Calls grow for police crackdown on motorists endangering cyclists' lives in South Yorkshire

Motorists caught overtaking bikes too closely face prosecution under the 'Close Pass' initiative
Motorists caught overtaking bikes too closely face prosecution under the 'Close Pass' initiative
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Calls for police to crack down on motorists endangering cyclists' lives in South Yorkshire are growing.

More than 50 organisations, representing thousands of people, have backed demands for South Yorkshire Police to implement a 'Close Pass' initiative.

Dexter Johnstone, secretary of CycleSheffield

Dexter Johnstone, secretary of CycleSheffield

The policy, targeting drivers who fail to leave a safe 1.5 metre clearance when overtaking bikes, was first introduced by West Midlands Police in September 2016.

Motorists caught passing closer than that are given safety advice, with repeat offenders and those putting fellow road users at unacceptable risk face prosecution for driving without due care and attention.

The scheme has since been adopted by other police forces across the country, with West Yorkshire Police last week becoming the latest to get on board.

CycleSheffield has urged South Yorkshire Police to follow suit but, despite officers from the force attending a 'Close Pass' workshop run by their counterparts in the West Midlands, it has yet to commit to doing so.

The cycling campaign group says more than 50 organisations, including other cycling bodies and road safety campaigners, have now joined it in calling on Alan Billings, South Yorkshire's police and crime commissioner, to ensure the initiative is rolled out in the region.

Dexter Johnstone, secretary of CycleSheffield, said "South Yorkshire has a worse per capita KSI (killed or seriously injured) rate for cyclists than the West Midlands and the adoption of such a scheme would help improve both the safety and perception of safety of cycling in our region.

"We appreciate that police resources are under intense pressure due to central government’s ongoing austerity programme. However, WMP have stated that their close pass initiative is ‘cost neutral’. Cycling UK are crowdfunding the mats used to educate drivers over safe passing distances which they are making available to every police force."

"We believe that people who drive poorly/dangerously around cyclists are likely to do the same around other road users and therefore this initiative will benefit all road users, not just cyclists."

Organisations which have backed the call for a close pass initiative in South Yorkshire include British Cycling and Brake - the road safety charity. Greg Fell, Sheffield's director of public health, has also thrown his weight behind the scheme.

A spokesperson for South Yorkshire Police said: "We are absolutely committed to safety for all road users and to reducing the number of people killed and injured on our roads.

"We are continuing to look at the Close Pass initiative and to evaluate its effectiveness, among the range of other tactics that we use to improve road safety in South Yorkshire.”

South Yorkshire Police has previously said its resources would be better spent making road layouts safer for cycling, with enforcement only used as a 'last resort'.

One cyclist was killed in a collision in South Yorkshire last year, according to police figures, and 52 were seriously injured - exactly half the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured each year in the West Midlands.

However, West Midlands Police serves a population of around 2.8 million, which is more than twice that covered by South Yorkshire Police.