South Yorkshire Police (SYP) says it will not be launching a version of the close-pass initiative run by West Midlands Police. Explaining its position, the force said that resources were “carefully deployed to target specific activity” and pointed to the low numbers of cycling fatalities in the region.
Campaign group Cycle Sheffield wrote to ask SYP whether it intended to run a ‘close pass’ initiative similar to that launched by West Midlands Police. The scheme involves a cycling officer reporting close-passing vehicles to colleagues further up the road so that the drivers can be pulled over for education or prosecution.
In a written response, SYP provided statistics from the Safer Roads Partnership detailing collisions involving cyclists in South Yorkshire. The figures show that there has been one fatality a year in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
The response then states:
“Clearly one death per year is one too many, however, deaths involving cyclists in South Yorkshire are no where near the levels that they are in the West Midlands or other parts of the country. Whilst it is clear that the scheme has been well received in the West Midlands and is a good approach to tackling a key priority, this needs to be balanced against priorities that are force specific. The main cohorts in relation to road deaths or serious injuries in South Yorkshire are centred on pedestrians and car users – drivers or passengers – where SYP have seen a continual rise over the past 2 years. That said, West Midlands Police are hosting a workshop in Birmingham on 13 January and officers from SYP are looking to attend.
“In addition to this, given the challenging demand that the police service is currently facing as a result of austerity, resources are carefully deployed to target specific activity. I understand South Yorkshire Police are not aware of any specific location (s) that is prominent for pedal cyclist Road Traffic Collisions. Neither, have any officers who are trained and equipped in the use of pedal cycles brought any concerns to the attention of Chief Inspector Suttenwood.”
The force goes on to say that: “Enforcement should probably be used as a last resort to improve road safety…”
This contrasts with the position of West Midlands Police. When launching its close-pass initiative, it argued: “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.”
SYP goes on to say that “… the most sensible solution would be to look at addressing the root causes of the problem – one of which is the layout of the roads. By creating segregated or shared cycle/pedestrian routes, improving lighting, awareness and signage, cyclists can use the roads with the confidence that they are safe to do.”
A number of infrastructure projects are then highlighted, which include cycle routes and crossings near Sheffield Ikea and toucan crossings in Barnsley.
The prospect of “some educational workshops in schools for future drivers and cyclists” also gets a mention.
The news also comes against a backdrop of declining attendance at Sheffield Cycle Forum, a regular meeting with the council focusing on the promotion of cycling.
According to correspondence tweeted by Sheffield cyclist Matt Turner, there was just one attendee at the September meeting, other than council representatives.