Operation targets motorists who ignore Highway Code rules by passing cyclists too close

Op Close Pass Hillmorton Road Rugby 18 Sept 23

Whilst most drivers passed cyclists safely, some need to give cyclists more space when they overtake them is the conclusion of the latest Operation Close Pass that took place on Hillmorton Road in Rugby today, Monday 18 September.    

Operation Close Pass is designed to actively target motorists who ignore Highway Code rules on overtaking cyclists.    

During the operation vehicles passed a plain-clothes police officer on a bicycle (equipped with video camera) on Hillmorton Road who was looking out for motorists who do not leave the required space when passing cyclists.  Whilst the vast majority passed the cyclist safely, leaving at least 1.5 metres, officers intercepted 8 motorists who were spotted not leaving the appropriate space.  These motorists were pulled aside for a demonstration of safe passing distances on an illustrated ground-mat and shown a video of their driving.  Whilst officers much prefer to educate drivers, repeat offenders, those who drive dangerously close, and those who decline the ‘chat on the mat’, may be charged.  

Officers and PCSOs also had the opportunity to work alongside driving instructors to help educate 8 learner drivers about safely passing cyclists and spoke to approximately 60 cyclists including school children who were safely stopped and given high vis items to help improve their visibility on the roads. 

The operation, coincides with the national NPCC Vulnerable Road Users campaign that aims to improve road safety for cyclists, pedestrians, horse riders and motorcyclists.   

Warwickshire Police and Road Safety Partnership spokesperson Sergeant Shaun Bridle said  “This operation gave us a brief snapshot of driver behaviour on Warwickshire’s roads.  We are pleased the vast majority seem to understand the Highway Code in relation to cyclists.  It’s really important all road users are aware of The Highway Code, are considerate to other road users and understand their responsibility for the safety of others.  This is because many of the rules in the code are legal requirements, and if you disobey these rules you’re committing a criminal offence. Also you may find that if you do not follow the other rules in the code and are involved in a collision, this can be used in evidence in court proceedings to establish liability.“ 

As well as major changes such as the “hierarchy of road users” the new Highway Code includes updated guidance on safe passing distances and speeds when overtaking vulnerable road users.  

Sergeant Bridle continued “Cyclists are one of the vulnerable road user groups. They are not protected by a vehicle body in the same way car users are, and can be harder for drivers to see on the road. They are, therefore, particularly susceptible to injuries.  We are asking drivers to take extra time to look properly for cyclists particularly at junctions.” 

Warwickshire Road Safety Partnership is working closely with Co-Pilot to support the development of future resources around the highway code.   Co-Pilot is a subscription-based service which provides road safety organisations with access to a shared library of education and training. Dr Elizabeth Box, Behavioural Science Consultant at Co-Pilot said “Through conducting extensive focus group research we are listening to the experiences of cyclists and motorists in Warwickshire. These insights will help us to design a behaviour change campaign that will promote both an understanding of and adherence to the Highway Code changes.” 

Guidance for drivers and motorcyclists:-  

  • Leave at least 1.5 metres or 5 feet when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph and give them more space when overtaking at higher speeds.   
  • On roundabouts give priority to people cycling. You should not attempt to overtake people cycling within that person’s lane and allow people cycling to move across your path as they travel around the roundabout.  Remember people cycling may stay in the left-hand lane of a roundabout when they intend to continue across or around the roundabout.
  • Stay behind if you are following a cyclist approaching a roundabout or junction, and you intend to turn left.  
  • Drivers or motorcyclists wanting to turn either left or right should not cut across cyclists going straight ahead when you are turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane. The rule applies whether the cyclist is using a cycle lane, a cycle track or is on the road ahead  
  • Check for cyclists when opening your car door by using the dutch reach. For example, drivers should use their left hand to open a door on their right-hand side. This will make them turn their head to look over their shoulder behind them.  

If cyclists feel safe on the roads they will cycle more.  This is something Warwickshire Road Safety Partnership is actively encouraging because cycling has huge benefits for your physical health and well-being.   More cyclists on the roads also helps reduce congestion and air pollution, improving the environment for everyone.  

The partnership is also encouraging cyclists to use Operation Snap to report and submit digital footage showing potential moving traffic offences such as dangerous or careless driving including passing them too closely.  The evidence you submit will be reviewed by one of our road traffic police officers.  For more information www.warwickshire.police.uk/operation-snap/    

Whilst the Highway Code asks drivers to prioritise cyclists, we should all never forget we are responsible for our own safety on the roads and need to put that first.   Please also remember that regardless of the changes to the Highway Code, the Road Traffic Act has not altered and cyclists should always respect road markings indicating they should stop at junctions on cycle paths for example.   

During the campaign we will be sharing cycle safety information on Facebook @WarwickshireRoadSafety and Twitter @WarksRoadSafety  Please follow us and help to share these messages with your friends.  

Notes for editors  

The Highway Code: 8 changes you need to know from 29 January 2022 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)  

Updates – The Highway Code – Guidance – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)  


Reported road casualties in Great Britain: pedal cycle factsheet, 2021 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)