New police operation educates drivers how to overtake cyclists

 10/08/2018

A NEW police operation has educated drivers on how to overtake cyclists at a safe distance.

The operation involved a plain-clothed officer cycling on the A177 from Shincliffe towards Durham City and motorists identified as passing too close were intercepted and educated by emergency services yesterday (August 9).

Motorists were pulled into Durham School on Quarryheads Lane where education and checks were carried out.

In 2017 there were 220 incidents involving cyclists killed or seriously injured within the Durham and Cleveland force area.

Inspector Jon Curtis of Cleveland and Durham Specialist Operations Unit, who headed up Operation Close Pass, said: “We know that a number of cyclists feel unsafe by the way some motorists pass them on various routes around the city. This led us to proactively identify and educate drivers who pass too closely to cyclists.

“We want to remind drivers to allow a safe passing distance of 1.5 metres when overtaking. I think that today has been a stark reminder to these drivers of the risks involved.”

County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service helped to inform drivers with a ‘close pass mat’ which showed drivers exactly how much space cyclists should be given when being overtaken by a vehicle.

Vehicle checks were also carried out by police officers and Durham County Council used virtual reality goggles to simulate a car crash to show the devastation distractions can cause.

If drivers did not want to be educated, they faced a £100 fine and 3 points on their licence or up to a £5,000 fine and potential disqualification if prosecuted at court for careless driving.

Insp Curtis said: “Cyclists are vulnerable road users so it is important that drivers recognise the importance of giving them sufficient space on the roads. Passing cyclists too closely puts all road users in danger. You should allow at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car when passing a person on a bicycle, giving consideration to the maximum speed limit and time and distance available to you.

“With such great weather and longer days, there has been an increase in the number of pedal cyclists using the road network across the North East.  It is therefore imperative that all road users, including cyclists, are aware of their vulnerability irrespective of what mode of transport they are using. The road network is for everyone to share and we all have a responsibility to ensure our own safety and the safety of others. By exercising patience and courtesy we can all make the roads a safer place."  

Durham Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner Ron Hogg, said: “I welcome this scheme as this issue had been raised with me by cyclists and groups across our area. Passing too close puts all road users in unnecessary danger - not just the cyclist. The police and our partners work very hard to keep all road users safe, and they are the ones who have to deal with the aftermath when something does unfortunately go wrong.  With this in mind they have developed the education element of this scheme to not only highlight the consequences of passing too close, but also to improve the behaviour of all road users.”  

Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, Barry Coppinger, said: “The aim of all casualty reduction operations is to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads and I fully support any initiative which sets out to do this.”