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Exclusive! Any cyclist anywhere in London could be a cop - Met Police to trial 'gold standard' of close pass operations

The Metropolitan Police's Cycle Task Force has the green light from bosses to come up with its own close pass operation...

The Metropolitan Police will trial what they hope will become the ‘gold standard’ of close pass cycling operations in spring, road.cc has learned, with the aim of sending the message to drivers: any cyclist anywhere in London could be a cop.

Sergeant Simon Castle, of the Met’s Cycle Task Force, has confirmed to road.cc this week he has the green light to trial the operation, started by West Midlands Police, which uses a plain clothed officer to identify poor overtaking of cyclists, among other offences.

In the past, the Met has raised doubts about adapting the operation to London roads, but after police in Camden successfully trialled the operation in September 2016 Castle, who describes it as ‘best value roads policing initiative I’ve ever seen’, is now looking to design an operation that could be used at any time, any place in the capital, and is seeking input from cycling groups.

Met Police under pressure to trial close pass initiative in London

Sgt Castle told road.cc the success of the West Midlands’ operation is the enormous impact it has had with no financial cost to the force – just a few hours of operation time.

“What West Midlands have taught me is it’s not about the impact I have when I’m out there, they have a massive impact when they aren’t out there. That has been the Road to Damascus moment for me: I can be as effective when I’m not out there because there is a threat I might be there.

“You get this halo effect, let’s say we do a close pass operation for three hours in the middle of the day, but there will still be people in rush hour thinking: is that a cop?”

He called what two West Midlands Police officers, Steve Hudson and Mark Hodson, have achieved in their spare policing time “amazing”. In nine hours of close pass operation time they spoke to 130 motorists, with one licence immediately revoked, eight drivers reported for due care and attention offences. Of those, just one person refused roadside education. West Midlands Police say close pass reports from cyclists have halved since the operation began, thanks to the publicity the operation has received.

Sgt Castle believes with the Met’s resources, they could have an even bigger impact in London. The Cycle Task Force is the UK’s first cycle policing unit, with 33 full time staff, including 10 PCSOs, targeting three key areas: engineering, education and enforcement.

Castle says: “We report more than 90 offences in a day, every day; that’s business as usual.

 “We have got the resources, we have got the people, we have got the will, we have learnt from what they have done.

 “The success of their operation is raising awareness and I think we have got an opportunity to improve on what they have done.

“I think what we are after is something a bit bigger, a bit broader. I want to do it so that the whole of London thinks we can pop up at any time and [make people think]: of two cyclists, which one’s the cop?”

Castle and his officers can carry out the operation during a monthly “proactive week” where they can target any area of London of their choosing, which they have identified as dangerous for cycling. Plain clothed officers will go out on bikes, potentially with motor backup using uniformed officers, to stop offending drivers. Castle says they will aim to identify other offences at the same time.

The details of the operation are still being ironed out, but if all goes well it will be introduced in April, when there is usually a spike in road casualties after the clocks go forward. As with the West Midlands, the operation will focus on education, rather than targets for tickets, something police forces can struggle to see the value of.

The Met Police had a one-to-one session with the West Midlands Police last year but previously said traffic in Central London moves too slowly to transplant the operation to the capital. Sgt Castle is now seeking advice from cycling community on how best to run the operation, and is working with Southwark Cyclists, a branch group of the London Cycling Campaign, on how to proceed.

Simon Munk, the London Cycling Campaign’s (LCC) Infrastructure Campaigner, said: “We hugely welcome this, we think the close pass initiative is a great idea, and overdue.

“Enforcement and general policing on roads hasn’t been a priority, not only for the Met but nationally, but this is a really simple and good way of enforcing road behaviour and really bringing the point home to motorists that they have to behave well and sensibly around people cycling and vulnerable road users. LCC would love to work with the Met on this and other issues where they are thinking about prioritising road danger reduction.”

Munk said to be effective the operation should be run regularly and across the capital, and that it should be adopted by all London police forces, so there are no gaps in enforcement. 

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18 comments

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huntswheelers | 7 years ago
1 like

Looking forward to Cambridgeshire ( the so called County of Cycling - My Ar*e) the cash always goes to the City of Cambridge.... I keep badgering the local police to go with this and Cycling Safety is coming up...

6 mile test ride today around the local town and 9 close passes... even riding at around .75m from the kerb as you do to miss drains and potholes.... the usual local Neanderthals can't wait ...remember I was in 30 mph zone for all of that 6 miles... all within 30 mins... I see now the Met have a report a traffic incident website .... could be a great addition..if they prosecute

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Bikebikebike | 7 years ago
1 like

Excellent news.  However, they should probably say that any cyclist could be a cop, as long as it's sunny and it's not too cold.  I can't see plod going out if it's chilly or raining.

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theloststarfighter | 7 years ago
3 likes

Like most I've applauded this initiative from the start.  Having been close passed three times in the space of 2 miles yesterday, on the A58 in West Yorkshire, I can only hope that sooner rather than later drivers get duely educated.

This also should fit into other initiatives of community policing to cut crime in rural areas, patrol local areas & housing to prevent other car crime and burgalary etc.  Some old style policing that increases visibility, for that "halo effect".  Go on bobby, on yer bike...

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jollygoodvelo | 7 years ago
2 likes

I'd really rather that we didn't start to describe all cyclists as 'potential cops' - the whole atmosphere is antagonistic enough already and people who wear prominent cameras are already demonised.  I'm just riding my bike and want to be given enough respect and space to do so without getting my elbow clipped by the LTDA's finest.

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Yorkshire wallet | 7 years ago
1 like

Imagine The Sweeney but on bikes.

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ConcordeCX | 7 years ago
3 likes

"... two West Midlands Police officers, Steve Hudson and Mark Hodson,"

Hudson and Hodson you say? Why does this image spring to mind?

https://pmcdn.priceminister.com/photo/dupond-et-dupont-tintin-autocollan...

je dirais meme plus:

http://p5.storage.canalblog.com/52/85/953266/81256130_o.jpg

 

 

 

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CumbrianDynamo | 7 years ago
1 like

Given the London Borough of Southwark's steadfast refusal to implement any decent cycling infrastructure, in the misguided belief that cyclists calm traffic, I'd think working with Southwark Cyclists would be an excellent choice, as their members must be on the receiving end of shit driving very frequently.

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Morat replied to CumbrianDynamo | 7 years ago
0 likes
timfearn wrote:

Given the London Borough of Southwark's steadfast refusal to implement any decent cycling infrastructure, in the misguided belief that cyclists calm traffic, I'd think working with Southwark Cyclists would be an excellent choice, as their members must be on the receiving end of shit driving very frequently.

Well, they may end up being right if cyclists are seen as potential undercover cops...

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I love my bike replied to CumbrianDynamo | 7 years ago
1 like
timfearn wrote:

Given the London Borough of Southwark's steadfast refusal to implement any decent cycling infrastructure, in the misguided belief that cyclists calm traffic, I'd think working with Southwark Cyclists would be an excellent choice, as their members must be on the receiving end of shit driving very frequently.

I might mostly agree with you, but Quietway 1 is properly surfaced in Southwark, but turns all Paris - Roubaix for the bit in Lambeth. Even the pinchpoint in Trinity Street has been widened from what it was before being Q1.

The 20mph zones, being only signs & paint, are only followed by vehicles that are starting, stopping, or that cannot go any faster. Cyclists are just competition to get ahead of, even if they need to brake for the traffic light, speed table etc just ahead.

 

 

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paul-ldn | 7 years ago
6 likes

A good place to start is with London's black cabs and TfL's red buses who seem to enjoy endangering cyclists by close passes, blocking ASL cycle boxes and shooting amber/red lights.

Cyclists can help the cause by logging close passes here with The Met's  new web page: https://beta.met.police.uk 

 

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davenportmb replied to paul-ldn | 7 years ago
4 likes
paul-ldn wrote:

A good place to start is with London's black cabs and TfL's red buses who seem to enjoy endangering cyclists by close passes, blocking ASL cycle boxes and shooting amber/red lights.

In my experience of cycling in South London that behaviour is not exclusive to black cabs and red buses - it's pretty universal.

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OldRidgeback replied to davenportmb | 7 years ago
1 like
davenportmb wrote:
paul-ldn wrote:

A good place to start is with London's black cabs and TfL's red buses who seem to enjoy endangering cyclists by close passes, blocking ASL cycle boxes and shooting amber/red lights.

In my experience of cycling in South London that behaviour is not exclusive to black cabs and red buses - it's pretty universal.

 

If I'd had a camera on my bike on my commute yesterday, it would've included a twat of a roadie who covertook and got halfway, then moved over and force me to brake or crash. I opted for the latter. I was pretty annoyed.

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dottigirl | 7 years ago
9 likes

The LTDA are going to love this, seeing as their members are some of the biggest offenders. 

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Morat replied to dottigirl | 7 years ago
3 likes
dottigirl wrote:

The LTDA are going to love this, seeing as their members are some of the biggest offenders. 

Yep, it'd be interesting to see how the "but it's my livelihood, think of my staaaaaahvin kids" defence pans out in court for a black cab driver.

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Housecathst | 7 years ago
4 likes

Remind me again what great Manchester police said, didn't they have health and safe concerns about putting officers on bikes, says it all really. 

Apparently, even Hampshire police say there going to do this, but I won't hold my breath. 

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congokid | 7 years ago
5 likes

It's great news that at last police forces are being pro-active about enforcing safety for vulnerable road users. I hope it will be a permanent scheme, unlike all the other measures such as crackdowns on mobile phone use that last only about a week and are well signposted in advance.

Any police force that doesn't sign up and commit to this measure is stating bluntly that the lives of people outside motor vehicles don't matter to them.

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Gourmet Shot | 7 years ago
8 likes

This is excellent...hopefully more forces will adopt.  The message is spot on, it's an education piece with a veiled threat. 

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Man of Lard | 7 years ago
11 likes

Looking forward to this kind of operation being actively rolled out across the whole UK (not just that London)

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