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Cambridge police say close pass operation ‘not practical’ due to lack of road space

‘We would be potentially forcing motorists to drive at the speed of cyclists when there isn’t the recommended space to overtake’

Campaigners have questioned Cambridgeshire’s police’s explanation that there isn’t sufficient road space to carry out a close pass operation. They point out that such initiatives are specifically designed to highlight why space needs to be given when passing cyclists.

Cambridge Cycling Campaign (Camcycle) has professed itself ‘beyond disappointed’ with Cambridgeshire police’s decision not to run a close pass operation similar to that pioneered by West Midlands police and has questioned the force’s reasoning.

Close pass operations involve plain clothes police officers out on bikes identifying drivers who don't allow enough room when overtaking. The West Midlands operation has led to a 20 per cent reduction in cyclists killed or seriously injured on the region’s roads since it was adopted in 2016.

A number of forces have since followed suit – most recently in Norfolk and Suffolk – but Cambridge will not be among them.

Casualty reduction officer Jon Morris explained:

"We have been liaising with officers in the West Midlands about Operation Close Pass and have explored the possibility of implementing something similar locally.

"The average road is approximately 3.5 metres from the kerb to the white lines. Cyclists are advised to cycle 0.75 metres away from the kerb to avoid drain covers and an average car is about two metres wide. Operation Close Pass recommends drivers leave about 1.5 metres when passing a cyclist. If we add all those figures together it would mean drivers are moving into the opposite lane to overtake.

"For Cambridge city where roads are narrower and often very congested we would be potentially forcing motorists to drive at the speed of cyclists when there isn’t the recommended space to overtake.

"Cyclists are vulnerable road users and it’s important that we are doing all we can to make the roads safer for everyone but at this time we don’t believe Operation Close Pass in its current format is practical in Cambridge."

Campaigners ‘angry’ at message being sent

Camcycle said: “We are angry that they are apparently advising drivers that it is OK to pass closely because maintaining the speed and flow of motor traffic is more important than the safety of vulnerable road users.

“The fact that Cambridge's roads are narrow is precisely the reason why close-passes are a problem here and action should be taken against them. Cambs police contradict Highway Code rule 163 'Give vulnerable road users at least as much space as you would a car'. The accompanying image is clear: you should wait until the opposite carriageway is clear to overtake if there isn't space.

“Given the express intention of the police not to safeguard vulnerable road users, we suggest people cycling follow Bikeability training guidelines and cycle centrally in the lane on narrow roads, to prevent the kind of dangerous overtakes the police refuse to take action against.

“We have seen that Cambridgeshire Police have been very reluctant to enforce 20mph despite the proven benefits for road safety in other towns and cities. We see them once more refusing to take action that is proven to protect vulnerable road users because they do not wish drivers of motor vehicles to be delayed whether in the city or out on the country roads of the county.”

Sam Jones, campaign coordinator at Cycling UK, told Cambridge News: “Cambridgeshire police’s decision is very disappointing. Not only does it demonstrate a lack of understanding of the Highway Code’s guidance on overtaking people cycling, but it also seems to prioritise the inconvenience of one road user over the safety of another.

“Cycling UK would urge Cambridgeshire police to rethink their position, as clearly in a congested city like Cambridge, close passes are a problem, and need to be addressed if they are serious about keeping cyclists safe.”

The local view

Our own Simon MacMichael is a Cambridge resident.

“Compared to other places I’ve lived and used a bike to get around, we’re absolutely spoilt in Cambridge.

“We have some terrific off-road routes particularly on or close to the river, and the separated lanes on Hills Road are a delight to ride along, as are the cycle paths along the guided busways.

“And in many parts of the city centre, the introduction of filtered impermeability – barriers across streets that block through motor traffic but allow people on bikes to pass freely – means the streets are largely given over to cyclists.

“True, many drivers give you ample space when overtaking – here, given that levels of cycling far exceed those anywhere else in the UK, the likelihood is that they will ride a bike, or have family members who do.

“But, it only takes one close pass to ruin your day, and it is a daily occurrence for anyone who chooses to get around the city on two wheels.

“And in my experience, it’s due not just to sometimes shocking driving, but also poorly thought out road layouts.

“Late at night, on Mill Road, say, it’s not unusual to have a driver pass you closely at 40, 50mph on what is a 20mph road – and moreover, one that isn’t too far from the main police station.

“Riding into town along Cherry Hinton Road, you encounter another problem. There are narrow cycle lanes either side, but the space that leaves for the single lane of motor traffic going in each direction means that if you are riding in them, close passes are inevitable.

“Then, you have somewhere like Arbury Road where, particularly at the southern end close to the junction with Milton Road, parked cars either side mean that it’s highly likely you will be overtaken far too closely.

“As I said above, there are a lot of positives here, but there is also much that could be improved.

“And, is it just me, or is rejecting the concept of a close pass operation on the grounds that there isn’t enough space to do so missing the point, while at the same time reinforcing why it’s needed?”

Close pass crackdown

A close-pass enforcement day was held by Cambridge police two years ago, targeting motorists passing cyclists too closely.

It was subsequently reported that the operation ended with officers instead turning their attention to cyclists riding without lights.

Referring to close-passes, a police spokesman said of officers: “So far they’ve not seen it as a problem.”

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the road.cc team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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69 comments

Avatar
ironmancole | 6 years ago
3 likes

Ok, so are the police instead advocating that all cyclists should instead use the pavement so that cars are free to continue unhindered by anything, except each other of course?

I would presume they'd then insist cyclists give full regard to the safety of pedestrians when that very same regard for life has been denied to them by this absurd stance from the very authority tasked and paid to uphold the safe overtaking rule? 

Given this overtaking rule is clearly unworkable in Cambridge I assume the police are therefore  taking action to have this silly law amended?

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fanatic278 | 6 years ago
2 likes

You.... have.....to.......be.......kidding.......me!!!!!

If I lived in Cambridgeshire I'd be doing something about the idiot policeman who responded. He needs reporting to his seniors. The local councillors, MP and police commisioner need to be informed.

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BarryBianchi | 6 years ago
1 like

Well, I think this is excellent news.

Close pass initiaves and the rest of it are waste of time, bringing only a temporary benefit at best in the vast, vast majority of cases. It's nothing more than a tiny sticking plaster.  And of course they do nothing to address drink/drug driving, speeding, texting etc etc.

If you want cycling to be safe and viable, as it certainly should - and could - be in a place like Cambridge, you need to separate the cars and the bikes properly.

Which is, when you follow the logic, what the dibble are saying here; just not sure that they meant to.

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aracer replied to BarryBianchi | 6 years ago
9 likes

BarryBianchi wrote:

Well, I think this is excellent news.

Close pass initiaves and the rest of it are waste of time, bringing only a temporary benefit at best in the vast, vast majority of cases. It's nothing more than a tiny sticking plaster.  And of course they do nothing to address drink/drug driving, speeding, texting etc etc.

I presume you're joking in the same way the policeman is? No? Because in the West Midlands they've seen a 20% reduction in cyclists being hit on the roads. As for a temporary benefit, well clearly if they keep doing the close pass initiative (as they plan to - it's apparently resource neutral) then it clearly won't be temporary.

Of course it doesn't address drink driving etc., in the same way drink driving initiatives don't address close passing.

I despair - at least the stupid policeman presumably has the excuse of not being a cyclist.

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BarryBianchi replied to aracer | 6 years ago
2 likes

aracer wrote:

 

I presume you're joking in the same way the policeman is? No? Because in the West Midlands they've seen a 20% reduction in cyclists being hit on the roads. As for a temporary benefit, well clearly if they keep doing the close pass initiative (as they plan to - it's apparently resource neutral) then it clearly won't be temporary.

Of course it doesn't address drink driving etc., in the same way drink driving initiatives don't address close passing.

I despair - at least the stupid policeman presumably has the excuse of not being a cyclist.

I'm not joking because it's not funny.  These fads of "iniatives" don't even scratch the surface of what needs to be done.  If you want safe cycling, get safe cycling. That means proper routes and separation.  I've lived in several countries in Europe, and know it can be done.  If you think close pass initiatives in Cambridge or anywhere will make a toss of real lasting difference you're pissing up a rope.

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Goldfever4 replied to BarryBianchi | 6 years ago
4 likes

BarryBianchi wrote:

aracer wrote:

I presume you're joking in the same way the policeman is? No? Because in the West Midlands they've seen a 20% reduction in cyclists being hit on the roads. As for a temporary benefit, well clearly if they keep doing the close pass initiative (as they plan to - it's apparently resource neutral) then it clearly won't be temporary.

 

Of course it doesn't address drink driving etc., in the same way drink driving initiatives don't address close passing.

I despair - at least the stupid policeman presumably has the excuse of not being a cyclist.

I'm not joking because it's not funny.  These fads of "iniatives" don't even scratch the surface of what needs to be done.  If you want safe cycling, get safe cycling. That means proper routes and separation.  I've lived in several countries in Europe, and know it can be done.  If you think close pass initiatives in Cambridge or anywhere will make a toss of real lasting difference you're pissing up a rope.

Yeah that's great but you're taking an idiot policeman's comments and extrapolating them out into better infrastructure. I haven't seen any quote from him leading onto infrastructure. Only that cyclists are in the way and inconvenience car drivers.

I'd rather have an initative that has clear results than nothing at all, thanks for speaking out against that though.

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BarryBianchi replied to Goldfever4 | 6 years ago
0 likes

Goldfever4 wrote:

idiot policeman's comments ... I haven't seen any quote from him leading onto infrastructure. Only that cyclists are in the way and inconvenience car drivers.

I'd rather have an initative that has clear results than nothing at all, thanks for speaking out against that though.

Do you really think you are helping?  You're writing like a child.  In the real world, things are just a little more complex.  Bashing the police and bad mouthing anyone who deigns to err from your view is just very very silly.  You really thing policemen like him hold forth for quotes on infractructure reform?  And guess what - cyclist ARE an incovience to drivers - may be news to you, but not to the thinking people, and those of us who have cycle commuted for 25+ years.  Which is rather my point; remove the clash.  Safe shared space is a tired and unworkable concept; this is Britain 2017; that ship, if it ever was is the harbour, sailed years ago.

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Goldfever4 replied to BarryBianchi | 6 years ago
6 likes

BarryBianchi wrote:

Goldfever4 wrote:

idiot policeman's comments ... I haven't seen any quote from him leading onto infrastructure. Only that cyclists are in the way and inconvenience car drivers.

I'd rather have an initative that has clear results than nothing at all, thanks for speaking out against that though.

Do you really think you are helping?  You're writing like a child.  In the real world, things are just a little more complex.  Bashing the police and bad mouthing anyone who deigns to err from your view is just very very silly.  You really thing policemen like him hold forth for quotes on infractructure reform?  And guess what - cyclist ARE an incovience to drivers - may be news to you, but not to the thinking people, and those of us who have cycle commuted for 25+ years.  Which is rather my point; remove the clash.  Safe shared space is a tired and unworkable concept; this is Britain 2017; that ship, if it ever was is the harbour, sailed years ago.

Troll off somewhere else

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BarryBianchi replied to Goldfever4 | 6 years ago
0 likes

Goldfever4 wrote:

 

Troll off somewhere else

Year 6 next - you get to use the Bunsen burners!

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aracer replied to BarryBianchi | 6 years ago
4 likes

BarryBianchi wrote:

I'm not joking because it's not funny.  These fads of "iniatives" don't even scratch the surface of what needs to be done.  If you want safe cycling, get safe cycling. That means proper routes and separation.  I've lived in several countries in Europe, and know it can be done.  If you think close pass initiatives in Cambridge or anywhere will make a toss of real lasting difference you're pissing up a rope.

So how soon do you think we'll be getting proper separated infrastructure?

Because in the mean time, the WMP Close Pass initiative has been proven to reduce the numbers of cyclists injured on the roads. The chances are it's already saved at least one life. Yet you apparently think it's excellent news that Cambridgeshire won't do it - ergo you're pleased at more cyclists in Cambridgeshire being injured and killed.

You do realise that Cambridgeshire refusing to do this won't advance the cause of separated infrastructure one iota?

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Deeferdonk replied to aracer | 6 years ago
0 likes

aracer wrote:

I presume you're joking in the same way the policeman is? No? Because in the West Midlands they've seen a 20% reduction in cyclists being hit on the roads. 

Is that  significant? What's the usual annual variance in cycling incidents in the west midlands? Is this variation over a single year statistically significant enough to attribute success to the scheme? I'm glad they are carrying out the scheme, and hope it is having an effect but you have to be suspicious over anyone making claims over such few data points

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Ush replied to BarryBianchi | 6 years ago
2 likes

BarryBianchi wrote:

If you want cycling to be safe and viable, as it certainly should - and could - be in a place like Cambridge, you need to separate the cars and the bikes properly.

Don't you worry.  You'll be banned for your own good.  Except from the MTB trails and the turbo trainer in the garage.

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BarryBianchi replied to Ush | 6 years ago
0 likes

Ush wrote:

Don't you worry.  You'll be banned for your own good.  Except from the MTB trails and the turbo trainer in the garage.

Already are in a way.  My kids are MTB only. Riding on the road is just too dangerous.  Close pass initiative are not going to change that.  No more than speed cameras have solved speeding.  Or mobile phone law has stopped abuse of those while driving.

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Helmut D. Bate replied to BarryBianchi | 6 years ago
6 likes
BarryBianchi wrote:

Ush wrote:

Don't you worry.  You'll be banned for your own good.  Except from the MTB trails and the turbo trainer in the garage.

Already are in a way.  My kids are MTB only. Riding on the road is just too dangerous.  Close pass initiative are not going to change that.  No more than speed cameras have solved speeding.  Or mobile phone law has stopped abuse of those while driving.

Why do Binary, Barry? You want to ride your Bianchi only on separate infrastructure, or do you actually use the roads?

Nobody's arguing AGAINST better, separate infrastructure, but if you're as well-lived as you claim to be, you'll know we're eons away from that in the UK.

So, meanwhile, those who actually ride on UK roads will take the baby steps - and still campaign for the whole shebang including drivers being safer and proper infrastructure.

Avatar
Paul J replied to Helmut D. Bate | 6 years ago
2 likes
Helmut D. Bate wrote:
BarryBianchi wrote:

Ush wrote:

Don't you worry.  You'll be banned for your own good.  Except from the MTB trails and the turbo trainer in the garage.

Already are in a way.  My kids are MTB only. Riding on the road is just too dangerous.  Close pass initiative are not going to change that.  No more than speed cameras have solved speeding.  Or mobile phone law has stopped abuse of those while driving.

Why do Binary, Barry? You want to ride your Bianchi only on separate infrastructure, or do you actually use the roads?

Nobody's arguing AGAINST better, separate infrastructure, but if you're as well-lived as you claim to be, you'll know we're eons away from that in the UK.

So, meanwhile, those who actually ride on UK roads will take the baby steps - and still campaign for the whole shebang including drivers being safer and proper infrastructure.

I both the views above have merit.

Barry's right, in that ultimately nothing but dedicated, high-quality, infrastructure is going to fix the (relatively, compared to a number of other European states) poor cycling safety conditions in the UK. And I think it's also right that that drum must be beaten loudly *every* time cycling safety comes up.

However, the police work with the conditions today, and the law as it is today. And they can improve things significantly in short order, if they'd bloody well enforce the law. The statements from the police in this story are clearly idiotic, showing an ignorance of the law and a dereliction of their duty.

One other comment I'd make... that high-quality, dedicated infrastructure.. it does NOT take long to do. Significant amounts of it can be built within /years/, "all" it needs is the political will to do so.

I remember (vaguely) the Netherlands in the late 70s. I remember watching the cycling infrastructure being built near us. We went from cycling on the road, to me being able to cycle on my own to school, aged 6.

The Netherlands went from no cycling infrastructure, to lots of it, in a relatively short space of time (in the grand scheme of things). Building it is easy, and does /not/ take that long. Once the will is there. Do not be defeatist about how "easy" it is do, in terms of the practical side.

Cycling was part of the dutch cultural identity then, and still normal. The normality of cycling has been lost here, unfortunately.

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don simon fbpe | 6 years ago
2 likes

Quote:

“But, it only takes one close pass article to ruin your day, and it is a daily occurrence for anyone who chooses to get around the city on two wheels.

devil

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Grahamd | 6 years ago
6 likes

If the roads are not safe for driving in accordance with the Highway Code then close the road to cars until road improvements can be made. 

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Hamster | 6 years ago
10 likes

It is better to be silent and thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt.

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Ush | 6 years ago
2 likes

At least they're honest.  Cars have to have their speed, numbers and volume reduced.  For most of those suffering from physical disabilities an electric golf cart speed limited to 20mph should suffice.  The rest can get the train or bus.

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huntswheelers | 6 years ago
2 likes

What a lot os rubbish..... Cambridgeshire Police have more than just the city to worry about... they can patrol the market towns and Peterborough then they will have some drivers to sort out....

Clearly this mirrors the huge reluctance of the Police & Crime Commissioner to enforce the close pass initiative, as he did  with the County wide parking enforcement when he was the leader of Huntingdonshire District Council...they opted out of enforcement so now it's an unregulated and enforced free for all with parking on verges, corners, double yellows and the like. He clearly doesn't want to upset car users . On the Police's stance on narrow roads and cyclists issue, again in Huntingdon, there was a sharp corner which it was decided to reduce it's width to allow a further 3 homes to be built on a development, at the time there was a campaign to stop this but it was unsucessful as it was measured that 2 buses could pass (only just mind) so that was okay and at the same time the local Police even admitted that cyclists could ride the road as it would reduce the speed of motorists.... this is the attitude they have in Cambridgeshire.

The County Councillor for Transport, Mr Bates always keeps trying to spew the propaganda that Cambridgeshire is the county of Cyclists.... utter Bovine excretment.

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DaveE128 | 6 years ago
12 likes

"Mr Morris said this would mean drivers had to move into the opposite lane to overtake."

How utterly, appallingly unthinkable. What idiot would suggest doing that?

https://assets.digital.cabinet-office.gov.uk/media/559afd05e5274a155c000...

As featured in https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-highway-code/using-the-road-159-to-203#o...

And he's supposed to be the casualty reduction officer! More like the motorised traffic speed maintenance officer.

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DaveE128 | 6 years ago
23 likes

Cambridgeshire Police - upholding the right of motorists to get home quickly. Even if it means cyclists don't get home at all.

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DrG82 | 6 years ago
12 likes

I was taught that if you don't cross the white line when overtaking a cyclist you are probably too close to the cyclist, so for the police to be advocating the passing of cyclists without crossing the centre line is just ridicluous.

Also, if we assum cars are about 2 m wide (they aren't quite) and the cyclist is 0.75 m off the kerb with 0.5 m bars (so 0.25 m further into the road) a car would need to be within 0.5 m (about 19 inches in old money if it adds emphasis)  of the cyclist to pass without crossing the centre line, which is most certainly far too close.

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Crippledbiker | 6 years ago
8 likes

So take the lane, and force them to overtake you properly or not at all.

If there isn't space to overtake safely - then there isn't space to overtake, and you'll just have to bloody wait.

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Morgoth985 | 6 years ago
4 likes

How did I end up with two of these?  Kind of weakens the patented biting sarcasm, you know.

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brooksby | 6 years ago
5 likes

And the award for Completely Missing the F-ing Point goes to... 

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Morgoth985 | 6 years ago
0 likes

Anyway, I'm sure all will turn out for the best.  Remember, we have a "keen cyclist" in government.  Everything will be put right before too many more thousands of us have been "mown down" [official phraseology].

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Morgoth985 | 6 years ago
6 likes

Anyway, I'm sure all will turn out for the best.  Remember, we have a "keen cyclist" in government.  Everything will be put right before too many more thousands of us have been "mown down" [official phraseology].

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beezus fufoon | 6 years ago
1 like

of course, it is possible that the test to become a policeman in Cambridgeshire is to simply answer the question - do you know what overtaking is? - and anything containing the answer about moving around and passing other road users results in an automatic recruitment to police driver... but if you get the question wrong you just get a beat to walk.

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ktache | 6 years ago
5 likes

You would be called a fantasist for making this shit up!

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