A West Midlands Police road safety initiative designed to protect cyclists from the danger of ‘close-pass’ drivers is set to be rolled out across the country.
The #GiveSpaceBeSafe scheme was launched by the force last September and sees plain clothes cops pedalling the region’s busiest roads on the lookout for motorists who pass too close for comfort.
Offenders are offered an on-the-spot educational input on safe overtaking using a specially designed floor mat.
But anyone who refuses to take part in the tutorial − or is deemed to have committed a particularly hazardous overtaking manoeuvre − can expect a date in court.
A total of 130 motorists have been pulled over during nine outings of the operation to date, with eight prosecuted for driving without due care and attention. One driver’s licence was immediately seized after they failed a road-side eye test.
West Midlands Police has seen reports of close-passes halve since the scheme was introduced − and 16 police forces the length and breadth of the country are now considering embracing what UK Cycling described as the “best cyclist road safety initiative ever”.
PC Mark Hodson, said: “Within a week of us announcing the initiative cyclists were telling us things hadn’t only improved, but improved considerably.
“Tthere will always be close passes but they have become a rarity rather than commonplace.
“And the feedback we’re getting from drivers pulled over is almost wholly positive: they are recognising their mistake and taking on board our advice on safe passing.
“We held a seminar in Birmingham on January 13 which was attended by representatives from 16 UK police forces − covering a population of 20 million people − and several have said they’ll be launching their own in 2017.
“We’re trying to change the way police forces approach cycling safety and hopefully make the roads safer for everyone as a result.”
West Midlands Police traffic cops have so far conducted the pedal patrols on major routes in Birmingham − like the Hagley, Pershore and Bristol Roads − but now intend to extend the scheme to parts of West Bromwich, Wolverhampton, Solihull and Coventry.
And action has also been taken against more than 200 dodgy drivers thanks to helmet- and dash-cam footage provided by road users.
PC Hodson, added: “Many of these were ‘close-pass’ offences but also for mobile phone use, jumping red lights, and endangering pedestrians. All offenders have been dealt with by way of an educational course or conditional offer of three licence points and a £100 fine.
“None of the people caught on camera have challenged the offences… that’s largely due to the great quality video evidence we’ve been provided.
“We will be launching a digital reporting portal for submission of third party camera footage to help people alert us to such offences.
“Our close-pass project has been really well received. Our aim is to create an environment where all road users can utilise a healthier, cleaner sustainable form of transport without feeling threatened by poor driving.”
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s Senior Road Safety officer, said: “Cycling UK knew West Midlands Police were on to a winner when they rolled out their “Give Space, be Safe” campaign.
“That’s why we backed it from the start. It’s a cost effective initiative that has proved highly effective at changing dangerous driving behaviour.”
West Midlands Police & Crime Commissioner David Jamieson added: “I am extremely proud of West Midlands Police’s pioneering close-pass scheme and delighted it is being rolled out across the country.
“We must have mutual respect on the roads and it is vital cyclists are afforded the same rights and protection as any other road user.
“As a former Transport Minister, I understand the importance of road safety and made it a top priority in my Police and Crime Plan. This is outstanding work by West Midlands Police.”