Leeds drivers who pass too close to cyclists face police crackdown

Date: 30th June 2016. Picture James Hardisty. Official opening of the CityConnect Cycle Superhighway connecting Leeds and Bradford.
Date: 30th June 2016. Picture James Hardisty. Official opening of the CityConnect Cycle Superhighway connecting Leeds and Bradford.
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A scheme where drivers who pass too close to cyclists are pulled over for education or possible prosecution is being launched on busy commuter routes across Leeds.

West Yorkshire Police, one of the first forces in the country to introduce a ‘safe pass’ scheme, say seven cyclists were killed in the county in 2016, the highest total in 26 years.

This initiative isn’t about picking on or penalising motorists, it is about making sure our roads are safer for everyone.

Mark Milsom, West Yorkshire Police

From today, plain clothes officers will be patrolling on bikes on the city’s busiest roads, identifying motorists who pass too close for comfort, fail to give way at junctions or are distracted from having a proper view whilst driving.

Offenders seen passing too close to the cyclist will be offered an on-the-spot educational talk on safe overtaking using a specially-designed floor mat.

Anyone who declines to take part in the tutorial, or who is deemed to have committed a particularly dangerous overtaking manoeuvre, could be prosecuted for driving without due care and attention.

Rules of the road stipulate that motorists should give cyclists and other vulnerable road users as much space as they would a car, when overtaking, police say.

Officials behind the scheme say a student taking their driving test would fail if they did not give sufficient space, approximately 1.5 metres, when passing another vehicle.

Between 2011 and 2015 there were more than 6,000 incidents where cyclists were injured on West Yorkshire’s roads. Of these, 1,210 of those were classed as serious, and 20 were fatal.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Milsom said; “On average, we record around three incidents every day where a cyclist and vehicle have been in a collision on the county’s roads. Frighteningly, seven people lost their lives on our roads in 2016, which is a number we urgently want to address and reduce.

“This initiative isn’t about picking on or penalising motorists, it is about making sure our roads are safer for everyone. Following the success of the Tour de Yorkshire we support our partners in wanting to get more people to feel confident in cycling in the county by making sure the roads are safer for cyclists and all vulnerable road users.”

West Midlands Police were the first force to launch a similar scheme, though last year South Yorkshire Police said they would not do the same because of a lack of serious collisions involving cyclists locally.

As part of the West Yorkshire scheme, drivers who are identified as “failing to look” will be given an eyesight test and the option of a roadside educational talk. If the driver passes the eyesight test and agrees to participate they will not be prosecuted.

Funding for the equipment comes from the West Yorkshire Safer Roads partnership, with the scheme to form part of police officers’ daily work in the future.

The scheme is being trialled in Leeds initially before being rolled out to the rest of West Yorkshire.

Police Sergeant Gary Roper of the West Yorkshire Police Roads Policing Support Unit said: “This initiative has been successfully used by our colleagues in West Midlands Police and has increased driver awareness and alertness in identifying cyclists and other vulnerable road users, giving them safe sufficient space when overtaking and taking more care to look for them at junctions.

“Analysis of Road Traffic Collisions involving cyclists in West Yorkshire identifies that failing to look at junctions is the most common cause for drivers at fault and this failure to look can have devastating consequences.

“The main aim of this initiative is to increase driver observations to include cyclists and all vulnerable road users thereby reducing the risk of collisions as a result of a failure to look.”

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