So Operation Close Pass is a great idea. West Midlands Police talked to cyclists about what scares them most on the roads. And, unsurprisingly, its close passes. You know the kind of thing, you just want to get where you're going with as little fuss as possible, and you hear a car behind you. You've got two choices - keep the lane, indicating that the driver should wait until its safe to pass (this is what's recommended in cycle training courses), or you can shuffle over to the kerb. Now it oughtn't matter, because either way the driver behind SHOULD obey the highway code and give us plenty of space. The reason why we're trained to say in lane is because the world doesn't work that way, and by 'claiming the lane' we reduce the frequency of close passes. If they've got to pull out to pass, the theory goes, then they'll actually pull out to pass.
Lets be clear, close passes are never accidental. Some drivers don't care that they risk harming us, some want to. None are judging distances, at speed, to within inches, accidentally. So for a police service to specifically target this makes sense. And it has been spectacularly successful - by addressing one of the key dangers a class of vulnerable road users faces, West Midlands Police have seen a huge reduction cyclist casualties. They're down by about a fifth. It has been so successful that police services across the UK have been paying attention, and rolling out similar schemes.
So, the question has been, what would Cambridgeshire Constabulary do? Here, in Cambridge, we're Britain's cycling capital, and we've lots of accident black-spots that we could do with addressing. Milton Road. Histon Road. Cherry Hinton Road. Hills Road. And what have our Police said?
Go fuck yourselves.
Actually... No. The said 'go and get fucked, we don't care'.
And I could cope with that if they were at least honest, but they're not. Their statement is full of frankly bizarre interpretations of the highway code and outright lies.
Here (with my responses interspersed in old-school Usenet style) is their statement:
And so you should. Its been a long time coming."We have been liaising with officers in the West Midlands about Operation Close Pass and have explored the possibility of implementing something similar locally.
"The average road is approximately 3.5 metres from the kerb to the white lines. Cyclists are advised to cycle 0.75 metres away from the kerb to avoid drain covers and an average car is about two metres wide. Operation Close Pass recommends drivers leave about 1.5 metres when passing a cyclist. If we add all those figures together it would mean drivers are moving into the opposite lane to overtake.
Yes, that's right. That's what is shown in the highway code. Here you go, rule 163. When you overtake a cyclist you should be going over to the other side of the road, if its a normal road. A road where you can overtake a cyclist without doing so has to be exceptionally wide. Seriously, where did this copper get his driving license? Was it out of a Christmas cracker? He's actually saying that driving according to the Highway Code is a problem that the Police can't possibly be asked to address.
"For Cambridge city where roads are narrower and often very congested we would be potentially forcing motorists to drive at the speed of cyclists when there isn’t the recommended space to overtake.
Let me stop you right there. Yes, Cambridge does have a core with some narrow streets. Its beautiful, the Luftwaffe left our city mostly to its own devices, and then the developers who destroyed so many other cities in the '50s and '60s failed to over-power the old University colleges, leaving a network of narrow, medieval streets. But that part of Cambridge is tiny, mostly consisting of one-way streets, and some of it is restricted access to cars anyway. The vast majority of Cambridge is the same as the vast majority of every other city. Normal roads, of normal width. And I believe the Police Officer here knows that, and knows that he wouldn't be asked to do an Operation Close Pass in that part of Cambridge. To knowingly argue something untrue? I believe that's called lying. And overtaking on those narrow streets? Well there isn't room to do that at all, let alone safely.
Driving at the speed of the vehicle in front when you haven't got space to overtake safely? And? What of it? That's the law, and it's your job to enforce that law. It isn't your job to argue that it is reasonable to take risks with the safety of vulnerable road users because you want to prioritise your journey over their welfare. If there isn't room to overtake safely, there isn't room to overtake. A dangerous overtake doesn't become safe (and legal) because it would be inconvenient waiting a while to pass.
"Cyclists are vulnerable road users and it’s important that we are doing all we can to make the roads safer for everyone but at this time we don’t believe Operation Close Pass in its current format is practical in Cambridge."
Cop out. They know full well that on Histon Road, Arbury Road, Chesterton Road or any other suburban road in Cambridge they could run this operation, but they choose not to because, bluntly, they hate cyclists. Seriously. Cambridgeshire Constabulary have not only systematically dodged all responsibility in policing dangerous and obstructive drivers who knowingly risk harming cyclists, they're also among our key culprits.
This cynical, crass Police statement is indicative of the gross dereliction of duty towards cyclist safety that is endemic of Cambrideshire Constabulary, which is in effect a well armed, empowered branch of the car lobby. They have here declared themselves our enemies by openly stating its ok to endanger a cyclist if you'd otherwise be inconvenienced.
This is a declaration of war by Cambridgeshire Constabulary. Its frightening to think what might come next.