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Police in Cambridgeshire make u-turn on close pass operation

"It must be Christmas" says Cycling UK as force requests mat to educate drivers on safe passing distances...

Cambridgeshire Constabulary, which said in October that Cambridge’s streets were to narrow for it to carry out an operation targeting drivers who overtake cyclists while leaving them insufficient room, is planning to carry out a close pass operation in the New Year, road.cc has learnt.

In October, local campaign group Camcycle said it was “beyond disappointed” at news that that the force had decided not to run such an initiative.

The operation sees plain clothes officers on bikes radio ahead to uniformed colleagues, who then pull over motorists who have made a close pass or committed an offence such as using a mobile phone at the wheel.

Drivers are educated about the space that should give cyclists with the help of a ‘close pass mat’ and Cycling UK has told road.cc that it has sent one to Cambridgeshire Constabulary.

The force runs its roads policing unit in partnership with officers from neighbouring Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, which will also receive mats.

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s Head of Advocacy and Campaigns told road.cc: “It must be Christmas, as last week Cycling UK heard from Cambridgeshire police that they were looking into the feasibility of running operations which address close passing of people cycling in the tri-force area, including Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.

“They’re still considering the exact nature of their operation, but we’re encouraged that they’ve reached out to us and are taking the matter seriously, as we’re sure cyclists in their area will be as well.”

In March this year, the charity launched a hugely successful crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to buy a close pass mat for each police force in the UK.

The target of £12,000 was hit within 48 hours, with the mats – similar to the one devised by West Midlands Police for its award-winning Operation Close Pass, launched in late 2016 – sent to forces across the country.

> Police forces across country embrace Cycling UK's close pass mats

West Midlands Police have said there has been a 20 per cent reduction in the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured on the region’s roads since it was adopted in 2016.

“Cambridgeshire has asked for mats for each force, so hopefully we’ve made the last post with a mat for them and we will look to send out the others in the New Year,” Dollimore continued:

“Since we launched our #TooCloseForComfort campaign in March, we’ve been overwhelmed by both the support of the wider cycling community and the interest from the police.

“So far 41 out of the 45 police forces operating in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are either running close pass operations or planning to in the New Year.

“Cycling UK has already set our New Year’s resolution to improve that figure!”

 According to the charity, just one police force – Derbyshire – has told it that it does not believe there is a problem with close passes in its area.

Cycling UK is still trying to contact three more police forces – Humberside, Northumbria and Staffordshire.

Despite enjoying by far the highest levels of regular cycling in the UK – around twice those of the next placed city, Oxford – police said in October that it was not practical to introduce a close pass operation in Cambridge.

> Cambridge police say close pass operation ‘not practical’ due to lack of road space

Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s casualty reduction officer, Jon Morris, said at the time that while the force had spoken to colleagues in the West Midlands about the initiative, it did not believe it was appropriate for Cambridge because due to the recommended space, “it would mean drivers are moving into the opposite lane to overtake.”

But that is exactly what is depicted in a photo accompanying Rule 163 of the Highway Code, which tells motorists that “you should give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car” – a point highlighted  by Camcycle.

Mr Morris continued: "For Cambridge city where roads are narrower and often very congested we would be potentially forcing motorists to drive at the speed of cyclists when there isn’t the recommended space to overtake.”

He added: "Cyclists are vulnerable road users and it’s important that we are doing all we can to make the roads safer for everyone but at this time we don’t believe Operation Close Pass in its current format is practical in Cambridge."

In response, Camcycle said: “We are angry that they are apparently advising drivers that it is OK to pass closely because maintaining the speed and flow of motor traffic is more important than the safety of vulnerable road users.”

“The fact that Cambridge's roads are narrow is precisely the reason why close-passes are a problem here and action should be taken against them.” 

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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9 comments

Avatar
kitsunegari | 6 years ago
0 likes

Anywhere else I'd welcome this.

In Cambridge I'm just wondering how the Police are going to use it to disadvantage and punish cyclists.

Avatar
Deeferdonk | 6 years ago
2 likes

They 'll probably use it to stop cyclists and tell them they shouldn't be cycling more than 0.75m from the kerb because they are "forcing motorists to drive at the speed of cyclists when there isn’t the recommended space to overtake.”

Avatar
Edgeley replied to Deeferdonk | 6 years ago
0 likes
Deeferdonk wrote:

They 'll probably use it to stop cyclists and tell them they shouldn't be cycling more than 0.75m from the kerb because they are "forcing motorists to drive at the speed of cyclists when there isn’t the recommended space to overtake.”

 

That comment from the police was shocking when I first read it.  It is still shocking.

 

By the way, just because Cambridgeshire Police have ordered some mats doesn't mean that they will be used in Cambridge.  They will probably be in the back of a police car somewhere out in the Fens.

Avatar
armb replied to Edgeley | 6 years ago
0 likes
Edgeley wrote:

By the way, just because Cambridgeshire Police have ordered some mats doesn't mean that they will be used in Cambridge.  They will probably be in the back of a police car somewhere out in the Fens.

As huntswheelers said, close passes are a problem in the county outside Cambridge too. Not that it'll do much use in the back of a car - a friend was told by East Cambs police that resource shortages mean the only time you will ever see a police car is at or on its way to an RTC.

 

Avatar
gavben | 6 years ago
3 likes

They couldn't care less.

I submitted video to Cambridge cops of bus trying to side-swipe me off the road. Firstly complaint was closed without even viewing the evidence. Then after 7 weeks of chasing, being told no-one could help except the officer assigned, despite him being on long-term sick, I shouted loud enough to be referred up to sergeant. Unfortunately, he told me that Cambridgeshire Police had a policy not to charge close passes as there was "no legal definition of close". Professional Standards investigation found that Camps Cops did not have a system capable of following up on incidents & that they were routinely closed without attention. Also found that there were grounds for disciplinary action against two officers. However, they were retired or unlikely to return to work so charges dropped and inability to deal with incidents was "well it might get better in the future". I was also told the close pass was my own fault for riding on the road, as the cycle lane was blocked by parked vans.....Which Cambs Cops refuse to deal with.

I'm sure the mat will be well used by the police dogs or in the canteen.

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huntswheelers | 6 years ago
0 likes

About time too..... I've relentlessly pushed on this.... I still have reservations that Cambridgeshire Police think the rest of the county don't have the issue of close passes..... My other half had 8 tonight in 3 miles home.... I'm going to start feeding them footage of the Market Town close passes to show them there is life and near death experiences....outside of the city...

Avatar
grumpyoldcyclist | 6 years ago
1 like

Hang on

Cheshire Police have a mat too, they also have a policy for this sort of thing, they even tweet pictures and everything. Submit footage and they just reply saying it doesn't meet the minimum criteria.....

Humbug

Avatar
CygnusX1 replied to grumpyoldcyclist | 6 years ago
0 likes
grumpyoldcyclist wrote:

Hang on

Cheshire Police have a mat too, they also have a policy for this sort of thing, they even tweet pictures and everything. Submit footage and they just reply saying it doesn't meet the minimum criteria.....

Humbug

Have you asked them to qualify what the minimum criteria is? 

Avatar
grumpyoldcyclist replied to CygnusX1 | 6 years ago
1 like
CygnusX1 wrote:
grumpyoldcyclist wrote:

Hang on

Cheshire Police have a mat too, they also have a policy for this sort of thing, they even tweet pictures and everything. Submit footage and they just reply saying it doesn't meet the minimum criteria.....

Humbug

Have you asked them to qualify what the minimum criteria is? 

"This is because the incident in the footage you’ve supplied doesn’t meet the minimum threshold of the offence" so what they mean is - not close enough. This was clearly untrue as the offence was a 4x4 overtaking me on a single lane slip road with kerbs on each side.

Not just that one though, several over the years, before and after their new enlightened policy came into existence. They aren't interested.

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