New safe cycling initiative in Birmingham hopes to remind drivers about safe overtaking distances

A cycling initiative, based on education and enforcement, is being trialled in the Birmingham and West Midlands area whereby an undercover traffic officer, riding a bicycle, can initiate drivers being pulled over further up the road, who pass too close or drive dangerously near or next to him or a fellow cyclist.  He can signal his colleague up ahead to stop vehicles, if drivers overtake closer than 1.5m (this distance increases if the vehicle overtakes at speed or is an HGV).

According to the Highway Code, vehicles should pass cyclists giving the same amount of room as they would a car.

Initially, for the first 3 months, the scheme will concentrate on education whereby the plain clothes traffic officer has a colleague in a police vehicle up ahead who signals the offending driver to pull off the road and is given a choice of prosecution or a 15 minute demonstration on how to overtake cyclists safely.  Seriously dangerous driving or repeat offenders will be prosecuted without a choice of safety demonstration.

80 people were pulled over in the space of 4 days in the trial week on the run up to the initiative being launched and one of those who could have been prosecuted was a learner driver accompanied by a driving instructor!

The plain clothes traffic officer taking part in the safety initiative said:

“The last two drivers we pulled over, we asked: ‘do you know how far away you were from the cyclist’, and they said ‘what cyclist?’

“One of those was the driver of a 7.5 tonne vehicle.

“We needed to do something about driver behaviour,” he said. “In about 98% of cases [the collision] was down to driver action, it was nothing to do with the cyclist.”

“We are some of the highest trained road users,”

“We can anticipate anything and everything, but what we can never account for is if someone hits you from behind.”

“It is the fear of prosecution that stops drivers committing offences, it is a fact of British driving.”

After the 3 month initiative the aim is that it will become a normal part of traffic policing and will progress straight to prosecution rather than education

A senior cycling road safety and legal campaigner commented:

“This is the first time a police force has come forward with a plan to prioritise enforcement against close pass drivers. It is quite simply the best cyclist safety initiative by any police force, ever.”

The hope from cycle safety campaigners is that it will be successful and will be adopted countrywide.

A National Police Chiefs Council spokesperson said:

“Police forces are committed to keeping the roads safe. Individual forces are always looking for the best ways to help their local communities, and the West Midlands initiative is a positive step. All forces aim to develop new and effective means of keeping people safe on their roads.”


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