New close-pass cycling rules a golden opportunity for Garda

Initiative has made roads safer and generated goodwill for several UK police forces

The enforcement of close-pass legislation, as it has become known, has proven highly successful for several police forces in the United Kingdom.

Innovative new ways of detecting errant driving made the roads safer for cyclists, raised awareness among drivers of vulnerable road users and generated significant goodwill for the police forces involved.

Such has been the welcome from huge sections of the public and the media that some British forces have assigned officers to blog about operations and publicise the close-pass enforcement operations via social media.

Beset with controversy of late due to the Garda whistleblower debacle, progressive enforcement of the mooted legislation could prove an unlikely golden opportunity for the Garda.

Last year the West Midlands police won praise across Britain for taking the initiative and conducting undercover operations to catch drivers flouting laws requiring them to allow cyclists 1.5m when passing.

Some of the police officers dressed in full lycra cycling kit and wore radio ear pieces so they could communicate with their colleagues in police cars and waiting by the roadside nearby.

When the police officers detected a driver coming too close, a description of the vehicle and the direction it was travelling in was relayed to other officers in the area. The police then talked the motorists through what they had done wrong.

Saving lives

They also advised them on giving time and space to cyclists, and once the demonstration was completed the drivers were free to go, escaping fines or penalty points for a first infringement.

The West Midlands Police say their operations save lives and prevent serious injury.

"Some drivers get tunnel vision; they're only focus is on getting from A to B as quickly as possible," said PC Mark Hodson, a cyclist and traffic officer who has spoken to the media at length in Britain about creating a more cycle-friendly culture on the roads.

“They don’t pay any attention to vulnerable road users, and we’ve attended some horrific scenes where cyclists have been wiped out by drivers who’ve not even seen them.

“Drivers need to consider that a cyclist they are overtaking could be a police officer – and if they don’t pass them safely they could be prosecuted.”

Other police forces across Britain have followed the West Midlands example, with many cycling advocacy groups heralding the development as a major step forward for cyclists and challenging the assumption that cars have more rights on the roads.