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Scheme being piloted in Leeds, rollout to rest of county could follow

West Yorkshire Police are the latest force in the country to adopt the widely praised close pass initiative introduced last year by West Midlands Police and since taken up by roads policing units nationwide.

The scheme is being introduced on popular cycle commuting in Leeds, says the force, and besides targeting motorists who fail to give people on bikes sufficient space when overtaking will also focus on distracted drivers and those who do not give way at junctions.

As elsewhere, plain clothes police officers will identify offending motorists, who will be shown safe passing distances with the help of a specially designed mat. Drivers deemed as having failed to look will be subjected to an eyesight test at the roadside.

In some cases, including those where the driver has declined the offer of advice or where the offence is sufficiently serious to warrant further action, they may be referred for prosecution.

Implementation of the initiative comes after 2016 saw the highest death toll among cyclists on West Yorkshire’s roads for more than a quarter of a century, with seven riders losing their lives there in road traffic collisions last year.

In the period 2011-15, more than 6,000 cyclists were injured on the county’s roads, 1,210 of those seriously.

West Yorkshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Mark Milsom commented: “On average, we record around three incidents every day where a cyclist and vehicle have been in a collision on the county’s roads.

“Frighteningly, seven people lost their lives on our roads in 2016, which is a number we urgently want to address and reduce.

“This initiative isn’t about picking on or penalising motorists, it is about making sure our roads are safer for everyone.

“Following the success of the Tour de Yorkshire we support our partners in wanting to get more people to feel confident in cycling in the county by making sure the roads are safer for cyclists and all vulnerable road users.”

> Video: Van driver forces cyclist off road; QC offers help to sue

After the initial trial in Leeds, the plan is to roll the initiative out across the county.

Sergeant Gary Roper of the West Yorkshire Police Roads Policing Support Unit said: “This initiative has been successfully used by our colleagues in West Midlands Police and has increased driver awareness and alertness in identifying cyclists and other vulnerable road users, giving them safe sufficient space when overtaking and taking more care to look for them at junctions.

“Analysis of road traffic collisions involving cyclists in West Yorkshire identifies that failing to look at junctions is the most common cause for drivers at fault and this failure to look can have devastating consequences,” he added.

“The main aim of this initiative is to increase driver observations to include cyclists and all vulnerable road users thereby reducing the risk of collisions as a result of a failure to look.”

West Yorkshire Police & Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said: "Keeping our roads safe for everyone is a key priority for me and our partners so I am very pleased to see this scheme coming to West Yorkshire.

"We are all aware of the potentially life changing consequences of dangerous and careless driving yet some road users find it all too easy to forget once they get behind the wheel.

"Following the initial launch of this close passing initiative by West Midlands Police last year I spoke to West Yorkshire Police to see if it was something we could pilot in our county.

“I was also contacted by numerous members of the public with support for the scheme so I will be keeping a close eye on the results with a view to seeing if this is something that could benefit other areas in West Yorkshire."

In February, Dr Robert Davis, chair of the Road Danger Reduction Forum, said that enforcing the law against drivers who pass cyclists too closely could reduce rider casualties by up to a third.

> Close pass policing could stop almost a third of crashes that kill or seriously injure cyclists

And after Police Scotland brought in a similar scheme in Edinburgh last month, they said that less than a fortnight later that it was already changing the ways motorists drove when sharing the road with cyclists.

> Pilot close pass initiative in Scotland already changing driver behaviour

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.