Met Police gives space for cyclists

Image by West Midlands Police

Many cyclists will have experienced it before – a driver overtaking too close for comfort. I’ve had one car pass so close they clipped my handle bars. It’s terrifying and deeply unsettling, and can linger in your thoughts long after the culprit has driven off.

Which is why it’s so welcoming to see the Metropolitan Police launching their ‘space for cyclists’ initiative in London.

A similar scheme was first piloted by the West Midlands Police last year, where a plain clothed officer cycles along the road, and if they are overtaken by someone who doesn't leave enough space, the office informs colleagues ahead. They then pull over the driver and give them a lesson in safe overtaking. More serious offenders and professional drivers could face points on their licence, a fine, a driving behaviour course, or potentially prosecution.

The Met have today launched a similar initiative, this time including tailgating (driving too close behind a cyclist) and unsafe turning (drivers turning across cyclists). They were on Peckham Rye today, and within the first hour had pulled over 6 drivers, including 2 licenced private hire vehicles, one commercial van and three cars. The drivers had passed the plain clothed officer with less than 30cm clearance and in one case, as little as 5 cm.

Shockingly, the first car pulled over had no insurance, MOT or tax and was taken off the road by the police.  In addition, a bus driver passed with less than 30 cm between them and the cyclist. Of the initiative, Sergeant Andy Osborne said, "It's a good result to have taken an unsafe driver off the road as well engage with a number of drivers".

There are a number of reasons given for drivers failing to give space for cyclists. Some drivers aren’t paying proper attention (“sorry mate, didn’t see you”), some think they have given enough space. Some will ‘punishment pass’ people on bikes – purposely driving to close to intimidate cyclists. But it all equates to dangerous driving.

The Highway Code states that when overtaking cyclists, you must give at least give as much space as you would a car. These operations remind all drivers that they need to follow the Highway Code and stay wider of the rider.

West Midlands Police were widely praised when they first launched their Close Pass Operation, and it’s been replicated by police forces across the country. With concerns about road danger as one of the main reasons people give for not cycling in London, tackling this kind of behaviour is essential if we want to enable more people to cycle.

We are working with the Met Police on this initiative and look forward to more similar operations to spread the word that drivers need to stay wider of the rider.