A cyclist who regularly submits videos of close passes to Staffordshire Police has described the force’s attitude towards such footage as “absolutely vile” after he was told in an email that it would only consider referring drivers filmed endangering cyclists for prosecution when injury or damage had happened – and then, only where there is “concrete evidence and that the matter is in the public interest.” The police force has since said that “often education is the most suitable option.”
Twitter user Pompey Cyclist, who lives in Staffordshire, tweeted an image of part of an email he had received from Staffordshire Police in response to the above close pass that he had sent them.
— Pompey Cyclist (@PompeyCyclist) June 18, 2021
“If no one is injured and the vehicle is lawfully on the road, then a warning letter is suffice [sic], highlighting the incident and their obligations whilst overtaking a cyclist,” he was told.
“If there is injury and or damage then a course or prosecution is considered again depending whether we have concrete evidence and that the matter is in the public interest.”
He told road.cc that “the comment in the email was said as a general statement as I asked what has to happen for someone to be dealt with properly if not be a foot away from them at about 40mph.”
He also highlighted an earlier video (see below) that he had sent to the force of a very close pass by a lorry driver, saying that police “refused to do anything except send a letter. I exhausted the complaint and appeals process with this one and I think four or five different people were all involved and all agreed that not bothering to do anything was the right thing to do.”
He continued: “It's just failure after failure and incompetent cop after incompetent cop with this police force.
“They were awful, then sorted themselves out a bit after I reported drivers and raised about 15 complaints in a year.
“Now they've reverted back to being completely useless and it's just frightening that they have cops who literally say ‘we won't do anything unless you're hurt or killed’. “Absolutely vile attitude,” he added.
We contacted Staffordshire Police to ascertain whether the comments in the email reflected the force’s official policy, as well as requesting details of their submission guidelines and asking when they last conducted an operation targeting close-passing drivers and what the outcome was. At the time of writing, we have not received a reply.
Keir Gallagher, Cycling UK’s campaigns manager said: “Close passing is not only incredibly dangerous, but it’s also hugely intimidating – which is why Cycling UK has campaigned for the Highway Code to include minimum safe passing distances, changes we hope to see introduced shortly.
“However, education and guidance must be backed up by police enforcement, and just as they would not turn a blind eye to a speeding driver because there was no collision, police should not be waiting for an injury or fatality before taking action against dangerous close passing.
“If this is indeed the policy of Staffordshire Police, it risks sending a dangerous message that drivers who put cyclists and other vulnerable road users at risk will be treated with impunity.”
He added: “Cycling UK will be writing to Staffordshire police to seek the details of their policy – and the reasoning behind it – and to raise concerns about the serious implications it could have on road safety within the region.”
We heard back from Staffordshire Police the day after this article was published, with a spokesperson telling us: “With regards to ‘close pass’ incidents, this is not a specific offence and in reviewing the evidence we have to decide whether the offence of driving without due care and attention is met, when the standards of driving fall below that of a competent and careful driver.
“Each case is assessed on its individual circumstances and an injury will not ultimately be the deciding factor.
“The key aim for the police is to reduce these incidents and keep all road users safe, often education is the most suitable option. A warning letter may be appropriate dependent upon the circumstances, where this doesn’t apply we consider education through driver awareness courses and prosecution if the previous two options are not suitable.”
The spokesperson added: “We will raise awareness of the process with officers across the force.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.