At the “Cycle City Active City” conference in Manchester last week Road Safety Minister Jesse Norman commended the work on policing close passing of cyclists by PCs Mark Hodson and Steve Hudson of the West Midlands Police Road Harm Reduction Team, saying his Department “plans to build on it – it is a very effective way of building awareness and reducing casualties”. We’ll have a look at what this means.
We have also had headlines about 3rd party reporting of driver law breaking – and a new initiative in London. Let’s see what is actually happening – and what may, or may not happen – on the ground.
By now readers of posts on this site will be aware of the existence of operations policing the close passing of cyclists and related enforcement based on reducing road danger at source. Our last update was after our training day last year here ; specifically on 3rd party reporting of careless/dangerous driving we reported on the launch of Operation Snap here.
Police Services that are currently or have been recently carrying out policing of close passing of cyclists.
The basic format is the same: plain clothes officers report ahead if they have been passed too closely; the driver is stopped and , generally using a mat supplied by Cycling UK (new ones are being ordered for this summer), the driver then has Rule 163 of the Highway Code and its rationale explained to them. Some 26 of the 42 Police Services in the UK attended our September training day last year.
Precise numbers of forces doing this kind of work are difficult as some don’t update us and there is also a lot of work involving joint operations over different policing areas.
3rd party reporting is discussed.
I have almost certainly missed out on some close passing policing – do let me know. Here is where we are at the end of June 2018:
Avon & Somerset
They have a Cycling UK mat and had done full close pass operations 3 times in Bristol, and also in Bath, Swindon & Cheltenham by mid-September last year. 10% engagement on social media – 2.5% is more normal. Local BBC news covered an operation as a main story. They were due to run more operations.
3rd Party: They started automated online reporting of traffic incidents in September, and can use info from this to promote the close passing scheme. Use of 3rd party footage for prosecution is now allowed. Avon and Somerset give cameras to officers who commute by bike.
There has been some Twitter criticism of the response to 3rd party reporting: “Adam Reynolds @awjre 7h7 hours ago If you are videoed doing a close pass & the pass is deemed below standard @ASPolice will send you a letter and ask you to do this online driver course http://www.cyclesmarter.co.uk/driver which contains a series of videos where the blame is placed on the cyclist. HT @Chutzpah84 for this beauty. 11:02 am – 15 Jun 2018 From Bath, England
Operation Velo (with Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire) was launched in February.
A tweet from @CambsCops caused some comment because of implication that cyclists should ride single file when they don’t have to.
Close passing work still in infancy. Using mat for education only, promoted on social media. The main development is the use of signs on roads in Cumbria in 2018:
Some 3rd party reporting is done; they will try to add close passing to this.
Initial interest has been shown, but no developments we know of since last year.
One close pass operation in a rural location (with close passing of horses also involved), one in Dorchester, one in Weymouth planned for later this summer.
Devon and Cornwall
They have “run several events” since last year.
Due to run operations this year.
They have the Extra Eyes 3rd party system in place : They will now be insisting that any footage place on a public or shared YouTube feed will receive no further police action beyond a warning letter.
There has been criticism on twitter of failure to follow up an incident:
Kirsten Sjovoll @KirstenSjovoll Jun 22 Could @EssexPoliceUK please explain their apparent policy of ‘no video footage, no crime to investigate’ where there is an incident between a cyclist and a motorist and there are two independent witnesses offering to give evidence?
Introduced close passing policing last year: no further news since then. They use a leaflet prepared by Gloucestershire CC which is included in our information pack and has been requested for use by some other police services.
A number of pilots were run last year. As you know, Manchester is the scene for probably the biggest investment in cycling infrastructure in the UK (after London) under the leadership of Mayor Andy Burnham and the excellent Chris Boardman. I am due to be discussing how close passing and related danger reduction policing can be rolled out with Boardman’s team shortly.
GMP have a link as part of Operation Considerate for 3rd party reporting .
Hampshire and Thames Valley
Since October 2016 they have conducted 13 Close Pass (Give Space Be Safe) operations, 6 of which are since the last update . A total of 99 motorists (1 lorry, 33 vans and 65 car drivers) were stopped, all have opted for education at the check site rather than prosecution. The last operation was on 13th and 14th June on the Isle of Wight.
There have been over 4 million views of the film of their work in a BBC Inside Out item . A shortened version is used to play at events about what they do. There has also been a back of bus campaign, and leaflets. They use 3-4 officers plus a council RSO and someone from the fire service for each operation.
They had no 3rd party reporting mechanism except for dangerous driving last year, but hope to set one up by October.
They are using VR (virtual reality) goggles for training.
Their work has been accompanied by officers urging cyclists to wear bright clothing and helmets.
Nothing new to report here since our last report: Operation “Safe pass” started on 2 July 2017, with 6 operations up to mid-September. Emphasis has been on education and engagement.
They have done around 120 stops in their operations, with 3-5 police plus Road Safety Officers (RSOs) involved. Responses have generally been positive, with no prosecutions. Motorcycles have occasionally been used. They take camera footage with tablets, for instant feedback to drivers.
Not much has been done on social media. They are trying to extend the operation into winter by following existing cyclists to watch for close passes. A poorly trained cyclist seems to get a lot of close passes compared to better trained ones.
According to @MerseyFire Oct 13 2017 : “Merseyside’s Safe Pass initiative stopped 1 driver every 3 mins yesterday highlighting dangers of driving too close to cyclists.#RoadSafety”
Their third party reporting system has been refurbished
Cycling UK, Chair RDRF and Sgt. Osborne of Cycle Safety Team at launch of MPS programme last year
The Met, as the largest police force, are obviously going to be a special case. We reviewed the start of their operations last year here. They are carrying out “at least one operation a week” addressing close passing of cyclists – in fact in 2018 so far they have done 84, with 83 prosecutions for traffic offences and 12 seizures of vehicles.
There is due to be a major step forward later this week in London…Watch this space!
and here it is: London Cycling Campaign have launched “Stay Wider of the Rider” on 5th July 2018. As well as continuing to work with MPS Cycle Safety Team, there is a social media campaign, a website with a facility to pin locations of particular importance plus a petition to the Minster asking for close passing policing to be run out by all police services.
Norfolk and Suffolk
No news from them since last year, when we reported:
Norfolk and Suffolk had only piloted a single day in each force area, using 3 cyclists (PCSOs), 3 Motorcyclists and members of the local fire station and an RSO from the council. They had only recorded 4 close pass offences in Norfolk and 3 in Suffolk, but in debrief found that would be attributable to running the operation early in the morning and during rush hour, in places where the cyclists were the ones managing to overtake static cars!
They were planning on running 2 more operations in Norfolk in October, on a smaller scale, but in the afternoons in the areas where statistics suggest an increased number of cyclists collisions. They were pleased that the education format taken from colleagues in West Mids worked well and will be the default format.
They attended last year’s training day, have a mat and officer commitment, but lack of resources have meant no close passing operations and just the use of the mat at public events for education.
No reports back from them. A video of a questionable response to a 3rd party video reporting a (very) close pass received many comments on Twitter.
Sussex Their approach was launched on 6th June this year. “The Force intends to name the scheme ‘Safe Pass’ based on nudge theory to present motorists with the subconscious opportunity to pass cyclists safely, rather than closely”
Third party reporting can be done here.
Still market leaders on close passing and related policing. They were visited by Road Safety Minister Jesse Norman who was impressed by what they are doing
1. On CLOSE PASSING: In the last year they have been partnered by West Midlands Fire Service, who now do the educational work. This allows the police to carry out operations with four officers (one cyclist, one safety officer generally on a motorcycle, with two stopping officers at the stop site).
2. With 3rd PARTY REPORTING, they have had some 350 – 400 reports up until November last year – we’re due to get the updated figures soon. 3 cases have gone to court and resulted in guilty verdicts under Section 3 of the 1988 Road Traffic Act. Other cases where there has been a refusal to nominate a driver are pursued. Whereas the on-road activity is educational, 3rd party reporting can result in prosecution. So far the ratio of education to enforcement (which results in either 3 points on the licence plus a fine, or a Driver Awareness training session) is 1:3.
3. They have continued their policing of road danger in their newly named “Road Harm Reduction Team” into:
(a) 20 MPH POLICING. This occurs some 2 -3 times per week.
(b) POLICING CYCLING INFRASTRUCTURE. They are about to start policing careless driving with regard to Rule 178 of the Highway Code, namely breaking of rules with regard to Advanced Stop Lines, to reduce “left hooking” incidents.
4. SOCIAL MEDIA: As well as their award winning Twitter account, they have an important blog we strongly suggest you read. https://trafficwmp.wordpress.com/
5. West Midlands Fire Service are also training commercial drivers
West Midlands accept most 3rd party reports, and the TP officer decides if prosecution is appropriate.
Here’s an example of what they do from Twitter today:
Were you the cyclist on the A452 Collector Rd towards Chelmsley Wood who was “close passed” at about 8:30 am yesterday, & the offender was immediately pulled over & prosecuted by ourselves? If so can you please make contact with PC 3505 Mark Hodson. Please RT
We’ve got excellent footage from our vehicle from behind the offence but we would just like to know if you were running a camera, not only for the prosecution but so we can use the footage “post” prosecution as part of our #OpClosePass programme.
WMPRHRT work closely with the West Mids Fire Service:
They have carried out a full day’s presentation to Royal Mail depot at Wednesbury. 30 drivers were given a presentation, practical input on the ‘mat with bike’ and also education on enforcement from Central Motorways Police Group. This was very well received with lots of debate which was both constructive and thought provoking, getting the ‘drivers’ view of their relationship with cyclists. Royal Mail indicated that they had a positive impact.
More training rolled out to West Mids. fire crews to enable more close pass operations to take place. There is now a specific driver education power point presentation for anyone delivering roadside education: primarily aimed at Fire Service Crews, this will enable personnel to support close pass operations. Possibility of working with Dyfed Powys fire crews/police.
“We have re-branded our Operation to the Close Pass name rather than Safe Pass that we previously used, this is to keep us in line with the National name / branding. We have also made it a Neighbourhood Policing style of Operation so our NPTs are now deploying this based on requests from their communities or Local Authorities for particular problem locations, this approach provides greater flexibility rather than relying on specialist Roads Policing Officers who can often be called to deal with other incidents. Deployments are a maximum of 3 hours in duration and targeted around the morning or evening rush hour.
* Numbers of operations : We launched our 2018 campaign after the Tour de Yorkshire in early May and have had a total of 7 deployments, with 2 in Leeds and 5 in Wakefield.
* Numbers stopped : In total 28 motorists have been stopped (with 10 on one location in Leeds which we will be revisiting)
* Charges (if any) brought 1 Driver was reported for driving without due care (due to disputing the incident, even with video footage)
* Progress with 3rd party reporting Still no further in WYP but hope to have a solution in place by Autumn,
* Social media activity Lots of Social media through NPT Facebook & Twitter campaigns & also Local Authority Twitters
* Anything else like media coverage We had quite a bit of media interest particularly with Wakefield who launched their operations on a week of action in June. Links here ; here and here
We also have our Off-DutyOfficers who use the Cycliq cameras on their commute and recreational rides who are busy with over 20 warning letters & educational leaflets sent out since February and 1 prosecution where the vehicle not only passed close but sounded the horn whilst doing so.”
Police Scotland Award winners here: #OperationClosePass winners of Most Effective Road Safety, Traffic Management and Enforcement Project at 2018 Scottish Transport Awards.
Overall for all of Scotland over a year, there have been 41 operations with 186 drivers stopped.
Their Twitter presence has included:
As our vulnerable road user campaign finishes, we would like to dispel a common myth. There is nothing wrong with cyclists riding two abreast It makes it easier to pass them as it reduces their overall length. Here is a handy video to demonstrate this @polscotrpu Jun 23
If you are driving a car & you see a pothole you try to avoid it…..so why would anyone expect cyclists to be any different? If approaching a cyclist(s) they may suddenly change their road position & move out towards the centre of the road. Be patient, then pass when it’s safe
“A fine example of how to safely pass a cyclist(s). Be patient, wait until it’s safe to pass & make full use of the road in order to afford the maximum amount of space for the cyclist(s). If only every pass was like this! It would allow others like Rhoda to use the road safely . (See the video here )There has also been criticism – welcomed and politely received by them – of a Press Release issued by police Scotland with their “vulnerable road users” (including motorcyclists) programme.
Police Service Northern Ireland They report: “CLOSE PASS OPS –
6 sessions at the end of May/ Start of June with various police motorcyclists which targeted areas that members of the public had highlighted as issue areas in response to Facebook (PSNI Belfast City Centre) / Twitter posts (@PsniBelfast) #Seethecyclist #opclosepass. I patrolled the areas in plain clothes with a shadow motorcycle support and I spoke and dealt with 40 motorists and cyclists for a number of offences over the sessions including Driving whilst using a mobile telecommunications device, careless driving, careless cycling, dangerous cycling, breach of a traffic sign (red lights – Cyclists), breach of cycle lanes (motorists) by FPN, reports and Advice and Guidance.
Cyclist education packs
Working with clubs and commuters around road presence and positions. One of the key club areas is when in 2 abreast, ensure they look like 2 and not 5 wide. There are two photos attached which show the difference once a rider shouted Tidy Up and cyclists moved into position; feedback from drivers showed this was a key area of frustration when they assumed riders where more than 2 abreast.
GIVE CYCLISTS SPACE +1.5m
We have rolled out the Give Cyclists Room decals +1.5m which is placed on the rear of vehicles (including large number of police vehicles) and this has been taken up by a number of large firms such as ARGO Merchants (HGVS 300+ vehicles), Genesis bakery (LGVS) and currently in discussion with Royal Mail for all Greater Belfast area vehicles (2k+). We have been running a bus branding campaign and have a number of city centre busses currently driving about with full width posters on the rear of the vehicles.
#SeeTheCyclist camera logo
I’ve branded several hundred cycling tops with the now infamous camera logo and rolled out education around rear lights and rear cameras on bikes.
As a result we are seeing more cyclists with rear lights night and day in an attempt to remove the “I didn’t See you” excuse. We also have a number of clubs who have adopted the logo into their kit design and also some standalone cycle shops which are selling tops with the logo.
We haven’t moved to online reporting yet as we are waiting for FPN issues to be addressed and legislation around a careless driving ticket to be approved ”
Surrey RPU have been, in my view, doing exemplary tweeting. Do see a tweet attached and a diagram they use also attached. Here is a whole thread for you – I think it sets the gold standard!
RPU Surrey Police explain things to LBC
March 9thDrivers could face fines if they overtake too close to bikes. @NickFerrariLBC asks: How can this possibly be policed?
RPU – Surrey Police It really is quite simple. If its safe & legal to overtake, you MUST ensure a safe distance between your vehicle and the vehicle you’re overtaking. A distance of at least 1.5 metres is the MINIMUM gap we expect. If that amount of gap isn’t available then you must wait until there is.
We pro-actively police this using mini Police operations, using plain clothes officers cycling with a camera fitted to the pedal bike. Those that pass too close, or commit other offences, are stopped by uniformed officers and dealt with.
E Rota have been out & about enforcing drivers passing cyclists too close. Ensure you overtake with sufficient safe distance. …
Surrey Police will also accept clear dash cam or helmet cam footage, which can be submitted by members of the public via this dedicated link: https://www.surrey.police.uk/contact-us/report-online/reporting-anti-social-behaviour-and-driving/ … The Metropolitan Police have a similar online reporting tool, their link is here: https://www.met.police.uk/report/report-a-road-traffic-incident/ …
Our aim is to make the roads safer for all road users, however they wish to travel. If a driver feels they can’t safely complete an overtake of another road user, then they shouldn’t overtake. #ClosePass #RoadSafety
Jenny Browne I agree entirely but recently coming out of New Malden towards the A3 roundabout a cyclist chose to drive in the road causing a tailback as it was too narrow to overtake but he had a cycle lane on the pavement but decided not to use it surely this works both ways !
RPU – Surrey Police:There is no legal requirement to use a cycle lane. Unfortunately, most cycle lanes are not fit for purpose due to debris, potholes and other dangers – all exaggerated if cycling on a road bike.
Jenny Browne The majority I’m sure are fit for purpose if not why not it has to be in the best interest of cyclists to use cycle lanes otherwise why are we spending thousands creating them ?
RPU – Surrey Police:
Jenny, they’re really not. Borrow a road bike (not a mountain bike) and go give them a go
nothing to prove.
Jenny Browne Being an occasional cyclist and a driver and paying full attention to more vulnerable road users, I find it really unfair that the cyclists aren’t really penalised for riding pavements, roads and running red lights as they please. They should have at a public liability insurance.
RPU – Surrey Police: Insurance doesn’t stop people committing offences. Cyclists don’t ‘get away’ with red light offences, if we see it, we’ll deal with it, same as any other road user.
Jenny Browne understand the insurance doesn’t stop people committing offences but at least if third parties get injured or a property is damaged due to cyclists’ carelessness, it would be easier to claim against them.
RPU – Surrey Police: Same rules for all pedestrians then so when people are running late and barge into people they can claim off insurance?
Jenny Browne if someone barges into people and causes injury, they surely should. Although I suppose there is a higher risk of injuries when a bicycle collides with a car than when two pedestrians bump into each other, also cars/bikes tend to be high value?
RPU – Surrey Police I think we should rely on statistics here. Insurance is a legal requirement for motor vehicles because of the extensive damage they can cause, and how often they cause it.
Jenny Browne Duly noted. Can’t really argue with that.
Nina Eileen It just gets annoying if there is a path right next to the road but they are on the road anyway 😦
RPU – Surrey Police Unfortunately the vast majority of ‘cycle lanes’ are not fit for purpose and unsafe to use, especially on a road bike.
matthew chappell So with you 1.5m from the kerb, and us 1.5m from you looks like we will be overtaking in 20 Acre top field. By a mountain bike and go play in the woods. Leave the roads for those that pay for them. P.S. Pay insurance as well
RPU – Surrey Police Matthew, you need to learn how to measure chap. It’s really quite simple. There is even this little diagram to help. If you feel it’s beyond you, please return your driving licence to the DVLA.
Replying to @SurreyRoadCops @LBC @NickFerrariLBC
Sharon Hannam Why do cyclists feel the need to ride 2 abreast chatting, causing tailbacks in the traffic?
•RPU – Surrey Police
Sorry if you feel the social engagement and enjoyment of our surrounds is an issue. Do you have the same thought when you pass a horse rider?
Third party reporting
This is “the big news”: after Operation Snap rolled out in Wales last year, we now have an extension of it for forces throughout the UK with Nextbase launching the National Dash Cam Safety Portal (NDCSP) “a website that allows road users – cyclists, horse riders, motorcyclists and pedestrians, as well as drivers – to easily send video of dodgy and dangerous behaviour to the relevant police forces via a single online hub.”. (For descriptions, see here and here
Police forces linked to the portal via their own platforms include: Avon and Somerset Constabulary, Cheshire Constabulary, Essex Police, Hampshire Constabulary, the Metropolitan Police Force, Norfolk Constabulary, North Yorkshire Police, Suffolk Constabulary, Surrey Police, Sussex Police, Thames Valley Police, Dyfed-Powys Police, Gwent Police, North Wales Police, South Wales Police.
Forces who will receive footage directly from the portal include: West Mercia Police, Warwickshire Police, West Midlands Police and Wiltshire Police.
The remaining 24 forces are working towards joining the scheme, according to Nextbase. If a local force has not yet signed up to the platform, it says, the system will generate a witness statement and reference a code which can be taken directly to the relevant force for processing, where the footage can be viewed securely.
While Nextbase is a private company, they clarify some confusion there has been about NDSCP as follows:
“There is an important distinction to be made between videos submitted to the Portal and road users who send us (Nextbase) videos directly and agree for them to be used for marketing purposes – for clarity, the Sunday Times article on July 1st is an example of the latter. Nextbase have NO access to videos submitted to the police, since the website is hosted independently by Egress (the company that supports the government’s websites). The Portal has been built to support the police without commercial gain in mind.”
This can be a fundamental game changer. However, it will require sufficient evidence to be submitted, appropriate responses from stretched police services, and acceptance by the general public.
Summary and Conclusions
There are some 19 Police Services in the UK supporting, or about to support, some form of policing close passing of cyclists. However the nature of this is very patchy. As we see it, the principal issues and problems arising are:
1. Insufficient number of police allocated to operations.
This isn’t just the usual – but of course necessary – complaint that there is very little roads policing in the UK. When I made this point to Road Safety Minister last week he replied that “it was not in (his) gift” to allocate resources, as he is a Minister at the Department for Transport, which does not fund roads policing. That’s true, but it doesn’t change the fact that operations need to be carried out regularly and frequently to get the message across.
While pioneers WMPRHRT work with partners like the West Midlands Fire Service, and non-roads police officers can be used as well, there is a need for the actual close passing operation to be at the core of activities, and that will require a uniformed police officer. Numbers of operations targeting close passing have to be sufficient to create the impression, first raised by a MPS officer, that the police “can’t be everywhere, but we could be anywhere”.
Similarly, if the 3rd party reporting systems coming in are to work, adequate numbers of staff have to be available to process the evidence coming in.
2. 3rd party reporting is a crucial element.
We have always argued this and the long awaited roll out of a user friendly reporting scheme should radically affect this and indeed all roads policing.
3. Education is only part of the process.
While the overall objective is changing what is regarded as acceptable behaviour: “hearts and minds”. However, we agree with WMPRHRT that the possibility of successful prosecution has to be there. At present their ration of education (e.g. mat use and talk) to enforcement/charging is 1:3.
4. Twitter and social media are crucial elements.
The message has to be got across to drivers – cyclists already know about close passing – and that means good use of all media. Surrey RPU, WMPRHRT are gold standard here, with the Met’s Cycle Safety Team on the podium. It needs to be proactive. We’re also aware that police Twitter accounts may be operated by officers in their own “free” time.
5. Reducing close passing is just one type of road danger reduction.
Our view is that this is part of a general approach which should target the principal cause of harm to others as the priority. Ideally there is a close link with policing of 20 mph, pavement parking and infringement of cyclist infrastructure. Tweets from police services, press releases etc. which move away from this to target pedestrians and cyclists are not part of this, nor are non-evidence based calls for hi-viz, helmets etc., which at best water down the already limited focus on reducing danger at source.
This is all part of an ongoing process – further updates to come. Do let us know about relevant developments. And if you like what the Police Service in your area is doing – why not let them know on social media?
Dr Robert Davis, Chair, Road Danger Reduction Forum. July 4th 2018