West Midlands Police’s pioneering Close Pass road safety scheme has received ministerial backing as the government looks to aid the roll-out of the scheme across the UK.
Cycling Minister MP Jesse Norman announced plans on 29 June to provide training materials and support for police forces looking to adopt the initiative.
West Midlands Police launched #OpClosePass two years ago in a bid to educate motorists on the dangers of overtaking too close to cyclists – and prosecute reckless drivers who endanger vulnerable road users.
It was the first such scheme in the UK and has coincided with a 20 per cent reduction in the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured on West Midlands’ roads.
Several other police forces have now embraced the operation and Mr Norman is keen to see more regions put Close Pass into operation.
WMP’s Close Pass scheme sees cops pose as cyclists to catch offenders
He said: “We are determined to make cycling safer and easier across the country.
“It is great to see that serious collisions involving cyclists have fallen in the West Midlands following the success of their ‘close passing awareness’ campaign. The Government will be supporting them, including with training materials, so that more drivers are made aware of the need to leave a safe distance when overtaking cyclists.
“Alongside this we are making half a million pounds available to pilot free cycle training for driving instructors, to support greater understanding and empathy among the next generation of road users.”
#OpClosePass sees plain clothes cops pedalling busy roads on the lookout for motorists who pass too close for comfort.
But in addition to pulling over dodgy drivers − offering roadside educational inputs to many and taking the most serious offenders to court − the force has prosecuted more than 400 motorists using video footage provided by the public.
PC Mark Hodson, from West Midlands Police’s Road Harm Reduction Unit, said reports of close-passes have halved in the region since the project launched while the number of cyclists seriously hurt in collisions has fallen by a fifth.
He added: “Cycling groups are telling us that, on the whole, motorists are becoming more considerate; the reduction in serious collisions we’ve seen is incredible when placed against a backdrop of increasing numbers of people cycling on our roads.
#OpClosePass aims to educate drivers on the dangers of overtaking too close to cyclists
“Drivers who endanger vulnerable road users need to understand that we run operations to catch them… and if they avoid our officers we can still prosecute them using footage provided by cyclists and other motorists.
“We’ve hosted conferences on Close Pass attended by officers from more than 20 police forces plus road safety experts. It’s encouraging to see the government is trying to facilitate the roll-out as wide as possible… it will help prevent serious collisions and save lives.”
West Midlands Police & Crime Commissioner David Jamieson, said: “I am extremely proud of West Midlands Police’s pioneering close pass scheme; we must have mutual respect on the roads and it is vital cyclists are afforded the same rights and protection as any other road user.
“As a former Transport Minister, I understand the importance of road safety and made it a top priority in my Police and Crime Plan. This is outstanding work by West Midlands Police that is leading policing across the country.”