This year’s Road Safety Week runs from 18-24 November. As anyone who cycles regularly will know one of the most threatening experiences is a ‘Close Pass’. You’re riding along and a tonne of metal hurtles past you inches from your elbow and if at speed almost blows you off your bike. Closes passes are the type of experience that helps to reinforce the widely held belief that cycling is a dangerous activity, even though (per hour of activity) you’re just as likely to get killed walking and less likely to end up in hospital than when gardening.
According to research one in seventeen vehicles pass a cyclist too close. More worryingly, 3 in 5 serious cycling injuries and deaths involve a vehicle not giving enough room when overtaking.
That’s why it is so important motorists observe Highway Code Rule 163 and “give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car”. The safe overtaking distance isn’t specified, but is usually assumed to be at least 1.5 metres. Any motorist who doesn’t give enough space puts lives at risk and can be charged with careless driving. Even if you don’t injure someone you could lose your licence and receive a fine of up to £5,000.
In 2016 West Midlands Police launched their ‘Operation Close Pass’ campaign. It targeted drivers who passed a plain-clothed cycling officer too close. A safe pass mat was used to demonstrate to drivers they pulled over what they needed to do to comply with the law and overtake vulnerable road users safely. In the first 12 months, the Force achieved a 20% reduction in casualties amongst vulnerable road users, bucking a national trend that saw an increase that year.
Seeing the success of West Midlands Police Force’s campaign the national cycling charity, Cycling UK, provided all Forces including West Mercia Police with a ‘Close Pass Mat’ and virtual reality goggles to help raise awareness and educate local drivers as to why giving cyclists plenty of room when passing is so important. Worcestershire’s Safer Roads Partnership is also working with the Police to promote ‘Operation Snap’. This involves the public submitting any dash and helmet-cam footage to the Police of irresponsible and dangerous driving, including ‘Close Pass’ incidents.
But there’s no need to risk being caught or injuring someone. The next time you’re about to overtake a cyclist please allow a safe passing distance of at least 1.5 metres. If there’s insufficient room, hang back until it is safe to pass.