Operation Close Pass

operation close pass

The flamethrower-equipped bicycle above is our own tongue-in-cheek answer to the threat posed by drivers who overtake too close, but what practicable things can be done to protect cyclists?

The Safer Roads Partnership and operational policing teams from both Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police have pioneered Operation Close Pass – a scheme to reduce the number of cyclists killed or injured on their region’s roads. Close passes are intimidating and nationally account for around a third of all threatening incidents between drivers and cyclists.

The initiative, which is now being adopted by other forces, uses plain clothes officers on bikes equipped with front and rear facing cameras. Any vehicle seen to not pass with the recommended distance (1.5 metres) is pulled over and given a talking to.

The results are encouraging with the number of cyclists killed or seriously hurt on the region’s roads reduced by 20 per cent since West Midlands Police launched the operation.

Almost 200 offenders have been pulled over during close-pass operations. In 13 cases the standard of driving was so poor that drivers were prosecuted and around 350 others  were fined and received licence points after officers reviewed helmet footage provided by cyclists.

The number of cyclists involved in serious road smashes in the last year has dropped by 20 per cent compared to the previous 12 months.

PC Mark Hodson, from West Midlands Police’s Force Traffic Unit, said of Operation Close Pass: “I am in no doubt the operation has played a big part in that reduction: we regularly speak to cycling groups and their members are telling us that the message is getting through to drivers. They are, on the whole, being more considerate and understand we will prosecute them if they endanger cyclists. To see a fall of 20 per cent in the number of serious collisions involving cyclists is incredible especially against a backdrop of increasing numbers of people cycling on our roads. We’ve seen reports of close-passes halve in the West Midlands since we started the project and it’s great that so many other regions are looking to adopt the approach.

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  1. John Holiday


    Excellent idea!
    Have often thought of developing something similar to give a jolt to idiot drivers who get too close.
    Unfortunately the Constabulary wouldn’t approve!

  2. DougMilly


    An excellent idea and it would be good if other police forces implemented this too.
    My own long term suggestion would be to require all learner drivers to log about 2000 miles on a push bike before being issued with a provisional licence. They would then surely have a better understanding and regard for cyclists. Unfortunately, I cannot come up with a way of establishing this! Any ideas anyone?



      How about offering learner drivers discount vouchers towards driving lessons, if they can prove that they’ve passed the cycling proficiency test!

  3. Dave Sharpe


    I asked my local Police and Crime Commissioner about this. (Allegedly the job exists to make police forces more accountable to local communities.) The response was basically no, were can’t be bothered. So if you’re cycling in County Durham, take care.

  4. Mark Dunn


    I am interested in how the police forces establish if someone was not giving at least 1.5m width.

    Since they pull the driver over, I guess the officer has a colleague in a car who does that.
    Initially, I would guess that they would use their own guess and then confirm if needed using the recordings.

    It would be good if a smartphone app, or similar, could be offered to cyclists so they could record their journeys. The main changes to an ordinary video recording app that I think would help are:
    1) Tips on securing the device to the cyclist or their bike.
    2) An easy way for the cyclist to mark a time when they were worried by an incident so they could easily find it afterwards and avoid looking at a lot of boring video.
    3) Ideally, a way, afterwards, to measure the distance of the vehicle from the cyclist.
    4) Finally, guidance on submitting this as evidence to the police so they can take appropriate action.

  5. James Ansell


    It would help if cyclists were to respect other road users and pedestrians, and not wear ear pods so that they could stop wobbling when they could hear other road users coming.
    This needs to be a 2 way thing,,,just drive thro London to see how badly by lists behave.

    • The ETA


      There has been scientific research that concluded the use of ear phones does not compromise the safety of cyclists. We do not endorse illegal or anti-social behaviour by cyclists, but it’s importation to keep it context – it is drivers who are responsible for the vast majority of deaths, injuries and road danger.

  6. whobiggs


    I’ve often thought a similar device using a paintball gun would be good to mark the bad drivers. It would be nice to have something to measure close passes other than a camera.

  7. Pete


    DougMilly, several other Police forces have also adopted this practice. Cycling UK has been heavily involved in rolling this out and has reported widely on it over the past year or more.

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