Close Pass - Cycling safety operation in Ipswich
Police in Suffolk ran a cycling safety operation last week, to highlight the dangers faced by cyclists as a result of motorists who drive too closely to them.
Operation ‘Close Pass’ took place in and around Ipswich town centre on Wednesday 29 January. This involved plain clothes officers going out on bicycles to identify drivers of motor vehicles who either did not allow enough room when overtaking cyclists, followed too closely behind, or ‘left-hooked’ them by overtaking and then turning left across their path.
The officers on bicycles were equipped with action camera devices to secure and record evidence of driving offences. If an offence occurred they then reported this to uniformed officers on motorcycles who were deployed within the operation area.
A motorcycle officer would then set out to stop the offending vehicle and provided the offence was not so serious as to warrant immediate enforcement action (e.g. drink-driving or dangerous driving), they were offered the opportunity to be escorted back to the engagement site in Yarmouth Road for a voluntary educational input.
If the driver of the offending vehicle declined the offer of an educational input, they would then be issued with a Traffic Offence Report (TOR) for consideration of the offences of either careless driving, or driving without due care and attention. Completion of the educational course and the TOR both take around the same amount of time to complete.
The educational input aims to make the driver aware of why their manner of driving was careless or inconsiderate, inform them of the typical hazards faced by cyclists and the use of a ‘Pass Mat’ which highlights the spacing that should be used for cyclists, with 1.5metres being the recommended overtaking clearance.
Whilst drivers were receiving their educational input, a roads policing officer conducted a cursory inspection of their vehicle to check it for any possible defects or illegal parts. Any offences were then addressed once the driver had completed their educational input.
Five drivers were brought back to the site for the full educational input, including a light goods vehicle driver. Officers also issued a TOR for multiple offences to a van driver who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt; and whose vehicle was in a dangerous condition; and incorrectly registered.
Sgt Mark Barney, of the Joint Norfolk and Suffolk Roads & Armed Policing Team, said: “The primary aim of this operation is to raise awareness about cyclists’ safety and educate and inform other road users about the risks faced by them.
“Cyclists can often feel vulnerable on the roads, with vehicles driving too closely to them or cutting them up. What was pleasing about the day in Ipswich was that in general drivers were very considerate and we only had to bring five people back for the educational input.
“One of those drivers in particular expressed his gratitude to us for offering the intervention rather than taking enforcement action and said he had found it beneficial, with the ‘pass mat’ clearly highlighting to him the 1.5metre distance you should leave when overtaking.
“We also had a number of passing members of the public who stopped to ask about the operation, many of whom then received a brief input about road safety. All expressed great satisfaction that the operation was taking place and agreed with the value to cyclists and drivers alike.”
Tim Passmore, Police and Crime Commissioner for Suffolk, said: “It is really important that everyone that uses our roads has consideration for fellow road users, whether you are on four wheels, two wheels, or on foot.
“I fully support Operation ‘Close Pass’. Many of our cyclists are at serious risk of being clipped by vehicles and it is important that we do all we can to highlight the issue.
“Cycling is great for personal fitness and commuters cycling to work make a significant difference to the number of vehicles on our roads, so we need to do all we can to ensure all cyclists feel safe on the roads.”