Police forces across the UK will be supplied with virtual reality headsets, to be used to train drivers on how to pass cyclists.
Cycling UK – the national charity for cyclists – raised the £15k needed to supply the 45 police forces in the UK with the tool in just eight days, via a Kickstarter page.
The virtual reality (VR) headsets play the Cycling UK produced film ‘Too Close for Comfort’, putting drivers in the virtual saddle to show them what it’s like to be passed too close on the road.
The charity expects to be able to distribute the tools to forces by the end of November. There’s still time to donate, further cash raised will go towards greater distribution – the charity wants to send the VR and video to driving schools, next.
The film and VR headsets have already been used by officers at the West Midlands Police Road Harm Reduction Team.
Drivers pulled over during its ‘Operation Close Pass’ session on Monday October 8 had the opportunity to watch the film in addition to receiving instruction from Woodgate Valley Community Fire Service on how to overtake cyclists safely.
During the course of the operation in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, nine drivers were stopped for close passing over the course of two hours, one of whom had their licence suspended after failing a roadside eye test.
PC Steve Hudson, of West Midlands Police Road Harm Reduction Team said: “This was the first opportunity to put into operational use the new Cycling UK virtual reality film on close passing, and we’re pleased to say the film was well received.
“At West Midlands Police RHRT, we’re always on the lookout for the best ways to make our roads safer and this short VR film will help people learn through experience the dangers of close passing. I hope we’ll see a wider pick up of the film across the UK, and that other road safety organisations, such as driver training and re-training instructors will be able to make use of the film too.”
One woman pulled over, who did not wish to give her name, said after her instruction: “That’s changed my perspective – I’d never have thought to give cyclists that much room before.”
If more funds are raised, the charity wants to use it to make sure as many drivers as possible see the film. Plans include:
- Making the film become a part of driver re-training courses
- Having the film included in online materials signposted to learner drivers
- Convincing the Department for Transport and Transport Scotland to promote the film as part of a vulnerable road user awareness campaign
- Taking the film to politicians in Westminster, the Senedd, Holyrood and Stormont so our decision makers can understand the dangers they need to tackle
- Making sure that those police forces actively conducting close pass operations have access to additional VR headsets and close pass mats to maximise operational effectiveness
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns said: “Making sure the police have the tools they need to educate drivers about the dangers of close passing was always Cycling UK’s first priority, and it’s great to see the film has been well received and is already in use by West Midlands Police.
“Now we’ve surpassed our target, Cycling UK is still keen to raise more funding to put an end to driving that’s too close for comfort. Shortly our enforcers will have the tools they need, but our next step must be to target the educators, so that the next generation of drivers has better awareness and understanding for all vulnerable road users.”