Here is an update of 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, 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 in 2018. At present some 25 Police Services have carried out some kind of policing of close passing of cyclists.
Precise numbers of forces doing this kind of work are difficult as some don’t update us. There are also police services that are interested but haven’t yet organised resources to do this type of enforcement. On top of that there is also a lot of work involving joint operations over different policing areas *. Forces with headsets sent to them by Cycling UK to assist operations by illustrating what close passing feels like are marked *
Police Services that are currently, or have been recently, carrying out policing of close passing of cyclists.
Avon and Somerset*
Cambridgeshire (with Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire)*
Devon and Cornwall
Hampshire* and Thames Valley*
Norfolk and Suffolk**
Warwickshire and West Mercia*
Police Service Northern Ireland
(North Yorkshire*/ Cleveland and Durham* have received headsets)
Policing close passing to the high standard of West Midlands Police Road Harm Reduction Team requires accepting and processing 3rd party reporting and a high quality social media presence (such as that of Surrey Roads Policing Unit): both of these elements vary to the degree they are present (or indeed absent) in the Police Services mentioned.
It should be noted that the numbers of operations carried out by the Police Services above, and the numbers of drivers stopped, vary widely.
The state of play now
Our concern as Road Danger Reduction Forum is to report on and disseminate the work on roads policing done by West Midlands Police Road Harm Reduction Team. While the close passing policing operations are of key importance, they have to be linked in to an effective 3rd party reporting system for this form of careless driving, and are greatly helped by a good quality social media presence which assists in educating road users . (See the post here which describes this).
There is some reference to 3rd party reporting in the reports below: readers should be aware of the research due to be published shortly by Professor Sally Kyd and Dr Steven Cammiss of Leicester University Law School on this subject, which shows a wide degree of difference on the experience of 3rd party reporting in the surveyed Police Services.
It is also important to be aware that there have been a number of accounts on social media of experiences of cyclists with specific PSs with regard to close passing. These accounts don’t necessarily have any scientific basis for assessing the operation of a PS in these respects, but nevertheless can indicate issues and some are referred to.
Finally, the three-pronged approach of:
• Close passing policing
• 3rd party reporting of close passing
• Social media explanation of this kind of policing
is related to other forms of enforcement – targeting the principal source of danger to other road users – as described here, but this report concentrates mainly on close passing policing of the basic three elements.
Avon & Somerset
A&S Police Road Safety @ASPRoadSafety The #undercovercop cycling in #Bristol – offering words of advice (WoA) to drivers on the need to pass cyclists safely. General response has been positive & apologetic. Also gave WoA to cyclist who made a dangerous manoeuvre turning right off #ParkSreet while passing the officer. 17/12/18
Here’s another tweet from them with a nice Gif.
They have used a story form Duncan who was involved in an RTC to support the roll out of cameras to officers to support public reports of near misses.
But: Hayley Davies @hjd1984 My friend was recently hit by a car on a roundabout. She has 3 separate CCTV angles and yet @ASPolice have refused to accept them as evidence because “impact and car license isn’t in the same frame” 13/07/ 2018
Nothing new reported. A tweet posted on 28th February 2019 by Gabriel @Ezy_Ryder: So latest close pass disregarded as you usual. See this video … at 2 min in.
“We are not doing close pass exercises involving a plain clothes officers, but are using the mats at public events”. 28/03/2019
@andytacey Feb 5 I have given up sending camera footage to @Cumbriapolice @CumbriaRoadsPol as not interested unless they hit me..
Started in Autumn 2018 Two officers cycled 70 miles in central Derby: “On a positive note, only four motorists were stopped… As the vast majority of road users gave them plenty of space,”
Devon and Cornwall
“Family ByCycle” are well known on social media for their “End-to-End” bicycle ride with their small children. This thread on 13th August 2018 describes their experiences in Devon – note the supportive response from the Chief Inspector.
Coverage in the cycling media complains that policing is disproportionately targeting cyclists : “Taunton cycle safety operation saw police stop 24 cyclists and three motorists”. 30/03/ 2019
Bike Cop @50bikecop Today I will be mostly engaged in ‘Operation #ClosePass’ targeting motorists who think passing cyclists & horse riders too closely is acceptable. Yes we have a police officer on a bicycle & he has got cameras rigged! #SlowOrDeadSlow #GiveSpaceBeSafe #BHS 13/05/2019
FlatStanley @flat__stanley Essex police do this – had a good chat with the police officer for a witness statement for a close pass – he said they acted on 15 close passes last month (3rd party reporting) 15/12/2018.
Essex Police received 374 ‘Extra Eyes’ submissions in March 2019 – a year-on-year rise of 128% – and took action in 108 cases. Launched in December 2017,The Extra Eyes webpage provides a simple method for cyclists, motorcyclists and drivers to upload footage showing dangerous or illegal behaviour. Having reviewed the footage, where appropriate Essex Police contact the person caught on camera and explain the potential consequences of their actions. Alternatively, the offender may be offered a driver retraining course, or in serious cases face prosecution with the footage used as evidence.
On the 108 cases where action was taken during March 2019, more than half (62) were in response to instances of careless driving.
15 close pass drivers were identified by the footage.
Some issues about a 3rd party video being badly handled: good to see @Glos_Police on January 10th handle it: “ We’ve reviewed the conversation and certain comments made by the officer were unacceptable and do not represent the Constabulary’s approach to road safety. We’ve also reviewed the footage and found our initial assessment, and closing of the investigation, was wrong. We’ve now reopened the investigation and will look into this further. We have also apologised for the inappropriate comments said to the cyclist and will be giving the officer in question words of advice.”
From 6th February 2019 have had 3rd party reporting through Single Online Reporting Portal. They run close pass operations “when they can” but don’t have a dedicated unit. They have been doing this for a while with their first driver to be prosecuted found guilty with a fine + costs of £825 + 3 points.
Twitter advice from Gwent Police:
Hampshire and Thames Valley
@HantsPolRoads are using the phrase first coined by a member of the Met’s Cycle Safety Team : “We can’t be every where, but we could be anywhere” .16/04/2019
Still concerns voiced about 3rd party reporting by : HumanOnABike @WtrlvileCyclist
I’ve reported 14. I’ve heard nothing. It appears to be a black hole.
Cycliq light/cameras were being used by members of the Hants Police Cycle Club. Unfortunately there was a Twitter spat with them over some comments on safe cycling and their account has gone. We hope they aren’t put off and are back soon.
Didn’t attend our training day.
Complaints on Twitter from: Andrew Disley @andrewdisley : Just been told by local police that taking primary position while I cycled at 20mph in a 30mph with oncoming vehicles and double solid white lines is me causing an obstruction and as such it was ok for a driver to pass me at about 20cms from my handlebars. 15/01/2019
20/12/2018 Two terrifying #closepass 21Dec18 Reported + HD video 24Dec18 Appointment + statement expressing my wish for a NIP 13Mar19 “Sorry, no action we did not send out a NIP” A prime example of how @LancsPolice continue to fail on vulnerable road user safety. Officer reviewed this and then victim blamed me for “riding into the path of the van” see description for officers reply. At 1.15 and 2.25 secs.
MerPol City Centre @MerPolCityCen Officers have been out in the City centre tackling the issue of dangerous cycling including those who fail to stop at red lights. 20 tickets issued for various offences. We encourage people to cycle but please do so with consideration for other road users and pedestrians.
I haven’t heard from them re-policing close passing.
In 2017 – 83 close pass presentations, reported 74 motorists for traffic offences such as not having a licence, insurance or MoT or breaching the speed limit. 9 cars were seized.
Last year there were 199 close pass presentations and 216 traffic offences reported. A total of 26 vehicles were seized.
So far in 2019 there have been 82 close pass presentations, 120 tickets for traffic offences have been issued and 12 vehicles have been seized.
There have been five successful prosecutions for offences directly related to the manner in which they passed the cyclist (Careless/Inconsiderate driving) receiving the following penalties;
1 x Disqualification for 6 months
1 x 6 points and £440 fine
2 x 3 points and about £100 fine for each
1 x Driving Course (2 prosecutions sought this year for which we do not currently have any results).
As always, the priority is about engagement and education which goes some way to indicate the poor standard of driving displayed by these cases in order to warrant both prosecuting them and the high penalties received by two of them in particular.
They have continued working closely with LCC who supply data from the StayWider website which TfL then analyse and produces a list of hotspot locations that we can focus on in the knowledge that they are the primary and current areas of concern to London cyclists.
In the “Evening Standard”:
“Hotspot” locations are chosen after being flagged by cyclists on Twitter or on the London Cycling Campaign “stay wider of the rider” (SWOTR) website..An undercover officer wearing a body-worn camera cycles a route and alerts colleagues to dangerous overtaking. Guilty motorists are pulled over and given the choice of a ticket for careless driving or an on-the-spot “educational” reminder of the Highway Code. Five incidents led to prosecutions.
For an example of successful 3rd party reporting, see this video (c.18 seconds in) .
This resulted in Lee Christensen getting this response:
A lot of negative publicity came from lack of progress following a video clip featured on London news although there has now been a prosecution.
Norfolk and Suffolk
In October 2018 the BBC were told that 75% of videos were acted on.
Harry Mach argued on social media that there had been a drop in January 2019. A complaint he made about alleged lack of action was responded to.
@NSRAPT tell us:
The agenda for Norfolk and Suffolk for 2019 is:
* Financial investment in equipment, media/branding and advertising/promotional material in both Norfolk and Suffolk Constabularies.
*8 Close Pass events in EACH county this year, with one a month. This is a massive jump for Suffolk, who had nothing last year, and brings both counties in line with each other. Social media activity around these events, advertising the operation
*The Cycliq cameras will become available between the Close Pass operations to commuting Police staff/officers, so that they can film their daily commutes to/from work. The material that they generate will be used on out social media feed (with number plates redacted) so that we can promote discussion, sharing and increase the quantity of material that Close Pass is generating in the Public forum. Of course, any serious offences that are captured will be prosecuted instead, and will not be usable on social media.
*There is a decent uptake from Suffolk County Council, who have committed staff and resources to the event, and I have been really excited by their enthusiasm to adopt the operation in their county. The Norfolk side will simply be an increase in events, but with the additional investment, we hope to make the social media presence significant (in our Counties).
Some publicity with Chris Boardman here.
EastNorthantsCycling @Cycle_northants :
No action taken as “I’m riding in the primary position” according to @NorthantsPolice having just overtaken a parked car, thought that’s what we (cyclists) had meant to do if it wasn’t safe for an overtake. 01/03/2019 . https://twitter.com/Cycle_northants/status/1101433334205423616.
No response from this PS re-close passing policing.
@NottsRoadsPol Officers have been out on bikes today around the city and county filming poor driving behaviour. To those drivers who passed too close to the officers or provided inappropriate feedback, expect a visit or something through the post. #closepass @WeAreCyclingUK @nottspolice 05/04/2019
They attended 2017 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.
The mat is used at such events with a multi-agency approach, namely, North Yorkshire Fire Service and North Yorkshire County Council Road Safety, the last event being the Tour De Yorkshire. The World Road Race Championships are being held in North Yorkshire this year, with potential to reach out to drivers there as well. The use of the mat has been tweeted, but, on 95Alive Twitter site, rather than NYP.
Bringing non-cycling people to the events may mean benefits for drivers attending public events and seeing how to drive from display of mats.
Absence of activity has led to complaints on Twitter.
Pompey Cyclist @PompeyCyclist Of the last batch of 6 incidents I reported to @StaffsPolice only two are being sent an NIP and being “considered” for prosecution. HGV 12 inches away? Nah Peugeot driver passes within a foot? Nope Overtake me past parked cars, into traffic, forcing them and me to stop? No.
I have not heard of any close passing policing from this PS.
In March 2019 they report:
In South Wales we have carried out 2 Close Pass operations in recent months. A total of 13 offences were detected, with all offenders electing a road safety input in lieu of prosecution. We used social media extensively during both with regular updates on Facebook and Twitter. The local radio station was also involved carrying out interviews of officers involved as well as some of the people we stopped.
On the down side we do find that the operation is very time consuming as well as not really being cost effective for what it achieves. We are encouraging people to send us their Dashcam footage via Op Snap, as this provides a better tool in dealing with offences by both drivers and pedal cyclists.
There is partnership working with South Wales Fire and Rescue @SWFireandRescue : Today we are working with @swpolice and @cardiffcouncil on #OpClosePass stopping vehicles that do not give enough distance to cyclists and providing training in safety awareness.
Continuing social media complaints about inadequate 3rd party reporting procedures from Northern Cyclist TVL @NthrnCyclistTVL
New online reporting tool @SurreyPolice have updated their online ‘Report a road traffic incident’ forms where dash and helmet cam footage can be linked. You now get a receipt email with a reference number on submission.
3rd party system back in place in December 2018
Sussex Safer Roads @SussexSRP: At this year’s Piazza Italia in Horsham we’re taking the time to explain how vehicles should overtake cyclists safely by passing nice & wide (Oh & we’re enjoying the glorious spring sunshine!) #RoadSafety #PiazzaItalia
Warwickshire and West Mercia
They ran 2 operations last year with more planned for this year. The operation normally takes 3-4 hours. They interacted with approximately 10 vehicles/motorists, and also passers by that stopped to see what they were doing.
Here’s an example of what they do from Twitter:
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
West Midlands Police Road Harm Reduction Team (WMPRHRT) work closely with the West Mids Fire Service:
• There are at least ONE PER WEEK close pass operations in their area, carried out with neighbourhood teams, mainly of PCSOs. About 3 (including up to 2 motorcyclists) come from WMPRHRT with up to 6 from the neighbourhood team.
• Each operation takes up to 3 hours.
• 9 – 16 vehicles are stopped for close passing in each operation. Typically 3 go to court if abusive or very close pass, 9 get the “chat on a mat” and Virtual Reality given by Fire Service. Constant flow through 3rd party.
• 50 – 80 cases of 3rd party reporting PER MONTH (helmetcams and light/cameras, with some dashboard cams now) processed.
• Approximately 40% of their #S3RTA1988 #closepass offences have a educational course disposal. The rest get a conditional offer of 3 points & £100 fine or court.
In addition WMPRHRT are active in policing:
• 20 mph:
See BBC video here.
“Out again this afternoon with @ST_Police crewing the bus in company with PC Hodson from our team. 41 mobile phone offences detected in 3 hours. The evidence from bus is fantastic even in the poor weather this afternoon. Offending observed & evidenced from feet away!
e.g. #OpZigZag appears anywhere drivers are endangering #vulnerableroadusers through their unlawful actions.15 drivers will be reported for Due Care after speeding through the pedestrian crossing on Gravelly Hill (30mph limit) ,the driver doing 64mph… reported for Dangerous Driving 09/05/2019
Reported to me on Twitter 23/01/2019
Unfortunately there has been negative coverage in cycling media
For examples of social media: on 21/02/2019 Road Policing Scotland @polscotrpu
#OpClosePass If you have a spare couple of minutes, please consider reading this article which explains why cyclists take certain positions whilst cycling on the road. Great explanations in far more depth than we could ever tweet.
@FalkirkPolice Operation #ClosePass aims to help keep cyclists safe on the road by educating drivers who are found to be passing an unmarked police cyclist too closely or unsafely. @ForthValPolice @polscotrpu officers are out engaging with drivers. 21/02/2019 #ThursdayThoughts
@polscotrpu PC Philip was invited to R D Anderson Haulage in #Edinburgh today to deliver an #opclosepass educational input to their drivers focusing on #Rule163 of the Highway Code. Using our specially designed mat PC Philip demonstrated the space required for safe overtaking 08/01/2019
I think it’s worthwhile reading an account of one well known blogger’s (David Brennan @magnatom) experiences from his thread on15 Sep 2018:
“I’m often asked if I’ve reported an incident I’ve shared. The reality is I only rarely do go to the police. Unfortunately going to the police is not easy. First, you need to hope you get a sympathetic officer. Sometimes you do.. Sometimes you get dismissed. Sometimes you have to argue with them that, yes driving a car 30cm from my arm at 40mph is dangerous. Then, when they do take it seriously, it takes time to do the statement and burn the videos to CD. Then you rarely hear from the police again.
Sometimes you do, but often you need to chase them. Then, sometimes the police make a mistake and don’t fill a form out right, or don’t send the case to the Procurator Fiscal on time. I’ve had a few cases dismissed because of that. Then the Procurator Fiscal take the case and you may never hear about the case again, unless you chase. You only ever hear about it if it goes to court. Some cases are dropped due to ‘not in public interest’ which is often code for, ‘we have too many cases and road safety isn’t a priority’. Some are given a warning letter, which is a waste of time. Then if you are very lucky, you get a court date. By that is often delayed. Sometimes the delay happens before the court date, sometimes the delay happens when you’ve been sitting in the witness room for 6 hours.
Sometimes after having sat in the witness room for 6 hours the PF comes to chat with you and lies about a problem with the paperwork which you later find out was completely false. If you are super lucky at this point the defendant admits guilty and you aren’t needed.
If you are unlucky you need to go into court as a witness. That, I can assure you, is not fun. In fact, its pretty damn horrible. Not only do they pick at your evidence, if they see fit, they character assassinate you. For an hour and a half. Then, at the end they find the defendant not guilty because they can’t be identified in the footage. It matters not that they admit driving the car at the time, on that road, or that you shout out the reg., and the make of the car is obvious.
Or they are found not guilty because its not breach of the peace to shout aggressively in someone’s face that they are young to beat you up,…. Or that the precise position of the car wheels are not know at a specific moment which might mean they didn’t drive their car at you…. If, you get beyond that and they are miraculously found guilty, then they get a slap on the wrist with a small fine and a few points. Less than they’d get if they were caught holding a mobile phone. Oh and the charge is reduced from Dangerous to careless, because it’s just easier that way. and despite everything that happened, despite how bad the driving was and the crap you’ve had to go through, you still feel guilty for pursuing it all.
That’s why I don’t report as much as I could. The system is very, very, VERY heavily weighted in the favour of the accused and those driving the 1 tonne hunk of metal. My cases are only the tip of the iceberg. I know of many more serious cases that have failed because the system is broken, its underfunded and vulnerable user road safety is not a priority. and yet I still get people saying how I enjoy the drama…..that I enjoy getting people into trouble…. that I enjoy going to the police. No. I hate it. But if I don’t, and if you don’t, nothing will change.”
Police Service Northern Ireland
• Top of our legislative shopping list, when we get the Assembly back into operation, is the introduction of a FPN for Careless Driving in order that we can introduce something similar to Op Snap. As it currently sits we are having to prosecute in court for offences that our GB colleagues can expeditiously deal with by FPN. This has hampered our efforts in delivery of more “Close Pass” operations.
• The Dept for Infrastructure in NI have recently launched a number of new TV and poster advertisements dealing with cyclist/motorist relationships and trying to encourage mutual tolerance and respect, see: here and here.
• We have been working with Cycling Ulster and Cycling Ireland to encourage their clubs to adopt head-cams and warning signs to advise drivers that cameras are operating and we’ve jointly managed to get a number of our Policing and Community Safety Partnerships on board to fund cameras and jerkins for these participating clubs.
Summary and Conclusions
The extent of policing close passing of cyclists is very patchy. As we see it, the principal issues and problems arising are still those reported on last year:
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 in 2018 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.
At present there are a number of Police Services which are only using the mats from Cycling UK for sessions at public events, not as part of an actual enforcement exercise.
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. Unfortunately progress here is patchy – are you aware of portals/web links you can submit footage through in your area?
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 have been 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, infringement of cyclist infrastructure, distracted driving as in Operation Zig Zag.
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. The approach pioneered by West Midlands Police three years ago is here to stay. Unfortunately, a minority of Police Services in the UK have taken no interest. More importantly, those roads police officers in others that have made a commitment have generally done so at a much lower level of intensity that WMPRHRT. Readers should remember that Police Services in general, and roads policing in particular, are at unprecedented pressure on resources. Nevertheless, WMPRHRT have shown what can be done in current conditions, and we hope other Police Services will catch up with their progress.
Dr Robert Davis, Chair, Road Danger Reduction Forum. 13th May 2019