You would think that as vulnerable road users, those less vulnerable would go out of their way to make sure we are safe.
However, it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes mistakes are made; sometimes people fail to understand the practicalities of a bicycle…and some people are just idiots.
It probably isn’t personal
Whilst it may feel like it at the time, most drivers are not actively trying to kill you. Only a psychopath would go out of their way to do that.
No, it is more likely to be a case of distracted driving; of carelessness; or of a twisted desire to scare you into giving up. As we alluded to in our previous post talking about who we are campaigning for, we’re often lumped in together as one homogenous group. We used the Borg as an example that time. We had a chuckle at that…We probably shouldn’t be laughing at our own jokes…
Now here’s the thing. It’s also easy to lump motorists in together too, but by doing that you are essentially lumping much of society into that group and much like the people you meet day-to-day, there is a fair share of absent-minded people; people always on their phones; people who push in at queues and people who read the Daily Express. However, the vast majority are probably fairly regular, down to earth people.
The same is true on the roads. Most of the time everything is fine, but it only takes one idiot to ruin your day, or bring your life to an abrupt end.
It feels personal
Currently the Highway Code (rule 163) suggests giving ‘as much room as you would a motor vehicle’ but what that means in practice is left to interpretation. There has been attempts in the past to clarify this and establish a minimum passing distance, but that didn’t get very far. Even if it did, enforcing that rule is another problem entirely, but we’ll get onto that part shortly.
It was actually a run of close passes on one single trip that prompted this post. On the way to work the other day, after tailgating the length of a residential street, a taxi driver decided to pass with inches to spare and cut in front far too early, missing my front wheel within a foot. Frustratingly, he made it a few yards down the road before joining a queue of traffic, making the exercise fundamentally pointless.
A little further down the road at a roundabout, all was clear as I entered the roundabout to take the last exit, but as I passed the first exit a motorist in a Peugeot pulled straight out without looking and nearly took me out from the left.
Whilst there were no collisions and no broken bones this time, these things don’t half scare the living effluence out of you and we really shouldn’t have to put up with it. In some areas, the local police force agrees. There are currently 16 police forces adopting the close pass initiative pioneered by West Midlands Police, including North Wales Police.
Last year, North Wales Police launched their own close pass operation, called Operation Snap, following observations of what they described as “some awful very close passes and people pulling in and out of junctions, putting cyclists in danger”.
Not only is it a very cheap intervention, we consider it vital if the Council is to achieve any sustained shift in the modal share of trips made by bicycle. Even if they completed their proposed network tomorrow, there would still be places we could not get to safely, so we need a little extra help.
He says the operation is cheap – costing £70 for a mat to demonstrate safe overtaking plus a police or community support officer to be the cyclist – and efficient: based on the West Midlands’ experience, 20 drivers can be prosecuted within two hours.
However, we’re disappointed that so far it has been stoney silence from South Wales Police. Once again we must call upon people-power to spur them into life.
Unlike with the Council, the Police have a dedicated commissioner, currently Alun Michael. What we would like you to do is contact the police and crime commissioner, either by post, by email or the contact page on their website. The address is as follows:
South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner
Ask that they start clamping down on close passes here in South Wales, just like their colleagues in North Wales. You never know, we may get a reaction.