By Nigel Wynn
A total of 20 drivers were stopped by Hampshire Police after they failed to give adequate room when overtaking cyclists in the county.
Hampshire Police's 'Give Space, Be Safe' operation aimed to raise concerns of cyclists' safety and targeted cyclists as well as drivers.
The drivers were stopped at three locations during the week-long initiative, in Southampton, Portsmouth and the New Forest last week. All 20 opted to receive an educational advice on site rather than face possible prosecution for careless driving.
Hampshire Police used an undercover officer on a bike, who noted drivers who passed too closely and they were subsequently stopped.
Police also report that they spoke to over 150 cyclists, giving them advice on how to be visible to other road users, and many were given free hi-viz rucksack covers and lights.
Some of the cyclists were handed fixed penalty notices for riding at night without lights, and two were stopped for jumping a red light.
“The week’s activities were a great success," said Sgt Rob Heard. "We have seen a marked improvement with drivers giving plenty of space and time when overtaking cyclists.
“We have not only been targeting poor driving behaviour, we have also been targeting cyclists and other road users whose behaviour may make them more at risk of being involved in a collision."
Sgt Heard added: "A close pass not only presents danger to the cyclist but it’s also intimidating.
“Drivers should be allowing other road users as much room they would a car – but many seem to not know this, or choose to ignore it. Remember that any cyclist you overtake could be our police cyclist."
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Cycling UK praised Hampshire Police's initiative, with the organisation's campaigns co-ordinator Sam Jones saying: "Close passing of people cycling is a regular occurrence on our roads, but one which Cycling UK believes is rarely down to malicious driver behaviour, just a lack of understanding of the dangers of overtaking too closely."
Hampshire Police used one of Cycling UK's 'close pass' mats, which can be laid on the floor next to a vehicle to give an example of the recommended safe passing distance for drivers when they overtake cyclists, as outlined in the Highway Code.
“Our close pass mats were designed to help forces across the UK to tackle this problem, and we’re really pleased to see them being rolled out in Hampshire," said Jones.
“We’re absolutely behind Hampshire Constabulary’s campaign, as it is education first but backed up with enforcement where necessary, and ultimately making our roads safer for everyone.”
Similar 'close pass' operations have now been run by several police services across the UK, having been pioneered by West Midlands Police. WMP report that a 20 per cent reduction in the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured on the county’s roads since the operation.
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