Operation Close Pass for cycle safety in Exeter

  Posted: 21.11.18 at 16:10 by The Editor

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On Wednesday 21st November, the Alliance Operations roads policing team carried out a Close Pass operation in Exeter. Close Pass is an initiative intended to improve the safety of cyclists on the road by educating drivers on how to overtake these vulnerable road users safely.

During a Close Pass deployment volunteer police officers in cycling clothes, effectively ‘undercover’, take to the road on bicycles fitted with high definition cameras front and rear which record the behaviour of drivers who overtake them.

If a vehicle passes too close to the rider, 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 (see attached images from previous Op Close Pass deployments) 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 other road users ’.

The chosen location was a section of the A3015 Topsham Road, a main artery into the city and busy at all times of the day but especially in morning and evening peak commuter hours.

Road Casualty Reduction Officer PC Phil Saundercock said: “We were immensely impressed by the patience and courtesy shown by all motorists on this busy road this morning. We didn’t have to pull over any motorists during this short operation.

“Bear in mind that we had not announced the operation in advance and the camera cyclists were not identifiable as police officers, so drivers were not moderating their behaviour because of this.

“We take this as a very positive sign, albeit a snapshot of a bigger picture, of positive and courteous driving of which the morning drivers on Topsham Road in Exeter can be proud. We ask only that all road users, whether they are on four or more wheels or two wheels, adopt the same mutually courteous approach. However, there is still work to be done to spread the message of education and enforcement.”

From 2013 – 2017 eight cyclists have been killed in collisions in Devon, 180 have been seriously injured and 694 have received lesser injuries.

PC Saundercock continued: “This, along with motorists who are killed and seriously injured on our roads, is an unacceptable figure.

“Initiatives like Close Pass, working in the wider scope of the road safety and roads policing strategy which emphasises partnership working and intelligence led policing, will we sincerely hope reduce this level of casualties.”

MP for Exeter Ben Bradshaw said: “I strongly applaud this operation. As a regular cyclist, I know only too well how common it is for motorists to pass cyclists far too close. This is extremely dangerous and against the Highway Code.

“To encourage more people to cycle and walk we have to make it safer and I am delighted to see the police play their role in this.”

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 as part of the Alliance Operations department.

Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall Alison Hernandez said: “It’s great to see officer’s out and about targeting busy areas and popular cycle routes. We need to ensure that all road users are safe, particularly those who are more vulnerable on bikes. Op Close Pass is a fantastic way of educating drivers as well as preventing harm to cyclists.  Ultimately it’s about keeping everyone safe and reducing the number of people killed and seriously injured on our roads.”

Devon and Cornwall Police recently announced its new road safety and roads policing policy, which identifies seven priority user groups who are at the highest risk of being killed or seriously injured. These are cyclists, motorcyclists, rural road users, younger drivers, pedestrians, older drivers and business drivers.

Close Pass, previously deployed once before in Exeter and before that in Plymouth, has been made possible in Devon and Cornwall by working with partner organisations. The educational mats were provided by national charity Cycling 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.

Keir Gallagher, Campaigns Officer at Cycling UK said: “We know that most close passes aren’t malicious, but that many drivers, especially those who don’t cycle, may not realise that a pass which feels safe to them could be intimidating or even dangerous for a cyclist. It’s fantastic to see Devon and Cornwall Police running these hugely important operations and taking action on cyclists’ safety."

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