The joint road policing team of two police forces covering three counties in the south west of England have become the latest to roll out a close pass operation targeting motorists who give cyclists insufficient room when overtaking.
Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police launched Operation Close Pass on Tuesday in Plymouth, inviting local press and cycling campaigners along.
An initial operation on Plymouth’s Billacombe Road, involving an officer cycling up and down the road in plain clothes on a camera-equipped bike, saw six motorists stopped within two hours.
They were shown the correct minimum distance to give cyclists with the aid of a mat supplied by the charity, Cycling UK, which has made them available to forces across the country following a successful crowdfunding campaign.
Chief Inspector Adrian Leisk, who heads the joint roads policing team, said: “Rolling out Close Pass across in Devon and Cornwall is in direct response to feedback we have received from cycling groups and individual cyclists about the danger and discourtesy they face on a daily basis on the regions' roads.
“Our figures indicate approximately 400 or so collisions involving cyclists every year, 200 to 300 of which result in slight injury, 50 to 80 in serious injury. There were 4 cyclist fatalities in each of the years from 2012 to 2016.
“This initiative is very important in the safeguarding and education of our community of road users.”
Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez commented: “Road safety is a priority for me within our Police and Crime Plan.
“I am delighted to support Operation Close Pass which is a great opportunity to educate and inform drivers and cyclists in order to make our roads safer for everyone.
“This initiative isn’t about penalising people – it is about educating drivers on how to interact safely with cyclists on our roads. Cyclists must also be responsible and the team will be working with them throughout the initiative.”
Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer of Devon and Cornwall Police said: “As a motorist and cyclist I support this initiative as it seeks to educate motorists and cyclists as to their behaviours and perceptions on the road.
“At the heart of this, few cyclists would wish to wilfully obstruct the road, not least as many of them are motorists themselves.
“Similarly, few motorists would wish to jeopardise the safety of cyclists.
“On too many occasions lack of attention and courtesy leads to serious injury and fatality on our roads.
“This initiative is critical to our wider campaign of improving public safety, particularly in respect of young people.”
In Dorset, the campaign was launched in Bournemouth, where seven drivers were stopped during a 90-minute period for passing cyclists too closely.
Duncan Dollimore, of Cycling UK, said: “Close passes are a regular occurrence for most cyclists, and are especially off-putting for new and less confident cyclists.
“Such dangerous manoeuvres are rarely done from a position of malice by the driver, but rather ignorance.
“This is why we’re fully behind the operation, which places education at its heart.”
The cameras used in the operation by both forces have been provided by Cycle Engage UK, whose Tom Staniford said: "We're extremely grateful to the officers and special constables of both Forces who have devoted their time to this operation.
“Similar schemes elsewhere in the country have had a significant impact on driver behaviour and road safety, for a comparatively small investment of time and resources.
“We are delighted to be able to support such a proactive initiative in our region."
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.