Avon and Somerset Police says it will be running a comprehensive close-pass operations over the coming months, launching the initiative by highlighting a horrific incident in which a driver left a cycle commuter seriously injured when they crashed into him while attempting to overtake when it was not safe to do so.
The force’s initiative forms part of its support for the National Police Chief Council’s 2 Wheels Campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the dangers that people on bikes and motorcycles face on Britain’s roads, and will see plain-clothes and uniformed officers issued with bicycle cameras and targeting areas that are particularly hazardous for cyclists.
Where a motorist is deemed to have overtaken too closely, they will receive “either an educational letter or a notice of intended prosecution depending on the nature of the incident,” it says.
That initiative will be complemented by full-scale close pass operations with plain-clothes officers on bicycles filming drivers making close passes and radioing ahead to uniformed colleagues who will educate them about safe overtaking and, in more serious cases, report them for an offence.
Predictable responses on Facebook
A Facebook post about the initiative from the force drew the usual predictable comments of the “what about cyclists riding on the pavement” type – although equally, there were many motorists in favour of the operation – and police are encouraging all road users to report near misses, saying that will help it gain “a clearer picture of what’s going on and identifying if there is a need for some targeted work to be done to prevent a serious collision happening.”
“The first time I saw the remains of my bike, I cried”
The force used the story of a Portishead cycle commuter named Duncan who was knocked off his bike by a driver who followed another motorist overtaking him but had to pull in sharply to avoid a head-on collision with another vehicle.
“The first time I saw the remains of my bike, I cried,” Duncan recalled. “The realisation hit me hard on how serious my collision was. I kept having flashbacks and intrusive thoughts, and it stopped me sleeping.
“Over time my memory came back. I was reminded of the initial violent bang from the impact of being hit by the car, and then later being in the road in and out of consciousness, with someone trying to move me and paramedics trying to talk to me. That feeling of being frozen would overcome me night after night.”
He added: “Doctors told me afterwards I was very lucky to be alive. The day I came home from the hospital and first saw my children was very emotional, and I held them tightly.”
The first police officer to attend the scene said: “The first thing I remember seeing was what was left of the push bike. It was broken up into lots of pieces. Luckily, Duncan’s injuries weren’t as bad as they could have been,” he added.
“There wasn’t really anything else Duncan could’ve done that day to prevent him getting caught up in a collision,” he continued.
“He took cycling very seriously and the route was one he took regularly so he was confident in his bike-handling skills. Wearing a helmet and high visibility clothing, he could be easily seen, but unfortunately the driver misjudged the time and space they needed to overtake Duncan safely.”
“Every near miss is a potential incident”
Damien Devanny, a road safety officer with the force, said: “Part of my role is to work closely with data in order to help identify risk in advance.
“Our online near miss tool received 437 reports from cyclists in 2018 and, along with collision data, this helps us to better target our education and enforcement activity.
“Every near miss is a potential incident and we want to make the roads safer for all road users. We’d like to use this campaign as an opportunity to remind all road users to report near misses.
“There is enough space for everyone and Duncan’s story is just one example of how, had the driver just waited until he had a safe opportunity to overtake, then things could have turned out a lot differently.”
Officers from Avon and Somerset Police are partnering with South Gloucestershire Council for an event next Tuesday a Rolls-Royce’s Filton base to highlight the initiative and speak about cycle safety.
Ben von Bertele, chair of Rolls-Royce’s Bike Users Group, commented: “For Rolls-Royce, our employees are our most important resource, and making sure they can both get to work, and get home each day safely is a major priority.
“Ensuring they can cycle is key to keeping them healthy and happy, and we therefore work closely with the local police and council to ensure that the roads around our Bristol site are as safe as they can be.
“We always encourage our cyclists to log any close passes with the police, and think the close pass operation is a brilliant tool for driver education, and we look forward to seeing the impact it has,” he added.
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.