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"If police don't get it, it's no surprise that many others don't": Cyclist close pass operation questioned as chief inspector from another force points out problems with "overtaking distance" mats used

Cyclists raised numerous issues, not least the bike being positioned in the door zone of parked cars — a chief inspector from Sheffield making the case for the mats to be updated to reflect the Highway Code

Police Scotland has sparked much online discussion after sharing pictures of a close pass operation that was undertaken by officers from the Greater Glasgow division last week, prompting numerous issues to be raised by cyclists and even a chief inspector from another force, one commenter calling it "the worst operation close pass picture I have ever seen".

The much-criticised image shared on social media showed a community officer on a bike, positioned on a close pass mat showing that he was 0.75m away from the edge. However, while this would normally denote being 75cm from the kerb, in this case it meant being 75cm from the door zone of a row of parked cars.

Close pass operation (Police Scotland Greater Glasgow)

Alan Myles called it "the worst operation close pass picture I have ever seen" and took issue with the aforementioned door-zone positioning, the scenario also being placed at an "inappropriate place to overtake", with cars parked contrary to the Highway Code and a questionable "actual passing distance" once the width of the handlebars and car's wing mirror are accounted for.

Close pass operation (Police Scotland Greater Glasgow)

Chief Inspector Smith, from Sheffield's Response unit, replied to say that despite having one of the close pass mats, they do not use it due to these issues. He explained that they were made before the Highway Code changes, but added concerns that "it suggests that cyclists need to be 75cm from the kerb which isn't a requirement" and "it doesn't make allowances for handlebar width".

The Highway Code tells cyclists to "take care when passing parked vehicles, leaving enough room (a door's width or 1 metre) to avoid being hit if a car door is opened, and watch out for pedestrians stepping into your path".

Close pass operation (Police Scotland Greater Glasgow)

Likewise, the idea that cyclists should always ride 0.75m from the kerb is not true either. Rule 72 states: "Ride in the centre of your lane, to make yourself as clearly visible as possible, in the following situations: On quiet roads or streets – if a faster vehicle comes up behind you, move to the left to enable them to overtake, if you can do so safely. In slower-moving traffic — when the traffic around you starts to flow more freely, move over to the left if you can do so safely so that faster vehicles behind you can overtake. At the approach to junctions or road narrowings where it would be unsafe for drivers to overtake you."

The other point made by many responding to Police Scotland's photos was that the mat positions the start of the "overtaking clearance" from the centre of the bike, not its widest point, meaning in reality the 1.5m distance made clear in the Highway Code (at speeds of up to 30mph, if going faster more space should be given) cannot be achieved.

Riders on Facebook pointed out similar concerns with Police Scotland's close pass communication, Debra Storr responding: "Except cyclists needs to be outside the dooring zone and the passing vehicle needs to be at least 1.5m from the widest part of the bike — not the midpoint. Please retire those mats or add a metre to the width to stand in for the dooring zone and put the cyclist in the middle of the 75cm track."

Close pass operation (Police Scotland Greater Glasgow)

Jamie Emerson added: "It's great that they're making an attempt to educate but as is so often the case, the educators clearly don't cycle in a city."

Close pass operation (Police Scotland Greater Glasgow)

"That is a really weird picture," Kevin Payne wrote about the door zone set-up seen in the photo below. "As a cyclist, I'd be further over, out of the door zone, and as a driver the last thing I'd be trying is to pass a cyclist on a fairly narrow section of road with parked cars on both sides. To be honest, if the police don't get it, it's no surprise that many others don't!"

Close pass operation (Police Scotland Greater Glasgow)

Chief Inspector Smith also suggested that a redesign of the close pass mats used would be "helpful".

"At that point the 1.5m figure really was 'guidance' with no explicit backing in the Highway Code. I think now that the code has changed a mat redesign would be helpful — possibly with the 2m for pedestrians/equestrians on there too. And no 75cm marking."

Increased police work surrounding close passes has been seen in recent years, much coming after officers Steve Hudson and Mark Hodson devised West Midlands Police's Operation Close Pass in 2016, it seeing plain clothes officers on bikes monitor overtaking drivers, with anyone found to be carrying out dangerous manoeuvres facing education or enforcement.

> Almost all drivers agree that close passes of cyclists put lives at risk

Back in 2021, Great Britain's most successful Paralympian and now Greater Manchester's Walking and Cycling Commissioner, Dame Sarah Storey, joined South Yorkshire Police on a close pass operation that saw almost one in five drivers get pulled over for roadside education.

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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27 comments

Avatar
Carior | 5 days ago
4 likes

The fundamental problem with this is that as people have said, this is a truly horrific place to attempt a pass (and I don't think a safe pass is possible in this location, and certainly for the police force to be suggesting otherwise is horrific) - that multiple police officers can't see that is truly stonking!

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MichaelWinnerRIP | 5 days ago
4 likes

At least Police Scotland is doing something. Humberside Police won't do close pass operations - they told me it's too dangerous for their officers (Chief Inspector Tony Tinsley.)

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Bungle_52 replied to MichaelWinnerRIP | 5 days ago
4 likes

It looks like they are willing to let other people take the risk though,  they are going to provide local cyclists with cameras.

https://www.humberside-pcc.gov.uk/News/News-Archive/2024/Commissioner-se...

They are also one of the few forces who have achieved a dangerous driving conviction rather than accept careless.

https://road.cc/content/news/speeding-driver-who-killed-cyclist-jailed-f...

There was another force who said it was too dangerous for their officers to do close pass operations but I can't remember which one.

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wtjs replied to Bungle_52 | 5 days ago
2 likes

There was another force who said it was too dangerous for their officers to do close pass operations but I can't remember which one

It was a female senior police officer in Worcester who cancelled the planned operation on the grounds of the officers' safety- this seems to be West-Mercia Police

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Bungle_52 replied to wtjs | 5 days ago
0 likes

Thank you.

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bikes | 5 days ago
13 likes

I see that mat includes a list of all the prosecutions police Scotland have made for close passes.

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eburtthebike | 6 days ago
4 likes

Alan Myles called it "the worst operation close pass picture I have ever seen"

Alan Myles is my nomination for the annual "No Shit Sherlock" award.

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stonojnr replied to eburtthebike | 6 days ago
4 likes

He might call it the worse operation he's seen, but even a worse operation is better than no close pass operation at all.

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eburtthebike replied to stonojnr | 5 days ago
4 likes

stonojnr wrote:

He might call it the worse operation he's seen, but even a worse operation is better than no close pass operation at all.

Not sure that's true.  If this operation encourages drivers to pass closer than 1,5m, has it helped?

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IanGlasgow replied to eburtthebike | 5 days ago
6 likes

Last time Police Scotland ran an Operation Close Pass I was close-passed by a Police Scotland vehicle (it's somewhere in the NMOTD archives). This time they're teaching other drivers how to close-pass. Somebody needs to explain to Police Scotland that Operation Close Pass isn't supposed to be about PROMOTING close-passing.

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stonojnr replied to eburtthebike | 5 days ago
0 likes

Yes, even if it just encouraged drivers to leave only 1m, not 1.5m, that's still probably 40-50cms more than most of us get, and I'd be totally ok with that outcome.

Versus no police operations and drivers are left thinking as long as they don't hit you that's enough space

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IanGlasgow replied to eburtthebike | 5 days ago
5 likes

eburtthebike wrote:

Alan Myles called it "the worst operation close pass picture I have ever seen"

Alan Myles is my nomination for the annual "No Shit Sherlock" award.

Alan Myles knows better than anyone how awful Police Scotland are. He was knocked off his bike by an impatient driver. Despite his video evidence Police Scotland took no action. After he lodged a complaint they acknowledged that they hadn't handled the incident properly, and did nothing.

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marmotte27 | 6 days ago
5 likes

As not even being a cyclist is sufficient to actually understanding cycling, what's there to be expected from people who never do it ?

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wtjs | 6 days ago
5 likes

This is an outrageous attempt at a heist of the Most Inept and Cyclist-Hostile Police Force in the UK Trophy from the vaults at Lancashire Constabulary HQ, its natural home. See how much attention LC pays to this namby-pamby, mollycoddling '1.5m' nonsense: no response to this

https://upride.cc/incident/px12dnd_stagecoach42_closepass/

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IanGlasgow replied to wtjs | 5 days ago
3 likes

wtjs wrote:

This is an outrageous attempt at a heist of the Most Inept and Cyclist-Hostile Police Force in the UK Trophy from the vaults at Lancashire Constabulary HQ, its natural home. See how much attention LC pays to this namby-pamby, mollycoddling '1.5m' nonsense: no response to this

https://upride.cc/incident/px12dnd_stagecoach42_closepass/

Police Scotland can beat that - they have no online reporting system. You can either wait 2 hours in a police station to make a statement, or wait at home for them to come to you (maybe, eventually). Only then will they take no further action on almost every report they receive. If you're really lucky - likle Maganatom  - they'll threatent to charge you with swearing at the driver who got out of his car and assaulted you.

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ROOTminus1 | 6 days ago
10 likes

On a different-but-related note I was told off by my wife for swerving towards the centre of the road whilst driving to prevent an oncoming driver from attempting to make to a dangerous overtake of a cyclist. I understand her concern for wanting to avoid a collision, but I'd rather if a collision occurred it was between two vehicles, not the guy on the bike.

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marmotte27 replied to ROOTminus1 | 6 days ago
5 likes

Well done you! I absolutely hate those oncoming drivers who hug the kerb/outside of the lane, inviting the car behind me to do a dangerous close pass...

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stonojnr replied to ROOTminus1 | 6 days ago
2 likes

Well swerving is never a good idea when you're driving and you need to be careful about how you deploy blocks like that.

That oncoming driver will always choose to go closer to the lump of flesh on the bike than risk damaging their car on yours.

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Hirsute replied to stonojnr | 5 days ago
0 likes

That was the consensus before when I raised it. The oncoming driver will just squeeze through anyway giving the cyclist potentially no escape at all.

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giff77 replied to ROOTminus1 | 5 days ago
3 likes

Strangely enough my father taught me when driving to move out to the white line as much as possible. Mainly it allowed you to see and be seen more clearly. Discourage oncoming motorists executing stupid overtakes. Gave you more room to take evasive manoeuvres. Kept your nearside wheels and chassis out of the crap kerbside. Also made overtaking cyclists easier as you were already a fair bit out and had less ground to cover when carrying out the actual pass.

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OnYerBike | 6 days ago
8 likes

Agree that the mat does need to be redesigned, but even so Police Glasgow have chosen a particularly bad place to demonstrate it. In addition to the parked cars, it's worth noting that there is a Give Way road junction about 20m ahead (not immediately obvious from the photo, but would be obvious to the driver and cyclist. Location for reference: https://maps.app.goo.gl/KrKnaiSE8pB1XJsU7). So all in all, really not a place any driver should be attempting to overtake. 

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antigee replied to OnYerBike | 4 days ago
0 likes

Yes you can just see the give way sign and markings in the photo - personally at that distance from the junction I would be riding primary to make myself more visible and reduce passing opportunities for enthusiatic left hookers...the last couple of pics look like taken in a carpark with a two lane exit possibly? Anyway again metres from a give way and I suspect the cyclist is shown riding inside an area intended for pedestrians - think most experienced cyclists would again be in primary here to be more visible to drivers urgently moving out of the right angled parking...fails to teach drivers that slowing down is an option

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Pub bike | 6 days ago
6 likes

"Please retire those mats or add a metre to the width to stand in for the dooring zone and put the cyclist in the middle of the 75cm track"

Embarassing for Cycling UK as it is their mat that assumes the cyclist is 10mm wide.

It would also be useful if the mat showed where the centre-line is on a typical road so that vehicles overtaking know how much of their vehicle needs to be on the other side of it (i.e most of it).

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EK Spinner replied to Pub bike | 6 days ago
11 likes

"It would also be useful if the mat showed where the centre-line is on a typical road so that vehicles overtaking know how much of their vehicle needs to be on the other side of it (i.e most of it)"

It could be argued that if it is safe to cross the white line (and surely it must be, or they wouldn't be trying to overtake) then it is safe to fully cross the white line (the line is down the middle - your car fits on both sides) so that is the safest place to be for the overtaking, anything less is lazy or deliberatly done to intimidate / endanger

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lonpfrb replied to EK Spinner | 3 days ago
0 likes

Ignorant and lazy, despite power steering.

A true graduated system is the only good answer walk, scoot, ride bicycle, ride motorbike, drive small car, drive PSV, drive HGV. Anything less encourages Ignorance.

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dubwise | 6 days ago
6 likes

Nothing more than lip service from them.

As I pointed out the other day, I was overtaken by a Polis Scotland van driven by someone who obviously couldn't give a damn about cyclists.

Close pass at speed, double white lines, narrow road into oncoming traffic.  Not the first time either, also had a close pass from them as depicted in the first photo.

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Scottish Scrutineer replied to dubwise | 5 days ago
7 likes

I'm afraid it's obvious that Police Scotland do not consider the safety of cyclists, as can be seen in this photo that I took recently..

That is a shared path, at the entrance to the local Police Station

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