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West Midlands Police to use cycling officer to target close-passing motorists

Force studies the data and changes its attitude to cyclists

West Midlands Police has announced a new scheme which will see a traffic officer riding the most vulnerable locations for cyclists looking to instantly act upon close passes, distracted driving and the like. The move comes following analysis of road traffic collisions (RTCs) which has resulted in the force concluding that prosecution is the only way to encourage drivers to be more aware of vulnerable road users.

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.

A recent blog by the West Midlands Police Road Traffic Unit says: “We anticipate a change in driver behaviour as awareness of the tactic spreads, after all, every cyclist on the road ahead may well be a traffic officer on the operation, as our cyclists will not be liveried in any way, drivers will have no way of knowing.”

Road traffic collision analysis

Analysis carried out by the force revealed that although the “close pass scenario” remains the greatest concern for the majority of cyclists or for those considering cycling, the actual greatest threat cyclists faced on the roads was a driver pulling out in front of, or across them mid junction.

75 per cent of the West Midlands’ killed and seriously injured (KSI) RTC’s involving cyclists from 2010 to 2014 occurred within 20 metres of a junction and involved another vehicle. The majority occurred when a car pulled out having failed to spot the cyclist.

Further analysis of all KSI RTCs involving cyclists showed that in the majority of cases there were no environmental factors contributing to the collision. In most instances weather conditions were fine with no wind and nor were there any identified carriageway hazards or issues with the road surface.

The blog also says that over half the cyclists involved in a KSI collision on the region’s roads were commuting to or from work, “so in the main we are dealing with experienced cyclists.”

Prosecuting motorists

The upshot of all of this is that West Midlands Police is keen to prosecute drivers for offences that might endanger cyclists – hence the scheme involving a cycling traffic officer.

“We could make use of social media, press releases etc to tell motorists to “look out” for cyclists, but this has been ongoing with both cyclists and motorcyclists and although has some positive effect it doesn’t reach the target audience we need to engage, those unwilling to take on the message or dismissive of vulnerable road users altogether, which given the rise in KSI collisions involving vulnerable road users seems like the majority of motorists.”

“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. In other words the carrot goes out the window and in comes the stick.”

The blog says that as drivers become aware that an infringement involving a cyclist is something they can expect to be prosecuted for, they suddenly become more aware of them on the road and in turn start giving them the time and space they should lawfully have. “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.”

The blog also states that in the majority of KSI collisions, cyclists aren’t to blame, concluding “… it would be a waste of our time, and thus public time and money to concentrate on cyclist behaviour. The figures speak for themselves... drivers don’t let your prejudices get in the way of the truth…”

Tips for cyclists

While emphasising that “you should all have no doubt as to where we think the responsibility lies for the majority of KSI collisions involving cyclists,” the blog does also feature a few safety tips for cyclists.

The advice includes a recommendation not to look a driver in the eye, but to instead watch their wheels, on the grounds that “half the time they will be looking not at you but right through you.” It says, “you will see the wheels move far before you realise the vehicle is moving, thus giving you that split second extra that to react and hopefully avoid a collision.”

The second point is that red lights only instruct vehicles to stop, they don’t actually stop them. “Always check the opposing traffic is slowing and intends to stop at a red light.”

The third point relates to hi-vis clothing. “Don’t think hi viz clothing will keep you seen, although hi viz has a place in some circumstances such as low light conditions, it is contrast that catches the attention of the driver who might pull out on you, that, and movements the human eye and brain are wired to detect.”

While citing white as a ‘particularly visible’ colour, the blog also advocates moving out an extra six to 12 inches when approaching a junction, on the grounds that some sideways movement “can go a long way to making you the centre of the waiting or approaching driver’s attention.”

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.

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46 comments

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hennie | 7 years ago
0 likes

This is great news. 

Living in the West Midlands area, I'd like to put myself forward to do this job. Cycle around all day videoing idiotic drivers. I'd happily give up my well paid job and do this for less. 

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Arceye | 7 years ago
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Fantastic idea and I hope it works.

However, are the cycling police in uniform?

How many drivers would dare do a close pass, or more dangerous punishment pass on uniformed cycle police. They need to be unmarked and on typical commuting type bikes.

 

 

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tritecommentbot | 7 years ago
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Yeah like 3000 miles of inner city riding.  That would straighten out most dodgy drivers.

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horizontal dropout | 7 years ago
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I think offenders should be required to take cycle training.

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grumpyoldcyclist | 7 years ago
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Bravo to the police for this one, huge respect, although I did have to check the calendar to make sure it wasn't April when I read it.

In fairness to North Wales Police, they have a site to report stuff directly which includes poor / dangerous driving. When you do so you get instructions on how to submit the video and guidance on how to complete a witness statement. You need to be prepared to attend court if the accused pleads not guilty.

Could it be that we are perhaps, ever so slightly, getting the whiff of change in the air? Only time will tell.

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silkred | 7 years ago
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This is absolutely fantastic news - so sensible and knowing of the realities out there on the road - it makes total sense to me and I hope this policy spreads into other areas. I am going to write to my MP and bring this to their attention - ask what can be done where I live. Congratulations to whoever came up with this, spot on.

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nowasps | 7 years ago
1 like

The only disappointment here is that there'll only be one of these officers. I think we need about 20 per square mile. And they should be armed.

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Goldfever4 | 7 years ago
0 likes

A very welcome scheme from wmp. However worth drawing attention to the point of watching the wheels when approaching a junction or roundabout - maybe it's common knowledge, but someone pointed it out to me a couple of years ago and it's made a huge difference. Countless times I've been able to pre-emptively shout 'NO!' and prevent someone pulling out on me. Also, very handy on the motorbike where my speed is obviously higher than on the pushbike in many situations.

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. . replied to Goldfever4 | 7 years ago
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Goldfever4 wrote:

Countless times I've been able to pre-emptively shout 'NO!' and prevent someone pulling out on me.

Interesting.   I shout "OI!".   I wonder if anyone has ever studied what word works best for attracting attention?

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Bob's Bikes | 7 years ago
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Firstly well done WMP that is really good news, but I am a little concerned with this business of the 15 min chat. This (imo) will cause the motorist to throw his/her toys out the pram and be even more agressive/stupid on the road trying to "regain" those lost 15 mins and having his/her negative thoughts about "Bloody cyclists" reinforced.

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FatBoyW | 7 years ago
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Congratulations to WMP, utterly brilliant and the first time I can recall a decent response from the police. I just hope it becomes a standard approach across the country.

as for just using a video, how does one identify the driver? It'll be a long time before you get the same principle as speed cameras, once that happens, expect everyone will get dash cams and bike cameras.

 

but i repeat, excellent well done West Midlands!

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Gourmet Shot | 7 years ago
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Christ that's one of the most sensibly written pieces ive seen for a long time and its pretty impartial .  I like the recognition that prosecution helps focus the mind !!!

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Daveyraveygravey | 7 years ago
3 likes

This is amazing! This is the biggest thing in cycling, I really think if this goes national it could revolutionise attitudes to cycling

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brooksby replied to Daveyraveygravey | 7 years ago
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Daveyraveygravey wrote:

This is amazing! This is the biggest thing in cycling, I really think if this goes national it could revolutionise attitudes to cycling

It *won't* go national. Sending one or two cycling police out would be perceived as having a go at the hard-pressed motorists or entrapment, and be overruled.

Separate question: is a fifteen minute chat really going to make any difference at all, in the grand scheme of things?

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notfastenough | 7 years ago
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This makes far too much sense! Blog blatantly written by a cyclist police officer. 

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keirik | 7 years ago
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i wonder if we could get my copper friend on this. he's probably the most anti cyclist person I think Ive ever met

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Leeroy_Silk | 7 years ago
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It's great news but I'm interested in knowing which parts of the city they'll patrol. I tend to find drivers in the north of the city behave far more aggressively than those in the south. 

Seems drivers in the north still view cyclists as a hindrance whereas those in the south (where it tends to be more cosmopolitan) tend to be more accommodating. 

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Jack Osbourne snr | 7 years ago
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Surely this is a piss take?

If this is genuine, which I truly hope it is, this is a potential watershed in terms of drivers' regard towards our species.

We'll maybe stop being treated as vermin and instead become something less likely to be roadkill.

Chapeau West Midlands Police.

And as Gunswick said... Glasgow (next) please!

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racyrich | 7 years ago
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I hope the cops involved are undercover. There was a study (which naturally I can't find online now) that showed cyclists in police uniform were given the most passing room of any permutation of clothing.

 

Edit. Now I've read the whole blog, there's this, so hurrah! 'as our cyclists will not be liveried in any way, drivers will have no way of knowing !'

 

Unfortunately there's also this:

'Then the offender will be given a choice, prosecution or 15 minutes spent being educated as to the correct way to pass a cyclist.'

 

Shame. If you're not going to always prosecute, at least always record it - Section 59.

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gunswick | 7 years ago
1 like

Bloomin awesome, Glasgow please....! I hope they also follow up with stats showing the schemes results over the next 12 months. It could be such a good global incentive to other forces.

Making self reporting with video footage would be a major step forward as well.

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usedtobefaster | 7 years ago
1 like

Glad I was sitting down when I read this.

Bravo West Midlands police force, now for more of this across the country please.

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Sniffer | 7 years ago
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Double post

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Sniffer | 7 years ago
1 like

This is the most uplifting story I have read about cycling in weeks.

The officer who thought this up rides regularly.

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Nick Forster | 7 years ago
2 likes

Surprised and delighted by this - chapeau to the Old Bill.

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GREGJONES | 7 years ago
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Why on earth do police forces have different policies in different areas! Surely issues like this are relevant elsewhere too, it seems like a dreadful waste of funds for one police force to do this research only for it to be repeated elsewhere.

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Butty | 7 years ago
4 likes

I give it a week before the bobbies on bikes realise how dangerous cycling really is and stop it due to H&S reasons.

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Grizzerly | 7 years ago
2 likes

Yeah,  I've been close-passed, cut-up, had vehicles pull-out on me from side roads and on one occasion,  had a parked vehicle pull away from the righthand side of the road and force me on to the footpath.

  All by marked West Midlands Police Cars.

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ridein | 7 years ago
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I wonder if they will use one of those proximity sensor gadgets to document each offense. I would also hope the cyclist officers have some more officers for chasing down each offender. Just delaying the motorist would be a deterrent in their future plans.

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EddyBerckx | 7 years ago
4 likes

Stunningly good policing!!!!!

Almost read it open mouthed...more please!!! More of this all over the country!!!

Massive kudos to them for this!!

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TVL replied to EddyBerckx | 7 years ago
2 likes
StoopidUserName wrote:

Stunningly good policing!!!!!

Almost read it open mouthed...more please!!! More of this all over the country!!!

Massive kudos to them for this!!

This is average policing, it does feel good, but it is only what should have been done many years ago, and should have already saved many lives. It is unforgivable that it has taken this long to do something so simple, and such a high price has been paid!

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