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.