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Greater Manchester Police confirm "new and evolving" close pass operation trial

Police in Manchester are currently trialling successful West Midlands operation before deciding whether to roll it out, but campaigners warn to be effective it must be well-resourced

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) are the latest to confirm they are road testing a close pass operation, with drivers who overtake a cyclist too close facing three points and a £100 fine. Police, who describe the operation as "new and evolving", are holding a public engagement event in the Trafford Centre this weekend.

GMP confirmed to they have completed three test days at different locations within Greater Manchester, and have advised two close passing motorists, who were pulled over. A further driver did not stop and police are looking to track them down.

Several police forces are now looking to roll out the operation, which was pioneered by West Midlands Police last year to crack down on close overtaking, where drivers leave less than 1.5m between their vehicle and a cyclist. However, Manchester cycle campaigners and the city’s cycling csar say the operation needs to be as good as the West Midlands model to be effective.

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Inspector Paul Rowe, from the GMP Serious Collision Investigation Unit, told “We have completed three test days for the operation at three different locations.

“We have advised two motorists who were brought into the site. Enquiries into the another one we did not stop are continuing.”

By comparison, over four test days last year West Midlands Police pulled over 80 drivers ahead of the operation’s integration into regular, ongoing police work that has seen close pass reporting by cyclists halved.

Insp Rowe did not give details of how the operation did work, but said the GMP operation, which is part of Operation Considerate, differs from the West Midlands in that officers are carrying out a full vehicle check at the roadside, and they are not using an education mat to illustrate safe passing distances. Drivers passing too close to cyclists could face three licence points and a £100 fine, according to a tweet by Greater Manchester Police.

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Greater Manchester Cycling Campaign spokesperson, Nick Hubble, told the group has raised the issue of close passing with traffic officers since 2014 and they are pleased to see action being taken. However, the quality of the operation is key to its success, he says.

“In order to have the desired effect on driver behaviour these new operations must be as good as the original WMP initiative,” said Hubble, “so we'd like to take this opportunity to repeat our offer of further dialogue with GMP Traffic officers.

“By working together and incorporating views and feedback from people who regularly cycle, we hope to ensure that these operations have consistently effective actions and messaging.”

Council Cycling Csar, Councillor Chris Paul, says a “separate, properly resourced close pass initiative” is needed. Operation Considerate is aimed at encouraging “all road users to show each other consideration”. He warned against victim blaming, following news stories citing police statistics that cyclists undertaking motor traffic were involved in 11 collisions per year in the city.

This Saturday and Sunday 11 and 12 February, police will hold a ‘safe pass’ public engagement and education event at the Trafford Centre, on Lower Peel Avenue, with Transport for Greater Manchester, the British Horse Society and Greater Manchester Cycling Campaign. They will provide training and maintenance awareness information, and advice to drivers on overtaking horse riders and cyclists.

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Insp Rowe says police are working with cycle trainers to assist in ‘exchanging places’ lorry safety events and offer free cycle training and maintenance advice.

He said this is a new and evolving initiative within the Greater Manchester area, and they are still investigating the health and safety implications of the operation.

He said: “The Health and Safety issue is not just simply checking the cycle and road, it also involves the Health and Safety at work act which is far more stringent and places liabilities on the employer.”

“We are fully committed to assisting our stake holder partners in achieving the promotion of safer cycling and horse riding in the Greater Manchester Area,” he said.

GMCC say they believe a new online reporting system is also being developed by police, which they believe will help improve cycling conditions on city roads.

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