Police officers tackle dangerous overtaking on Operation Close Pass Day

Police officers from 39 of the 43 forces in England and Wales and Police Service Northern Ireland were out cycling yesterday, 14th April, on busy roads as part of a national day of action to identify people who drive too closely to cyclists and increase awareness around safe overtaking.

Part of the National Roads Policing Operations and Intelligence (NRPOI) unit 2Wheel week of action, 12th-18th April, will be working to educate drivers and make the roads safer for cyclists.

The nationwide action builds on an initiative begun by West Midlands Police force in 2016 where undercover cycling police officers would pull over drivers who gave less than 1.5 metres, the width of a car, space. The offenders would then receive a short instructional session on how to overtake cyclists safely.

The campaign saw a 20% reduction in cycling casualties and was backed by Cycling UK. Since 2016, the cycling charity has provided every police force in the UK with educational tools including a virtual reality film.

Keir Gallagher, Cycling UK’s campaigns manager, said: “It’s been amazing to see the growth of Operation Close Pass from being developed by one police force five years ago to now being part of a dedicated national day of action for the first time, with support from police chiefs a national level. In that time, the roads have undoubtedly been made safer for everyone thanks to initiatives like this which aim to educate drivers.

“Most drivers don’t intend to intimidate other road users and, often just don’t realise how dangerous it can be if they leave little space between their car and the person on a bike. Roadside education backed by enforcement is key to changing people’s behaviour.”

Sgt Jon Butler from the West Midlands Police road harm prevention team added: “Our primary aim is to maintain the safety of vulnerable road users, while promoting sustainable travel and shared space road use. Operation Close Pass is a vital approach in helping us to do that.

“The force was the first in the country to proactively target road user behaviour in this way, and we’re proud to see others are now following the example set by PC’s Mark Hodson and Steve Hudson, who launched the operation.

“It’s enabled us to educate road users on the dangers of overtaking too close, prosecute those who risk lives, and ultimately see fewer vulnerable road users killed or seriously injured on our roads.”

Current advice in the Highway Code under Rule 163 says drivers “should give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car.”

Following campaigning by Cycling UK, a newly revised Highway Code is expected to be published later this year. The new wording will clarify a minimum safe passing distance and will advise when overtaking people cycling to give between 1.5m at speeds below 30mph, and more above.

The NPCC national day of action is also supported by NRPOI (The National Roads Policing Operations and Intelligence).

Read the April issue of BikeBiz below:

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