"Give Space, Be Safe" campaign making Hants roads safer

Hampshire Constabulary's Joint Operations Road Policing Unit
Hampshire Constabulary's Joint Operations Road Policing Unit and the Cycling UK close pass mat. Photo: Hants Constabulary
As Hampshire Constabulary rolls out its latest "Give Space, Be Safe" campaign, they advise all drivers to give space when overtaking and to "remember that any cyclist you overtake could be our police cyclist.”

Hampshire Constabulary’s Joint Operations Road Policing Unit has just finished the latest phase of its “Give Space, Be Safe” campaign, which is aimed at educating drivers who passed cyclists too closely in Southampton, Portsmouth and the New Forest.

Targeting drivers who failed to follow the Highway Code rules on passing distances when overtaking cyclists, a plain clothes police officer was sent out on a bike and anyone caught driving too close to him when overtaking were stopped.

Run in partnership with local council road safety teams across the three locations, in total 20 drivers were pulled over for committing the offence of careless driving.

As an alternative to prosecution, these drivers were invited to attend, there and then, a nearby educational advice session on the Highway Code and safe driving. They were also asked to complete a roadside eyesight test and have their documents checked.

As part of these courses, Cycling UK’s #TooCloseForComfort mat was used to educate the drivers on how to overtake only when it is safe and legal to do so, as well as explaining how drivers should allow vulnerable road users as much room as they would when overtaking a car.

Remember that any cyclist you overtake could be our police cyclist.

Sgt Rob Heard, Hampshire Constabulary

Hampshire Constabulary has also made it clear that any driver deemed to have driven dangerously closely could have been prosecuted and taken to court.

Sgt Rob Heard said: “The week’s activities were a great success. We have seen a marked improvement with drivers giving plenty of space and time when overtaking cyclists.

He added: “A close pass not only presents danger to the cyclist but it’s also intimidating.

“Drivers should be allowing other road users as much room as they would a car – but many seem to not know this, or choose to ignore it. Remember that any cyclist you overtake could be our police cyclist.”

Hampshire Constabulary’s work was warmly received by Cycling UK, which has praised the force for its work.

Sam Jones, Cycling UK’s campaigns coordinator, said: “Close passing of people cycling is a regular occurrence on our roads, but one which Cycling UK believes is rarely down to malicious driver behaviour, just a lack of understanding of the dangers of overtaking too closely.

“Our close pass mats were designed to help forces across the UK to tackle this problem, and we’re really pleased to see them being rolled out in Hampshire.

“We’re absolutely behind Hampshire Constabulary’s campaign, as it is education first but backed up with enforcement where necessary, and ultimately making our roads safer for everyone.”

As the evenings have grown darker, Hampshire Constabulary has also been giving advice and support regarding what lights and clothing people cycling should consider to make themselves more visible, including the offer of free temporary lights. 

Reinforcing Cycling UK's concerns that not everyone is aware of the legal necessity of having lights during the hours of darkness, the police are running a cycle rectification scheme. This means anyone found riding between sunset and sunrise is issued an Offence report for cycling with no lights which comes with a £50 fine.

The individual can avoid the fine though if they buy new lights from one of the many approved cycle shops in the Portsmouth area within 28 days and get the offence report stamped by the cycle shop to show this. The report then needs to be sent to the justice unit within 28 days to avoid paying the £50 fine. So far 15 people have been stopped for riding without lights. 

Those stopped without lights aren't expected to walk their wheels all the way home though, as Sgt Heard told Cycling UK, "We give them free 'get you home lights' in the meantime to use, as we know that if we asked them to walk home they would be back on the bike around the corner!"