Covert cycle cops stop motorists in operation targeting dangerous overtaking
Undercover police on bikes pull over vehicles in Exeter who overtake riders too closely part of Operation Close Pass
Traffic police this morning carried out an undercover operation to catch drivers who overtaking cyclists without leaving enough room.
Covert police officers riding bicycles with concealed cameras rode loops of a busy road in Exeter which has been identified by cyclists as dangerous.
Operation Close Pass, an initiative developed by West Midlands police, was rolled out along Cowley Bridge Road from 8am on Wednesday, September 19.
Two drivers received roadside education from the head of roads policing, Chief Sup Adrian Leisk while another two motorists were fined for using mobile phones.
Parents riding the often congested route to drop children off at the nearby Steiner Academy have complained that they are often abused, verbally and physically on the narrow road.
Mothers have said close passes and even attacks have left them too scared to ride the road.
The Devon & Cornwall and Dorset Police Alliance roads policing team said the location was chosen based on “local intelligence from cyclists”.
Offending drivers were pulled over at a safe stopping area and given education about giving cyclists sufficient room when passing.
Close Pass is an initiative intended to improve the safety of cyclists on the road by educating drivers on how to overtake safely, and was launched in Devon with an operation in Plymouth in July.
Volunteer police officers in cycling clothes take to the road on bicycles fitted with cameras front and rear which record the behaviour of drivers who overtake them.
If offences have taken place, the officer radios colleagues further down the road to direct the offending vehicle into a stop site where the driver will be offered roadside education using a specially designed mat which illustrates the safe passing distance.
Anyone refusing road side education will receive a fixed penalty notice of £100 and three points on their licence for the offence of “driving a vehicle without reasonable consideration of others”.
Cycle campaigners backed the initiative.
Tom Staniford, former paracycling world champion and director of Cycle Engage UK, said: “We are very grateful that Devon and Cornwall Police has begun live operations today, particularly as it’s on our doorstep.
“Local cyclists will be familiar with the close passes that happen on Cowley Bridge Road, so we’re very appreciative that it has been chosen as the site of the first Close Pass operation in Exeter.”
Caspar Hughes, of the Exeter Cycling Campaign, added: “People who commute to work face on average, one life threatening close pass a week.
“It is these dangerous conditions that keeps two thirds of people that want to cycle but don’t feel safe, from riding.”
The initiative is supported by the Police and Crime Commissioners of both Devon and Cornwall Police and Dorset Police whose roads policing teams work together.
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s Head of Campaigns and Advocacy said: “Anyone who has ridden a bike can regale you with tales of the close passes they’ve had, and how threatened they felt.
“It’s a regular occurrence on our roads, and one which Cycling UK believes is rarely down to malicious driver behaviour, just a lack of understanding of the dangers of overtaking too closely.”
Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez said: “I receive regular contact from cyclists about the behaviour of other road users towards them.
“Our partners work incredibly hard to provide safe, cycle only thoroughfares but cyclists have just as much right to be on the roads as all other users and, due to their vulnerability, it is vital that drivers give them enough space to stay safe.
“After the launch of the initiative in Plymouth in July I am pleased to see similar deployment of the operation in Exeter.”
Close Pass is also supported by Devon County Council.
Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for cycling, said: “We’re a cycling county and we want to make our road network as safe as possible for everyone, so we’re pleased to be supporting the Police on this important initiative.
“Cyclists are among the most vulnerable road users and Operation Close Pass, which complements our existing Give Cyclists Space initiative, is simply asking motorists to leave a safe amount of room when passing cyclists. We want everyone to share our roads and shared paths safely, be patient and show consideration for each other.”
As part of the campaign, Halfords stores across Devon and Cornwall have agreed to issue all new bike owners with police guidance on their rights and responsibilities whilst cycling.
Close Pass has been made possible in Devon and Cornwall by working with partner organisations.
The educational mats were provided by national charity Cycling UK which received donations from 970 cyclists via Kickstarter to fund provision of mats for all 45 police forces in the UK.
Some of the camera equipment fitted to the police officers cycles was funded by Cycle Engage UK, a not-for-profit organisation that aims to encourage cycling in all its forms via community engagement and its own woman’s racing squad, Team RGB Building Supplies.