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Casualty reduction officer’s comments appeared to imply that close passes of cyclists are acceptable

The Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has released a statement following a furious reaction to the decision not to run a close pass operation in Cambridge due to lack of road space. However, campaigners say that Jason Ablewhite has utterly missed the point and has failed to explain why police have effectively told motorists that they consider it ‘impractical’ to give cyclists sufficient room when passing.

Explaining their decision not to run a close pass operation similar to the widely-lauded initiative being run in the West Midlands, Cambridgeshire Police last week said that such a move would not be ‘practical’.

Casualty reduction officer Jon Morris said: "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.”

Cycling UK were among those who urged the force to reconsider. Campaign coordinator Sam Jones, said: “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.”

Cambridge News reports that Ablewhite has now issued a response.

“As Police and Crime Commissioner, my job is to protect all road users, whether car users, cyclists or pedestrians. That is why I support a multitude of different safety initiatives.

“There are 6,000 roads and streets in Cambridgeshire and the police cannot be (and never have been) on every single road. With ever-reducing budgets impacting on police resourcing as well as on other bodies, it is more important than ever that we work together to find new solutions to keeping all of our road users safe.

“People need to take a sensible approach to overtaking cyclists and I’m pleased to see the majority do. The code is clear – don’t get too close to the cyclist you intend to overtake, use your mirrors and signal when it is safe to pass, allow plenty of room without putting other users at risk.

“My first priority is to reduce road deaths in our county, fatalities which are primarily car drivers caused by other people driving dangerously or inappropriately. That is why earlier this year I invested in a Casualty Reduction Officer. Jon Morris has years of experience in dealing with these issues and continues to work on a daily basis with a wide range of statutory and non-statutory agencies to help educate all road users about keeping safe.”

He added: “It is clear that enforcement alone will not reduce fatal and serious collisions and it is vital the police focus work on preventing them from happening in the first place.”

Interestingly, when West Midlands Police first announced its close pass operation in September 2016, it reasoned: “The only way to change driver behaviour and concentrate minds on looking out for vulnerable road users and change driving habits is through enforcement, and the resulting fear of being prosecuted.”

Cycle campaigners say that Ablewhite has missed the point.

A spokesman for local campaign group Camcycle said: “The PCC's statement does not address why the casualty prevention officer, in a role the PCC created earlier this year, told motorists that obeying Highway Code rule 163 was impractical. This is a very serious statement from the officer whose responsibility it is to reduce casualties.”

Cycling UK’s Sam Jones said: “Our concern is that it seems they are not going to do anything at all about close passes. Ignoring the problem is an issue for us because clearly you have a congested city and it can be dangerous. That needs clarifying.”

Cycling UK will be writing to Cambridgeshire police about the matter.

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.

23 comments

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kitsunegari [343 posts] 3 months ago
16 likes

Cambridgeshire police do not give a fuck about the safety of cyclists.

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Jimnm [275 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes
kitsunegari wrote:

Cambridgeshire police do not give a fuck about the safety of cyclists.

They say they do!  It's not just about the safety of everyone on our roads. It's about who do they get the most revenue from, will nearly always take a priority. A lot of drivers who get behind a wheel,change from a normal person, into an impatient as if their lives depended on it, getting somewhere fast, without caring about anyone else using our roads, impatient road raged morons, type of person. 

It's down to common curtiousy for other road users like us cyclists and pedestrians,  which is sadly lacking. 

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burtthebike [1267 posts] 3 months ago
4 likes

I wonder if Jason Ablewhite gets dizzy from all that spinning?  He quite clearly has more regard for the convenience of drivers than the safety of cyclists, and as such, is clearly not fit to hold the position of Police and Crime Commissioner.  If he can't understand that safely overtaking a cyclist is a legal requirement, why did he stand for the job?

Perhaps all those cyclists, and the friends and relatives of cyclists, should give him a call, or an email or a letter perhaps, suggesting that if he doesn't like upholding the law, he shouldn't be in charge of enforcing it, and that resignation is always an option.

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d10brp [7 posts] 3 months ago
5 likes

Might as well have said "it isn't practical to encourage safe overtakes of cyclists because I'm not one of them, they're really annoying and who gives two shits about them anyway"

Coming from anyone, what that person said is just plain dumb. Coming from the person tasked with ensuring the safety of cyclists on the road, it's beyond comical.

If they lack the brain cells to figure out that their sole reason for not doing something is in fact the key reason to do it, what on earth are they doing in that job?

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Gromski [58 posts] 3 months ago
3 likes

They "may" have a point about the narrow roads in Cambridge city (still doesn't excuse the idiocy of the statement) but the last I checked there's another 3,340 square kilometers that makes up the county of Cambridgeshire. Surely there are plenty of roads that the Cambridgeshire Police Farce could run a close pass operation on.

Or have I missed something?

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Morgoth985 [100 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes
Gromski wrote:

They "may" have a point about the narrow roads in Cambridge city (still doesn't excuse the idiocy of the statement) but the last I checked there's another 3,340 square kilometers that makes up the county of Cambridgeshire. Surely there are plenty of roads that the Cambridgeshire Police Farce could run a close pass operation on.

Or have I missed something?

No, you're being too generous.  They don't have any kind of a point at all.  As pointed out above, the reason they're giving for not doing it is exactly the reason for doing it.

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SculturaD [36 posts] 3 months ago
3 likes

Cambridgeshire police should be held to account for not enforcing rules of the road and the law.
It is not their place to interpret the law and choose which to enforce. Interpretation of the law is done by solicitors.

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Man of Lard [341 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes
SculturaD wrote:

Cambridgeshire police should be held to account for not enforcing rules of the road and the law. It is not their place to interpret the law and choose which to enforce. Interpretation of the law is done by solicitors.

Interpretation is by the judiciary. Solicitors & barristers merely present arguments form the judiciary to interpret.

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Lukas [20 posts] 3 months ago
4 likes

Cycling to work today on my usual route (London N10) had my usual extreme close passes: a speeding van and a 4x4 which actually clipped me. Obviously 30 seconds later I passed them in the long Q they were stuck in. Fat van driver was glugging from a supersize cup of something and Mrs 4x4 was texting. Oh well, as long as they got to their Q that bit sooner where's the harm, eh?

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Sub4 [62 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes

Perhaps they should save the money they spend on their impotent CRO & that would find a close pass programme?

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FluffyKittenofT... [1930 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes

Pity the guy was only elected last year, so presumably won't have to face voters for a few more years.
Given PCC elections tend to have derisory turnouts, hopefully all Cambridge cyclists will remember this when the next PCC election comes round (seems last time he got 80k votes, 10k over his nearest rival, and I can't find the turnout figures but the previous election before that it was only 14%). Trouble is, as its not for years, everyone will likely have forgotten by then.

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Argos74 [459 posts] 3 months ago
6 likes

And in other news, Cambridge CID will stop investigating murders, as it is impractical to ask people to stop stabbing eachother in the neck with scissors. The Fraud Squad has been twiddling their thumbs in strange, arcane patterns in an attempt to summon Cthulu, and noone has been brave enough to ask the Drugs and Vice Squads what their take on things is. But I'm guessing the parties will be pretty f***ing wild.

Sarcasm aside... no, I got nothing. Sarcasm's all I got left.

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jestriding [40 posts] 3 months ago
5 likes

Here in NZ, a woman was killed a couple of years ago by a driver of a truck which was overtaking on the brow of a hill on a narrow road with no passing lines.  The local road safety constable, Tina Mitchell-Ellis, said in the coroners court that "it isn't realistic to expect a truck to have to slow down for cyclists". 

What does that even mean? 

 http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/10246262/Truck-too-close-to-cyclists-say...

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burtthebike [1267 posts] 3 months ago
1 like
jestriding wrote:

Here in NZ, a woman was killed a couple of years ago by a driver of a truck which was overtaking on the brow of a hill on a narrow road with no passing lines.  The local road safety constable, Tina Mitchell-Ellis, said in the coroners court that "it isn't realistic to expect a truck to have to slow down for cyclists". 

What does that even mean? 

 http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/10246262/Truck-too-close-to-cyclists-say...

So safety "experts" who have very little idea about safety and are more concerned about the convenience of drivers isn't just a UK phenomenon.  Does Tina Mitchell-Ellis still have a job?  If so, why?

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nniff [216 posts] 3 months ago
1 like

"It is better that people should think you a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt".

 

Sound about right for the PCC

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TRCAMBS [2 posts] 3 months ago
1 like

Luckily in Cambridge the traffic is so bad that you can usually catch up with the offending driver and take the law into your own hands.

The police will be too busy saying what a great cycling city Cambridge is to be able to respond.

I now try to avoid Cambridge and spend my money elsewhere.

 

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BarryBianchi [419 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes

Meanwhile, back in the real world.  If he's have said "unrealistic" rather than "impractical" it might have caused less of a rumpus.  Fact is, he's still right either way.  Anyone that thinks a Close Pass initiative is going to make more than a scintilla of lasting difference is having a laugh with themselves.  The simple fact is that the Police don't now have a fraction of the necessary resources to enforce any decent standard of driving behavior in almost any circumstances, and the vast majority of drivers either through incompetence or lack of will don't give a f*uck about cyclsists.  You only have to look at people passing horses (or ride abroad) to see that drivers CAN pass properly and safely (generally), or certainly know how to do the right thing,  and cyclists to see that they don't want to.  We can rant on all we like about how outragous it is, but it IS how it is.  If you want to eradicate close passes, you need to physically separate cycles from powered road users, or radically and fundamentally change how we police our roads and the resourcing allocated to so doing.  Currently, there is absolutely no political will do to that other than where there is a direct economic neeed/benefit.

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alansmurphy [1472 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes

"but it is how it is"

So we should allow drink driving then, that was how it was.

I do slightly get your point on semantics thus maybe they could have looked to change close pass to slow pass. On a tight street if I was pooling at 15mph and someone waited for the opportunity and passed me at 1m at 20mph I'd accept that.

You think it makes no difference, I think it's as much about education as actually catching and punishing people. The long term implications can be massive or maybe one alive child...

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BarryBianchi [419 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes
alansmurphy wrote:

"but it is how it is" So we should allow drink driving then, that was how it was. I do slightly get your point on semantics thus maybe they could have looked to change close pass to slow pass. On a tight street if I was pooling at 15mph and someone waited for the opportunity and passed me at 1m at 20mph I'd accept that. You think it makes no difference, I think it's as much about education as actually catching and punishing people. The long term implications can be massive or maybe one alive child...

We do allow drink driving in the real world.  I can promise you that there will be people leaving my local and drink driving tonight - there reagularly are, because they know they is sod all chance of being caught, bacause there are sod all police on the roads, and those that are out will be fully taken up with domestic violence and pissed up idiots fighting in the town centre. I know one "character" who had been convicted 4 time and still does it.  Ditto drugs driving and speeding in urban areas and everywhere else.  It's not an issue of "education"  - people are fully aware that it's dangerous and illegal and all the rest of it - they still CHOOSE to do it, largely on the basis that they believe there will be no adverse consequences for them - any they're right the vast vast majority of the time. As this site proves again and again, even when people are caught driving in an outragous manner, the punishments are ludicrously lenient.  Until that changes, nothing else will.

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brooksby [2792 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes
BarryBianchi wrote:
alansmurphy wrote:

"but it is how it is" So we should allow drink driving then, that was how it was. I do slightly get your point on semantics thus maybe they could have looked to change close pass to slow pass. On a tight street if I was pooling at 15mph and someone waited for the opportunity and passed me at 1m at 20mph I'd accept that. You think it makes no difference, I think it's as much about education as actually catching and punishing people. The long term implications can be massive or maybe one alive child...

We do allow drink driving in the real world.  I can promise you that there will be people leaving my local and drink driving tonight - there reagularly are, because they know they is sod all chance of being caught, bacause there are sod all police on the roads, and those that are out will be fully taken up with domestic violence and pissed up idiots fighting in the town centre. I know one "character" who had been convicted 4 time and still does it.  Ditto drugs driving and speeding in urban areas and everywhere else.  It's not an issue of "education"  - people are fully aware that it's dangerous and illegal and all the rest of it - they still CHOOSE to do it, largely on the basis that they believe there will be no adverse consequences for them - any they're right the vast vast majority of the time. As this site proves again and again, even when people are caught driving in an outragous manner, the punishments are ludicrously lenient.  Until that changes, nothing else will.

Right: Mad Max it is, then...  

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alansmurphy [1472 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes

I disagree. I think most of a certain age will have lived with drink driving having been socially unacceptable for years, those that do it are the tiny percentage of immoral scum that think they're above the law. Over the last 30 years, those who were allowed to do it legally, way back when, have either opened their eyes, died off or you still have a few that have 'always done it' or 'drive better when they're pissed'. Similarly with seat belt laws.

It's not the same for cycling. As you say, most know there's little chance of being caught or punished. However, very few actually appreciate just how dangerous it is and how intimidating it is. Cars pass wing mirror to wing mirror with mm to spare dozens of times per journey, they don't care, they don't consider it a close pass, it's success. In fact it fuels their ego a bit that they've got great judgement. You must have been a passenger in a car and witnessed a friend or colleague do a pass you've found cringe worthy and they've not batted an eye lid.

This needs to change.

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BarryBianchi [419 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes
alansmurphy wrote:

I disagree. I think most of a certain age will have lived with drink driving having been socially unacceptable for years, those that do it are the tiny percentage of immoral scum that think they're above the law.

You are living in a total fantasy world.  Drink (especially morning after drink driving) and drug driving is absolutely rife in this county - ask a traffic cop. 

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martib [85 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes

Why have we even got these PCC's they are about as useful as a chocolate fireguard. Just like our own one in Wiltshire who just seems to go from campaign to campaign just for photo opportunites and tying up front line police officers to have their photo's taken with him.

Apparently Wiltshire Police and Macpherson launched Op Close Pass a few months ago, guess what nothing since. However they can expend time & money chasing motocross riders across Salisbury Plain (which the MoD could Police themsleves), chasing hare coursers or having photo opportunites with captured swans but bugger all that actually doing any policing on the roads of Wiltshire to make it a safer place for the majority of resident's who have to pay for their inactivity.