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Officers behind initiative will join Cycling UK at the Cycle Show in Birmingham this weekend

The number of cyclists killed or seriously injured on the roads for which West Midlands Police is responsible has fallen by a fifth in year since it introduced its Operation Close Pass.

The initiative, launched 12 months ago this week, has been adopted by police forces throughout the UK thanks to a crowdfunding drive by Cycling UK to pay for ‘close pass mats’ to demonstrate safe passing distances to drivers.

When West Midlands Police unveiled its campaign, which sees plain clothes officers riding bikes radioing ahead to uniformed colleagues to inform them of instances of poor driving, the charity described it as “the best cyclist road safety initiative ever.”

Drivers pulled over are given advice on how to pass cyclists safely and, in some cases, face prosecution. The force also invites members of the public to submit videos of examples of poor driving, which according to a report on ITV.com has resulted in more than 350 prosecutions.

The officers who have run the operation, Mark Hodson and Steve Hudson, will be at the Cycle Show at the NEC in Birmingham this weekend and will be on the Cycling UK stand from 1pm on both Saturday and Sunday.

They will also join Cycling UK on stage in the venue’s Wattbike Stage on both days, where Cycling UK will be talking about its Too Close For Comfort campaign from 3.30-4.15pm.

> North Yorkshire Police becomes first force to get one of Cycling UK’s close pass mats

Tickets for the Cycle Show are still available and cost £13.95 – although you can get a 10 per cent discount using the code ROADCC.

Speaking of the West Midlands Police campaign, PC Hodson said: “We've seen a significant change in driver behaviour across the region as a result of the operation and the campaign.”

He added: “Hopefully that's going to have a profound impact on the amount of people we have killed or seriously injured on our roads in the coming years.”

> West Midlands Police say close pass operation has halved poor overtaking offences

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.

13 comments

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brooksby [2919 posts] 5 months ago
7 likes

No, no, no: this is all wrong! no surprise Everyone knows that police enforcement is just a way of collecting revenue and pressing further on the hard-pressed motorist!  In no way does it actually save lives. Ever. (says the Daily Mail...).

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wycombewheeler [1257 posts] 5 months ago
2 likes

Has there really been a shift in driver behaviour? Or has the number of impacts just been lower recently?

Anyone who cycles in the region care to comment?

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ChrisB200SX [623 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

I guess we need graphs by month comparing to last year, but 20% decrease seems fairly significant.

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Grahamd [865 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes
wycombewheeler wrote:

Has there really been a shift in driver behaviour? Or has the number of impacts just been lower recently? Anyone who cycles in the region care to comment?

Have occasionally riden in Herefordshire and certainly felt more at ease with the traffic. This is of course subjective, but cars and more importantly HGVs were notably slower in passing; you could hear them behind you for a short period before they passed. 

There are however many pavement cyclists still in Hereford so not sure that everyone is as comfortable which would indicate further work is required.

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vbvb [621 posts] 5 months ago
1 like
ChrisB200SX wrote:

I guess we need graphs by month

Right idea, wrong direction - the numbers swing about over short periods such as a year, or a month -  West Mids 2015 cycling KSI figure was almost double 2007's, for example. 

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burtthebike [1382 posts] 5 months ago
6 likes

I would suggest that Mark Hodson and Steve Hudson apply copious quantities of hand cream, and the CUK people on the stand, they're going to have their hands shaken a lot.  I won't be there, but thanks from me, and consider your hands well and truly shaken.

20% is significant, but could be within the natural variation in KSI cyclist figures, and cause and effect is always difficult to prove, but it certainly looks good.  Let's hope that the police bosses allow them to continue this for enough time to be sure that it really is this that's making the effect.

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BehindTheBikesheds [1328 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

Starting from a high point it could really only go one way, we need long term data including that of numbers cycled (it's been a particularly wet 12 months which can and does affect numbers), what other factors are going on in the area, more infra, better road layout, fewer motorvehicles at X times of day and so on.

We cannot discount the validity of the outcome, however merely concluding that doing x gives you y result oversimplifies matters massively. One 12 month set of data points whilst encouraging on the face of it doesn't and never could tell the whole story.

If numbers of cyclists/miles/exposure is the same or even gone up then the trend is welcomed, let's hope it stays that way and continues to go down, 

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mikepridmorewood [40 posts] 5 months ago
10 likes

Sounds like a promising start! I ride on thier patch but would say that close passes are getting worse, in fact driving around cyclists in general is getting worse and getting more into the us and them mentality.

Out last night and my partner actually had a lady close up the gap to the kerb and the car in front in a queue to actively stop her getting past.  She then went to overtake me in a 20mph zone outside a school with traffic waiting in front, cars coming the other way and speed bumps to negotiate. She didn't appreciate me point out all of that whilst I was riding along at 20mph......

Later in the same ride though we had a van following us for around 2 miles. No attempt to overtake although it was primarily downhill. Took me a minute or two to realise why though as the lady driver was going to meet her husband at the pub at the bottom of the hill after his bike ride and both her daughters are cyclists with one being a World Champion. Make everone cycle and attitudes to cyclists will eventually get to that point as they appreciate how it feels

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ChrisB200SX [623 posts] 5 months ago
1 like
vbvb wrote:
ChrisB200SX wrote:

I guess we need graphs by month

Right idea, wrong direction - the numbers swing about over short periods such as a year, or a month -  West Mids 2015 cycling KSI figure was almost double 2007's, for example. 

True, I kinda meant to compare 12 months against previous 12 months, in fact you could overlay same graphs going back a few years, might be more able to show a general trend, or change to a trend? More data points as opposed to simply total for year v total for previous year, but like has been said numbers swing a lot, potentially for a variety of complicated reasons that's difficult to directly attribute to.

Hodson and Hudson both get my appreciation regardless.

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burtthebike [1382 posts] 5 months ago
2 likes
mikepridmorewood wrote:

Make everone cycle and attitudes to cyclists will eventually get to that point as they appreciate how it feels

A point mostly missed by most people.  If your loved one rides a bike, and they arrive home every day telling you about those bloody awful dangerous drivers, you're much more likely to drive safely around a cyclist.  Safety in numbers isn't just about making drivers aware that cyclists will be there, it's about convincing them that we matter, and that we are husbands, wives, sons and daughters.

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Yorkshire wallet [1701 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

Bit soon to be drawing conclusions like that over the stats. If you used such a time scale for most things it wouldn't be used as definitive proof of cause and effect.

It could have simply been a reduction in car use over the period and no actual behaviour change. Maybe there was also a police operation to remove uninsured drivers going on as those sort of people are the sort that don't give a shit.

It's a good start though.

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jimbo2112 [94 posts] 5 months ago
3 likes

The biggest single change in attitude would come from a law change to presumed guilt on the motorist's behalf, like the rest of Europe (pretty much). Now way is that happening soon though. 

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veseunr [261 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

I have cycled about 10000km a year in West Mids for last 7 years. I have certainly experienced less close passes (Wiggins exploits in 2012 seemed to blast cycling into publics' awareness) over the last few years.

Every single close pass this year that I have experienced has been from one of two distinct groups. 1) Elderley drivers (one Doris this Saturday had no clue - not sure her peripheral vision was functioning as far as near kerb)

2) Young male drivers in hatchbacks