Operation Close Pass launched across Dorset today, which sees police targeting drivers who don’t give cyclists enough room when overtaking.
Seven drivers were given roadside education over a 90 minute period in Bournemouth. Officers also issued seven tickets to motorists for using a mobile phone at the wheel, one driver had their vehicle seized for no insurance or licence and another received a fixed penalty notice for not having a valid MOT certificate.
The initiative is designed to improve the safety of cyclists and raise awareness among all road users on how to behave courteously to each other.
The operation uses police officers wearing cycling clothes take to the road on bicycles fitted with cameras to record the behaviour of drivers who overtake them.
If offences are found to have taken place, the officer alerts colleagues who will direct the vehicle into a checkpoint where the driver is offered roadside education using a specially designed mat which illustrates the safe passing distance.
Anyone refusing the ten minute roadside education will revert to receiving a fixed penalty notice of £100 and three points on their licence for the offence of driving a vehicle without reasonable consideration of others.
Police Constable Heidi Moxam, Casualty Reduction Officer for Dorset Police, said: “The vast majority of motorists today believed they had given enough space when passing the cyclist, however, when presented with the evidence, were happy to adjust their driving behaviour. Everyone who came into contact with the operation voiced their support for the initiative.
“As a traffic officer, I regularly see the devastation caused when collisions occur between drivers and cyclists. It is vital we adopt schemes of this nature to prevent relatives receiving that knock on the door to learn their loved one won’t be returning home.”
Chief Inspector Adrian Leisk, of the Alliance Roads Policing department, said: “The Close Pass initiative being rolled out across Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, is in direct response to feedback we have received from cycling groups and individuals about the danger and discourtesy they face on a daily basis on the region’s extensive and varied road network.
“Since the beginning of 2015, three cyclists have been killed on Dorset roads with a further 133 being seriously injured and another 144 receiving slight injuries.
“Clearly this initiative, adopted from a similar scheme run by West Midlands Police, is a timely intervention in the safeguarding and education of our community of road users.”
Operation Close Pass has been made possible through working in partnership with local and national cycling organisations. The educational mats were provided by national cycling charity Cycling UK, with camera equipment fitted to the police bicycles being funded by Cycle Engage UK.
Duncan Dollimore, of Cycling UK, said: “Close passes are a regular occurrence for most cyclists, and are especially off-putting for new and less confident cyclists. Such dangerous manoeuvres are rarely done from a position of malice by the driver, but rather ignorance. This is why we’re fully behind the operation, which places education at its heart.”
Tom Staniford, of Cycle Engage UK, said: “We’re extremely grateful to the officers and special constables of both Forces who have devoted their time to this operation. Similar schemes elsewhere in the country have had a significant impact on driver behaviour and road safety, for a comparatively small investment of time and resources. We are delighted to be able to support such a proactive initiative in our region.”
Alongside the launch of the Close Pass initiative, Dorset Police is issuing guidance to those organising cycling events. The code of conduct aims to help cycle event organisers minimise negative impacts and maximise the benefits so that their events are welcomed by all involved and affected. The code has been developed alongside Purbeck District Council and other partners who host numerous cycling events throughout the year.
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, Martyn Underhill, said: “Road safety has become an increasing issue of concern for Dorset residents. Through public consultation, I know how important it is to local people to reduce the number of people killed or harmed on our roads.
“It’s fantastic that the cycling community has been heard and this innovative project directly addresses their safety concerns. It aims not only to protect cyclists, but to educate drivers to be more considerate road users, benefiting all those travelling in Dorset.”
As part of the Close Pass campaign, Halfords stores across Devon, Cornwall and Dorset have agreed to issue all new bike owners with police guidance on their rights and responsibilities whilst cycling.
The operation will run at locations across Dorset, in response to public feedback of driver behaviour and analysis of previous collision information.