“Best Cyclist Road Safety Initiative Ever” — Cycling UK & West Midlands Police
Every bicyclist knows that feeling of relief as a car passes a bit too closely. Although, there are too many injured bicyclists who do not. The West Midlands Police are determined to put those injuries and deaths in the past, and one of the police agency’s new initiatives is gettng props now as the “best cyclist road safety initiative ever.”
A press release in mid-September via Cycling UK states: “Cycling UK is delighted to support a ground-breaking initiative by West Midlands Police to proactively target drivers who ignore Highway Code rules on passing distances when overtaking cyclists.”
At best, close passes of cyclists, sometimes called near misses, put riders at risk. For others, the intimidation whether intentional or not is a risk that is simply too high. They would like to do so, but they don’t cycle for this reason.
David Cox, Chair of Cycling UK’s Board of Trustees, who lives in the West Midlands, said: “Close passes by motorists are hazardous for cyclists and extremely intimidating. This may be due to ignorance of the Highway Code and carelessness but sometimes it is done deliberately and aggressively.”
Cycling UK, a national cycling charity, thus chose the West Midlands Police as “the best cyclist safety initiative by any police force, ever.” Here are more comments from the charity:
- West Midlands Police is the first force in the country to fully appreciate this and commit to a bold and intelligence-led enforcement operation to protect vulnerable road users.
- Highway Code rules clearly state that drivers should allow vulnerable road users as much room as they would a car when overtaking – but many people seem not to know this, and many who do ignore it.
- Now West Midlands Police has launched an operation that sees officers saddle up on some of the region’s busiest routes looking out for motorists who put cyclists at risk.
- Police cyclists will radio the details of close-pass drivers for in-car colleagues to intercept at a designated holding point.
- Drivers will be offered a road-side educational input on safe overtaking but repeat offenders – or anyone deemed to have driven dangerously close to a cyclist – can expect to be prosecuted and taken to court.
Cycling UK continues by quoting Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s Senior Road Safety and Legal Campaigner:
“Cyclists have been campaigning about close passes for years, with limited success. The priority is given to tackling close passes, and the appreciation of the danger they present for cyclists, has varied between police forces.
“This is the first time a police force has come forward with a plan to prioritize enforcement against close pass drivers. It is quite simply the best cyclist safety initiative by any police force, ever.
“West Midlands Police plans to combine enforcement and education to make sure drivers get the message that cyclists need space when being overtaken, and those who don’t give them space risk prosecution for careless driving. It is a simple but effective way to combat a long-standing concern and we hope other police forces around the country will follow their ingenious lead.”
As further background on how serious a problem lack of safe routes for bicyclists is, the charity also notes that, “Between 2010 and 2014 there were 530 KSI incidents (killed or seriously injured) in the West Midlands involving bicycles – 84% of them saw riders colliding with cars.”
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Image via Cycling UK