Drivers endangering cyclists' lives in South Yorkshire 'should face prosecution'

A West Midlands Police officer illustrates the safe clearance for drivers overtaking cyclistsA West Midlands Police officer illustrates the safe clearance for drivers overtaking cyclists
A West Midlands Police officer illustrates the safe clearance for drivers overtaking cyclists
Police in South Yorkshire have rejected calls for a clampdown on motorists driving perilously close to cyclists, claiming there are too few deaths to justify the cost.

Cycle Sheffield had asked South Yorkshire Police (SYP) to follow the example of their counterparts in the midlands and introduce what is known as a 'close pass' initiative.

The campaign group praised the scheme introduced by West Midlands Police, in which drivers failing to allow a safe 1.5 metre clearance when overtaking bikes face prosecution for driving without due care and attention.

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But when the group suggested SYP follow suit, in a question submitted to Sheffield Council's Police and Crime Panel via Councillor Joe Otten, it was disappointed with the response.

The force replied that it was aware of the initiative, and recognised it was a 'good approach', but said the number of cyclists killed on the county's roads did not justify diverting limited funds from its key priorities.

It said attention would be better focused on making the road layout safer for cycling, with enforcement used as a 'last resort'.

"Clearly one death per year is one too many, however, deaths involving cyclists in South Yorkshire are no where near the levels that they are in the West Midlands or other parts of the country," the force stated in its response.

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"Whilst it is clear that the scheme has been well received in the West Midlands and is a good approach to tackling a key priority, this needs to be balanced against priorities that are force specific."

SYP said its priority when it came to road safety was reducing the number of pedestrians, drivers and passengers killed or seriously injured, which it said had risen for the last two years running.

Dexter Johnstone, of the campaign group Cycle Sheffield, accused the force of making some 'fairly dubious claims'.

He said although fewer cyclists are killed or seriously injured in South Yorkshire than in the West Midlands, the casualty rate is actually considerably higher in the former given its smaller population.

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"West Midlands Police was widely welcomed by cyclists for introducing the close pass initiative, because too many drivers are passing unacceptably close to people on bikes," he said.

"We would like to see something similar here and we're not convinced by South Yorkshire Police's argument for not doing so, which includes some fairly dubious claims."

One cyclist was killed in a collision in South Yorkshire last year, according to police figures, and 52 were seriously injured.

In the West Midlands, police said there were 530 crashes involving cyclists between 2010 and 2014 in which someone was killed or seriously injured - 106 a year.

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West Midlands Police covers a population of around 2.8 million, more than twice the 1.3m people served by South Yorkshire Police.

WMP's close pass initiative sees officers saddling up on the region's busiest routes to look out for drivers putting cyclists' safety at risk.

Culprits are given advice about safe driving but repeat offenders or those deemed to have put fellow road users in unacceptable danger risk ending up in court.