Officers from West Midlands Police who devised the award-winning Operation Close Pass that has now been adopted by police forces across the UK have outlined their plans for developing the concept further.
Since its launch in September 2015, the initiative has been credited with bringing about a 20 per cent reduction in the number of cyclists killed or injured on the roads patrolled by the force.
The operation sees plain-clothes officers on bikes equipped with cameras radio ahead to alert uniformed colleagues of close passes or other instances of poor driving.
Motorists are stopped and shown how to pass cyclists safely and, in some cases, prosecuted.
The two officers who devised the initiative, PC Mark Hodson and PC Steve Hudson, have been recognised for their efforts to improve road safety through awards by the Road Danger Reduction Forum and Cycling UK.
Now, plans to build on the success of the operation have been outlined in a post on the WMP Traffic blog (link is external), which said: “We could just keep on with #OpClosePass in its current format and we still will run our current operations which see numerous offending drivers stopped and immediately educated by our partners in #OpClosePass, the officers from West Midland Fire Service.
“But we are increasingly aware that #OpClosePass offers so much more that we could take advantage of … and so we will.”
That includes widening the range of offences targeted in the operation, as well as approaching the employers of any driver stopped during the course of their work to reinforce the organisations responsibility for the actions of their staff.
“When opportunities allow we will run #OpClosePassPlus which will see the unmarked police cyclist detecting not only close pass offences but also the multitude of other offences that the view from a pedal cycle in slow moving traffic offers,” the blog post said.
“So, as well as ending a two-hour operation with our usual dozen or more educated drivers following the Close Pass Due Care offences, we will have several seatbelt, mobile phone, vehicle defect offences as well.
“Additional traffic resources will intercept vehicles that are also suspected of being used in crime … there’s no better way to recognise the pungent smell of a cannabis smoking vehicle occupant than from a pedal cycle.”
The blog post continued: “On the educational side of #OpClosePass things are evolving too.
“The excellent officers at West Midlands Woodgate Valley Fire have already started large scale #OpClosePass education at a corporate level having been very well received at National Express Coventry and now Birmingham, serving up vulnerable road user education to up to 70 drivers in a day.
“Using this model, we plan to use any corporate driver brought into an #OpClosePass site as an opening into the said employer and reinforce that they have a ‘corporate responsibility’ to ensure that all their drivers are properly equipped to ensure the safety of any vulnerable road users they share the road with during the course of their employment.”
Officers are considering extending the initiative into the twilight hours, saying: “We are also going to experiment with running #OpClosePass into the fading light using the innovative #Call4Safety downlighters set at 1.5 metres.
“This will make it quite obvious when an offending driver has passed too close to our cyclist as they encroach into the displayed halo of light that surrounds the cyclist.”
They have run into a slight issue on that, albeit a welcome one from a bike rider’s perspective.
“Trouble is on testing, the ‘halo’ of light around the cyclist seems to reinforce our desired modified driver behaviour as #OpClosePass intended, so we may end up with very few offences, which is interesting!”
Finally, a new Twitter account for the West Midlands Road Harm Reduction Team has been created and will enable followers to get even more of an insight into the way it operates.
“We want to create something different regards our social media output just as we do our policing output,” the blog post said.
“The @trafficwmp account is a fantastic account and the #WMPRHRT will still post on the account but our own account will contain posts the are more appropriate to the work of the team and hopefully enable yourselves to interact and understand what the team does and the reasons why on a day to day basis.
“As well as the usual tweets of pictures, offences and results we will Vlog a lot of content as the format firstly can pass so much more information and secondly better convey the nature and reasoning behind what we do, the transparency of such posts is excellent and most will be from live operations giving a more thorough insight into what we do and how we do it on a daily basis.
“Another form of post we will concentrate on is #TheTrafficOfficersGuide whereby a short video or tweet will fully explain pieces of legislation, road etiquette, offending etc. and hopefully educate and change the behaviour of those who may potentially offend or alternatively habitually offend.
“The account will go live the first week in April but feel free to follow @ (link is external)WMPRHRT in the meantime in preparation for the first posts,” the blog entry added.