West Yorkshire Police today launched its Safe Pass scheme, which sees officers patrolling the city’s busiest roads on two wheels on the look-out for drivers passing too close to cyclists or driving dangerously.
There are more accidents involving cyclists in Leeds than anywhere else in West Yorkshire, a trend attributed to the growing number of cyclists on city roads. Seven died across the county last year.
The scheme was officially launched in a car park on Otley Road, the city’s worst bike crash hotspot which has seen 181 cyclist collisions in the last five years.
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As part of the scheme, plain clothes officers with hidden cameras on their bikes will go out on patrol, 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, around 1.5 metres, when overtaking.
Sergeant Gary Roper of the West Yorkshire Police Roads Policing Support Unit said he hoped the scheme would make motorists look out for cyclists.
He said: “They are either looking for them because they are considerate and want to give them space, or they are worried it is the police officer in plain clothes and they don’t want to get prosecuted. I don’t mind which it is.”
It is hoped that the scheme will be rolled out from Leeds to the rest of West Yorkshire, with neighbourhood police teams carrying out the work as part of their daily business. Sgt Roper said cyclists should be allowed to ride 0.75 metres from the kerb to avoid drains and other road furniture, and should be given 1.5 metres space by overtaking vehicles to allow ‘wobble room’.
He said part of the education work would be dispelling myths about cyclists, like it being more dangerous for them to ride two abreast. During the launch, a West Yorkshire Police officer, Tom Allen, cycled on Otley Road filming motorists with hidden cameras on his bike.
The force hopes that through the scheme it can identify which groups of motorists are most in need of ‘education’ on how to drive around cyclists, so efforts can be made to raise their awareness.
The proposals sparked plenty of debate after being revealed in yesterday’s YEP.
One reader, Peter Freeman, wrote on Facebook: “Good, about time dangerous drivers face some penalties, I always give cyclists as much room as a small car, just as the highway code dictates you should.”
But another, Jacob Boyes, wrote: “Disgraceful! How about teaching cyclists to stay next to the pavement or better yet how to ride on a road, these utter lunatics are lawless thugs driving through as many red lights as they can find, God forbid beautiful road legal motorists scare them!”