Cycling UK welcomes national day of action on close passing

Rich Wevill's picture

Cycling UK welcomes national day of action on close passing

A co-ordinated day of Operation Close Pass exercises will see officers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland spend time in the saddle to make roads safer
  • England, Northern Ireland and Wales take part in first national day devoted to educating drivers who close pass cyclists
  • UK charity provides tools and equipment to help all forces
  • Campaign inspired by pioneering and successful work begun by West Midlands Police five years ago

Today (14 April) police officers from 39 of the 43 forces in England and Wales and Police Service Northern Ireland, are out cycling on busy roads as part of a national day of action to identify people who drive too closely to cyclists and increase awareness around safe overtaking.

Part of the National Roads Policing Operations and Intelligence (NRPOI) unit 2Wheel week of action (12 – 18 April) will be working to educate drivers and make the roads safer for cyclists.

The nationwide action builds on an initiative started by West Midlands Police force in 2016 where undercover cycling police officers would pull over drivers who gave less than 1.5 metres (the width of a car) space. The offenders would then receive a short instructional session on how to overtake cyclists safely.

The campaign saw a 20% reduction in cycling casualties, and was backed by Cycling UK. Since 2016, the cycling charity has provided every police force in the UK with educational tools including a virtual reality film showing drivers unaware how threatening or dangerous close passing is.

Keir Gallagher, Cycling UK’s campaigns manager said: “It’s been amazing to see the growth of Operation Close Pass from being developed by one police force five years ago to now being part of a dedicated national day of action for the first time, with support from police chiefs a national level. In that time, the roads have undoubtedly been made safer for everyone thanks to initiatives like this which aim to educate drivers.

“Most drivers don’t intend to intimidate other road users and, often just don’t realise how dangerous it can be if they leave little space between their car and the person on a bike. Roadside education backed by enforcement is key to changing people’s behaviour.”

[Operation Close Pass has] enabled us to educate road users on the dangers of overtaking too close, prosecute those who risk lives, and ultimately see fewer vulnerable road users killed or seriously injured on our roads

Sgt Jon Butler, West Midlands Police

Sgt Jon Butler, from the West Midlands Police Road Harm Prevention team, said: "Our primary aim is to maintain the safety of vulnerable road users, while promoting sustainable travel and shared space road use. Operation Close Pass is a vital approach in helping us to do that.

"The force was the first in the country to proactively target road user behaviour in this way, and we're proud to see others are now following the example set by PC’s Mark Hodson and Steve Hudson, who launched the operation.

"It has enabled us to educate road users on the dangers of overtaking too close, prosecute those who risk lives, and ultimately see fewer vulnerable road users killed or seriously injured on our roads."

Current advice in the Highway Code under Rule 163 is vague saying drivers “should give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car.”

Following campaigning by Cycling UK a newly revised Highway Code is expected to be published later this year. The new wording will clarify a minimum safe passing distance, and will advise when overtaking people cycling to give between 1.5m at speeds below 30mph, and more above.

The NPCC national day of action is also supported by NRPOI (The National Roads Policing Operations and Intelligence).

Contact information 

For more information, please contact the national Cycling UK press office. Due to the restrictions caused by the coronavirus outbreak, currently the main press office number (01483 238315) is not being monitored. If you would like to speak to a member of the press office during working hours (9am-5pm) please call Richard Wevill on 07785 381648 or email publicity@cyclinguk.org. Out of hours, call 07786 320713.  

Notes to editors 

Cycling UK, the UK’s cycling charity, imagines a world where the streets are free of congestion and the air is clean to breathe, where parents encourage their children to cycle to school and everyone share the exhilaration of being in the saddle. For more than 140 years, we’ve been making out streets safer, opening up new traffic free routes, and inspiring more people to cycle more often  www.cyclinguk.org

For more information on Cycling UK’s Too Close For Comfort close pass campaign see: https://www.cyclinguk.org/campaign/toocloseforcomfort

Cycling UK’s Too Close For Comfort video can be viewed here:  https://youtu.be/9kgPt-lNYGY (2D version)

Timeline: The last five years of Operation Close Pass

September 2016: Cycling UK describes the West Midlands Police’s ‘Give Space, Be Safe’ initiative as the “best cyclist road safety initiative ever’.

March 2017: A ‘Too Close For Comfort’ Kickstarter campaign is launched by Cycling UK to turn the West Midlands Traffic Police’s work into a nationwide practice.

June 2017: After reaching the crowd-funding target of £12,000 thanks to the incredible support of Cycling UK members, close pass demonstration mats are delivered to more than 30 police forces so they can run their own operations

October 2017: Cycling UK presents West Midlands Police with an award at the Big Bike Celebration in Birmingham in recognition of their work on educating drivers about the need to give cyclists plenty of space.

September 2018: A virtual reality educational film is launched by Cycling UK that puts drivers in the position of experiencing what it feels like for a cyclist to be close passed by a vehicle. Again, thanks to support from our members, we are able to deliver the film and VR headsets to view it on to 11 police forces before the end of the year.

July 2020: The Government launches a consultation on proposed changes to the Highway Code which would include a minimum safe passing distance of 1.5 metres. Cycling UK sees its largest ever campaign response with more than 16,000 people writing to the Department of Transport to support changes to the rules.

April 2021: The National Police Chiefs Council holds the first national Operation Close Pass day with around 40 forces across England and Wales taking part.

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