By Nigel Wynn
Police officers involved in targetting drivers who do not give cyclists adequate room when passing them have said their operation has been a success.
West Midlands Police Traffic Unit created 'Operation Close Pass' last year in reaction to the number of drivers overtaking cyclists very closely – an operation that is the first if its kind in the UK
Offenders were initially given advice at the roadside by officers and a warning, with repeat offenders being prosecuted.
Within weeks of the operation going into action, cyclists were contacting WMP saying that road conditions had improved. The scheme also attracted widespread media attention, and praise from the cycling community who asked why other police services could not adopt the same tactic.
"Op Close Pass has been a success, that’s all you can say really," said a statement on the WMP Traffic Unit blog.
"It was well received, and most importantly had an immediate impact. Within a week cyclists were contacting us to tell us things had had not only improved, but improved considerably. There were still close passes, always will be, 'can’t get them all', but they have become a rarity rather than commonplace."
Officers on their own bikes in the West Midlands region used video cameras to record close passes. In addition, cyclists could submit their own videos.
Surprisingly, perhaps, WMP also say that feedback from those caught offending that also been "good, 99 per cent of the time", though some of the excuses offered for close-passing cyclists left something to be desired.
"Some said they hadn’t seen the cyclist at all, maybe in the belief that it was better to say this than admit poor driving judgement, both don’t bode well regards their everyday driving! But they were caught, and hopefully reformed before their poor driving harmed another," says the WMP blog.
WMP states that there is still a 'mountain to climb' in increasing cyclists' safety further.
"What is apparent from Op Close Pass is how little attention drivers actually pay to what is going on around them. This is because of a number of factors but primarily because drivers have little to fear when it comes to their own personal safety on the road.
"The modern motor vehicle is a fine feat of engineering, it can be driven into a brick wall at 50mph and the occupants can walk away relatively injury free. This 'security' has however endangered vulnerable road users where it protects the driver. Drivers with their subliminal feeling of safety relax, pay less attention, start practicing poor driving, they speed, don’t pay attention, all to the detriment of vulnerable road users.
"This modern day wholesale rapid decline in driving standards combined with ever increasing traffic volume has inevitably seen vulnerable road users bear the unfortunate brunt of this driving trend."
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