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.

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.

Why cyclists really do need the police to step up

Cyclists know that the police are stretched and that Bobbies are hardly ever seen on cycles these days but police forces across the UK turning what amounts to a blind eye to the antics of some drivers is unforgiveable. Sadly, it seems dangerous drivers who put cyclists at risk are only really tackled when they have done some harm rather than them being targeted when seen driving dangerously near a cyclist.

The link below from Cycling UK is about using video evidence to help prosecute dangerous drivers but whilst being quite specific sadly it shows how UK police forces are reluctant to take dangerous drivers to task when they threaten the safety of cyclists:-

www.cyclinguk.org/article/roads-policing-review-failures-video-evidence

And sadly as if we needed reminding why the safety of cyclists needs to be a priority the Liverpool Echo put this article on its website only yesterday.

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/woman-cyclist-critical-condition-after-19006592

Let’s hope the injured woman survives and gets well again but let’s also not forget that a cyclist (a retired policeman) was killed on Wood Ln/Causeway Ln in Great Altcar only weeks ago as was former Melling Parish Councillor Alison Doyle a couple of years ago in Aughton’s Bold Lane. That’s 3 serious road accidents involving cyclists in a small geographic area and there will be others with non-life threatening consequences that go unreported. I blogged about Alison’s accident at the time:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/08/20/aughton-fatal-accident-on-bold-lane/

Speeding and close passing of cyclists are often the cause of such accidents that’s why it looks like the Highway Code is about to be changed to say that at 30mph drivers should give 1.5m of space when overtaking a cyclist. Another related issue is drivers overtaking cyclists who then see vehicles coming towards them on the other carriageway. Their reaction is to swerve back into their lane as though the cyclist whom they are overtaking has just vanished! If pulling a caravan or trailer this can hit the cyclist but even a car on its own swerving back into the lane can have a similar consequences. The massage is don’t overtake a cyclist if you’ve not got room to do it safely. Anything else is not unfortunate its dangerous driving!!!

Some drivers, a very small minority, don’t only drive dangerously around cyclists but they do it deliberately to intimidate them. I’ve been shouted at to ‘get off the road’, I’ve been all but run off the road by drivers passing within a coat of paint of my handle bars. I’ve even had drivers overtaking me and then slamming on their brakes! I’m told that some drivers hate cyclists, well if they do they really shouldn’t have a driving licence should they.

I’m a driver myself although I try to use my car as little as possible for environmental reasons on short journeys. And yes of course there are terrible cyclists out there swerving in out out of traffic, jumping red lights, riding on pavements etc. I saw one near Meols Cop Station a couple of days ago in Southport. But of course it’s probably the case that a poor driver is also a poor cyclist.

All we want is UK police forces to target bad drivers far more than they do and yes persecute the illegal cyclists too; I don’t have a problem with that. And remember the dangerous driver that knocks a cyclist off may well hit a pedestrian or crash into your car; they’re not just bad drivers around cyclists.

My thanks to Andrew Blackburn for the lead to this posting

Cycling Jacket – A new way to communicate with vehicle drivers?

Me in my cycling gear

The BBC has the article on its website – see link below

www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/51392314

This is genuinely interesting but the biggest problem faced by cyclists is vehicles overtaking them too close. The cycling fraternity is presently lobbying government to have the next edition of the Highway Code* amended so instead of it saying ‘leave as much room as possible’ or words to that effect it becomes something like ‘leave 1.5m where possible when overtaking a cyclist’. I’ve blogged about this previously and here’s a link to that posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/01/08/cycling-bad-drivers-poor-dog-owners/

My point being that if this jacket could indicate the 1.5m to vehicles approaching a cyclist from behind it would be of great help. Just a road safety thought.

* Rule 163 of the Highway Code states that when passing cyclists, drivers should give “as much room as you would when overtaking a car”. Cycling UK is calling for the code to include guidance on a minimum distance to give when overtaking, suggesting a minimum of 1.5m when travelling under 30mph and 2m over 30mph.