Drivers passing too close to people on bikes is one of the major fears that puts off would-be cyclists. It’s also really dangerous. So encouraging safe passing distances is really important. Some UK police forces are leading the way in helping to re-educate drivers – West Midlands Police being the shining example. Now Cycling UK are launching a campaign to provide kit that will encourage all the UK’s police teams to be more proactive in making close-passing a thing of the past.

Sorry for copy ‘n’ pasting the Cycling UK press release (below) but we’re super busy getting Boneshaker issue 19 ready in time for Bespoked – and the press release has all the facts you need! Read and learn…

“Cycling UK today (Thursday, 09 March) called on cyclists across the UK to help make roads safer and put an end to close overtaking of cyclists by drivers, also known as ‘close passes’, as it launched its fundraising campaign ‘Too Close for Comfort’ via the crowdfunding website, Kickstarter.

The campaign follows in the footsteps of West Midlands Traffic Police’s (WMP) award-winning road safety operation, ‘Give Space, Be Safe’ launched last September, which targeted close passes.

WMP sent plain clothes officers out on bikes, and pulled over drivers who overtook too closely. Using a ‘safe pass’ mat that cost over £800, WMP then demonstrated to these drivers how to overtake vulnerable road users safely, with the worst cases being reported for careless driving.

Driving behaviour in the local area changed overnight, with a 50 per cent reduction in reported close pass offences in the first three months.

‘Too Close for Comfort’ aims to raise £12,000 to fund the purchase of 50 close pass mats. These mats will then be distributed around each force operating in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to allow them to operate similar road safety education and enforcement operations. Cycling UK has spoken to several forces which have shown their interest and appreciation for having mats provided.

According to findings from Dr Rachel Aldred’s Near Miss Project, close passes account for a third of threatening encounters cyclists have with motor vehicles. They present a significant barrier for people new to cycling, or who cycle at a more sedate pace (<8mph). The project found close passes are particularly a problem for women, who on average cycle more slowly than men, and experienced a 50 per cent higher rate of close passes.

Paul Tuohy, Chief Executive of Cycling UK, said:

“Last September, West Midlands Police showed the UK what a little bit of innovation could do to make a difference to road safety. I’m pleased to say that forces up and down the land took note, and many have shown a real interest in running similar operations.

“It’s well known our police forces have been clobbered with years of cuts from central Government. They’re doing a great job given the circumstances, and hearing of the enthusiasm from several forces for West Midlands’ close pass operation, we thought we’d try and give them a little helping hand.

“Cycling UK launched ‘Too Close for Comfort’ with the specific aim of raising £12,000. With this money, we plan to buy the close pass mats in bulk, which will save close to £28,000, and pass these on for free to our forces. If West Midlands’ success is anything to go by, they will help make cycling and our roads safer across the whole UK – that’s surely worth parting with a few bob for!”

PC Steve Hudson from West Midlands Traffic Police said:

“The driving test is the minimum standard, if you don’t drive or ride to that standard every time you get on the road you are part of the problem, be honest with yourselves. That’s why we set up our ‘Give Space, Be Safe’ operation last September – to help remind people of those standards they might have forgotten.

“It’s great to see how ‘Give Space, Be Safe’ has taken off, and we’re fully behind Cycling UK’s plan to supply every force with a close pass mat – they really can make a difference.”

To find out more, head to Cycling UK’s Kickstarter page

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