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Cambridge police say close pass operation ‘not practical’ due to lack of road space

‘We would be potentially forcing motorists to drive at the speed of cyclists when there isn’t the recommended space to overtake’

Campaigners have questioned Cambridgeshire’s police’s explanation that there isn’t sufficient road space to carry out a close pass operation. They point out that such initiatives are specifically designed to highlight why space needs to be given when passing cyclists.

Cambridge Cycling Campaign (Camcycle) has professed itself ‘beyond disappointed’ with Cambridgeshire police’s decision not to run a close pass operation similar to that pioneered by West Midlands police and has questioned the force’s reasoning.

Close pass operations involve plain clothes police officers out on bikes identifying drivers who don't allow enough room when overtaking. The West Midlands operation has led to a 20 per cent reduction in cyclists killed or seriously injured on the region’s roads since it was adopted in 2016.

A number of forces have since followed suit – most recently in Norfolk and Suffolk – but Cambridge will not be among them.

Casualty reduction officer Jon Morris explained:

"We have been liaising with officers in the West Midlands about Operation Close Pass and have explored the possibility of implementing something similar locally.

"The average road is approximately 3.5 metres from the kerb to the white lines. Cyclists are advised to cycle 0.75 metres away from the kerb to avoid drain covers and an average car is about two metres wide. Operation Close Pass recommends drivers leave about 1.5 metres when passing a cyclist. If we add all those figures together it would mean drivers are moving into the opposite lane to overtake.

"For Cambridge city where roads are narrower and often very congested we would be potentially forcing motorists to drive at the speed of cyclists when there isn’t the recommended space to overtake.

"Cyclists are vulnerable road users and it’s important that we are doing all we can to make the roads safer for everyone but at this time we don’t believe Operation Close Pass in its current format is practical in Cambridge."

Campaigners ‘angry’ at message being sent

Camcycle said: “We are angry that they are apparently advising drivers that it is OK to pass closely because maintaining the speed and flow of motor traffic is more important than the safety of vulnerable road users.

“The fact that Cambridge's roads are narrow is precisely the reason why close-passes are a problem here and action should be taken against them. Cambs police contradict Highway Code rule 163 'Give vulnerable road users at least as much space as you would a car'. The accompanying image is clear: you should wait until the opposite carriageway is clear to overtake if there isn't space.

“Given the express intention of the police not to safeguard vulnerable road users, we suggest people cycling follow Bikeability training guidelines and cycle centrally in the lane on narrow roads, to prevent the kind of dangerous overtakes the police refuse to take action against.

“We have seen that Cambridgeshire Police have been very reluctant to enforce 20mph despite the proven benefits for road safety in other towns and cities. We see them once more refusing to take action that is proven to protect vulnerable road users because they do not wish drivers of motor vehicles to be delayed whether in the city or out on the country roads of the county.”

Sam Jones, campaign coordinator at Cycling UK, told Cambridge News: “Cambridgeshire police’s decision is very disappointing. Not only does it demonstrate a lack of understanding of the Highway Code’s guidance on overtaking people cycling, but it also seems to prioritise the inconvenience of one road user over the safety of another.

“Cycling UK would urge Cambridgeshire police to rethink their position, as clearly in a congested city like Cambridge, close passes are a problem, and need to be addressed if they are serious about keeping cyclists safe.”

The local view

Our own Simon MacMichael is a Cambridge resident.

“Compared to other places I’ve lived and used a bike to get around, we’re absolutely spoilt in Cambridge.

“We have some terrific off-road routes particularly on or close to the river, and the separated lanes on Hills Road are a delight to ride along, as are the cycle paths along the guided busways.

“And in many parts of the city centre, the introduction of filtered impermeability – barriers across streets that block through motor traffic but allow people on bikes to pass freely – means the streets are largely given over to cyclists.

“True, many drivers give you ample space when overtaking – here, given that levels of cycling far exceed those anywhere else in the UK, the likelihood is that they will ride a bike, or have family members who do.

“But, it only takes one close pass to ruin your day, and it is a daily occurrence for anyone who chooses to get around the city on two wheels.

“And in my experience, it’s due not just to sometimes shocking driving, but also poorly thought out road layouts.

“Late at night, on Mill Road, say, it’s not unusual to have a driver pass you closely at 40, 50mph on what is a 20mph road – and moreover, one that isn’t too far from the main police station.

“Riding into town along Cherry Hinton Road, you encounter another problem. There are narrow cycle lanes either side, but the space that leaves for the single lane of motor traffic going in each direction means that if you are riding in them, close passes are inevitable.

“Then, you have somewhere like Arbury Road where, particularly at the southern end close to the junction with Milton Road, parked cars either side mean that it’s highly likely you will be overtaken far too closely.

“As I said above, there are a lot of positives here, but there is also much that could be improved.

“And, is it just me, or is rejecting the concept of a close pass operation on the grounds that there isn’t enough space to do so missing the point, while at the same time reinforcing why it’s needed?”

Close pass crackdown

A close-pass enforcement day was held by Cambridge police two years ago, targeting motorists passing cyclists too closely.

It was subsequently reported that the operation ended with officers instead turning their attention to cyclists riding without lights.

Referring to close-passes, a police spokesman said of officers: “So far they’ve not seen it as a problem.”

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the road.cc team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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69 comments

Avatar
inz4ne | 6 years ago
0 likes

I have a bit of a dilemma with this safe distance campaign when it comes to filtering which I do on a daily basis , both on the inside, the outside and down the middle although not all at the same time. If the traffic then speeds up I expect it to repass at the same unsafe  distance I passed it. By filtering are we sending a confusing message to motorists of what we consider to be safe?

Avatar
Argos74 | 6 years ago
7 likes

inz4ne wrote:

I have a bit of a dilemma

The difference being if I go too close, I clip a wing mirror. If an articulated lorry goes too close, I turn into a 50 metre bloody streak on the road.

BarryBianchi wrote:

infrastructure

I've got £50m of separated cycle infrastructure almost on my doorstep, and in my experience, it's a disaster. It was unsafe before, it's worse now. I use a busy dual carriageway instead because it's safer.

A big up to West Midlands Police and the police forces following in their footsteps though. Unlike Cambridge, who just appear to be at best a bit dim. At worst, if this is the Cambridge Police Casualty Reduction Officer, I don't want to meet their Murder Squad in a dark alley.

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Nixster | 6 years ago
2 likes

Call me greedy but I'd like segregation in towns, cities and urban through routes PLUS other road users acting in accordance with the codes and laws intended to ensure safety. And I'd quite like the Police to enforce that second part, rather than undermine it. After all, that's what I'm paying them for. 

I accept that the first part is subject to the vagaries of the democratic process and if voters want to prioritise other things then it's up to me to argue for what I want. The second part to me doesn't seem optional, it suggests it's okay to pick the laws one wants to obey. If that's the case I'd like back the part of my taxes used to pay that police officers salary. 

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Username | 6 years ago
7 likes

" If we add all those figures together it would mean drivers are moving into the opposite lane to overtake"

 

Holy shit, they've never read the Highway Code.

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ktache | 6 years ago
4 likes

When I filter I do it with great concentration, covering my brakes, and on the flat bars, my little fingers about 2 inches from the wides point of my bicycle.  I have the knowledge that if I connect with anything it could result in personel injury.

The vehicle driver does has none of these things.  This is why I can pass closer to their vehicle, when we are both travelling relatively slowly, than they should be passing me, when we are both moving at greater speeds.

And of course I am not threatening their safety, whearas a mistake on their part could result in my serious injury or even death.

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srchar | 6 years ago
4 likes

Casual Retardation Officer wrote:

"...it would mean drivers are moving into the opposite lane to overtake.

For Cambridge city where roads are narrower and often very congested we would be potentially forcing motorists to drive at the speed of cyclists when there isn’t the recommended space to overtake."

YES. THAT'S THE ENTIRE FUCKING POINT OF A CLOSE PASS INITIATIVE YOU UTTER FUCKING MORONS.

When the police are quite happy to make this statement publicly, it make me wond- oh I can't be bothered anymore.

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ChrisB200SX | 6 years ago
1 like

I literally can't have enough outrage for Cambridge Police's incompetence here, so I'll save expressing any and save it for something else that is less draining and less ridiculous.

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burtthebike | 6 years ago
1 like

"Above all else it puts the safety and security of the public first." The Office of Constable, Police Federation.

I always thought that the first duty of any police officer is the safety of the public.  If somehow that doesn't apply to cyclists in Cambridge, then Casualty reduction officer Jon Morris should explain in words of one syllable, why not.  Is he suggesting that cyclists aren't members of the public?  Or that their safety is somehow less important than that of other members of the public?

I sincerely trust that local cyclists will be inundating the PCC with emails, letters and phone calls 24/7, demanding that the police perform their duty to protect the public who ride a bicycle.

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ubercurmudgeon | 6 years ago
1 like

There is very little to say that hasn't already been said, and isn't depressing to have to repeat when things should, and could so easily, be getting better. Except...

Quote:

"The average road is approximately 3.5 metres from the kerb to the white lines. Cyclists are advised to cycle 0.75 metres away from the kerb to avoid drain covers and an average car is about two metres wide."

The average car width is not two metres. Increasing numbers are that wide, mostly SUVs, so how about banning them from the city centre? If safe passing is such a mathematical impossibility, surely that's the problem which needs to be tackled.

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kitsunegari | 6 years ago
1 like

This from the cops in one of Britains "premier cycling city" folks.

You couldn't make it up.

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hawkinspeter replied to inz4ne | 6 years ago
4 likes

inz4ne wrote:

I have a bit of a dilemma with this safe distance campaign when it comes to filtering which I do on a daily basis , both on the inside, the outside and down the middle although not all at the same time. If the traffic then speeds up I expect it to repass at the same unsafe  distance I passed it. By filtering are we sending a confusing message to motorists of what we consider to be safe?

Drivers have to realise that cars and bikes are very different. Whilst a cyclist moving past slow/stationary cars can pass with only a very small gap, they tend to be travelling at only a few mph faster than the cars. Also, the cyclist will be extremely careful (we don't typically like to fall off and hurt ourselves) and cyclists have a much better view of the road most of the time (higher up, no engineered blind spots and paying attention).

Meanwhile, when the cars get a chance to move forwards, they don't appreciate that they're in a tonne of metal with sticky out bits that can easily snag/hit cyclists if they try to leave the same space that the cyclist used to overtake them. Most motorists understand that and will try to leave as much gap as possible and go slowly.

Avatar
brooksby replied to ktache | 6 years ago
1 like

ktache wrote:

When I filter I do it with great concentration, covering my brakes, and on the flat bars, my little fingers about 2 inches from the wides point of my bicycle.  I have the knowledge that if I connect with anything it could result in personel injury.

The vehicle driver does has none of these things.  This is why I can pass closer to their vehicle, when we are both travelling relatively slowly, than they should be passing me, when we are both moving at greater speeds.

And of course I am not threatening their safety, whearas a mistake on their part could result in my serious injury or even death.

What he said. (thumbs up)  1

Avatar
brooksby replied to inz4ne | 6 years ago
5 likes

inz4ne wrote:

I have a bit of a dilemma with this safe distance campaign when it comes to filtering which I do on a daily basis , both on the inside, the outside and down the middle although not all at the same time. If the traffic then speeds up I expect it to repass at the same unsafe  distance I passed it. By filtering are we sending a confusing message to motorists of what we consider to be safe?

I presume you're doing all that filtering through stationary or almost stationary traffic and while riding a bicycle? Then that is in no way comparable to being passed at 30-40mph by a car, a van, or a bus. Unless you think the occupants of the cars you pass are seriously scared that you might kill them...?

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wycombewheeler replied to ktache | 6 years ago
0 likes
ktache wrote:

When I filter I do it with great concentration, covering my brakes, and on the flat bars, my little fingers about 2 inches from the wides point of my bicycle.  I have the knowledge that if I connect with anything it could result in personel injury.

The vehicle driver does has none of these things.  This is why I can pass closer to their vehicle, when we are both travelling relatively slowly, than they should be passing me, when we are both moving at greater speeds.

And of course I am not threatening their safety, whearas a mistake on their part could result in my serious injury or even death.

All true but in my opinion the principal difference is that a moving cyclists may deviate laterally intentionally or unintentionally for a number of reasons, many of which are actually spelled out in the highway code. I have yet to see a stationary car move laterally for any reason. I don't filter past moving vehicles too dangerous.

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aracer replied to inz4ne | 6 years ago
3 likes

inz4ne wrote:

I have a bit of a dilemma with this safe distance campaign when it comes to filtering which I do on a daily basis , both on the inside, the outside and down the middle although not all at the same time. If the traffic then speeds up I expect it to repass at the same unsafe  distance I passed it. By filtering are we sending a confusing message to motorists of what we consider to be safe?

If the other traffic is just speeding up slightly so it's "filtering" back past you, then I don't see a problem with it passing at the same distance you passed - fundamentally the big difference here is that the other traffic is presumably maintaining its position on the road rather than pulling out and back in, so the amount of space you have is predictable . We're talking about something rather different with the Close Pass thing where vehicles are overtaking on free flowing roads, and I hope most people will understand the difference (though admittedly some drivers are complete idiots).

Anecdotally, whislst I'm not in an area enforcing Close Pass, West Midlands is the next police authority (and every driver I've reported for a close pass has lived in the West Mids police area!) I'm convinced drivers are giving cyclists more space than they used to - both from experiences cycling and from watching other cars when overtaking cyclists driving. Just overtook a group of cyclists this morning and was pleasantly surprised how much space everybody gave them.

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Paul_C | 6 years ago
3 likes

‘We would be potentially forcing motorists to drive at the speed of cyclists when there isn’t the recommended space to overtake’

erm... isn't that the £$%^ing point?

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Al__S | 6 years ago
5 likes

(anything here is my opinion, not that of Camcycle- I did author our statement but it was approved by several other trustees) Of course we want physical seperation. We've pushed and sort of got it on Huntingdon Road, Hills Road and being built on Trumpington Road. We're still pushing for it on Milton Road. We've helped ensure that the A14 project includes a 4m wide cycleway alongside its "Local Access Road" component.

But the cops are right- a lot of streets in Cambridge are narrow. I'd like to see considerable traffic reduction of course, but in the mean time members and others have been crying out for action- eg on Mill Road.

 

Plus the whole country road thing I raised.

 

But what Cambridgeshire Police have said is worse than simply not taking enforcement action. They have outright said that it is OK to squeeze past if the alternative is being held up. 

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Richard D | 6 years ago
7 likes

"The average road is approximately 3.5 metres from the kerb to the white lines. Cyclists are advised to cycle 0.75 metres away from the kerb to avoid drain covers and an average car is about two metres wide. Operation Close Pass recommends drivers leave about 1.5 metres when passing a cyclist. If we add all those figures together it would mean drivers are moving into the opposite lane to overtake.  For Cambridge city where roads are narrower and often very congested we would be potentially forcing motorists to drive at the speed of cyclists when there isn’t the recommended space to overtake."

 

So?  Telling motorists that they can overtalke when there *isn't* the recommended space to overtake isn't merely fucking moronic, it's encouraging them to break the law.  Surely to goodness even the Police realise that encouraging people to break the law is actually A Bad Thing?

  

Avatar
brooksby replied to Richard D | 6 years ago
3 likes

Richard D wrote:

"The average road is approximately 3.5 metres from the kerb to the white lines. Cyclists are advised to cycle 0.75 metres away from the kerb to avoid drain covers and an average car is about two metres wide. Operation Close Pass recommends drivers leave about 1.5 metres when passing a cyclist. If we add all those figures together it would mean drivers are moving into the opposite lane to overtake.  For Cambridge city where roads are narrower and often very congested we would be potentially forcing motorists to drive at the speed of cyclists when there isn’t the recommended space to overtake."

 

So?  Telling motorists that they can overtalke when there *isn't* the recommended space to overtake isn't merely fucking moronic, it's encouraging them to break the law.  Surely to goodness even the Police realise that encouraging people to break the law is actually A Bad Thing?

  

Exactly: motorists are *supposed* to move into the opposing lane to overtake (just make sure that there's no oncoming traffic, eh?)

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nbrus | 6 years ago
1 like

Things could always be worse ... they could ban cycles from narrow roads.

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embattle | 6 years ago
1 like

Personally I reckon these initiatives are little more than temporary reminders because the good drivers will generally give ample room most times, those that wouldn't give ample room won't care about the initiative and will still won't most times with perhaps a very small % actually changing their driving habits.

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brooksby | 6 years ago
2 likes

"...potentially forcing motorists to drive at the speed of cyclists when there isn’t the recommended space to overtake" - yup. That's the point. If there isn't room to overtake then there isn't room to overtake. End of discussion. Maybe blame all those darned motorists in the other lane?

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ktache | 6 years ago
4 likes

Barry, I'm guessing our anger is because we would like to see the police enforcing the law and holding drivers to the standards outlined in the highway code.

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BarryBianchi replied to ktache | 6 years ago
0 likes

ktache wrote:

Barry, I'm guessing our anger is because we would like to see the police enforcing the law and holding drivers to the standards outlined in the highway code.

1. No, I'm not angry.

2.  I'd like to see tangible change and progress; this is not going to get us that.

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Helmut D. Bate replied to BarryBianchi | 6 years ago
1 like
BarryBianchi wrote:

I'd like to see tangible change and progress; this is not going to get us that.

Anything to substantiate that?

And what will?

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BarryBianchi replied to Helmut D. Bate | 6 years ago
0 likes

Helmut D. Bate wrote:
BarryBianchi wrote:

I'd like to see tangible change and progress; this is not going to get us that.

Anything to substantiate that? And what will?

 

Been through this several times in this thread.  Physical separation.  WTF is it with this forum? One min it's "car drivers are all tw@ts who will mow you down with legal impunity/inaction from the scum pigs all day every day", and the next it's "a micro side show about passing 2 feet wider will change the world".  Smell the coffee, it's not going to happen.  Have a read of this - toady's local news near me - an tell me WTF a close pass iniative (which by the way we've had apparently) has done/is going to do:  http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/

Britain is full of tw@ts driving cars badly and dangerously all day every day, with almost total impunity.

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aracer replied to BarryBianchi | 6 years ago
4 likes

BarryBianchi wrote:

Been through this several times in this thread.  Physical separation.

You're ignoring the question - I have to suspect it's deliberate, as I was very specific in asking the question earlier. How and when do you think we are going to cycling utopia you want?

Personally I shall be very surprised to see any progress at all towards that in my lifetime.

Quote:

Britain is full of tw@ts driving cars badly and dangerously all day every day, with almost total impunity.

Yet you're happy that nothing is being done about that in Cambridgeshire 

The Close Pass initiative has got tangible positive results where it's been done properly - I'm not sure what you think anecdotes in a local newspaper is going to prove? Feel free to dismiss it if you like, but the evidence doesn't back up your position.

Avatar
Helmut D. Bate replied to BarryBianchi | 6 years ago
3 likes
BarryBianchi wrote:

Helmut D. Bate wrote:
BarryBianchi wrote:

I'd like to see tangible change and progress; this is not going to get us that.

Anything to substantiate that? And what will?

 

Been through this several times in this thread.  Physical separation.  WTF is it with this forum? One min it's "car drivers are all tw@ts who will mow you down with legal impunity/inaction from the scum pigs all day every day", and the next it's "a micro side show about passing 2 feet wider will change the world".  Smell the coffee, it's not going to happen.  Have a read of this - toady's local news near me - an tell me WTF a close pass iniative (which by the way we've had apparently) has done/is going to do:  http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/

Britain is full of tw@ts driving cars badly and dangerously all day every day, with almost total impunity.

We're not in total disagreement, but your cynical stance, like the Cambridge cops, is the worst of both worlds. It ACCEPTS close passes - in the case of the cops, condones it from a position of authority. What will that actually achieve? Even if the close pass initiative changes 1 driver's approach, it will be infinitely superior to you and the Cambridge cops shrugging your shoulders, which will have zero positive effect.

And it is totally illogical. It seems to be 'roads are unsafe: leave them to the cars and use the separate infrastructure.' But we don't have separate infrastructure to be able to do that.

It's the easiest position to take, that of a cynic. So let's hear what you actually do. Do you ride a bike? If so, where?

What are you doing to accomplish your separate infrastructure goal?

Avatar
fanatic278 | 6 years ago
7 likes

The close pass initiative isn't really the big headline of this story. It's the fact that the "Casualty Reduction Officer" doesn't even know the highway code. And he is also unable to apply a hint of logic. And he's in a job that requires at least a little of these two skills. 

 

He needs to be sacked, regardless of whether he eventually agrees to the initiative. At the very least he needs retraining (i.e. to read the highway code).

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antigee replied to fanatic278 | 6 years ago
0 likes

fanatic278 wrote:

The close pass initiative isn't really the big headline of this story. It's the fact that the "Casualty Reduction Officer" doesn't even know the highway code. And he is also unable to apply a hint of logic. And he's in a job that requires at least a little of these two skills. 

 

He needs to be sacked, regardless of whether he eventually agrees to the initiative. At the very least he needs retraining (i.e. to read the highway code).

might just be deliberately passing on as a press release what he or she has been told is firm policy by more senior officers - knowing it is not a good road safety argument but that senior officers are responding to the car driving public's perception of  what is right - probably add in pressure from local politicians who should know better

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