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Close Pass scheme launched to help keep cyclists safe on West Midland roads

By Luke Bartlett | Halesowen | Crime | Published:

A safer driving scheme came to the roads of a Black Country borough for the first time in its two-year history.

Peter Swanwick, from Safer Essex Roads Partnership, watch commander Paul Stephens and Pc Steve Hudson in Long Lane

Officers from the West Midlands Police Road Harm Reduction unit rolled out the 'Close Pass' scheme in Long Lane, Halesowen.

Undercover officers used a Boardman Hybrid road bike equipped with full HD cameras and walkie talkies to pick up drivers coming too close to their bikes.

But this was more than just a way of dishing out license points and a fine, say police chiefs, who with the help of the fire service educated those caught on the spot instead.

WATCH: Close Pass scheme in action

Operation close pass

A special mat was set up to deliver a lesson to motorists about the safe distance recommended to keep from harming cyclists – which according to PC Steve Hudson is the distance of a HGV doors width.

West Midlands Police PC Steve Hudson said: "Steve Hudson said: “It is not about going after drivers and it is not about prosecuting or persecuting. It is about education and driver awareness and cycling awareness.

A police motorcyclist on Operation Close Pass

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“Before we started this scheme we spent over two years with cycling groups looking at their behaviour on the road and looking at things that were causing them problems.

“It is about changing driver behaviour. We want to send that person away thinking ‘I am actually now better armed and equipped to deal with a vulnerable road user and I can do that by knowing how to deal with them when approaching a hazard'.

“I will explain to the motorist that they have passed the cyclist too closely. It is an offence but instead of sending them away with something that they may not learn from we want to arm them better to deal with cyclists in the future. We are looking at ordinary members of the public here just going out on their everyday business.

Firefighters build on the police work to make roads safer for cyclists

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“One of the young ladies that we have spoken to is quite a new driver who has only been driving for five or six years and never been involved in an incident thankfully.

"What generally happens in the longer you go drive safely on the road without incident the longer narrower your field of vision becomes and you become very complacent.”

Officers speak to a driver during an Operation Close Pass session

Officers from Essex Police were visiting to watch the scheme in action in efforts to see if it was something they could implement.

Also on board were club cyclists who hailed the scheme as 'extremely important' and said that a small minority of motorists are putting lives at risk.

Officers take part in an Operation Close Pass session, at Long Lane, Halesowen

David Viner, chairman of the cycling section at Halesowen Cycling Club, said: "I came to support the scheme. I think the Close Pass initiative is fantastic and safety wise it is very important for motorists to give a good wide pass of 1.5 meters.

"Most motorists overtake cyclists reasonably well but a lot of people just need to be reminded that cyclists do need room on the road.

"A small minority of motorists do not have any regard for personal safety and they are possibly people who are not emotionally developed enough to have a driving license.

"Those people really do need to consider what they are doing because they are putting lives at risk. I think today is extremely important."

During the operation drivers who were pulled were given the option of a fine and three points on their licence or to undergo the 15 minute education lesson on road safety.

Fire crews from Woodgate Valley in Birmingham helped educate road users on the importance on sharing the safely road with cyclists.

Bluewatch commander Paul Stephens said: "We go out to incidents where cyclists are trapped underneath vehicles but by attending events like this with the police it helps raise that awareness. The fire service are well received."

One of those pulled over, a male driver, said: "The scheme is a good idea. It is needed everywhere."

Luke Bartlett

By Luke Bartlett
Trainee Reporter - @lbartlett_star

Trainee Express & Star reporter covering Dudley and Sandwell. Get in touch on 01902 319445 or via luke.bartlett@expressandstar.co.uk.

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