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Six more police forces looking to run close pass operation - including in Leeds

West Yorkshire and Devon & Cornwall police will run close pass operations, while police in Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and Dorset, are considering trials

Police across six forces in England, covering a population of 7.6 million people, have confirmed they are looking to roll out a close pass operation pioneered in the West Midlands last year.

West Yorkshire and Devon & Cornwall have confirmed they will adapt the Give Space, be Safe operation for their beats, while police in Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, who work together on roads policing, are considering the same, as are Dorset Police.

The news follows announcements that UK constabularies, including the Metropolitan Police, Avon and Somerset and East of Scotland Police, will trial Give Space, be Safe in London, Bristol and Bath, and Edinburgh, among other places. 

Surrey Police are still assessing whether they think the operation will work on local roads, while police in Derbyshire and Cheshire told they don’t feel the operation is suitable for their beats.

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After sending four or five officers to a demo day last month, run by West Midlands Police and attended by 16 UK police forces, West Yorkshire Police confirmed they are now working alongside Leeds City Council on a pilot scheme to start in the city in spring.

A spokesperson told “The trial is likely to be run in the Inner North West area of Leeds in spring, focussing on areas where there are statistically more cycling collisions.

“If shown to have a positive impact on reducing causalities, then West Yorkshire Police and other authorities, who work collaboratively in an established Safer Roads Partnership, will consider a greater roll out.”

West Yorkshire's Safer Roads Partnership covers five local authorities: Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield. 

Two West Midlands Police officers, Steve Hudson and Mark Hodson, designed the operation last year to tackle collision rates and fears putting people off cycling, which has received huge levels of publicity nationally and, with just a few hours of police time, halved close pass reports in Birmingham.  A safe passing distance is widely considered to be a minimum of 1.5 metres, though the Highway Code simply states drivers should give cyclists as much room as they do a car.

Chief Inspector Adrian Leisk, Head of Roads Policing at Devon & Cornwall Police, said although they was unable to attend the demo day, his force is looking to develop a similar initiative. 

Ch Insp Leisk told “We are going to send up a team to learn from [West Midlands Police] and see how we can develop the idea for our 22,000 km of road network in a mixture of urban and rural environments.

“We are keen to develop our own educational input to enable effective hard hitting delivery at the roadside.”

Devon and Cornwall’s beat includes a large stretch of the Land’s End to John O’Groats route, notably the A30, on which two LEJOG cyclists were killed when a lorry driver “suffering from extreme fatigue” mowed them down in 2013.

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Sergeant Ian Manley, from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Road Policing Unit, said he is interested in the operation.

He said: “I’ve been liaising with officers in the West Midlands about Operation Close Pass and I’m interested in exploring how we could potentially implement something similar locally.

“Cyclists are vulnerable road users and it’s important that we are doing all we can to make the roads safer for everyone.”

A Dorset Police spokesperson said: “The ‘close pass’ initiative is something they will be considering in the future and its suitability in Dorset.”

They added Dorset Police have done a number of cycle safety initiatives, including enforcement, issuing free lights and reflective gear, as well as “education at both schools and foreign language colleges”.

A Surrey Police spokeswoman told “We attended a seminar and at this stage no final decision has been made. We will be assessing what may work on the road network in Surrey.”

Essex police, meanwhile, are focusing cycle safety operations on following up on-bike camera footage submitted by cyclists.

Meanwhile, two forces told the operation is not suitable for local roads. A spokesperson from Derbyshire police said cyclist death and serious injury (KSI) rates are too low to warrant the operation – whereas the West Midlands saw 500 cyclist KSIs 2010-2014, in Derbyshire this figure was 18, with casualty figures not rising in line with increased cycle journeys in the area.

The spokesperson said: “The increase in cycle journeys compared to reported collisions on routes throughout the county and Derby itself demonstrates that generally, different types of road users do respect each other – some don’t of course and over many miles of routes, this can make targeting them difficult to do effectively.

“From this perspective any police operation or campaign has to be based on the identification of collision trends or locations and these are not clearly made out to justify targeting certain routes.

“At this time there are no plans to replicate the West Midlands operation within Derbyshire given that any police action has to be proportionate to justify resources and Derbyshire does not suffer from this high number of KSI collisions in relation to ‘travelling too close’ to cyclists.”

This article was updated on 8 February to include the definition of a safe passing distance.

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