Avon and Somerset Police will be stopping motorists who drive too close to cyclists when overtaking as part of a new initiative, ‘Operation Close Pass’, which will run on hotspot roads with a high number of ‘near misses’ on Friday 2 June.
This is the first operation of its kind for the region, which will run on Filton Road in Bristol and Lower Bristol Road in Bath and is being led by the Roads Policing Unit / Tri Force, which includes Avon and Somerset police in conjunction with Wiltshire and Gloucestershire Constabularies.
During the operation, plain clothes police officers on bikes will identify drivers who pass dangerously close and they will be stopped by colleagues. Drivers will be offered road-side education on how to pass cyclists safely – including the opportunity to experience how much space should be given when overtaking – as an alternative to prosecution. They will also be looking out for cyclists behaving dangerously.
Chief Inspector Kevan Rowlands, Head of Road Safety Avon and Somerset police said: “Since the beginning of 2017 we’ve received more than 240 reports of near misses, which suggests that people aren’t aware of how much space they should leave when overtaking, or perhaps choose to ignore this advice.
“Drivers should give cyclists at least the same amount of space as vehicles when overtaking, which is 1.5 metres or approximately a car door width. Anyone failing to leave enough space puts cyclists at risk and could be prosecuted for driving without due care and attention.
"As well as these set piece operations colleagues have volunteered to carry our cameras during their off duty recreational and commuting journeys on bikes. We will use the footage obtained to offer education to offending drivers or to prosecute where it is appropriate.
“I know cyclists behave badly too but that poor behaviour is less likely to result in death or serious injury than poor behaviour by the drivers of cars and other motor vehicles.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “Road safety is a phrase which means different things to different people and it depends on whether you prefer to walk, cycle or drive. Despite this, residents continually tell me how important road safety is to them and how they want the roads to be a safe place for all who use them.
“Encounters between cyclists and motorists are regularly raised with me in my mailbag, either over email or at public events. I have listened to both sides and I believe we can all be more tolerant and aware of each other when using our roads and where road laws are broken the police will investigate it.
“I welcome any initiative that reduces conflict on our roads, helps educate road users and makes our roads a safer place for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. I’m delighted that the Constabulary are adopting the West Midlands Police scheme, and I hope we will see similar results within Avon and Somerset.”
Sgt Warren Knight Tri Force specialist operations said: "Our Tri Force roads policing unit is supporting and planning with Avon and Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire Police to undertake the Close Pass cycling safety programme. This project is also being supported by Cycling UK who are providing forces with equipment. Cycling on our roads needs to be safe and all road users need to work together to reduce instances of those being killed and seriously injured on our roads."
Operation Close Pass was developed by West Midlands Police and has proved to be an effective way of reducing near misses and improving safety on the roads for all road users. Tri-Force Roads Policing (Avon and Somerset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire) is among the first of a number of forces who are looking to adopt this tactic.
If drivers behave in any way that puts cyclists at risk, you can report near misses on the force website www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/cycling
. Both drivers and cyclists can also improve their driving and cycling by taking part in the training on the new Cycle Smarter website www.cyclesmarter.co.uk
Posted on Friday 2nd June 2017