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Plainclothes police cyclists target drivers.

Byline: RHODRI CLARK newsdesk@walesonline.co.uk

PLAINCLOTHES police around Wales are taking to the saddle to catch drivers who don't give cyclists enough space when overtaking, after a low-key pilot in Cardiff netted six offenders.

Officers on bicycles carry cameras to film passing vehicles and use their radios to report poor driving to uniformed colleagues nearby. Each offending driver is stopped and given the choice of prosecution or on-the-spot education.

Mounted police officers in plainclothes may also take part in Operation Close Pass - to tackle the problem of drivers disregarding horse riders' safety.

All four Welsh police forces will take part in the operation, after the pilot in the Cardiff suburb of Whitchurch last week was judged a success. Although the pilot took place in the off-peak period and deployed only one police cyclist, six drivers were stopped in three hours.

One of the vehicles which overtook at an unsafe distance was a Heavy Goods Vehicle. One vehicle was confiscated when checks uncovered other offences relating to the driver and vehicle.

Police or fire officers explained to each offending driver the dangers of overtaking cyclists without allowing at least 1.5 metres (almost five feet) - the gap shown on the educational mats which have been produced for all four forces. Several of the drivers commented afterwards that the education was useful.

The activity also caught a driver who was using a mobile phone while driving.

As Operation Close Pass is rolled out across Wales under the auspices of the GoSafe partnership, police will deploy two plainclothes cyclists at a time. Enforcement activity will include the school run and commuter peaks, when the roads can be crowded and some drivers may be impatient.

GoSafe partnership manager Teresa Ciano said: "We understand that the majority of motorists give all due care and consideration to cyclists and horse riders and it is a small minority who do not.

"The operation will be able to offer education for those who are not aware of the vulnerability of these road user groups."

Police decided to launch the operation after a separate initiative called Operation SNAP was inundated with video clips from cyclists and horse riders who complained of dangerous overtaking.

Operation SNAP, launched last year, provides an online portal to help road users submit camera evidence of poor driving and reduce the police resources needed to process each complaint.

In many cases the camera footage of close passes is too inconclusive for action to be taken against the driver. Forward-facing bicycle cameras do not record the proximity of an overtaking vehicle while it is alongside the cyclist.

Operation Close Pass was pioneered by West Midlands Police in 2015. It is credited with reducing cyclist deaths and injuries in the region by about 20%.

Miss Ciano said: "When GoSafe launched Operation SNAP, we noticed a pattern of submissions from cyclists and horse riders where vehicles were passing too close to them. "Aware of the success that West Midlands had with their Close Pass campaign, and with the knowledge that 115 cyclists were killed or seriously injured on the roads of Wales in 2016, we decided to do something."

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 8, 2018
Words:546
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