Police in Norfolk ran a cycling safety operation last week, to highlight the dangers faced by cyclists as a result of motorists who drive too closely to them.
Operation ‘Close Pass’ took place in and around Norwich city centre on Thursday 30 January. This involved plain clothes officers going out on bicycles to identify drivers of motor vehicles who either did not allow enough room when overtaking cyclists, followed too closely behind, or ‘left-hooked’ them by overtaking and then turning left across their path.
The officers on bicycles were equipped with action camera devices to secure and record evidence of driving offences. If an offence occurred they then reported this to uniformed officers on motorcycles who were deployed within the operation area.
A motorcycle officer would then set out to stop the offending vehicle and provided the offence was not so serious as to warrant immediate enforcement action (e.g. drink-driving or dangerous driving), they were offered the opportunity to be escorted back to the engagement site in Riverside Road for a voluntary educational input.
If the driver of the offending vehicle declined the offer of an educational input, they would then be issued with a Traffic Offence Report (TOR) for consideration of the offences of either careless driving, or driving without due care and attention. Completion of the educational course and the TOR both take around the same amount of time to complete.
The educational input aims to make the driver aware of why their manner of driving was careless or inconsiderate, inform them of the typical hazards faced by cyclists and the use of a ‘Pass Mat’ which highlights the spacing that should be used for cyclists, with 1.5metres being the recommended overtaking clearance.
Whilst drivers were receiving their educational input, a roads policing officer conducted a cursory inspection of their vehicle to check it for any possible defects or illegal parts. Any offences were then addressed once the driver had completed their educational input.
19 offences were observed in total, with 14 brought back to the site for the full educational input, including two taxi drivers, a lorry driver and an off-duty bus driver. Separate prosecutions are under consideration for the 4 who couldn’t be stopped at the time.
Sergeant Mark Barney, of the Joint Norfolk and Suffolk Roads & Armed Policing Team, said: “The primary aim of this operation is to raise awareness about cyclists’ safety and educate and inform other road users about the risks faced by them.
“Cyclists can often feel vulnerable on the roads, with vehicles driving too closely to them or cutting them up. What was disappointing about the 19 offences we detected in Norwich, was that four of them were committed by professional drivers. These are people that drive for a living and who therefore we would expect much better from.
“However, the educational input was well-received by all of the drivers who completed it and I hope it will make them think more carefully in the future about their manner of driving around cyclists.”