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286 close pass submissions to West Midlands Police resulted in one prosecution, FOI request reveals

According to data released by the force which pioneered ‘close pass’ policing, 213 reports of careless or dangerous driving around cyclists last year resulted in no further action being taken

Of the 286 reports of careless, inconsiderate, or dangerous driving around cyclists considered by West Midlands Police in 2022, only one resulted in a prosecution, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

According to the figures released by West Midlands Police, the pioneers of the award-winning and now-ubiquitous Operation Close Pass, 213 of the alleged close passes submitted last year resulted in no further action being taken.

Meanwhile, 69 drivers captured on video committing close passes were offered a National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme (NDORS) course as an alternative to prosecution.

The FOI request, submitted by Chris Smith, also revealed that 5,551 submissions of video evidence relating to potential driving offences were received by West Midlands Police in 2022, over 2,000 more than the number submitted in 2020, and almost 1,800 more than 2021.

However, in contrast, only 872 – or just under 16 percent – of those reports resulted in a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) being issued to the driver in question, 593 and 338 fewer than in 2021 and 2020 respectively, when fewer reports were submitted.

A separate FOI request from October 2022 also found that, with third-party submissions increasing every year, reviews at West Midlands Police – which, according to the WMP, take an “average of 60 minutes to run from receipt to conclusion” – are currently carried out by three business support assistants.

> Cycling UK lauds West Midlands Police’s new close pass initiative

Launched in 2016 and devised by officers Steve Hudson and Mark Hodson, West Midlands Police’s Operation Close Pass – where plain clothes officers on bikes monitor overtaking drivers, with anyone found to be carrying out dangerous manoeuvres facing education or enforcement – was quickly lauded by organisations such as Cycling UK as the “best cyclist road safety initiative ever”.

Introduced just as cities like Birmingham were trying to reduce air pollution and get more people on bikes, the operation helped WMP officers collect data used to identify and target the riskiest manoeuvres carried out by motorists around cyclists, and the ones likely to scare people off cycling.

Officers claimed the tactic drove down cycling collision and injury rates, and the scheme was soon adopted by police forces across the country.

> Have West Midlands Police lost their way on cycling?

However, the scheme – and West Midlands Police’s approach to poor driver behaviour around cyclists – has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, with both Hudson and Hodson, the clear driving forces behind the tactic, stepping away from their roles.

In 2021, transport journalist and road.cc contributor Laura Laker questioned whether West Midlands Police had “lost its way” when it came to ensuring the safety of cyclists, and that the visibility of Operation Close Pass – both on the road and through the absence of clear messaging on social media – had started to recede.

According to the recent FOI request, between August 2020 and December 2022 Operation Close Pass was run 22 times in 15 different locations.

During those operations, 211 close passing or dangerous motorists were stopped, with 145 being offered education and advice related to safe driving around cyclists, while 66 were processed.

According to the Close Pass Cycling page on the WMP website, the operation aims to “proactively target ‘close pass’ drivers who endanger riders”.

The site continues: “Rules of the road say motorists should give cyclists at least the same space as vehicles when overtaking.

“Anyone encroaching inside that safe passing distance – widely considered to be a minimum of 1.5 metres – runs the risk of being prosecuted for driving without due care and attention.”

> Near Miss of the Day 846: Motorist escapes punishment for extreme close pass and deliberately reversing into cyclist

In February, however, West Midlands Police’s ongoing commitment to ensuring the safety of cyclists (and prosecuting dangerous drivers) was again questioned after one Coventry-based cyclist claimed that a motorist – who committed an extreme close pass on him before slamming on his brakes and appearing to deliberately reverse into the rider – escaped punishment because an officer from the force’s Traffic Investigation Unit deemed that the collision was not captured clearly enough in the video.

road.cc reader James said that he had originally submitted the clip to WMP’s ‘Non-Stop Self Reporting Collision Form’. After receiving no response for several months, he later contacted the force’s Traffic Investigation Unit, who asked him to resubmit the footage.

However, while James claimed that an officer informed him that there was no “clear video” of the collision, West Midlands Police told road.cc that the driver was not prosecuted simply because the two-week window for issuing a Notice of Intended Prosecution had expired by that point, and that the cyclist was invited to “pursue an allegation of assault”.

“The video footage of an incident in July last year was submitted to us via our website in November,” a spokesperson for West Midlands Police said.

“Our traffic office contacted the cyclist within 48 hours to advise him that if he wanted to pursue an allegation of assault, he would need to report that to us via 101, but the timeframe for us to issue a Notification of Intended Prosecution (NIP) for a traffic offence had expired.”

West Midlands Police has been contacted for comment.

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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26 comments

Avatar
NOtotheEU | 9 months ago
1 like

WMP may finally be taking cyclists reports seriously. Week before last I only submitted one report (close pass/no MOT) but heard back the next day that the driver was going to be prosecuted and last week I submitted three and have already heard that one (close pass) is being offered a course or points/fine and the other (nearly hit another cyclist/no tax/no insurance) has no current registered owner but has made off from police and they are actively looking for it.

2x Audi  1x VW  1x Seat proving yet again VAG cars are the favoured choice of the scumbag.

That's as many updates as I've received in the previous four or so years of running cameras. It could just be a temporary thing after all the press reporting of hit and runs this summer but hopefully it will continue.

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Sam_OT | 1 year ago
1 like

WMP do seem horrendous. They either ignore emails, or take weeks to reply. They told me that there are "no offenses to pursue" in this video: https://youtu.be/wnooeHZpxOk.

They claimed that an "expert traffic cop" had reviewed the video. They need to read the police's guidelines:
https://www.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/rs/road-safety/drivi...

Seems that my case is not an outlier, but a pattern...

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NOtotheEU replied to Sam_OT | 1 year ago
1 like

I've had no feedback at all from the reports I submitted to WMP in 2022 but then I don't bother chasing them up.

In 2021 they notified me about two drivers prosecuted in court for due care and attention and one for failing to provide details. The same officer contacted me about two of the cases and encouraged me to continue reporting and the court contacted me about the other as I had to attend as a witness.

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Hirsute | 1 year ago
4 likes

Very surprised by a quick response on this from essex police - course or 3 points, was expecting NFA.

Although the bloke did make it easier by letting the police know his name and number !

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Stevearafprice | 1 year ago
4 likes

I am all for vigilanty activity to track down the culprits and bricking their cars if the police ignore violence against vulnerable road users.  I got close passed 4 times today in a 2hr ride in the Walsall area, its unaceptable but the police don't give a shit locally and the council fail to do their bit keeping the crappy cycle infrastructure functional.

I'm a professional cycle instructor and find it difficult enough to ride on local roads due to agressive drivers so how can I encourage others to get on a bike?

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Jimmy Ray Will replied to Stevearafprice | 1 year ago
0 likes

I support your view wholeheartedly. 

Not because I'm a fan of taking the law into your own hands, but because I firmly believe that crime rates have little influence on police funding, and the real barometer is how much street justice is being applied out there.

If people believe the police won't help, they'll help themselves... in all ways.

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Awavey | 1 year ago
0 likes

the police do have a national dashcam workgroup, I think its been loosely referred to by Mark Hodson & Andy Cox before, that collect stats from all the forces. FOIs really should be directed at them, via the Met I think, to get the UK wide picture.

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AlsoSomniloquism | 1 year ago
6 likes

This thread has brought me out of occaisional lurker simply because it sounds like I was the only one who had a driver prosecuted in 2022 for Careless Driving. 

This one (59s) I was told was being charged (and found guilty in absence) for:-
Due care and attention

And Drive otherwise than in accordance (no licence)

I was indicating to come over from about 48secs and when I glanced I could see the van in the right lane overtaking and the suspects vehicle was about 2 feet behind my back wheel. I waited for the van to pass and then the driver behind decided to squeeze through even though I would have been out of their way in 2 seconds anyway. 

However I suspect as the camera didn't catch the driver, the "named" driver might well have been someone who wasn't driving and is used for points accumalation, hence not defending themselves in court. 

Also this one (52s) a few weeks earlier on the opposite direction of the same stretch didn't get a prosecution? I actually found this one worse as they had a very long stretch of road to see me, an extra empty lane to move over into well before getting to me, and then they decided to exit the roundabout in the other lane anyway. 

As the specific prosections figures seem to be for close passed cycles, I wonder what they also did with the footage I submitted of a taxi driver turning here into a no entry road (google maps. no footage uploaded to youtube yet), forcing the people already established on the crossing to stop to let them through. I was waiting for the people to cross so had a very good view of numberplates and taxi driver.

 

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Hirsute replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 1 year ago
4 likes

I was only wondering this morning if you would be seen again.
The main troll is gone and things are a lot better.
Just don't mention helmets!!

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to Hirsute | 1 year ago
3 likes

Not going to stay. Was far happier staying away and only coming here if a review link sent me. But as this story seemed to be "aimed at me" I decided to jump in. 

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chrisonabike replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 1 year ago
4 likes

Welcome back BTW!  As Hirsute says things have brightened up around here for a bit - although I doubt the inhabitants of the world have changed.

Sometimes you discover something is like "the kind of book which once you put it down you find you can't pick up again".

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Jenova20 | 1 year ago
1 like

I personally made over 150 reports through their dashcam portal between 2020 and 2022. They don't give feedback at all, and it's clear from their behaviour they don't investigate any crimes unless you personally know someone at WMP or the offence involves insulting someone online and hurting their feelings.

WMP has been openly corrupt for years. They got away with people just thinking it was laziness for a long time, but it's very obvious when the only crimes ever investigated are for friends and family of officers.

Also of note is the fact they decriminalised burglary and have the worst investigation record in the country for this.

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OnYerBike | 1 year ago
1 like

Is there a particular reason for not linking to the actual FOI request where these numbers came from? You've linked directly to another FOI request on WDTK so there's clearly no particular objection to linking to that website.

In any case, here it is: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/operation_close_pass_2

It's been brought up before, but a similar request was made of Lancashire Constabulary: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/submission_and_prosecution_stati

(wtjs is of the opinion that Lancashire Constabulary have simply made up those numbers)

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wtjs replied to OnYerBike | 1 year ago
0 likes

wtjs is of the opinion that Lancashire Constabulary have simply made up those numbers

Not strictly accurate, but many will not want to read through all this!: Lancashire Constabulary claims, in relation to the number of submissions they accept as having been made to OpSnapLancs v. the sequential APL1xxxxx reference allocated to each submission:

The allocation of reference numbers is sequential, but across the whole system and is not specific to Op Snap, therefore submissions made by Op Snap into the system will not necessarily have sequential numbers, due to other departments or Police Forces submitting content too

Explanation: the first submission I made to OSL (as opposed to the previous system) was allocated APL101900 immediately I clicked 'Submit' around 19:00 on 22.12.21. The most recent was allocated APL117199 around 18:35 10.4.23. It looked like they were seriously under-recording the number of submissions made in the period defined in the LC response to the FoI request to LC which OnYerBike linked to on the WDTK website, in order to inflate their action rate. They came back to me with the above claim that the database which immediately allocates these reference numbers is in simultaneous use by several different LC departments or web pages and even by different police forces! This is difficult to believe because I know that if I bang in several submissions quickly I can get sequental APL numbers each '1' added to its predecessor. This LC claim looks like a recipe for database disaster through severe non-integrity. I think they're lying, to put it bluntly.

They refused to tell me the APL reference of the first and last offences included in their statistics issued in response to FOI2022/00324, covering the declared period of 25.10.21 to 30.11.22, for the usual 'reason' that such information is PII:

Due to the specificity of the information requested, in relation to the 6-digit reference
numbers, it is not possible for us to maintain the anonymity of the personal data, as such the information you request is exempt under Section 40 (2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000

This is obvious police-excusing secrecy, as expected from LC, but I haven't yet taken that instance further because I was about to issue the 'test case' FoI request described at the end ( at time of writing) of this topic on here, and the expected LC refusal to tell me anything about anything again came to pass. The complaint is essentially the same, and I am taking that further.

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Rome73 | 1 year ago
3 likes

A separate FOI request(link is external) from October 2022 also found that, with third-party submissions increasing every year, reviews at West Midlands Police – which, according to the WMP, take an “average of 60 minutes to run from receipt to conclusion” – are currently carried out by three business support assistants.
 

it doesn't sound like it's a very high priority. 

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the little onion | 1 year ago
6 likes

institutionally anti-cyclist

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Surreyrider replied to the little onion | 1 year ago
0 likes

Not unique to WMP though.

I'm wondering if there is a police force fit for purpose these days.

(not all their fault due to savage funding cuts).

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Hirsute | 1 year ago
2 likes

Obviously drivers have improved their behaviour - what other explanation can there be ?

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Awavey replied to Hirsute | 1 year ago
3 likes

You jest but I recall a close pass operation in Suffolk where the drop in numbers of drivers they spoke to was officially stated to be drivers behaviour had improved, and not they'd just picked a really silly location for their op.

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HoarseMann | 1 year ago
1 like

Similar statistics for Thames Valley too. It's quite appalling the lack of enforcement.

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open_roads | 1 year ago
5 likes

West Midlands currently has close to 8,000 officers - up from c6,500 in 2020.

[Source: statistica :7579 in 2022 with recruitment ongoing]

As with other forces, despite having a  record number of officers they are actually less productive / doing less than before.

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Jenova20 replied to open_roads | 1 year ago
0 likes

More officers - less crimes investigated. Doesn't make sense does it?

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Simon E replied to Jenova20 | 1 year ago
1 like

Jenova20 wrote:

More officers - less crimes investigated. Doesn't make sense does it?

Perhaps they are investigating other crimes instead of close passes. If that's genuinely the case then they could just be more honest and say "We don't GAF about cyclists." BTW it should be fewer, not less.

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Jenova20 replied to Simon E | 1 year ago
0 likes

Simon E wrote:

Jenova20 wrote:

More officers - less crimes investigated. Doesn't make sense does it?

Perhaps they are investigating other crimes instead of close passes. If that's genuinely the case then they could just be more honest and say "We don't GAF about cyclists." BTW it should be fewer, not less.

"Whom"

Avatar
peted76 replied to Simon E | 1 year ago
3 likes

Simon E wrote:

Jenova20 wrote:

More officers - less crimes investigated. Doesn't make sense does it?

Perhaps they are investigating other crimes instead of close passes. If that's genuinely the case then they could just be more honest and say "We don't GAF about cyclists." BTW it should be fewer, not less.

OR.. like every other institution in the UK, so laden with buracracy and processes that it leave no time or resource for actually doing what we want from them. We've allowed an ineffective management structure of the whole country from government down.. career politicians who's only ideas and actions are wholly reliant and effective as their departments career civil servants, the councils who won't or can't move forward with things because of insurance concerns, layer upon layer upon layer of NHS well intentioned 'mis-'management structures who take a one size fits all approach to allocating money, the schools system crippled by budgets and 'cost savings', useless senior civil servants who's computer says no to any kind of change.. a judicial system which can't cope, criminal barristers FFS Britain we need radical change. And it must start with a fundemental change at 'how we govern' at the top. Swapping out the tories for another bunch of arseholes will change practically nothing, history has taught us this, again and again and again and again. #valveshutandbreathe

Avatar
Jenova20 replied to peted76 | 1 year ago
0 likes

peted76 wrote:

Simon E wrote:

Jenova20 wrote:

More officers - less crimes investigated. Doesn't make sense does it?

Perhaps they are investigating other crimes instead of close passes. If that's genuinely the case then they could just be more honest and say "We don't GAF about cyclists." BTW it should be fewer, not less.

OR.. like every other institution in the UK, so laden with buracracy and processes that it leave no time or resource for actually doing what we want from them. We've allowed an ineffective management structure of the whole country from government down.. career politicians who's only ideas and actions are wholly reliant and effective as their departments career civil servants, the councils who won't or can't move forward with things because of insurance concerns, layer upon layer upon layer of NHS well intentioned 'mis-'management structures who take a one size fits all approach to allocating money, the schools system crippled by budgets and 'cost savings', useless senior civil servants who's computer says no to any kind of change.. a judicial system which can't cope, criminal barristers FFS Britain we need radical change. And it must start with a fundemental change at 'how we govern' at the top. Swapping out the tories for another bunch of arseholes will change practically nothing, history has taught us this, again and again and again and again. #valveshutandbreathe

I can certainly agree with your comments on the NHS - it's become a bottomless hole of money - Far too top-heavy. It's become such a sacred thing that people are even scared to change it to ensure it's survival long term - which results in the solution to everything being chucking more money in - which results in things getting worse. They're so scared of upsetting the unions and lobbyists they won't change anything necessary for fear of the headlines or backlash, but instead just chuck in more money, then act surprised when they ask for more and more, even while services get worse and worse.

Rishi should have enacted the reforms he first proposed; including the small charge on visiting a GP. If you've visited a GP in the last couple years you've probably already seen that some people drag their entire family in each time or are there every time you are also there, because they sneezed...They waste services so others can't access them. Even £10 to visit the GP would instantly deter these people and free up thousands, possible hundreds of thousands of appointments.

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