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Safer Cycling

by Cynthia Floud – 26th January 2017
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cycle overtaking space

Are you too scared to cycle out of Haddenham?

Have you tried the A418 to Thame and returned home shaken by having your handlebars only an inch or two from the side of a lorry or car?

Do you think that some drivers see cyclists as mere 'road furniture' ... or don't see them at all?

All this may soon change, if Thames Valley Police decide to copy West Midlands Police Close Pass Scheme.

West Midlands Police (WMP) received an award on Tuesday at the House of Lords from the Road Danger Reduction Forum – the first ever awarded in the organisation's 22 year history – recognising their Give Space, Be Safe operation.

The operation involves a plain clothed officer on a bike radioing ahead to colleagues, if a driver overtakes too close. The driver is pulled over and educated on things like safe passing distances, and in some cases will face prosecution. The operation, which was dubbed the "best cyclist road safety initiative ever" by Cycling UK, has now also been introduced by police in Camden.

Haddenham Safe Walking & Cycling Group asked our Chief Constable to adopt the scheme here and have been told that Thames Valley Police are sending officers to attend a briefing on the scheme which West Midlands Police are hosting. The Chief Constable's spokesman, Nigel Wenham, said, "This will hopefully provide some more information around the scheme so we can make a decision on its viability within Thames Valley."

The results of the scheme so far have been exceptionally good. Officers say drivers who once saw cyclists as little more than road furniture come away with altered attitudes and better skills for driving around cyclists, and the "magic" of the operation, launched in September, is people will spread the message to family and friends.

They emphasised it is about tackling the cause of danger on the roads, and improving safety and behaviour, rather than picking on any one road user. Police behind a ground-breaking "close pass" initiative say if poor driving alters people's lifestyle choices by making them too scared to cycle on the roads, that is a police matter.

PC Mark Hodson, an officer behind the initiative, said, "We want to protect vulnerable road users because we need more vulnerable road users on the road. 99% of people we speak to don't cycle to work or school because they fear the traffic, particularly close passes.

If somebody wants to ride a bike to school or to work, they want to do it in a manner they don't have to worry about the behaviour of drivers endangering them on a daily basis. That should be a case for police to support and there shouldn't be an argument against that at any level. You shouldn't have to worry about your loved ones cycling. The only way you're going to change that is to change driver behaviour and take away that threat to people, and we wish to do that."

We shall keep a close eye on Thames Valley's progress in bringing Close Pass to our area. We need it here.

Many of us have relatives who already dice with death on the Buckinghamshire roads. We want to cease to fear for them. We want our teenagers to be able to cycle at will. We want to cycle out of Haddenham without the fear of a close encounter of the vehicular kind.

9th February 2017

Mrs Elizabeth Richardson of Thames Valley Police has written to Haddenham Safe Walking & Cycling Group to say that officers from Hampshire Constabulary and Thames Valley Police Roads Policing Unit attended a recent briefing hosted by West Midlands Police on introducing the "Close Pass" scheme to Thames Valley.

This is a scheme where a plain clothed police officer on a bike radios ahead to colleagues, if a driver overtakes him/her too close. The driver is pulled over and educated on things like safe passing distances, and in some cases will face prosecution.

The operation was dubbed the "best cyclist road safety initiative ever" by Cycling UK

Cynthia Floud
Chair, Haddenham Safe Walking & Cycling Group

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