Cycling UK have presented the officers behind West Midlands Police’s much praised close pass operation with an award recognising their contribution to making the UK’s roads safer for cyclists.
Since it was launched in September last year, the initiative has been adopted by other forces across the country, although some – including, as we reported last week, Cambridgeshire Constabulary – have refused to take it up.
The operation has been credited with reducing the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured on West Midlands roads by 20 per cent since it was introduced.
It sees plain-clothes officers deployed on bikes equipped with cameras, who radio ahead to uniformed colleagues who pull over offending motorists and educate them about safe passing distances.
The worst cases of poor driving result in prosecution – 13 have been brought – or on-the-spot fines, of which around 350 were issued.
The award PC Mark Hodson and PC Steve Hudson was presented by British Cycling policy advisor and Greater Manchester Cycling & Walking Commissioner Chris Boardman earlier this month at Cycling UK’s annual Big Bike Celebration in Birmingham.
Volunteers with Cycling UK were also recognised at the event, and Boardman said it was “great to see a room full of so many people directly on the ground enabling people to enjoy bikes. Inspirational.”
PC Hudson said: “We’re very humbled by the award, but won’t be resting on our laurels. The 20% reduction in casualties among people cycling and walking as a consequence of Operation Close Pass just gives greater motivation to continue our work.
“It’s been a team effort, not just involving the police but also the fire services and council. Mark and I are now working on improving and spreading the campaign as far and wide across the West Mids’ as possible.”
Paul Tuohy, chief executive of Cycling UK, commented: “It’s hard to think of two officers who have done more to help raise awareness on how to drive safely around people cycling, or who have done it with such passion.
“Steve and Mark identified the problem of close passing on their patch and came up with a simple and effective operation which reduced reported close passes by half overnight. In a single year, their methods have seen a reduction in road casualties by 20%, and are now being studied and emulated across the UK and overseas.
“In fact, the term ‘West Midlands Police’ is now almost a byword for best policing practice among cycling circles,” he added.
It’s not the first time the campaign has received official recognition – last year, it received an award from the Road Danger Reduction Forum at a ceremony at the Palace of Westminster.
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.