POLICE are swapping panda cars for bicycles and uniforms for Lycra to catch motorists who drive dangerously close when overtaking cyclists.
Undercover officers have been part of the Give Space Be Safe campaign in Birmingham, London, Manchester and Leeds since last September. More than 200 people have been pulled over in the Midlands, where the scheme started; most have been given a warning and safety information, but 13 have been prosecuted for a variety of offences, according to The Times. Police say reports of “close passes” of cyclists in Birmingham had halved after three months of the operation.
The Highway Code states that drivers “should give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car”. Rule 163 also has general advice for overtaking, including that drivers should not get too close to the vehicle they intend to overtake and should take extra care at night and in poor visibility.
In addition, rule 212 warns that if a cyclist looks over their shoulder, “it could mean that they intend to pull out, turn right or change direction. Give them time and space to do so.” And rule 213 adds, “Motorcyclists and cyclists may suddenly need to avoid uneven road surfaces and obstacles. Give them plenty of room and pay particular attention to any sudden change of direction they may have to make.”
The clampdown on dangerous drivers follows a sharp drop in the number of fines issued to cyclists
Drivers can become frustrated while trying to overtake riders. The official advice to cyclists is to assume the “primary position” towards the centre of the road — a tactic known as “taking the lane” — which is designed to prevent drivers from overtaking when it is unsafe.
The clampdown on dangerous drivers follows a sharp drop in the number of fines issued to cyclists for jumping red lights, riding on pavements and failing to use bike lights. Figures obtained in March showed that penalty notices to cyclists had fallen by two-thirds over the past five years, despite a surge in bicycle use nationally.
In May a pair of cyclists were allowed on their way after being stopped by a police motorcyclist for riding two abreast. The riders’ helmet-cam video, in which they argued with the officer over the rules of the road, reignited the debate over the legality and safety of cycling side by side.
Undercover work is increasingly being used by traffic police to catch drivers. Police commandeered a double-decker bus so that they could spy on motorists from the top deck, catching drivers for offences such as using a mobile telephone and not wearing a seatbelt. In a separate campaign, police used an unmarked HGV to catch dozens of van and lorry drivers who were flouting the rules of the road.