Operation Close Pass Day – An uphill pedal

Photo from Cycling UK showing the likely change to the Highway Code for passing a cyclist.

I’ve posted about this national police operation day (on 21st April 2021) twice and those previous posts can be accessed via this link:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2021/05/25/operation-close-pass-day-still-trying-to-get-lancs-mside-stats/

To say that I feel I’ve been cycling around in circles is putting it mildly as I’ve chased both Lancashire and Merseyside Police for their stats from the day this year.

LANCASHIRE POLICE – Sadly, it turns out that Lancashire Police did not participate at all! This is what Lancashire Road Safety Partnership told me on 25th May (coincidentally the same day I blogged about the matter) – ‘On 14th April for #OpClosePass we shared 2 sets of images on our multi agency social media channels covering blind spots and passing distances using the ‘safe pass mat’ we had made a couple of years ago. We did have activity planned with Lancashire Police but due to operational demand and covid restrictions we were unable to go ahead with this.’

MERSEYSIDE POLICE – It took me far longer to get a response from Merseyside but when it did appear (6th August) it was in quite some detail – ‘In terms of Safe Pass we did not have the bike to call up ‘close passes’ so it was more a case of using an unmarked car or spotter or patrolling to observe cyclists & cycle routes to try and spot anything. We did not keep a record but it was not particularly productive and do not recall any drivers reported issued or anything of note specific to close passes.

As you can see, the Team were only able to dedicate a small part of the week on cyclists and close passes, which is a shame. We are planning to run a number of activities in September as part of the NPCC campaign aimed at vulnerable road users, including cyclists and horse riders. Earlier this year we provided cycle training to 40 x police officers and PCSOs with the aim of creating ‘cycle ambassadors’. These are officers who carry out their daily duties on a bike (as opposed to walking or driving). I have asked them to focus their attention on cycle lane obstructions (parked vehicles) and also meeting cyclist groups, provide free security marking and also offer safety advice. Two officers, in Southport and Liverpool have been issued with Go Pro cameras to record any close passes they observe while on patrol and feedback to drivers.’

So, to me, Lancashire is a disappointment with regard to #Operation Close Pass in 2021.

With Merseyside though the picture, whilst not wholly positive, is to me brighter and more positive towards the issues I’ve been trying to get information about.

Of course, things have moved on since I started banging on the doors of my two local police forces as only a few days ago the charity Cycling UK declared that Government is supporting all the major asks of the organisation in a rewriting of the Highway Code:-

www.cyclinguk.org/blog/campaign-win-cycling-uks-fight-improve-highway-code

So the landscape with regard to safer cycling is changing for the better, if slowly. The next test will be to how police forces across the UK react to this changing landscape and the dangerous driving which leads to cycling being far more unsafe than it needs to be. The speeding drivers who seem to have taken over our roads since ‘lockdown’ need to be brought back under some form of control as they are a danger to us all on the roads – pedestrians, horse riders, cyclists, and indeed other drivers.

As with all my postings, if you think I’ve got something factually wrong please shout.

Operation Close Pass day – Still trying to get Lancs & M’side Stats

My posting below from 26th April mentioned a national policing campaign which was held on 14th April this year called ‘Operation Close Pass Day’ when police forces across the country would be sending out officers on cycles to try to catch those drivers who dangerously overtake cyclists by passing far too close to them. Here’s a link back to that posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2021/04/26/a-random-act-of-abuse-on-a-beautiful-day/

Photo from Cycling UK showing the likely change to the Highway Code for passing a cyclist.

I said back then that I awaited a response from both Lancashire and Merseyside Police about how they engaged with the campaign day and the results of their participation. To date, I’ve still had no response so, with the help of Cycling UK, I’ve now contacted them both again this time via their respective Road Safety Partnership websites in the hope that they will answer my queries.

Close passing of cyclists is highly dangerous and in my part of the world, the roads where it seems to be a big problem are Southport Road and Moss Lane in Lydiate and Prescot Road in Aughton, although it can happen on any road particularly where it’s one which vehicles are driven along at high speeds. Even drivers who would normally leave plenty of room when overtaking a cyclist can end up passing one far too closely. This often happens where a vehicle has started an overtaking manoeuvre and then the driver sees another vehicle approaching on the opposite carriageway. Obviously, most drivers will pull back in such circumstances but the impatient ones carry on sometimes coming within inches of a cyclist. Sadly, this can lead to cyclists being knocked off their bikes just because a driver is in too much of a hurry.

The present Highway Code is a little vague about this as it says that as much room as possible should be left when overtaking a cyclist. The plan is to change that to 1.5m of room must be left when overtaking a cyclist as the photo above demonstrates.

So there you have it or in the case of Lancs & Merseyside Police there you don’t have it as I still do not have their data from the campaign day. Let’s hope my contact via their Road Safety Partnerships delivers or it will have to be Freedom of Information Requests and I really hope it does not have to come to that.

Waste, fly-tipping & The Cheshire Lines Path in Maghull

Right on the western edge of Maghull, there’s an industrial estate on one side of Sefton Lane and a waste disposal/recycling centre together with a garden centre and a few houses on the other. Leaving Maghull you go over a significant mound which is the remains of a railway bridge taking Sefton Lane over the former Southport & Cheshire Lines Extension Railway, now the Cheshire Lines Path/Trans Pennine Trail. You then pass by the industrial estate (on your left) and recycling centre & garden centre (on your right) before a small bridge takes you over Dovers Brook, which is the boundary between Maghull and Sefton Civil Parishes.

The area has two significant problems, flooding at times of heavy rain being the most obvious and well known one which I’ve blogged about many times. The other problem is less obvious unless you walk around the perimeter of the waste recycling centre which backs onto Dovers Brook and open countryside. The problem? Rubbish, waste, litter strewn around. Here’s a couple of photos I’ve taken recently:-

View of rear fence of Sefton Meadows Recycling Centre

Rubbish stewn along the eastern bank of Dovers Brook.

When you see the rubbish your first thought (or at least my first thought) is how did it get here? You see where it has been dumped is not close to Sefton Lane so it surely can’t be casual fly-tipping. Having visited the area, twice now, with other concerned local residents and an environmental officer of Sefton Council there’s a possibility that the waste is coming from within the recycling centre. Yes, I know at face value that may seem odd but one theory is that scavengers operating within the recycling centre, out of hours, may be dragging stuff out of the centre and sorting through it on the other side of the fence, taking what they find to be of value whilst leaving everything else.

The problem could do with getting to the bottom of with Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority (MWDA) and their site operator Veolia. If the waste is being brought from inside the recycling centre compound then shouldn’t MWDA/Veolia take action to collect it up on a regular basis? Again, if it is coming via the route suggested does this not mean a beefing up of security is required?

It will be interesting to see how the Sefton Council environmental officer gets on with her piece of detective work. She seemed keen to get to the bottom of the growing environmental mess around this area.

And then just yards away you can walk over to the Cheshire Line Path/Trans Penning Trail which is maintained by the Merseyside North Volunteers and you see the other and very much positive side of our local environment:-

A random act of abuse on a beautiful day

Cycling along Acres Lane in Great Altcar yesterday was glorious; the countryside and weather were just right for peddling. However, someone had to spoil it and they achieved that by abusing a fellow cyclist all because they had been slowed down by a bike. Indeed, instead of simply safely passing the cyclist, they had to draw up alongside wind down the passenger window and take a bit more of their day to ensure they were fully understood by the cyclist, if you get my drift!

So what was it all about? Testosterone, selfishness, petrol-headedness, intimidation of a more vulnerable road user – your guess is as good as mine but one thing I have yet to see as a daily cyclist around Sefton and West Lancashire Boroughs is for such behavior to be exhibited by a female driver. Yes, abusing/intimidating cyclists is very much a male-dominated hobby in my experience.

And what you might ask was my fellow cyclist doing other than peddling along a country lane to get this chap so upset? Nothing at all, he was simply going about his lawful business, following the Highway Code and enjoying his day.

When I’m cycling pedestrians are the most vulnerable things on the road. When I’m driving pedestrians, horse riders and cyclists are the most vulnerable things on the road. It’s the mindset of drivers who think they are the most important thing on the road that’s dangerous. Powered vehicles are never the most important, except on a Motorway.

Yes, I’m fully aware that some (usually male) drivers very much disapprove of cyclists and that they think we should not be allowed on our roads. I’ve even had one barmy driver tell me to get onto the pavement, which of course is telling me to do something which is illegal (although rarely enforced)!

Photo from Cycling UK showing the likely chage to the Highway Code for passing a cyclist.

Cycling UK, of which I’m a member, recently told me that many UK police forces had taken part in a campaign (#OperationClosePass Day) to tackle close-passing of cyclists. This practice is sadly a regular thing you get used to but it’s dangerous and often caused by poor driving or even done deliberately to intimidate cyclists. The Highway Code presently says a driver should leave as much room as possible when passing a cyclist but that is soon to be changed to a more specific distance to leave beween a cyclist and a passing/overtaking vehicle. I raise this aspect now of course because close-passing of cyclists is very much related to the kind of driver behaviour which I observed yesterday.

I’ve asked both Lanashire Police & Merseyside Police to publish information about how they participated in the safety campaign but have yet to hear back from either Force. The idea, as I understand it, was to send out coppers on cycles, dressed in plain clothes/cycling gear, so that they could identify bad/dangerous drivers who were not observing a safe passing distance when overtaking. I’ll let you know what I get back from Lancs & Merseyside Police.

Virually all cyclists are drivers too but many drivers are not cyclists. Cycling is getting more and more popular for fitness and environmental reasons so the conflict bewtteen cyclists going about their lawful riding with drivers who want them off our roads is only going to become a bigger issue. The police really need to tackle dangerous and intimidatory driving that’s why initiatives like #OperationClosePass Day are so important.

What is consultation actually all about?

I think it fair to say that the public sector is generally poor at genuine consultation (partly because proper consultation costs too much) and it often is simply engaged in what is no more than information sharing (telling folks what is going to be done) and box ticking. So telling folk what is going to be done to their community, neighbourhood etc. is often dressed up as ‘consultation’ when in reality the comments made may well be (politely) ignored/rejected.

I recall a ‘consultation’ event being held at Maghull Town Hall a few years back about the then proposed building of what is now the newish Maghull North Station. That consultation was, at face Value, useful but I got the distinct impression that there were always going to be good reasons not to take forward suggestions which were made by attendees at that event. I blogged about it at the time – see link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/12/14/maghull-consultation-response-on-towns-2nd-and-new-railway-station/

My somewhat cynical response was ‘and it does make you wonder whether Merseytravel and their partners (Network Rail & Merseyrail) really do want to hear alternative views at all. Seems some things are sadly set in stone.’ If you look back at the suggestions which I noted were made whilst I was at the event

* The draft design of the station is too boxy and bland – Don’t want to end up as nondescript as Aintree Station when it was modernised.
* Will some of the circular buses be diverted there because the bus access along narrow roads is poor to the present Maghull Station?
* Can there be a memorial included to reflect the historic Moss Side Hospital that was on the site before? This refers to the pioneering work done there during and after the First World War into shell shock.
* Can the old Maghull Station be renamed Maghull Hornby to differentiate it from Maghull North?
* Can Maghull North name be changed to say Maghull Moss Side for example?

you could say that only one was actually followed up on – the memorial and an excellent memorial it is too. The others were rejected (or not even taken seriously?) it seems and there may well have been others I did not hear about.

So why start banging on about ‘consultation’ now Robertson?

Well my good friend Roy Connell, once a fellow Sefton Borough and Maghull Town Councillor, has public sector consultation buzzing around his head presently.

In his case it involves consultation by office of the Merseyside Police & Crime Commissioner regarding the amount of extra precept (an addition to our Council tax bills) it wants to charge in the financial year 2020/2021. Roy’s view, if I’ve understood him correctly, is the consultation has in effect been all but tokenistic. 2072 people expressed a view on the matter via either being telephoned directly or through them commenting on the matter via the survey (no, like you I didn’t know about it) on the Police and Crime Commissioner’s website. When you consider that Merseyside has a population of approximately 1.4m then a couple of thousand taking part in a survey/consultation is a very small percentage.

We live in a representative democracy where we elect people to make significant decisions about our country, region and community. The idea being that if those decisions displease us we can kick out the representatives who made them. But we seem to have developed, at least in recent years, a desire to consult folk over decisions about public policy. At face value this is a great idea but in reality aren’t the consultations rather meaningless if the vast majority of folk know nothing of them or if those being surveyed may not be taken much notice of unless they say things which fit with the policy direction being consulted on?

My review of 2020 – No Brexit, no COVID

I’ve been looking back at my blog postings throughout each month of 2020 and I’ve picked out the 12 most interesting from my perspective:-

Liverpool 2’s massive new container cranes

January – Access to the Port of Liverpool & Sefton Council’s far, far too late Judicial Review application – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/01/21/access-to-port-of-liverpool-and-that-oddly-timed-judicial-review/

Cottages in Sefton Lane, Maghull (September 2012) – Sadly flooding here has a long history

February – Will building Maghull’s vast new urban extension lead to more flooding? – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/02/24/maghull-heavy-rain-reminds-us-of-the-potential-peril-of-building-on-agricultural-land-locally/

Sunny Southport Cricket

March – Watching County Championship cricket at Birkdale – so sad it’s seemingly a thing of the past – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/03/30/southport-when-patrick-the-fastest-bowler-in-the-world-bounced-into-town/

Liverpool Exchange Station in 1977

April – Looking back at a once great station – Liverpool Exchange – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/04/29/liverpool-exchange-station-long-gone-but-not-forgotten/

Jim Sharpe RIP

May – The sad passing of an old style community journalist of note – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/05/01/jim-sharpe-rip/

June – Policing has long been a political interest of mine and a big frustration when it fails to deliver – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/06/08/policing-when-it-goes-badly-wrong/

Meccano

July – Reading the history of Liverpool’s famous Meccano Factory – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/07/22/liverpool-factory-of-dreams/

August – Vehicles on pavements the curse of the selfish motorists – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/08/03/pavements-r-4-pedestrians/

Merseyside Maritime Museum

SeptemberLife on Board a new exhibition at Merseyside Maritime Museum – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/09/18/life-on-board-exhibition-at-mersey-maritime-museum/

The present Sandy Lane Changing Rooms building – Lydiate

October – Banging the drum for football changing facilities in Lydiate – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/10/28/lydiate-progress-on-sporting-fitness-facilities/

Litter

November – Lydiate’s volunteer litter pickers – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/11/07/lydiate-and-its-volunteer-litter-pickers/

Meccano

December – A remarkable Meccano canal bridge – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/12/03/boltons-meccano-canal-bridge/

So that was 2020 trying hard not to mention Brexit or Covid. The items posted here are just a small selection of my many (far too many I hear you say) blogs about all kinds of things which have caught my attention during a very odd year indeed. Here’s hoping for a better 2021…..