West Yorkshire Police project to protect cyclists is launched in Wakefield

A POLICE project to protect cyclists being rolled out across West Yorkshire has hit the road first in Wakefield and has seen one driver hit with a fine.

The Close Pass initiative, which was piloted last May, uses plain clothes officers on proactive patrol identifying drivers who pass too close for comfort, fail to give way at junctions or are distracted from having a proper view whilst driving.

Offenders who pass too close to the cyclist will be offered an on-the-spot educational input on safe overtaking.

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Anyone who declines to take part in the tutorial, or who is deemed to have committed a particularly hazardous overtaking manoeuvre could be prosecuted for driving without due care and attention.

Rules of the road stipulate motorists should give cyclists and other vulnerable road users such those on horseback at least the same space as vehicles when overtaking.

In its first day operating in Wakefield district yesterday, ( May 4) Close Pass officers stopped four cars and gave a penalty notice to one driver who refused an educational input.

Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner said: “Road safety in the main boils down to respecting other road users, in this case, giving cyclists a safe amount of room when passing. It’s a simple message, and it only takes simple actions to avoid causing harm and avoid unnecessary collisions."

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Inspector Martin Moizer of the Wakefield North East and Rural NPT, said: “We are very pleased to be launching Close Pass in 2018 in Wakefield and are carrying out Close Pass plain clothes patrols in all parts of the Wakefield district.

“Officers are aware of concerns from residents in the city centre regarding cyclists using pavements rather than the roads, and this is an issue we are also planning to address with some targeted educational work.

“Pedestrian safety is also a concern and we do encourage cyclists to use cycle lanes or to dismount and walk on the footpath in areas where no cycle lanes are available.

Cycling is a great and cheap form of exercise and transport and we want to help people cycle safely on Wakefield’s roads.”

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Assistant Chief Constable Tim Kingsman said: “On average, we record around three incidents every day where a cyclist and vehicle have been in a collision on the county's roads. Frighteningly, seven people lost their lives on our roads in 2016, which is a number we urgently want to address and reduce.

“This initiative isn't about picking on or penalising motorists, it is about making sure our roads are safer for everyone. Following the success of the fourth Tour de Yorkshire over the bank holiday weekend we support our partners in wanting to get more people to feel confident in cycling in the county by making sure the roads are safer for cyclists and all vulnerable road users.”

More than 6,000 cyclist casualties were recorded by the force between 2011 and 2015. A total of 1,210 of those were classed as serious, and 20 were fatal.

In 2016 a total of seven cyclists were killed across West Yorkshire, which is the highest number since 1990.

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Sergeant Gary Roper of the West Yorkshire Police Roads Policing Support Unit, said; “Last year’s pilot in Leeds was a success and it is hoped that the delivery of the scheme across West Yorkshire will increase increased driver awareness and alertness in identifying cyclists and other vulnerable road users, giving them safe sufficient space when overtaking and taking more care to look for them at junctions.

“Analysis of road traffic collisions involving cyclists in West Yorkshire identifies that failing to look at junctions is the most common cause for drivers at fault and this failure to look can have devastating consequences. The main aim of this initiative is to increase driver observations to include cyclists and all vulnerable road users thereby reducing the risk of collisions as a result of a failure to look.”

Sergeant Roper added; “This is not about targeting motorists but trying to improve driver observations, understanding and behaviour in relation to vulnerable road users who share the road and thereby make the roads safer for all. It is anticipated that the majority of motorists stopped as a result of this initiative will receive the educational input and receive no further sanction.”