Launch of Safe Pass initiative in West Yorkshire (3 May 2017)

West Yorkshire Police are amongst the first in the country to roll out the 'Safe Pass' initiative as they launch the scheme in Leeds.  

From today (Wednesday May 3) plain clothed officers from across Yorkshire's largest force will be on proactive pedal patrol on the city's busiest roads identifying motorists 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 using a specially designed floor mat. 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. A student participating in a DVSA practical driving test would fail the assessment if they performed an overtake manoeuvre without giving sufficient space (approximately 1.5 metres) and the DVSA test can be regarded as the required standard of a careful and competent driver when considering prosecution.  

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Milsom 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 Tour De Yorkshire 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." 

Over 6000 cyclist casualties were recorded by the Force between 2011 and 2015. 1210 of those were classed as serious, and 20 of those were fatal. In 2016 7 cyclists were killed across West Yorkshire which is the highest number since 1990. 

Police Sergeant Gary Roper of the West Yorkshire Police Roads Policing Support Unit said; "This initiative has been successfully used by our colleagues in West Midlands Police and has 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." 

Drivers who are identified as failing to look during the initiative will be subject to an eyesight test and the option of a roadside educational input to raise awareness of the issues presented to cyclists (such as the primary and secondary riding positions). If the driver passes the eyesight test and agrees to participate in the educational input then no further action will be taken in relation to prosecution. If a driver is identified committing a more serious offence, such as driving whilst using a mobile phone or dangerous driving then they may be subject to prosecution.  

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." 

Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner said: "Keeping our roads safe for everyone is a key priority for me and our partners so I am very pleased to see this scheme coming to West Yorkshire. 

"We are all aware of the potentially life changing consequences of dangerous and careless driving yet some road users find it all too easy to forget once they get behind the wheel.  

"Following the initial launch of this close passing initiative by West Midlands Police last year I spoke to West Yorkshire Police to see if it was something we could pilot in our county. I was also contacted by numerous members of the public with support for the scheme so I will be keeping a close eye on the results with a view to seeing if this is something that could benefit other areas in West Yorkshire." 

Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council's executive member for regeneration, transport and planning, said; "As a council we want to make Leeds somewhere that offers a high quality and safe environment for cyclists in which to ride across the city. 

"While there is certainly a lot that we and partners can do to make this ambition a reality by continuing to invest significantly in cycling facilities and infrastructure, we cannot do it alone. Everyone needs to play their part, and there is no doubt we also need the support of motorists that share the road with cyclists on a day-to-day basis.

"Through initiatives such as this one we want to remind motorists how vital it is that they abide by the laws of the road at all times in regard to cyclists and other vulnerable road users, and the potential serious and fatal consequences of not doing so. There are far too many cycling casualties due to dangerous or careless driving and we need this to change to ensure that more people of all ages can have the confidence and trust to use their bikes on the road." 

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK's Senior Road Safety Campaigns officer said: "When drivers' overtake cyclists without giving enough space it doesn't just put them in danger, it puts many off cycling, Through their innovative 'Be Safe, Give Space' initiative, West Midlands Police have seen noticeable improvements in driver behaviour after targeting inconsiderate driving around cyclists, with the stick and carrot of enforcement and education. 

"Cycling UK is delighted that West Yorkshire Police are implementing a similar scheme which should remind drivers of what the Highway Code says about overtaking cyclists. This type of visible roads policing reminds people to think about their driving, and we hope that other forces will follow West Yorkshire's lead and adopt similar schemes."  

Julian Jackson, Chair of the West Yorkshire Safer Roads Executive said; "We welcome this initiative which will educate drivers and protect this vulnerable road user group which is a priority for us. We hope the Safe Pass initiative will raise awareness about sharing the road safely. The outcome will mean greater safety for everyone who cycles, or would like to use a cycle for everyday trips." 

Most frequently, incidents where cyclists are injured in a collison with a vehicle are on urban roads with junctions. Most often during the working week, Monday - Friday during the regular commute to work, with the afternoon/ evening commute seeing the numbers being twice as high. Cars are involved in 87% of the collisions with cyclists and 75% of those recorded the car driver being at fault.

Click here to read the 'Safe Pass' leaflet (PDF 3.49MB)

© Copyright West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner 2017