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‘We would be potentially forcing motorists to drive at the speed of cyclists when there isn’t the recommended space to overtake’

Campaigners have questioned Cambridgeshire’s police’s explanation that there isn’t sufficient road space to carry out a close pass operation. They point out that such initiatives are specifically designed to highlight why space needs to be given when passing cyclists.

Cambridge Cycling Campaign (Camcycle) has professed itself ‘beyond disappointed’ with Cambridgeshire police’s decision not to run a close pass operation similar to that pioneered by West Midlands police and has questioned the force’s reasoning.

Close pass operations involve plain clothes police officers out on bikes identifying drivers who don't allow enough room when overtaking. The West Midlands operation has led to a 20 per cent reduction in cyclists killed or seriously injured on the region’s roads since it was adopted in 2016.

A number of forces have since followed suit – most recently in Norfolk and Suffolk – but Cambridge will not be among them.

Casualty reduction officer Jon Morris explained:

"We have been liaising with officers in the West Midlands about Operation Close Pass and have explored the possibility of implementing something similar locally.

"The average road is approximately 3.5 metres from the kerb to the white lines. Cyclists are advised to cycle 0.75 metres away from the kerb to avoid drain covers and an average car is about two metres wide. Operation Close Pass recommends drivers leave about 1.5 metres when passing a cyclist. If we add all those figures together it would mean drivers are moving into the opposite lane to overtake.

"For Cambridge city where roads are narrower and often very congested we would be potentially forcing motorists to drive at the speed of cyclists when there isn’t the recommended space to overtake.

"Cyclists are vulnerable road users and it’s important that we are doing all we can to make the roads safer for everyone but at this time we don’t believe Operation Close Pass in its current format is practical in Cambridge."

Campaigners ‘angry’ at message being sent

Camcycle said: “We are angry that they are apparently advising drivers that it is OK to pass closely because maintaining the speed and flow of motor traffic is more important than the safety of vulnerable road users.

“The fact that Cambridge's roads are narrow is precisely the reason why close-passes are a problem here and action should be taken against them. Cambs police contradict Highway Code rule 163 'Give vulnerable road users at least as much space as you would a car'. The accompanying image is clear: you should wait until the opposite carriageway is clear to overtake if there isn't space.

“Given the express intention of the police not to safeguard vulnerable road users, we suggest people cycling follow Bikeability training guidelines and cycle centrally in the lane on narrow roads, to prevent the kind of dangerous overtakes the police refuse to take action against.

“We have seen that Cambridgeshire Police have been very reluctant to enforce 20mph despite the proven benefits for road safety in other towns and cities. We see them once more refusing to take action that is proven to protect vulnerable road users because they do not wish drivers of motor vehicles to be delayed whether in the city or out on the country roads of the county.”

Sam Jones, campaign coordinator at Cycling UK, told Cambridge News: “Cambridgeshire police’s decision is very disappointing. Not only does it demonstrate a lack of understanding of the Highway Code’s guidance on overtaking people cycling, but it also seems to prioritise the inconvenience of one road user over the safety of another.

“Cycling UK would urge Cambridgeshire police to rethink their position, as clearly in a congested city like Cambridge, close passes are a problem, and need to be addressed if they are serious about keeping cyclists safe.”

The local view

Our own Simon MacMichael is a Cambridge resident.

“Compared to other places I’ve lived and used a bike to get around, we’re absolutely spoilt in Cambridge.

“We have some terrific off-road routes particularly on or close to the river, and the separated lanes on Hills Road are a delight to ride along, as are the cycle paths along the guided busways.

“And in many parts of the city centre, the introduction of filtered impermeability – barriers across streets that block through motor traffic but allow people on bikes to pass freely – means the streets are largely given over to cyclists.

“True, many drivers give you ample space when overtaking – here, given that levels of cycling far exceed those anywhere else in the UK, the likelihood is that they will ride a bike, or have family members who do.

“But, it only takes one close pass to ruin your day, and it is a daily occurrence for anyone who chooses to get around the city on two wheels.

“And in my experience, it’s due not just to sometimes shocking driving, but also poorly thought out road layouts.

“Late at night, on Mill Road, say, it’s not unusual to have a driver pass you closely at 40, 50mph on what is a 20mph road – and moreover, one that isn’t too far from the main police station.

“Riding into town along Cherry Hinton Road, you encounter another problem. There are narrow cycle lanes either side, but the space that leaves for the single lane of motor traffic going in each direction means that if you are riding in them, close passes are inevitable.

“Then, you have somewhere like Arbury Road where, particularly at the southern end close to the junction with Milton Road, parked cars either side mean that it’s highly likely you will be overtaken far too closely.

“As I said above, there are a lot of positives here, but there is also much that could be improved.

“And, is it just me, or is rejecting the concept of a close pass operation on the grounds that there isn’t enough space to do so missing the point, while at the same time reinforcing why it’s needed?”

Close pass crackdown

A close-pass enforcement day was held by Cambridge police two years ago, targeting motorists passing cyclists too closely.

It was subsequently reported that the operation ended with officers instead turning their attention to cyclists riding without lights.

Referring to close-passes, a police spokesman said of officers: “So far they’ve not seen it as a problem.”

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.

69 comments

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Morgoth985 [100 posts] 3 months ago
34 likes

FFS.  You really couldn't make this up.  If some random anonymous member of the public came up with an argument as completely, blindly, foul-smellingly bullshit as this, you'd think they were trolling. 

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CXR94Di2 [1906 posts] 3 months ago
17 likes

FFS, how stupid the police are?

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Sir Wobbly [22 posts] 3 months ago
17 likes

" ...we would be potentially forcing motorists to drive at the speed of cyclists when there isn’t the recommended space to overtake."

No, it's "the *safe* space to overtake" not "the *recommended* space to overtake".

Jesus! It's a matter of safety. If there's not the room to overtake then motorists wait until there is.

Are Cambridge Police really suggesting a few cyclists KSIs are worth motorists saving a few seconds journey time? Yes, they seem to be suggesting just that  2

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shay cycles [403 posts] 3 months ago
24 likes

"For Cambridge city where roads are narrower and often very congested we would be potentially forcing motorists to drive at the speed of cyclists when there isn’t the recommended space to overtake."

Note to Cambridge Police: if there isn't the space to overtake safely then the law clearly states that the motorists should be driving at the speed of the cyclists (or slower of course) and not overtake until there is space - that is exactly what you should be forcing those motorists to do.

I for one am very disappointed with police forces who neither seem to understand the law nor take any kind of action to enforce it.

As I grew up I thought that the Police were supposed to make sure that people followed the law and were safe; that is no longer the case in many places, Cambridge clearly being one, where they simply wait for bad things to happen so that they can then "deal with" the aftermath.

We really ought to have some legal recourse to deal with police forces who refuse to protect us.

 

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Goldfever4 [390 posts] 3 months ago
15 likes

This makes the government look competent!

 

This can't be their stance, surely? That's just beyond belief. There's not enough space to pass safely, so pass the cyclist however and we'll look the other way. What?! What about, don't pass until it's safe to do so? What?!

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beezus fufoon [973 posts] 3 months ago
16 likes

"it would mean drivers are moving into the opposite lane to overtake"

yes - it's called overtaking. just like any other overtake of any slower moving vehicle, you have to move around them to go past them...

is it possible that all the brainiacs at the university there are monopolising the capacity for normal brain functioning? - maybe one of them invented a machine that literally sucks the intelligence out of the general populace?

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steviewevie [52 posts] 3 months ago
9 likes

"For Cambridge city where roads are narrower and often very congested we would be potentially forcing motorists to drive at the speed of cyclists when there isn’t the recommended space to overtake."

Yes, exactly, drive at the speed of cyclists where there isn't room to overtake, and wait until there is room.

If the roads are "often very congested" then presumably the traffic isn't moving much faster than that anyway?

What's the problem, Cambridgeshire Police? Other than your lack of understanding of the law and of the comparative rights of cyclists versus the rights of drivers?

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hawkinspeter [1212 posts] 3 months ago
14 likes

How about we just sack those police that aren't able/willing to do their job and instead employ people who will enforce the law of the land?

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ktache [649 posts] 3 months ago
5 likes

You would be called a fantasist for making this shit up!

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Morgoth985 [100 posts] 3 months ago
6 likes

Anyway, I'm sure all will turn out for the best.  Remember, we have a "keen cyclist" in government.  Everything will be put right before too many more thousands of us have been "mown down" [official phraseology].

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Morgoth985 [100 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes

Anyway, I'm sure all will turn out for the best.  Remember, we have a "keen cyclist" in government.  Everything will be put right before too many more thousands of us have been "mown down" [official phraseology].

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brooksby [2816 posts] 3 months ago
5 likes

And the award for Completely Missing the F-ing Point goes to... 

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Morgoth985 [100 posts] 3 months ago
4 likes

How did I end up with two of these?  Kind of weakens the patented biting sarcasm, you know.

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beezus fufoon [973 posts] 3 months ago
1 like

of course, it is possible that the test to become a policeman in Cambridgeshire is to simply answer the question - do you know what overtaking is? - and anything containing the answer about moving around and passing other road users results in an automatic recruitment to police driver... but if you get the question wrong you just get a beat to walk.

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Crippledbiker [23 posts] 3 months ago
8 likes

So take the lane, and force them to overtake you properly or not at all.

If there isn't space to overtake safely - then there isn't space to overtake, and you'll just have to bloody wait.

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DrG82 [216 posts] 3 months ago
12 likes

I was taught that if you don't cross the white line when overtaking a cyclist you are probably too close to the cyclist, so for the police to be advocating the passing of cyclists without crossing the centre line is just ridicluous.

Also, if we assum cars are about 2 m wide (they aren't quite) and the cyclist is 0.75 m off the kerb with 0.5 m bars (so 0.25 m further into the road) a car would need to be within 0.5 m (about 19 inches in old money if it adds emphasis)  of the cyclist to pass without crossing the centre line, which is most certainly far too close.

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DaveE128 [970 posts] 3 months ago
23 likes

Cambridgeshire Police - upholding the right of motorists to get home quickly. Even if it means cyclists don't get home at all.

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DaveE128 [970 posts] 3 months ago
22 likes

So, to paraphrase: "Don't expect us to punish people for ignoring the highway code and driving dangerously. Being in a hurry is far more important and we aren't willing to slow down people's journeys to save lives." Do they take the same approach to speed cameras?

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DaveE128 [970 posts] 3 months ago
12 likes

"Mr Morris said this would mean drivers had to move into the opposite lane to overtake."

How utterly, appallingly unthinkable. What idiot would suggest doing that?

https://assets.digital.cabinet-office.gov.uk/media/559afd05e5274a155c000...

As featured in https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-highway-code/using-the-road-159-to-203#o...

And he's supposed to be the casualty reduction officer! More like the motorised traffic speed maintenance officer.

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huntswheelers [108 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes

What a lot os rubbish..... Cambridgeshire Police have more than just the city to worry about... they can patrol the market towns and Peterborough then they will have some drivers to sort out....

Clearly this mirrors the huge reluctance of the Police & Crime Commissioner to enforce the close pass initiative, as he did  with the County wide parking enforcement when he was the leader of Huntingdonshire District Council...they opted out of enforcement so now it's an unregulated and enforced free for all with parking on verges, corners, double yellows and the like. He clearly doesn't want to upset car users . On the Police's stance on narrow roads and cyclists issue, again in Huntingdon, there was a sharp corner which it was decided to reduce it's width to allow a further 3 homes to be built on a development, at the time there was a campaign to stop this but it was unsucessful as it was measured that 2 buses could pass (only just mind) so that was okay and at the same time the local Police even admitted that cyclists could ride the road as it would reduce the speed of motorists.... this is the attitude they have in Cambridgeshire.

The County Councillor for Transport, Mr Bates always keeps trying to spew the propaganda that Cambridgeshire is the county of Cyclists.... utter Bovine excretment.

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Ush [1038 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes

At least they're honest.  Cars have to have their speed, numbers and volume reduced.  For most of those suffering from physical disabilities an electric golf cart speed limited to 20mph should suffice.  The rest can get the train or bus.

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Hamster [109 posts] 3 months ago
10 likes

It is better to be silent and thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt.

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Grahamd [829 posts] 3 months ago
7 likes

If the roads are not safe for driving in accordance with the Highway Code then close the road to cars until road improvements can be made. 

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don simon [1716 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes
Quote:

“But, it only takes one close pass article to ruin your day, and it is a daily occurrence for anyone who chooses to get around the city on two wheels.

devil

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BarryBianchi [419 posts] 3 months ago
1 like

Well, I think this is excellent news.

Close pass initiaves and the rest of it are waste of time, bringing only a temporary benefit at best in the vast, vast majority of cases. It's nothing more than a tiny sticking plaster.  And of course they do nothing to address drink/drug driving, speeding, texting etc etc.

If you want cycling to be safe and viable, as it certainly should - and could - be in a place like Cambridge, you need to separate the cars and the bikes properly.

Which is, when you follow the logic, what the dibble are saying here; just not sure that they meant to.

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fanatic278 [5 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes

You.... have.....to.......be.......kidding.......me!!!!!

If I lived in Cambridgeshire I'd be doing something about the idiot policeman who responded. He needs reporting to his seniors. The local councillors, MP and police commisioner need to be informed.

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ironmancole [357 posts] 3 months ago
3 likes

Ok, so are the police instead advocating that all cyclists should instead use the pavement so that cars are free to continue unhindered by anything, except each other of course?

I would presume they'd then insist cyclists give full regard to the safety of pedestrians when that very same regard for life has been denied to them by this absurd stance from the very authority tasked and paid to uphold the safe overtaking rule? 

Given this overtaking rule is clearly unworkable in Cambridge I assume the police are therefore  taking action to have this silly law amended?

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aracer [16 posts] 3 months ago
9 likes
BarryBianchi wrote:

Well, I think this is excellent news.

Close pass initiaves and the rest of it are waste of time, bringing only a temporary benefit at best in the vast, vast majority of cases. It's nothing more than a tiny sticking plaster.  And of course they do nothing to address drink/drug driving, speeding, texting etc etc.

I presume you're joking in the same way the policeman is? No? Because in the West Midlands they've seen a 20% reduction in cyclists being hit on the roads. As for a temporary benefit, well clearly if they keep doing the close pass initiative (as they plan to - it's apparently resource neutral) then it clearly won't be temporary.

Of course it doesn't address drink driving etc., in the same way drink driving initiatives don't address close passing.

I despair - at least the stupid policeman presumably has the excuse of not being a cyclist.

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Ush [1038 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes
BarryBianchi wrote:

If you want cycling to be safe and viable, as it certainly should - and could - be in a place like Cambridge, you need to separate the cars and the bikes properly.

Don't you worry.  You'll be banned for your own good.  Except from the MTB trails and the turbo trainer in the garage.

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BarryBianchi [419 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes
aracer wrote:

 

I presume you're joking in the same way the policeman is? No? Because in the West Midlands they've seen a 20% reduction in cyclists being hit on the roads. As for a temporary benefit, well clearly if they keep doing the close pass initiative (as they plan to - it's apparently resource neutral) then it clearly won't be temporary.

Of course it doesn't address drink driving etc., in the same way drink driving initiatives don't address close passing.

I despair - at least the stupid policeman presumably has the excuse of not being a cyclist.

I'm not joking because it's not funny.  These fads of "iniatives" don't even scratch the surface of what needs to be done.  If you want safe cycling, get safe cycling. That means proper routes and separation.  I've lived in several countries in Europe, and know it can be done.  If you think close pass initiatives in Cambridge or anywhere will make a toss of real lasting difference you're pissing up a rope.

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