Cycling UK has said that it is a “relief” to see close passing being taken seriously, after a driver’s appeal to have his conviction downgraded from dangerous to careless driving was refused.
Patrick John Kelly was charged with dangerous driving in May following the offence in July 2018, when he passed a group of 18 riders from Spires CC.
Kelly, 51, received a 12-month ban and £400 fine for the charge of dangerous driving. He was prepared to admit careless driving, but his appeal at Omagh Court earlier this month was overturned.
The court at Dungannon Magistrates’ Court, where Kelly’s trial took place, heard that his wing mirror was within two inches of one cyclist when he passed the group near Donaghmore, County Tyrone, in Northern Ireland.
The group was taking part in a charity event, and two of those involved have reportedly not returned to the road on their bikes ever since.
The court also heard that when Kelly was approached by the cyclists at a filling station, he said: “I’ll f***ing get you ones next time.”
Cycling UK has long been campaigning for the public and authorities to take close passing more seriously, with its ‘Too Close for Comfort’ movement seeing police forces throughout the country being given virtual reality headsets which show the event from a rider’s perspective.
Commenting on the court’s decision, representative Duncan Dollimore said: “Cycling UK despairs at times when clearly dangerous driving is overlooked or minimised, with either no charge or merely the lesser charge of careless driving being brought, so it’s a relief to see that the message is getting through to PSNI and the courts in Northern Ireland.”
The national charity has also delivered ‘close pass’ mats for police to use as driver education, as part of operations where police use plain clothes officers on bikes to identify dangerous behaviour.
In September, British rider Lauren Dolan was hospitalised after a driver passed her and her father on a ride, before using what she called “punishment braking”.
The 20-year-old was cycling in Devon days after forming a part of the team which claimed bronze in the inaugural World Championships mixed team time trial relay when the incident occurred.
Taking to social media following the crash which left her with a broken collarbone and “substantial” soft tissue damage, she said: “Nearing the end of the ride, we encountered a frustrated driver, beeping on his horn behind us whilst riding single file. The man wasn’t able to pass immediately due to oncoming traffic on the other side of the road.
“To seemingly display his frustration/anger for the hold up, he passed us with inches to spare.
“As soon as the driver was directly in front of us at 45kph on a descent and with feet to spare the driver slammed his breaks on. I’ve learnt since that the police have a phrase for it – ‘punishment braking.’”
The young rider added: “This type of behaviour is becoming all to familiar on our roads. It has become a culture that needs addressing and time for change is long overdue.”