Police close pass day of action to tackle dangerous overtaking

Close pass mats provided by Cycling UK help police easily demonstrate safe overtaking clearance
A national day of action on close passing will help people driving recognise dangerously overtaking anyone cycling is a serious road safety issue - is your police force taking part?

Today, police forces across England are taking part in a national day of action on close passing, running close pass operations and reminding drivers to leave plenty of space when overtaking cyclists. 

The operation is being coordinated by the National Roads Policing Operations and Intelligence unit (NRPOI) with support from Cycling UK, as part of a two-week campaign to make roads safer for ‘two-wheelers’ (cyclists and motorcyclists). 

Plain clothes police officers on bikes will be out on patrol across much of England, and radioing colleagues should drivers overtake in a dangerous manner. Police will then offer roadside education and, in serious cases, consider prosecution or a fixed penalty notice.

Close passing is a persistent issue affecting almost everyone who cycles in the UK, with research showing a regular cyclist encounters a ‘very scary’ near miss at least once a week. There’s little doubt this contributes to two-thirds of people in England stating that the roads are too dangerous to cycle on. 

In 2018, Cycling UK successfully crowdfunded £15,000 to provide every police force in the UK with a ‘close pass mat’ to be used to educate drivers on safe overtaking. Since then, the charity successfully campaigned to secure changes to the Highway Code to give clear guidance on safe passing distance when overtaking cyclists marked a significant step forward in the fight against dangerous overtaking. 

Drivers are now advised to leave at least 1.5m when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph, and more space at faster speeds. While this represents a significant improvement on the previously vague Highway Code advice, many drivers are still not aware of the new rules: a Cycling UK/YouGov poll one year on from the changes found that only 30% of drivers could correctly answer how much space they should leave when overtaking.

Cycling UK has called on government to invest in a far-reaching and long-term education campaign to ensure drivers understand the new rules, but this national day of action also represents a key opportunity for police forces and partner organisation to highlight these rules to drivers – and remind them that enforcement action can and will be taken where drivers put people at risk.

Keir Gallagher, campaigns manager at Cycling UK, said: “Close passes are not only really intimidating, but also dangerous for people cycling. Police attribute passing too close as a factor in a staggering 25% of serious collisions between cyclists and large vehicles.

Cycling UK appeals to all drivers to follow the guidance in the Highway Code and give plenty of space when overtaking cyclists

Keir Gallagher, campaigns manager

“Cycling UK appeals to all drivers to follow the guidance in the Highway Code and give plenty of space when overtaking cyclists, just as you would if it were your friend or loved one out riding their bike.

“We hope to see as many forces as possible out on the roads today helping to keep cyclists safe.”

National Police Chiefs Council roads policing lead Chief Constable  Jo Shiner said, “Police officers will use whatever options are appropriate – whether education or enforcement – to promote safety for riders of any two-wheeled machine. We urge every road user to be observant and courteous in sharing the road space with those who face a higher risk of injury.”    

Is your police force taking part?

Although Cycling UK has worked with the NRPOI to create this national day of action on close passing, it’s up to individual forces if they take part, and to decide what operations they undertake to tackle close passing and other issues affecting cyclists’ safety. 

The best way to find out if your force is taking part is to check their activity on social media – Cycling UK will be retweeting as many forces’ messages as possible but look out for the #operationclosepass hashtag on twitter to find out what your force is doing. 

We know that some forces can’t take part today but are making plans to run operations in Bike Week and into spring and summer – but if you’re not sure what your force is up to, why not contact them to find out on social media or directly? It’s vital that police forces understand that close passing is a serious issue for members of the public in their area.

Police Scotland and PSNI aren’t part of NRPOI, but you can still contact them to ask what they’re doing to tackle close passing. In Wales, although great work has been done to enable easy reporting of close passing through Operation Snap, currently they are not running close pass operations, but there’s certainly no harm in contacting your local force to flag up the persistent issue of close passing.