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Nearly 70 drivers have been given the 'chat on the mat' about their actions...

A pilot close pass initiative in Scotland is already changing driver behaviour, according to Police Scotland.

Operation Close Pass sees drivers who pass an unmarked police cyclist too closely pulled over and given advice using a specially designed mat which shows how much space a person on a bicycle needs when overtaking them.

The ‘chat on the mat’ has been given to nearly 70 drivers since it was rolled out in Edinburgh on Monday 17th April.

Sixty-eight motorists have been spoken to after passing the plain clothed officer on a bike too closely, and PC Dominic Doyle who is running the operation said the message has been well received.

“We have carried out the operation in different parts of the city and whilst we have stopped roughly the same number of drivers in each location, the advice was definitely taken on board by those people and we have noticed the public reacting the same way.

“This week I’ve seen drivers giving cyclists far more room when overtaking and colleagues are reporting the same.

“We’ve also had a lot of positive feedback with different areas of Edinburgh being suggested where we could take the mat next.

“We will certainly consider these, as we want to address both areas of concern and places where we have in the past seen cyclists injured in collisions.

“We have used different cyclists wearing different clothes and on different bikes, so drivers can’t be complacent.

“The message is simple – you should give cyclists as much room as you would a car when passing, for the safety of everyone.”

While on the beat, officers also dealt with other road traffic matters and offences including issuing fixed penalty notices for speeding, no MOT, no driving licence, no insurance and careless driving.

One driver with a dangerous load was stopped and an ASBO was issued for anti-social vehicle use.

The cycling officer also captures footage via a bike-mounted camera should any action need to be taken.

Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said: “I welcome this important road policing project and fully support all road safety interventions that make choosing active travel a realistic and safe choice. All road users need to be aware of the things they can do to make everyone safe as part of our daily journeys.”

The pilot will continue in Edinburgh until the end of May.

Earlier this year we reported how police initiatives to tackle drivers who pass cyclists too closely could prevent up to 28 percent of the crashes that kill and seriously injure cyclists, according to an analysis of crash data.

Dr Robert Davis, the chair of the Road Danger Reduction Forum, says close pass operations being rolled out by a handful of UK police forces could increase awareness of cyclists and help reduce situations where drivers ‘looked but didn’t see’ cyclists, a factor in some of the most serious collisions.

Although it is not possible to draw quantitative conclusions at the early stage in police operations, Davis argues that three of the five most common types of collision involving cyclists and a driver relate to close passing. He says driver driver education and enforcement would reduce these incidents, as well as tackling the intimidation that close passes involve.

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.