Dozens of organisations including cycling clubs and campaign groups have joined forces to urge South Yorkshire Police to implement a close pass operation similar to that introduced to widespread acclaim by West Midlands Police last year.
The initiative seeks to educate motorists about how to pass cyclists safely, and involves both plain clothes police officers on bikes and their uniformed colleagues, and has been adopted by a number of police forces nationwide – including, earlier this month, West Yorkshire Police.
Besides pulling over drivers who fail to give cyclists enough room to show them the safe passing distance with the help of a specially designed mat, officers can also take further action, including prosecution, against repeat offenders or who have put other road users at unacceptable risk.
South Yorkshire Police was among the forces represented at a workshop hosted by West Midlands Police in January, but is yet to confirm whether it will introduce the initiative on the county’s roads.
Now, organisations including Cycle Sheffield, Cycling UK, British Cycling and RoadPeace, clubs including Rotherham Wheelers and Yorkshire Rose Cycle Club and many other organisations have urged South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings to ensure it is brought in.
Last December, South Yorkshire Police said that it had decided not to follow the lead of officers in the West Midlands because not enough cyclists were being killed on the roads of the areas it polices to warrant it.
But subsequent analysis of official road casualty statistics by road.cc showed that compared to the West Midlands, and adjusting for the relative size of the populations, more cyclists are killed or seriously injured in South Yorkshire each year.
Cycle Sheffield’s Dexter Johnstone said: "South Yorkshire has a worse per capita KSI rate for cyclists than the West Midlands and the adoption of such a scheme would help improve both the safety and perception of safety of cycling in our region."
"We appreciate that police resources are under intense pressure due to central government’s ongoing austerity programme, however, WMP have stated that their close pass initiative is ‘cost neutral’.
“Cycling UK are crowdfunding the mats used to educate drivers over safe passing distances which they are making available to every police force."
He added: "We believe that people who drive poorly/dangerously around cyclists are likely to do the same around other road users and therefore this initiative will benefit all road users, not just cyclists."
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.