on passing distances when overtaking cyclists has been hailed by Cycling UK as the “best cyclist road safety initiative ever.”

The charity described the measure as “a simple but effective way to combat a long-standing concern.”

The initiative was recently announced in a West Midlands Police Road Traffic Unit blog post. After analysing road collisions in the region, the force concluded: “Our time and effort, we have quickly realised, is better spent enforcing the law and prosecuting, thus creating a scenario whereby should someone not give a cyclist the time and space necessary or fail to see them completely they should expect to be prosecuted.”

When passed too close, the cycling traffic officer will let a colleague up the road know and they will stop the motorist. The offender will then be given a choice: prosecution or 15 minutes spent being educated as to the correct way to pass a cyclist. If offences persist, the force is planning enforcement-only days where education isn’t an option.

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s Senior Road Safety and Legal 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.”

David Cox, Chair of Cycling UK’s Board of Trustees, who lives in the West Midlands, said:

“Close passes by motorists are hazardous for cyclists and extremely intimidating. This may be due to ignorance of the Highway Code and carelessness but sometimes it is done deliberately and aggressively.

“We are delighted that West Midlands Police is to actively target close pass drivers. They are the first UK police force to do so and it is a priority if the West Midlands is going to achieve the health, congestion and sustainability benefits of more active travel. The outcome will mean greater safety for everyone who cycles or would like to use a cycle for everyday trips.”

Of the 530 KSI incidents (killed or seriously injured) in the West Midlands involving bicycles between 2010 and 2014, 84 per cent involved a car.

West Midlands Police ran four test days last month ahead of the close-pass clampdown during which 80 drivers were pulled over and took part in the road-side educational input and agreed to have their details taken.

Over the summer West Midlands Police has prosecuted 38 motorists for driving without due care and attention having either been spotted by officers committing close passes or through camera evidence supplied by cyclists.

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the road.cc team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

28 comments

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dassie [129 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

A good move by WMP.  I wonder how they quantify the passing distance for evidence purposes, as the Met's Roadsafe guidance for cyclists submitting video suggests videos musn't rely on 'perception of distance' which varies for different cameras/settings, and 'parallax errors' come into play.   Perhaps it's simply that the close passes are plainly well within the 1.5m.

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Plasterer's Radio [332 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Bravo!

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turnerjohn [46 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

anything like the roads I ride on they will be pulling every motorist over !

 

didn't think the highway code actually specifies a distance....only to give adequate room for over takes....so its all subjective....which is the problem !

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tritecommentbot [2268 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

Praying this catches on. Dare to dream.

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Flyingwheels [3 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

well done it is time someone did something about this problem, i WILL BE ABEL TO REMOVE THE SPIKES FROM THE FRUNT OF MY CYCLING SHOES NOW

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dassie [129 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
turnerjohn wrote:

...

didn't think the highway code actually specifies a distance....only to give adequate room for over takes....so its all subjective....which is the problem !

 

On the WMP traffic blog, they say that they have chosen 1.5mtrs as the minimum passing distance.

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alexb [162 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

The parallax "problem" can be solved by setting up a test object at a series of known spacings and riding past it. The camera footage can then be "snapshotted" and saved with the known distance.

If you have a close pass, then you can quickly compare the distance in the camera view to your calibration file.

This should be acceptable to a prosecutor as it's a standard image analysis technique.

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fenix [835 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

Awesome stuff and that picture really helps show what is expected.

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Darkhairedlord [57 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

what's the 0.75m bit for?

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WolfieSmith [1387 posts] 1 year ago
10 likes

Shame about Nick Lloyd at RoSPA's comment on the BBC website "ideally cyclists would not need to mingle with traffic on the roads". He goes on about that new 'infrastructure' dream where pesky cyclists are separated from motorists son they can carry on driving like utter tw*ts.  

 

My ideal world would be one where all motorists could be trusted to safely share  the roads with cyclists. 

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tritecommentbot [2268 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Praying this catches on. Dare to dream.

 

EDIT: glitch in the Matrix sad

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nowasps [519 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
Darkhairedlord wrote:

what's the 0.75m bit for?

 

Yes, that's not really helpful... reinforces the idea that cyclists shouldn't ride further out.

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Jack Osbourne snr [680 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

This started out so promisingly...

The 0.75m thing has just fucked it right up.

I personally ride and advise advise my students that the standard secondary position on the road is about 1m out unless the road is particularly narrow, the traffic backed up or very slow or the road surface in the gutter region absolutely flawless. At 0.75m there's still usually shit on the road, cracks holes and drains plus a steeper camber to deal with.

0.75m is also much less than the circumference of a road bike wheel so gives you less than one wheel revolution of emergency evasive action before you hit the kerb.

Advertising 0.75m has done more damage in the short term than the project will do good.

I'm now depressed.

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grumpyoldcyclist [52 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
Darkhairedlord wrote:

what's the 0.75m bit for?

Others have commented before me but that part is very unhelpful. The Highway Code does at least say the same space as a car along with a picture, but now WMP have introduced something different. Most drivers are confused most of the time, more so now.

On the flip side, the fact that a police force is taking matters seriously is good, so perhaps we can forgive them with this first step. Putting that bobby between the car and the cyclist really does bring home the MINIMUM gap they expect. Now if they could just get rid of that 0.75, all would be well.

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HarrogateSpa [500 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes

This is a brilliant scheme. It's utterly obvious that this is a way to enforce the rules and change behaviour, but we've got so used to not having anybody on our side and protecting us, that it seems amazing when it happens.

I wouldn't get hung up about the distance from the kerb in a picture. After all, the police are looking at the way people overtake them, not their own road position. Someone is finally doing something, so don't obsess about a largely irrelevant detail.

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Matt_S [297 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Amuzing that they've chosen a BMW for the promo pic.

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Ush [1015 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

A big tip o' the helmet to this police force.

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Man of Lard [338 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
alexb wrote:

The parallax "problem" can be solved by setting up a test object at a series of known spacings and riding past it. The camera footage can then be "snapshotted" and saved with the known distance.

If you have a close pass, then you can quickly compare the distance in the camera view to your calibration file.

This should be acceptable to a prosecutor as it's a standard image analysis technique.

 

Or something like https://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2012/oct/22/red-laser-... where a repeatable distance can be demonstrated.

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Grahamd [748 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
nowasps wrote:
Darkhairedlord wrote:

what's the 0.75m bit for?

 

Yes, that's not really helpful... reinforces the idea that cyclists shouldn't ride further out.

But does it then open the door as a stick to beat the councils with, in that the width identified should be fit for cycles?

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Orion2016 [1 post] 1 year ago
0 likes

Would love see car over  take than barging on past. I tried use payment, but white van parked on the pavement, get your act together on a458, not bike friendly at all.

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dafyddp [443 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Be interested to know whether the Police cyclists will be in uniform or plain clothes, because I think the behaviour of overtaking traffic will alter dramatically. 

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vonhelmet [847 posts] 1 year ago
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dafyddp wrote:

Be interested to know whether the Police cyclists will be in uniform or plain clothes, because I think the behaviour of overtaking traffic will alter dramatically. 

Plain clothes, it said somewhere.

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nowasps [519 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
vonhelmet wrote:
dafyddp wrote:

Be interested to know whether the Police cyclists will be in uniform or plain clothes, because I think the behaviour of overtaking traffic will alter dramatically. 

Plain clothes, it said somewhere.

And unmarked bikes. No lairy paintjobs, sirens or blue flashing lights on 'em.

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nowasps [519 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
Matt_S wrote:

Amuzing that they've chosen a BMW for the promo pic.

 

Also interesting that they've used a "roadie" for their model, rather than a child or a commuter/transport cyclist.

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Bob'sbikes [854 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

People have commented on here re the 0.75m being shown or percieved as a max from kerb distance but I look at the picture and to me it says min distance from kerb.

I suppose it all depends on your own perspectives!

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hennie [23 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

So if I get a video of a dangerous close pass, will anyone take it seriously if I report it? 

Same question for mobile phone users ...

have any if you guys been successful sending in footage?

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Matt_S [297 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
fatbeggaronabike wrote:

People have commented on here re the 0.75m being shown or percieved as a max from kerb distance but I look at the picture and to me it says min distance from kerb.

I suppose it all depends on your own perspectives!

Yes. If the 1.5 metres is a minimum safe distance. Then the 0.75m is also a minimum.

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Jack Osbourne snr [680 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
Matt_S wrote:
fatbeggaronabike wrote:

People have commented on here re the 0.75m being shown or percieved as a max from kerb distance but I look at the picture and to me it says min distance from kerb.

I suppose it all depends on your own perspectives!

Yes. If the 1.5 metres is a minimum safe distance. Then the 0.75m is also a minimum.

You are both spot on in the context of our opinion on this as cyclists on a cycling website. Unfortunately, the target market (and the the audience that I was thinking of in my initial post) for this campaign will very definitely see the 0.75m as mandatory track if not a maximum. If it is to be perceived otherwise, it needs to be explicitly stated as to what the 0.75 refers to.

Either 0.75 (min) or a greater distance (min)

As an aside to this, I once read that a cycle lane (painted or otherwise) didn't legally qualify as such unless it was at least 1.8m wide. Anybody got any knowledge of this actually being the case?