A few months ago we were discussing the petition to Parliament to put a minimum passing distance in place for cyclists. The government hasn’t acted on the petition as yet. However, a local police force has decided to act on the issue. Cycling groups are impressed with West Midlands Police. They have put a key focus on tackling drivers who endanger cyclists by close overtaking. This target on ‘close pass’ drivers allows the police to educate and warn motorists of the dangers of not providing cyclists with space.
The rules of the road state motorists should provide cyclists with at least the same space as other vehicles when overtaking. As the petition states, there is no minimum passing distance for motorists overtaking cyclists. However 1.5 metres is the de facto minimum. Drivers not sticking to this distance in the West Midlands run a high risk of prosecution for driving without due care and attention.
This new operation in the West Midlands has police officers based in some of the busiest routes in the region. These officers focus is looking at the way motorists are behaving around cyclists. Police themselves will be pedalling as well as in cars. It is the on-bike officers who will radio through any instances of dangerous ‘close pass’ drivers. Their in-car colleagues will then follow up and intercept at a pre-set holding point.
This isn’t a case of the West Midlands Police automatically arresting and attempting to send first-time offenders to court. Initially drivers get what the police force describe as ‘a road-side educational input on safe overtaking’. Repeat offenders should expect prosecution.
Cyclist Injury and Death Figures too High
Figures from 2014 show that 21,287 cyclists were injured in reported road accidents. This figure included 3,514 people who were killed or seriously injured. Cycling casualties have risen because of the rise in cycling across the UK. However, there are also worries about the disproportionate levels of death. These may in part be down to the behaviour of other road users as well as cyclists themselves.
Speaking on behalf of West Midlands Police, traffic officer and cyclist PC Mark Hodson commented: “As a police force we must do our upmost to protect vulnerable road users and show that anyone who puts them in danger through poor driving will be dealt with.
“Cyclists may suddenly need to avoid uneven road surfaces or obstacles like drain covers so it’s important to afford them plenty of room when overtaking.
“We know through our work with the Birmingham Cycle forum that close passing is the single biggest deterrent stopping more people from taking to their bikes.”
The results of the West Midlands campaign are beginning to come in and appear positive. It is something all other police forces should take notice of and act on.
By Danny – Cyclists in the City, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33588651