Cycling UK is looking to supply police throughout the country with a virtual reality film that will educate drivers about the dangers of passing cyclists too closely. The national cycling charity is looking to raise £15,000 to provide the film and a VR headset to every UK police force free of charge.
The thinking is that while every cyclist knows the horrible feeling of suffering a dangerously close pass, many drivers don’t – and from inside their car they simply may not realise the risk they’re posing to the cyclist.
The 360 degree VR ‘Too Close For Comfort’ film puts drivers ‘in the saddle’ to experience a close pass from a cyclist’s perspective.
In one scenario, filmed with specially trained stunt actors, the driver carries out a dangerous close pass manoeuvre. In the second scenario, the driver waits for a suitable passing point and gives the cyclist plenty of room.
“Often drivers pass too close to cyclists out of ignorance rather than though malicious intent,” explained Cycling UK’s Head of Campaigns, Duncan Dollimore. “If we can get them to change their perspective and see what it’s like from the cyclist’s point of view, we believe this could have a profound effect on driver behaviour.”
The charity has spoken to a range of police forces who have indicated that they would find the headset and VR film useful. They also have the backing of West Midlands Police, who pioneered the close pass operations that were subsequently rolled out by many other forces.
Last year, 970 people funded Cycling UK’s ‘close pass mats’, which allow officers to carry out roadside education as part of their close pass operations. Almost every police force in the UK took up the offer and accepted one.
PC Mark Hodson, of West Midlands Police Road Harm Reduction Team, said: "Our ‘Give Space, Be Safe’ campaign sprang from the need of addressing one of the number one threats to our most vulnerable road users, close passes, and helped change dangerous driving behaviour from the start.
“Since our operations began in autumn 2016, thanks to Cycling UK’s provision of close pass mats, police forces across the country are helping drivers to understand the dangers of close passing.
“By introducing VR, we’ll have a new innovative tool that will help people not just understand but also experience a close pass – which is a valuable learning experience.
“However there’s only so much educating we can do. The long and short of it is that drivers who pose the greatest threat of harm on our roads need to get their house in order, or we’ll do it for them.”