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.

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.

Pavements r 4 Pedestrians

I’ve never quite understood the habit of the many drivers who park their vehicles on pavements, then again I find adults riding cycles on pavements troubling too.

Below there’s a link to a Liverpool Echo article about the problem which seems to be getting worse almost daily:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/harsher-punishments-selfish-drivers-welcomed-18685079

When I stop for a coffee at the CoOp in Town Green on one of my regular cycle rides I often observe drivers pulling straight off Town Green Lane and onto a small piece of land at the side of the shop where there are cycle racks. If it’s a large car (and there are a lot them in leafy Aughton) the vehicle often can end up overhanging/blocking the pavement. Do the drivers realise this, do they care? What’s more the CoOp does have a large car park!

Another thing I’ve noticed is that some drivers seem to pull two wheels onto the pavement when stopping as a matter of course. Even if the road is quite wide they still do it, even if the pavement is quite narrow they still do it! It’s a habit which needs challenging and if Merseyside Police are going to start to do so all well and good – Sadly Town Green is in Lancashire so unless Lancs police adopt a similar policy………

The really, really bad practice is putting all of a vehicle on the pavement/cycle track/shared pedestrian-cycle path so that pedestrians or indeed cyclists are blocked and sometimes forced into the road. Such acts of selfishness surely have to be deliberate rather than thoughtless. We can only assume such drivers have no members of their family who are blind, no members of their family who push prams and that they are are completely at ease with putting other lives lives at risk.

Oh and while Merseyside police are at it I hope they also start to tackle pavement cyclists as they are a danger to pedestrians; as I always say pavements r 4 pedestrians except where they have been designated as shared space with cyclists of course.

For the benefit of doubt I am a pedestrian, cyclist and driver. And no I can’t say hand on heart that I’m a perfect driver, cyclist or pedestrian but I don’t mind my failings being pointed out to me by the police or frustrated pedestrians.

It really is time that we all adopted the this approach – PAVEMENTS R 4 PEDESTRIANS and that all police forces took steps to enforce it.

Speeding – Is it an addiction akin to alcoholism/drugs?

There can be little doubt that driving standards have plunged during lockdown and that this has mainly manifested itself via excessive speeding. That’s certainly been my experience travelling around Sefton and West Lancashire by car, cycle and indeed walking.

We had quite a number of weeks when there was little or no traffic on our roads and this seemingly became an invitation to those who enjoy/can’t resist speeding to put their clogs to the floor in both urban and rural areas regardless of pretty much anything. ‘We can so we will’ and they certainly have been doing! Maybe they thought the police would be enforcing social distancing and would not be bothered about speeding?

But now speeding become the norm will the petrol heads slow down as our roads are pretty much back to what they used to be? Frankly I’m not sure. Yes they’ll be slowed by the weight of traffic but will the urge to speed mean they’ll take greater risks to get past anything which slows them down? Or put another way once you’ve had a taste of speeding and done it regularly can you stop the addiction?

I’d like to see the stats for speeding enforcement on Merseyside and in Lancashire during lockdown as logically more speeding tickets should have been handed out assuming of course that police resources have not been reallocated elsewhere.

But what are our two local police forces going to do to try to normalise traffic speeds? Letting them rise was an inadvertent consequence of less traffic on our roads, bring them back down may well be a much harder task.

And yes I know some of you reading this will say the police have better things to do than fine motorists but you may have a different thought if a relative or friend is killed walking a country lane, cycling a local road or even being in a vehicle hit by another driven far too fast.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the most important and vulnerable thing on our highways is the pedestrian followed by cyclists. Only after that come powered vehicles.

My point in raising this issue once again is that if someone is caught say 2nd or 3rd time speeding within a specified period then is there not a reason to look upon that driver as someone with an addiction problem who needs help? They may also need to be stopped driving until their addiction has been tackled.

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.