A van driver who narrowly avoided clipping a cyclist while carrying out an extremely close pass has been banned from driving for 12 months and ordered to pay £760 in costs and compensation for the dangerous manoeuvre, which also forced an oncoming motorist to take evasive action.
The incident occurred as road.cc reader Chris was riding to work in the West Midlands last October during, remarkably, his first commute since buying a bike camera. Following the extremely close pass – so close, in fact, that Chris is “still not sure” whether he was struck by the van – he reported the footage to West Midlands Police.
Last week, the motorist was found guilty of dangerous driving and banned from the roads for 12 months, with a requirement to take an extended test before regaining their licence. He was also ordered to carry out 100 hours of community service and to pay £660 in costs and £100 in victim compensation.
“I’ve commuted by bike for a number of years now and have witnessed some horrendous driving,” Chris told road.cc following the driver’s conviction. “The week before the close pass, I had a driver pull out on me on a roundabout, who then proceeded to try and blame the incident on me as a cyclist for ‘not giving way to a car’. When I arrived at work that morning I ordered myself a 360 camera for the handlebars.”
Describing the incident, Chris said: “I’d approached the usual row of cars parked in the marked bays, checked behind me to see if it was safe to move out and then moved out to pass the parked cars.
“As I was passing the parked cars the van just shot past me – close enough that I’m still not sure whether it struck me or if it was just the wind deflection from the wing mirror. It wasn’t until I reviewed the footage when I got to the office that I spotted the car coming the other way having to take evasive action to avoid being hit by the van as well.”
After reporting the footage to West Midlands Police last October, Chris says he “heard nothing” from the force until March 2023, when he was informed that the motorist was happy to admit to driving without due care and attention.
“The police wanted to know if I would accept this, though they did suggest that they would like to push for the higher charge of dangerous driving,” Chris says. “I figured that if the police wanted to pursue a dangerous driving conviction then that was probably what I should do.
“When the case went to the Magistrates’ Court I was a little bit taken aback that once again they wanted to see if I would accept the defendant’s careless driving plea. Why this was something I was given a choice over is a mystery – the CPS were the ones pushing the charges, I’m just the ‘victim’ and witness!
“I was however a little shocked over the severity of the sentencing. The cynic in me would suggest that West Midlands Police saw the footage, realised it was probably an easy case to win and then ran with it. We’ve all seen the media reports over the lack of prosecutions in the West Midlands despite their close pass campaigns.”
The media reports referred to by Chris include a story featured on road.cc in April, which reported that, according to a Freedom of Information request, of the 286 reports of careless, inconsiderate, or dangerous driving around cyclists considered by West Midlands Police in 2022, only one resulted in a successful prosecution.
In June, the force – pioneers of the award-winning and now-ubiquitous Operation Close Pass – admitted that its processing of public-reported video footage showing driving offences “is currently under review” following the criticism.
“We have seen a 50 percent increase in third-party reporting over the last two years. This process is currently under review around how we can manage the rise in these submissions,” a spokesperson said at the time.
And earlier this month, a meeting of key stakeholders, including West Midlands Police, produced a new package of tougher measures to tackle dangerous driving in the West Midlands, after three cyclists and a pedestrian lost their lives on Birmingham roads in May.
At a meeting requested by West Midlands’ Walking and Cycling Commissioner Adam Tranter – chaired by West Midlands mayor Andy Street and attended by the Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, the councillor responsible for transport at Birmingham City Council, Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster, as well as Transport for West Midlands’ executive director – a crackdown on dangerous drivers was agreed upon, with the cited aim to “target the most dangerous drivers” with “relentless enforcement of the rules of the road”.
Responding to road.cc’s request for comment concerning the recent conviction of the close passing van driver for dangerous driving, a spokesperson for West Midlands Police told us: “Road safety remains a priority for us and we are continuing our efforts to keep cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists safe across the West Midlands.
“At the start of August, we launched Operation Triton, a crackdown on dangerous and reckless driving involving both police and the local authorities.
“We will continue to carry out regular operations including Close Pass and Speedwatch events, as well as vehicle spot checks and extra patrols in problem areas.”
Over the years road.cc has reported on literally hundreds of close passes and near misses involving badly driven vehicles from every corner of the country – so many, in fact, that we’ve decided to turn the phenomenon into a regular feature on the site. One day hopefully we will run out of close passes and near misses to report on, but until that happy day arrives, Near Miss of the Day will keep rolling on.
If you’ve caught on camera a close encounter of the uncomfortable kind with another road user that you’d like to share with the wider cycling community please send it to us at info [at] road.cc or send us a message via the road.cc Facebook page.
If the video is on YouTube, please send us a link, if not we can add any footage you supply to our YouTube channel as an unlisted video (so it won't show up on searches).
Please also let us know whether you contacted the police and if so what their reaction was, as well as the reaction of the vehicle operator if it was a bus, lorry or van with company markings etc.
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.