After initially rejecting such a move citing a low number of cyclist fatalities in the region, South Yorkshire Police has now confirmed that it has a dedicated team of officers running a close pass operation in the region.
The force’s initial response to a suggestion that it undertake such an initiative was to reject it on the grounds that resources were “carefully deployed to target specific activity”.
It went on to claim that, “deaths involving cyclists in South Yorkshire are nowhere near the levels that they are in the West Midlands or other parts of the country.”
Analysis of official road casualty statistics by road.cc showed that compared to the West Midlands, and adjusting for the relative size of the populations, more cyclists are killed or seriously injured in South Yorkshire each year.
Following significant pressure from campaigners the force reconsidered its position, announcing in August that it would run a trial close-pass operation.
In September, The Star reported that officers had not taken action against a single motorist during that first month. Cyclists suggested that the decision to carry out operations with uniformed police on bikes might explain the lack of success.
Local campaign group Cycle Sheffield yesterday tweeted that covert operations are now underway.
A letter from the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner's office said:
“The Safe Pass Scheme was initially undertaken using high visibility patrols alongside remote viewing from CCTV in order to test the most suitable and safe way of running the initiative.
“In addition, the force have had to overcome a number of other obstacles including changing force policy to allow police officers to use push bikes, policy change to move away from uniformed patrols only, acquiring suitable bikes and cameras, acquiring suitable safety equipment, training additional staff alongside finding suitable time slots to undertake the operation, all with extremely limited resources.
“That said, last week SYP ran the first covert phase of the operation. There is now a dedicated team of police officers who perform plain-clothed patrols with marked vehicle support in the same way that West Midlands Police run the scheme.
“Initial feedback from the officers suggested that whilst there are a few logistical issues that need to be overcome, the operation was a success with two drivers advised for driving too close to the bicycles.
“Their work also highlighted opportunities to identify other traffic offences such as using mobile phones or not wearing seatbelts and this will feed directly into the Safer Roads Partnership priorities of which seatbelts and mobile phones feature.”