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.

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

How will you help make our roads safer?

Government is working on changes to the Highway Code to make road use safer for cyclists and pedestrians so whether you’re a pedestrian, horse rider, cyclist or driver (I wonder how many of you are all 4?) have a go at this quiz on the proposed changes to the Highway Code which is on the BBC website:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-54027461

Cycling – What’s legal, what’s not/What’s advisable, whats not

With so many people cycling during our present health lockdown even I as a regular/daily cyclist for a few years now have been checking what cyclists legally can and can’t do on our roads. Whilst Googling around on the subject I came across this very recent Chronicle newspaper article which I thought was both well written and informative:-

www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/cyclists-rules-roads-helmet-pavement-12815392

One thing some cyclists can easily forget or even deliberately disregard is that pedestrians are the most import thing on our roads, not cyclists or indeed vehicles. The other thing about some cyclists is that they don’t have bells on their bikes. How on earth are they to warn pedestrians, whom they are coming up on from behind, that they are there without a bell? I know some cyclists will think they are not cool with a bell on their bike but I can’t get my head around that rather daft excuse.

Also, because I’m a cyclist I find that non-cyclists seem to think I should be able to explain the deficiencies of other cyclists as if we are some kind of Borg Collective! (Star Trek fans will get this). Questions I’ve been asked:-

* Why don’t you cyclists use cycle lanes/tracks and keep off the road? (I do when they are available)
* Why don’t you cyclists have a bell on your bikes (I do)?
* Why don’t you cyclists carry insurance (I do), we vehicle drivers have to so you should too.
* Why don’t you stick to cycling outside of rush hours, you get in the way. (Do I really have to answer this?)

I could go on but you get my drift. Firstly, I am no more responsible for the behaviour of other cyclists than one vehicle driver is for another. Why on earth do some non-cyclists think cyclists are?

Cycle paths often end in the wrong/dangerous places as this one does.

And another thing, bad cyclists will invariably be bad drivers too. Most cyclists are also drivers of vehicles you know.

But what has really struck me in recent times is that cycling, outside of those who do it, seems to be quite unpopular. It’s as though some folks think it should be banned. In a bizarre and dangerous incident a while back a van driver overtook me just before a junction which I had signalled to turn left at. He then cut straight in front of me and turned left into the same road and slammed his brakes on. A more deliberate act of intimidation aimed at me I have never seen whilst cycling. Not only that he jumped out and told me to get off the road! I assume he wanted me to cycle illegally on the pavement (see the newspaper article linked above)? *

Yes I too get upset when I see adults riding bikes on pavements which have not been designated for cycling; it’s wrong and in my locality Merseyside or Lancashire Police should be challenging cyclists who do it. And yes I also deplore cyclists jumping red lights; they need catching a fining just like vehicle drivers who do it.**

I find cycling fun and it keeps me fit. What’s more it’s an environmentally friendly way of getting from A to B over short to medium distances. I try not to be a pain in the a**e to other road users and I hope the recent uptake in cycling will make bike riding a normal everyday thing which no longer requires explanation, apology or accusations.

* By the way does anyone have any stats from Merseyside and Lancashire for fines handed out for cycling on pavements? If you’ve read the linked article above you’ll have noted that between 2012/13 and 2017/18 only two people paid fines for cycling on pavements in the Northumbria Police area.

** Although in defence of the odd bit of pavement riding I can think of two places in my locality were cycle tracks start/end in daft/unsafe places all but forcing cyclists to use a short section of pavement.

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.