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Dame Sarah Storey joins South Yorkshire Police on close pass operation – and almost one in five drivers get pulled over

Officers invited Sheffield’s active travel commissioner – and Britain’s most successful Paralympian – to accompany them last Friday

Dame Sarah Storey, who earlier this month became Great Britain’s most successful Paralympian athlete, joined road policing officers in South Yorkshire last week for a close pass operation targeting drivers who overtake cyclists too closely.

Fresh from winning the 17th Paralympic gold medal of her career at Tokyo three weeks ago and wearing the rainbow jersey of para-cycling road world champion, Storey accompanied the operation on Friday afternoon on the A57 through her role as active travel commissioner for the Sheffield City Region.

> Dame Sarah Storey named Sheffield City Region's first Active Travel Commissioner

It was carried out as part of last week’s Project EDWARD, with the acronym standing for European Day Without A Road Death, a Europe-wide initiative launched five years ago by the European Traffic Police Network and supported by the European Commission.

An account of the operation, carried out on Manchester Road from Rails Road up to Cutthroat Bridge, was posted to Strava by Inspector Kevin Smith of the Sheffield Northwest Neighbourhood Policing Team, who said that it was one of the roads they receive most complaints over.

A57 Operation Close Pass via Strava.PNG

“Two teams of cyclists were used, two on road bikes wearing road bike gear and looking, at least in one case, like an athlete,” he wrote. “The other pair were on our electrically assisted e-bikes.”

He outlined the specific issues related to the stretch of road chosen, which reflect a scenario we often see in submissions to our Near Miss of the Day feature.

>Near Miss of the Day 

“The A57 is a long climb with lots of double white lines due to some blind bends,” Inspector Smith said.

“It is often safer to cycle two abreast on these sections to reduce the temptation of some motorists to try and ‘squeeze’ the cyclist to the side of the road by overtaking on a blind bend and then pulling back left to avoid a head on collision with traffic the other way approaching at 50 miles per hour.

“Even when cycling solo, it is often safest to ride in primary position on these bends, to ensure that you are visible around the bends,” the officer said.

“Unfortunately, it was not the most stress-free afternoon of cycling, with lots of people apparently unable to overtake without the assistance of their horn (perhaps it is linked to a booster system?).

“Sarah’s Garmin radar detected 110 overtakes over the two laps we completed, and of those 110 overtakes, 20 were stopped for advice purposes, which is disappointing.

“Our other pair were also close passed a few times, taking the total to 25 vehicles stopped for advice purposes, and another five that we will catch up with through the post,” Inspector Smith said.

“In total 10 prosecutions for a range of offences from careless driving to contravening double white lines. It seems many drivers are unaware that if a cyclist is travelling at more than 10 miles per hour there is no loophole to allow them to overtake on double white lines, and we saw a depressing level of selfish and poor behaviour throughout the day.”

Referring to the rule which says, among other things, that cyclists “should never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends,” the inspector revealed, “We’ve already seen some ‘what about Highway Code rule 66’ whataboutism on twitter by people trying to justify close passes.

“My reply is that on this road, the only safe place to be to overtake is on the opposite side of the carriageway (it is a 50mph road), and if you need to be on the opposite side of the carriageway, it doesn’t matter how far into the road the cyclists are, if there’s no room on the opposite side of the road, there’s not enough room to overtake.”

Inspector Smith added: “As you can imagine, trying to keep up with a gold medallist also added a new level of difficulty to the affair (this was my second highest wattage 20 minutes of 2021. and trust me, I wasn’t planning on going all out), but it was good to show Dame [Sarah] Storey how we run close pass operations to try and educate road users, either by speaking to them at the side of the road, or by providing consequences to their poor driving choices.”

> Dame Sarah Storey to campaign for safer roads for cyclists on behalf of British Cycling

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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69 comments

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Muddy Ford | 2 years ago
1 like

Is that 20 that close passed the cyclists in lycra and 5 that close passed the casual ebikes? If so it suggests intentional intimidation rather than an 'honest mistake guv, wont do it again'

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eburtthebike | 2 years ago
1 like

FFS; a visit Malta ad that covered all but a line of the site and didn't go away until I refreshed.  Come on admin, some of us subscribers are getting restive.

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joe9090 replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
1 like

adblock addin ftw?

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Muddy Ford replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
1 like
eburtthebike wrote:

FFS; a visit Malta ad that covered all but a line of the site and didn't go away until I refreshed.  Come on admin, some of us subscribers are getting restive.

If an add follows you down the page the site owner needs special permission from google (owns most of the ad providing software) and the site owner can be reported for it.

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wtjs | 2 years ago
2 likes

It seems many drivers are unaware that if a cyclist is travelling at more than 10 miles per hour there is no loophole to allow them to overtake on double white lines

Lancashire Constabulary is equally 'unaware' of this, so up here there is indeed a permanent 'loophole' for this offence. I doubt if LC has ever successfully prosecuted anyone for crossing single or double white lines while overtaking a cyclist - I have such a prosecution supposedly going on right now, but LC is doing its best to sabotage it. There will be details when it is over!  Actually, all of these drivers and LC are aware of this because unbroken white lines are not a very difficult concept even for Mail-reading BMW driving nutters, but they don't care. Someone claims penalties are irrelevant- they aren't. Word of a few doses of the meagre 3 licence points would spread like Covid through Scousers at a football match. 

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wycombewheeler replied to wtjs | 2 years ago
6 likes
wtjs wrote:

Someone claims penalties are irrelevant- they aren't. Word of a few doses of the meagre 3 licence points would spread like Covid through Scousers at a football match. 

They are only relevant when they are applied. When drivers are not caught, not prosecuted, or not convicted the potential penalty has no bearing on driver behavoir.

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wtjs replied to wycombewheeler | 2 years ago
1 like

When drivers are not caught, not prosecuted, or not convicted the potential penalty has no bearing on driver behaviour

This is a trivial argument which misses the point. It is obvious that deterrence requires the entire system to work, but because of police resistance to any form of real action it clearly doesn't.  Well, they are caught, aren't prosecuted and are given pretend penalties- there are several layers of pretend penalties lovingly prescribed by the idle constabulary: from the indescribably joke 'educational information without any warning letter' (apparently created by The Masters of Inaction here in Lancashire- I haven't seen it described by victims elsewhere) to the joke online driving course, these penalties are useless and are laughed off by your standard BMW psychopath. Lancashire won't even respond to this- if Inspector Kevin tried any of this 'close pass operation' stuff up here, (and good luck to him, at least somewhere is in with a chance) with or without a worthy cycling celebrity, his feet wouldn't touch...

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wycombewheeler replied to wtjs | 2 years ago
1 like
wtjs wrote:

When drivers are not caught, not prosecuted, or not convicted the potential penalty has no bearing on driver behaviour

This is a trivial argument which misses the point. It is obvious that deterrence requires the entire system to work, but because of police resistance to any form of real action it clearly doesn't.  Well, they are caught, aren't prosecuted and are given pretend penalties- 

I think this is exactly my point

It doesn't matter whether the law defines the penalty for endangering cyclists as a "paddington bear stare" or loss of a hand.

Drivers are generally not caught, and when they are the police do not often prosecute. 

When they do prosecute the drivers are normally acquited by juries of drivers, or car sympathetic magistrates, which probably explains the lack of prosecution.

So as a driver is incredibly unlikely to face any sanction for their actions, the severity of the penalty does not come into play. If EVERY motoring transgression was detected, it would like only need a £50 fine to stamp out the vast majority of offending as drivers would know they would be caught, and would not consider £50 good value for the offence they are about to commit.

When I refer to penalties, I am not referring to the closing of a case by issuing of a warning letter. As this is clearly failure to prosecute, and not insuficiently severe penalty.

 

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Velophaart_95 | 2 years ago
7 likes

I have to agree with others; the standard of driving really has nosedived. And the impatience is quite shocking; whether I'm cycling or in the car, people wanting you to turn from a side road into a busy main road....revving the car/moving barely cms from your rear. 

Too many cars, too many distracted drivers, etc 

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johndevs replied to Velophaart_95 | 2 years ago
5 likes

Quite agree with you. It's the levels of impatience that I find absolutely outstanding at the moment. I've cycled about 35 miles today and had to give the universal sign of displeasure to three different drivers. All of them couldn't be bothered to sacrifice a second or two from their very important journeys and just felt it was better to put my life at risk.

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Captain Badger replied to johndevs | 2 years ago
4 likes
johndevs wrote:

.... and had to give the universal sign of displeasure to three different drivers. ...

You mean... a particularly hard stare?

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brooksby replied to Captain Badger | 2 years ago
3 likes
Captain Badger wrote:
johndevs wrote:

.... and had to give the universal sign of displeasure to three different drivers. ...

You mean... a particularly hard stare?

You carry marmalade sandwiches in your saddle pack, don't you   3

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Captain Badger replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
5 likes
brooksby wrote:

.....

You carry marmalade sandwiches in your saddle pack, don't you   3

Not in my saddle pack. Cycle helmets are useful for some things you know.....

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PRSboy | 2 years ago
13 likes

Great initiative, and chapeau to the officers on the road bikes who managed to keep up with Dame Sarah!

I can sort of forgive a close pass as 'just' bad driving, but accompanied with a horn blow should be an instant three-pointer and fine due to its evident wilfulness.

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a_to_the_j | 2 years ago
5 likes

I bet the actual close pass was much higher but they only stopped a certain amount they could, or were deemed a real issue.

as others have said - welcome to the world we've been talking about for decades Police Force UK

 

also, if 1 in 5 drivers ran red lights and ignored give way, stop signs, or front seatbelts - there would be a national outcry and campaign and new laws and punishement for them....but for us cyclists, lets just give them a pointer as to what to do and they can be on thier way.

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Captain Badger replied to a_to_the_j | 2 years ago
1 like
a_to_the_j wrote:

 

....also, if 1 in 5 drivers ran red lights and ignored give way, stop signs, or front seatbelts -....

IF????

Edit: PS, I agree with your post 100%

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brooksby replied to Captain Badger | 2 years ago
1 like
Captain Badger wrote:
a_to_the_j wrote:

....also, if 1 in 5 drivers ran red lights and ignored give way, stop signs, or front seatbelts -....

IF????

They forgot drug driving, drink driving, and mobile phone use while at the wheel.  All of that together probably pushes it up to 3 in 5 drivers, IMO.

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Captain Badger replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
5 likes
brooksby wrote:
Captain Badger wrote:
a_to_the_j wrote:

....also, if 1 in 5 drivers ran red lights and ignored give way, stop signs, or front seatbelts -....

IF????

They forgot drug driving, drink driving, and mobile phone use while at the wheel.  All of that together probably pushes it up to 3 in 5 drivers, IMO.

Add speeding, especially in residential areas and 20 limits, and you'll have a full house all but.

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brooksby replied to Captain Badger | 2 years ago
5 likes
Captain Badger wrote:
brooksby wrote:
Captain Badger wrote:
a_to_the_j wrote:

....also, if 1 in 5 drivers ran red lights and ignored give way, stop signs, or front seatbelts -....

IF????

They forgot drug driving, drink driving, and mobile phone use while at the wheel.  All of that together probably pushes it up to 3 in 5 drivers, IMO.

Add speeding, especially in residential areas and 20 limits, and you'll have a full house all but.

I wonder if we should count pavement parking / pavement driving, too?

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eburtthebike replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
4 likes
brooksby wrote:

....also, if 1 in 5 drivers ran red lights and ignored give way, stop signs, or front seatbelts -....

IF????

[/quote]

They forgot drug driving, drink driving, and mobile phone use while at the wheel.  All of that together probably pushes it up to 3 in 5 drivers, IMO.

[/quote]

Add speeding, especially in residential areas and 20 limits, and you'll have a full house all but.

[/quote]

I wonder if we should count pavement parking / pavement driving, too?

[/quote]

All of these crimes are chronic on the road, which demonstrates two things; the chances of being caught are too low, as are the penalties.  As well as having segregated infrastructure, we need to dramatically raise the chances of being caught, and have much more realistic penalties for the crimes.

You know I hate getting political, but this is what the endless tory austerity policy has done to policing and the detection and prosecution of crimes.  A decimated, demoralised police force, given conflicting, confusing priorites by the politicians, isn't going to spend much time on road crime, one off schemes like this notwithstanding.  We need to fund road policing properly, with properly trained officers dedicated to their task who are really interested in protecting the vulnerable.

The penalties for road crime are insignificant and are no deterrent, especially when you can repeat the crime endlessly and claim hardship.  The points system is clearly not working and is not fit for purpose.  For a first offence, the penalty should be a fine, dependent on the severity of the crime i.e. £x/mph over the limit, and means tested, so that the Ferrari driver pays proportionately the same as the Ford driver.  For a second offence, the car should be confiscated for a month, with no allowances for hardship.

 

Please note that I didn't mention the review of road law even once!

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Captain Badger replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
6 likes
eburtthebike wrote:

......

All of these crimes are chronic on the road, which demonstrates two things; the chances of being caught are too low, as are the penalties.  As well as having segregated infrastructure, we need to dramatically raise the chances of being caught, and have much more realistic penalties for the crimes.

You know I hate getting political, but this is what the endless tory austerity policy has done to policing and the detection and prosecution of crimes; a decimated, demoralised police force, given conflicting, confusing priorites by the politicians, isn't going to spend much time on road crime, one off schemes like this notwithstanding.  We need to fund road policing properly, with properly trained officers dedicated to their task who are really interested in protecting the vulnerable.

The penalties for road crime are insignificant and are no deterrent, especially when you can repeat the crime endlessly and claim hardship.  The points system is clearly not working and is not fit for purpose.  For a first offence, the penalty should be a fine, dependent on the severity of the crime i.e. £x/mph over the limit, and means tested, so that the Ferrari driver pays proportionately the same as the Ford driver.  For a second offence, the car should be confiscated for a month, with no allowances for hardship.

Weirdly, I think the points system makes a lot of sense, and is fit for purpose - it just needs to be applied. Any system which isn't applied consistently won't work, so I don't believe that there is necessarily any benefit in changing in this case.

The key thing is enthusiasm. It is true that austerity has had a detrimental effect on public services (like you, I shun getting political, so won't even mention how unnecessary, vicious, vindictive and despicable it is), but there are some forces with units, and many officers, that strive to be effective but are let down by either their superiors or the wider CJS

The points system is very straightforward, which is its advantage when applied. However a magistrate who is likely to be mugged off (willfully or otherwise) by a hardship claim is unlikely to apply any system effectively. 

The simplest thing would be to see that adding points (and subsequent disqualification) is a public safety mitigation, not a punishment and therefore not related to personal circumstance. Punishments (fines unpaid work, reparation, jail) may applied in parallel and can be varied for circumstance, remorse etc.

I'm in agreement that fines should be means-tested - attached to tax code would be a simple solution - however temporary removal of vehicles is cumbersome and expensive, and, for a rich individual at least, easily got round by renting/buying another.

Stick with what we've got, just facking apply it

 

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wycombewheeler replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
5 likes
eburtthebike wrote:

All of these crimes are chronic on the road, which demonstrates two things; the chances of being caught are too low, as are the penalties. 

Penalties are irrelevant. No one thinks they will be caught (and mostly they are right). If you think high penalties are the answer check the number of crimes attracting the death penalty in victorian times. Didn't stop them.

If there was 100% (or even 50%) detection a £50 fine would be sufficient to stop all motoring offences.

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Inspector Kevin... replied to a_to_the_j | 2 years ago
17 likes
a_to_the_j wrote:

I bet the actual close pass was much higher but they only stopped a certain amount they could, or were deemed a real issue

Not at all. In fact some of the stops were for relatively minor infringements like sounding a horn to express displeasure. Some people managed to make perfectly safe overtakes but managed to get themselves pulled over for hitting the horn out of frustration. 
 

These drivers tended to get a talking to. One of them told my sergeant "I've been driving since before you were born and I don't think cyclists should be allowed to ride two abreast". When my deceptively youthful looking sergeant replied "and was that the last time you read the Highway Code" the chap got the message and ceased his poorly researched homily.

There was no evidence that any of the other drivers were whacked out on goof balls and we would have had them stopped if their driving was clearly poor. The 1 in 5 on this road I put down largely to ignorance of how to overtake and poor attitudes towards cyclists. 
 

also - I do think 1 in 5 drivers do seem to be not great at obeying the law which is why my team do a LOT of traffic enforcement as it is a priority for  our policing area. I don't think there's a national outcry about it because people just see other people's behaviour as the problem. What's that statistic - 90% of people think their driving standard is above average?

anyway I'm on Twitter @sheffnw_npt if people have other comments/ suggestions. 

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ktache replied to Inspector Kevin Smith SYP | 2 years ago
13 likes

Thank you and keep up the good work.

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Steve K replied to Inspector Kevin Smith SYP | 2 years ago
12 likes

Thanks very much for coming on here and explaining.

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wycombewheeler replied to Inspector Kevin Smith SYP | 2 years ago
6 likes
Inspector Kevin Smith SYP wrote:

.... I do think 1 in 5 drivers do seem to be not great at obeying the law which is why my team do a LOT of traffic enforcement as it is a priority for  our policing area. I don't think there's a national outcry about it because

I think there is not a national outcry about it because drivers cannot point at all drivers as being bad, they do not want to vilify a group they belong to.

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Inspector Kevin... replied to wycombewheeler | 2 years ago
5 likes

True. If you're in the "In group" of "drivers" the "out group" of cyclists are obviously the problem. Ignoring the fact that many cyclists also own cars or drive. 
 

also if you do any enforcement you're suddenly "punishing the innocent motorist" instead of doing whatever other task it is that the outraged person has a bee in their bonnet about. Usually "what about pedos" (sic.)

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Surreyrider replied to Inspector Kevin Smith SYP | 2 years ago
6 likes

Inspector Kevin, you talk a lot of sense. Do you fancy moving to Surrey?! Or maybe getting yourself promoted to a senior police job involved in national road safety for all with a focus on cycling? 

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GMBasix replied to Inspector Kevin Smith SYP | 2 years ago
8 likes
Inspector Kevin Smith SYP wrote:

  ...my deceptively youthful looking sergeant replied "and was that the last time you read the Highway Code"   

I'm nursing an image of your sergeant delivering "words of advice" like a drill sergeant.

Personally, I think people pass too closely because:

  • they've not reflected on their driving or the Highway Code since they were tested on them
  • they have little to no idea what it's like to be on the receiving end of a close pass
  • nobody has actually spent time instructing them what a good pass looks and feels like from the driver's seat
  • they don't have the concept of planning an overtake
  • they perceive peer pressure on themselves to keep moving at the speed limit rather than waiting until it's safe to pass

and hostility towards cyclists in those situtions persists because drivers are allowed to maintain the belief that cyclists are guests on the road.

We should be pushing for regular training - a set number of accredited training hours per 5 years for their (that is, our) licences to be maintained.  A shortfall will result in a no-fault suspension of the licence until the hours are registered.

As others have said, Inspector Smith, thank you for what you do on the roads and for coming on here and sharing your work with us.

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Inspector Kevin... replied to GMBasix | 2 years ago
10 likes

Dame Storey suggested the possibility of a mandatory requirement for cycling hours before issuing a full driving licence. I think there's something in that. Especially for "professional drivers" like buses, taxis, HGVs. 

Even standing in the pavement when a vehicle guns past at 60 is scary as hell (and that's without being buffeted on a wobbly velocipede)  so some empathy building would be a useful educational tool. 

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