According to a recent report, almost 90% of road-using cyclists experience an overtake from a vehicle that’s within 1.5 metres – known as a “close pass” – on a weekly basis. The same report also reveals that 70% of cyclists believe the roads in the United Kingdom haven’t improved in the last half-decade, with 66% saying they fear for their safety while out on the road.
The report, compiled as a result of a survey of 15,000 people by British Cycling, also highlighted the fact that up to 40% of bicycle users say they experience a close pass every single day.
The government have attempted to dissuade drivers from passing too close to cyclists by ramping up on punishment for those caught doing so. According to Bristol Live :
“The Highway Code's insistence cars should leave a decent distance between them an cyclists when passing (1.5m) is now being strengthened by fines.
“Following law changes in March , motorists could be fined for not leaving enough space between a vehicle and a bike. Failure to do so could land you with a £100 fine and three points on your licence. Police forces across the country are being encouraged to penalise those who drive dangerously close to cyclists.”
However, the majority of cyclists still feel ill at ease when a car is passing on the road, simply because too many drivers are unaware of how much space they should give to bicycle users.
Greater Manchester’s walking and cycling commissioner Chris Boardman, who is also a British Cycling policy advisor, was critical of the government, calling its lack of action “shameful”.
“I sincerely hope that this will act as a wake-up call for us, to let evidence lead our decision-making and make bold decisions on funding and investment, rather than simply taking the easy option and telling people to look after themselves,” he said.
The British Cycling report found that over 75% of bicycle users don’t believe cycling is taken seriously by local authorities. The report also found that cyclists are most often worried about unsafe road surfaces, vehicle speeds and close passing, while women, children and older people are more affected by “hostile road conditions” than other users.
However, in an effort to more actively combat close passing from drivers, police are now getting out on two wheels themselves in an attempt to catch motorists in the act.
Plain-clothes police officers are set to use mounted cameras to nab drivers who close-pass on the road – once caught, offending drivers will be pulled over and hit with a warning.
A survey performed by Cycling Scotland found that 73% of people asked were unaware that close passing can result in three penalty points being added to their licence.
In a poll of over 1,000 people, the majority were discovered to be unaware of the consequences of passing too close to a cyclist. Police Scotland added that driving too close to a cyclist can be dubbed careless driving, which can be punished with a minimum of three penalty points and a £100 fine.
Keith Irving, Cycling Scotland CEO, said: "People who cycle regularly are likely to experience a 'very scary' close pass incident every couple of days and cycling casualties are increasing, in line with cycling's growing popularity.
"Every week in Scotland, at least three people cycling suffer serious, potentially life-changing injuries, usually from a collision with a vehicle.
"Our new TV ad campaign shows how it can feel to be close passed and increases awareness of the legal consequences for people driving too closely to someone cycling."
Police Scotland have thrown their backing behind the campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of close passing by launching Operation Close Pass, in which drivers who overtake too close to a cyclist can be caught on camera and given a warning by the roadside. Those who don’t heed the advice given by police can be charged with careless driving, and receive the corresponding punishment.
Inspector Andrew Thomson said: "Keeping all road users safe is a key priority for us and this campaign highlights that cyclists are vulnerable when being passed by vehicles too closely.
"Officers from Police Scotland will be working hard to raise awareness of this offence and encourage all road users to use the roads with respect for others."