Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Innovative 3-Foot Passing Enforcement

Enforcing Virginia's three-foot passing law can be difficult. When cyclists complain to police about problems like motorists passing them too closely, the usual response is that there's nothing they can do. Unless an officer sees the infraction, the only evidence is usually the cyclists' word versus the motorists'. Having video footage can help but often cameras on bikes are only mounted on either the rear or front, missing potentially useful viewpoints.

Despite what many police say, even without video of the event it is possible to report the incident. See FABB's How to Report an Aggressive/Reckless Driver info.

Police in West Midlands, a county in northwest England, are using an innovative way to enforce their safe passing law. Using front and rear-facing video cameras, police ride along roads where cyclists can expect close passes, recording infractions and working with other officers to stop the offenders. Fairfax police could use this method as well:
Operation Close Pass

In September 2016, the West Midlands Police force, the UK’s second largest, launched Operation Close Pass. Initiated by officers concerned with the safety of cyclists, its purpose was to address unsafe overtakes and passing distances by motorists. Using Cycliq's Fly6 and Fly12 all-in-one bike cameras and safety lights, officers recorded drivers from an on-bike viewpoint.

Operation Close Pass was praised by cyclists and media alike and attracted a lot of attention in the national press. Afterwards, The Road Danger Reduction Forum also gave an award to the West Midlands Police for 'Give Space, Be Safe'. More importantly, there was an immediate impact on local drivers as can be read on the West Midlands Police’s own 'Behind the badge' blog. Equipped with Fly6 and Fly12, one team of officers rode around traffic hot-spots and informed their close-by patrol car colleagues by radio of any infractions. Offending drivers were pulled over and offered the option of formal proceedings; namely a fine or, dependent on the severity of the offense, a road-side education on the vulnerability of cyclists and road rules.

West Midlands Police PC Chris Brock said, "The Cycliq cameras we have been using are invaluable in capturing the evidence necessary to make #Opclosepass such a success. The high definition images from the front and rear cameras enabled us to record a continuous stream of footage to evidence the offences disclosed. The associated Cycliq App allows us to show offenders their misdemeanors on the spot, making it very difficult for drivers to dispute them. Due to the footage captured during numerous Police operations in the West Midlands, Cycliq's on-board bike cameras have aided in the prosecution and education of over 200 drivers to date.”

Praised by many

"Within a week cyclists were contacting us to tell us things had had not only improved, but improved considerably. There were still close passes, always will be, 'can’t get them all', but they have become a rarity rather than commonplace." says PC Chris Brock.

This change in driver's behaviour around cyclists just shows that raising awareness for safe passing distances can have a significant impact.

Intended to educate, not prosecute

Overall, the response from offenders was very positive. This campaign did not have the intent to prosecute as many drivers as possible, but rather educate them. Awareness is necessary to be able to assess the situation around cyclists and then decide on safe overtakes. Only 1% of the offenders were actually given 'Traffic Process Reports', and quite often this was due to other violations (i.e. on the phone while driving, driving without insurance, and oh, the lady putting her dog back in its cage).

More UK police forces to replicate the operation

We understand that in addition to WMP, now the Greater Manchester, Somerset & Avon, Scottish and North Wales police stations all have Cycliq products to assist them with helping to make the roads safer for everyone. In addition, more police forces are looking to introducing the close pass scheme as can be read on Cycling Weekly. In fact, the Greater Manchester Police force has just launched their own Close Pass initiative.



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