Motor Cycle Crime……………..Don’t become a victim!

 

Ennis and Wheaver are back again, as guest bloggers, this time around talking about motorcycle crime….read on if you own or are thinking of owning a motorcycle to learn how to protect yourself from becoming a victim……

Just to introduce ourselves, we are commonly known as TB 97 and TB 98, 2 motorcyclists currently with the Road Harm Reduction Team, as part of the CMPG family based at Perry Barr. We are both trained to a national standard, in the identification of stolen vehicles.

 

Our main focus within the team is the prevention and detection of stolen and cloned vehicles, with the aim to prevent dangerous and sometimes fatal incidents of driving, by depriving the criminals the vehicles in the first place.

 

Motorcycling in the UK has had a large enthusiastic following in the UK for many years, in recent years there has been a rise in criminal activity around motorcycles which has had a negative effect for law abiding motorcycle riders, society in general and the motorcycle industry.

 

Very loosely, and not exclusively the criminal activity can be broken down into the following areas.

  • Theft of machines
  • Subsequent sale of stolen machines ( cloning)
  • Breaking and subsequent sale of parts  within UK and abroad
  • Finance and insurance fraud
  • Antisocial use and criminal activity using motorcycles

There are strong links between all of the above, criminals will often branch out into other areas in order to maximise profits.

 

Thanks to the technology available to us all, the world has become an accessible market place to willing customers with cash to spend, a distinct lack of due diligence when purchasing items off the internet  will often be in the favour of criminal gangs.

 

Social media has also had its part to play in fuelling anti-social use of machines, video clips of antisocial and dangerous riding can give the riders a real sense of celebrity, with thousands watching on line and subsequently carrying out copycat behaviour.

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Events are advertised on social media, with some organisers even going as far as to sell clothing and other branded goods, riders are buying in to a lifestyle choice with a degree of notoriety thrown in for free!

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What is very evident is that many of the bikes used for anti-social behaviour, dangerous riding  and criminal activity are not purchased via legitimate sources, it goes without saying that if you have to work hard to save for the machine of your dreams, the chances are you are not going to want to damage it. Easy come easy go springs to mind!

 

Perceptions on Police Pursuit Policy are steeped in rumour, incorrect interpretations and untruths, it is not correct to say that if you don’t wear a helmet or ride on the footpath, the Police will not pursue, many of the riders believe they are in a win/ win situation, they have an overestimation of their skills and abilities and a belief that they are above the law.

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It goes without saying that officers have to strike a balance, yes they want to apprehend offenders but not at all costs, innocent members of the public must be protected from the thoughtless and dangerous actions of a small minority, there are several tactical options including the use of stinger and DNA sprays to identify offenders and remote aerial monitoring with high quality video capability.

 

Antisocial, dangerous, illegal riding and criminal behaviour will not be tolerated.

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In the UK in 2017 there were around 27k thefts of machines; both on road and off road, a large percentage of these machines are never recovered.

 

Many of the thefts relate to the London area, not surprising due to the amount of machines used for commuting, many of the London thefts relate to smaller machines and scooters, but the issue is not exclusive to London, the whole of the UK is victim to this area of vehicle crime.

 

By their very nature, motorcycles are an attractive proposition to criminals, they are easy to steal if left unattended and insecure, poor physical security and a lack of social awareness can make motorcycle theft a high gain low risk occupation, with financial restraints imposed on Police forces, this area of crime may not be high on Police Chiefs agendas.

 

In Birmingham, August 2017, Police Officers attend an area known to be used by commuting motorcyclist and over a period of two weeks noted which motorcycles were parked in the allocated parking bays, this was also an area where motorcycle thieves were known to operate.

 

What was discovered was that many of the motorcycles had little or no security devices fitted, only 40% of the bikes had any meaningful security, some of the machines did not even have the steering lock activated, one had the keys in the ignition and even removable items such as sat- navs were left in plain view.

 

Evidence from officers and CCTV showed that machines were being selected by criminals and then were ped- pushed away, a method where two thieves arrive on a high powered scooter and, then simply push the machine away by the rider of the scooter placing his foot on the rear footrests of the selected motorcycle and using the scooter to power both machines away. The machines can be pushed to a location some distance away or loaded into a van, out of view.

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The criminals were able to have their choice of machines with faces covered to hide from CCTV, no security to slow them down and no social interventions from the public.

 

To raise the issue within the motorcycle community Officers devised what looked at first glance like a parking ticket. Any machines that had no security fitted had a ticket placed on it. The idea was to give a shock response and encourage riders to improve security, in addition all the local motorcycle dealers were visited and a significant social media campaign was launched.

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The effect was significant, after 4 weeks the return on motorcycles with meaningful security had risen to over 90%, the general consensus from the bikers was that they appreciated the reminder to lock their machines, especially because the officers were motorcyclists as well.

 

It would be wrong to say that this exercise has halted the theft of motorcycles across the city, it was only conducted in a small area to test the concept, it is fair however to say, although strikingly obvious, that if you lock your machine with some meaningful security, it is less likely to be stolen, not exactly rocket science!

 

Our security advice for Motorcyclists would be:-

  • Always lock your machine and remove any unsecure valuables
  • Use a quality lock and chain, preferably lock the machine to something secure
  • Consider where you place the chain and lock to guard against cutting and attack
  • Try and park in well-lit busy areas utilising any CCTV that may be available
  • Report any unusual or suspicious behaviour to Police, don’t assume someone else will do it
  • Don’t become part of the problem, only buy spares or equipment from reputable sources, if something appears to be too good to be true, it probably is!

 

If you wish to report any suspicious activity, most Police forces will allow for this to be done on line or call 101 unless it is an emergency

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Attack of the Clones !

 

 

Guest bloggers this time around in the form of PC’s Ennis and Wheaver from the Road Harm Reduction Team. So put on your favourite festive tune, get yourself a glass of eggnog or mulled wine and read all about their specialist area, and how taking their advice could save you from becoming a victim when buying a second hand car.

 Just to introduce ourselves, we are commonly known as TB 97 and TB 98, 2 motorcyclists currently with the Road Harm Reduction Team, as part of the CMPG family based at Perry Barr. We are both trained to a national standard, in the identification of stolen vehicles and plant machinery.

 

Our main focus within the team is the prevention and detection of stolen and cloned vehicles, with the aim to prevent dangerous and sometimes fatal incidents of driving, by depriving the criminals the vehicles in the first place. In the short time we have been involved in this area, we have been responsible for the recovery of over 30 vehicles, to a value approaching £450,000, and average of around £15,000 each!!

 

We also have responsibility for all matters of motorcycles and plant machinery, and will be posting about these subjects soon.

 

As serving Police officers we see the pain of stolen vehicles on a daily basis, the theft of a vehicle can be a traumatic experience, without considering the inconvenience and financial loss. This experience is also mirrored by those unsuspecting victims of car cloning, who often part with large sums of money, only to see the vehicle being identified and recovered by the Police with no financial compensation offered.

 

We have prepared this post with the intention of preventing future victims, and keeping funds out of the hands of the criminals. The only way to drive down this type of crime is to make sure there is no market for it.

 

We hope you find the information useful, and would ask that you share with as many of your friends and family as possible.

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High value vehicles are often sold for cash to unsuspecting buyers, this vehicle was nearly sold for £18000 cash before being intercepted by officers.

When vehicles are stolen there is much debate on where they go, it is rumoured that they are exported to far off countries, broken for spares, and used for further criminal activities and anti-social use.

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A proportion of stolen vehicles, and by no means is this restricted to hi value high end vehicles, are cloned and sold on, in many cases to innocent purchasers who have saved hard to buy their vehicle of choice, it is a heart breaking experience for the buyer to subsequently lose the car and their cash Because they have been conned by organised criminals who have exploited them. It is equally heart breaking for officers to have to seize stolen vehicles from innocent purchasers.

 

It is worth remembering that the title of stolen property will always remain with the loser of that property, unless they have been compensated by an insurance policy, in this instance the title will pass to the insurance company. In short if you buy stolen property, whether you have any knowledge of it being stolen or not, it will never belong to you.

 

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Even damaged stolen vehicles of lesser value can be sold for repair; a hpi check would have revealed its history. Vehicles that are extensively damaged are often used as recipient vehicles for stolen parts

With the above in mind, prevention is definitely better than cure, if we, as purchasers, take a few moments to carry out diligent checks we may be able to prevent losing our money and importantly not putting cash in the hands of organised criminals

Below we have listed some of what we feel are the most common areas that purchasers seem to overlook when buying used cars. The list is by no means exhaustive and hopefully they will help buyers to think of some more areas they can consider.

 

 

  • Research the vehicle before you go. Know where to find the visible Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) normally in a small cut out window in the windscreen. There are pictures of authentic numbers on the internet, you could take photos of authentic vehicles ID, why not print them off and take them with you for comparison?

 

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  • Check the chassis number of the vehicle; this is embossed on the frame / chassis & will match the visible VIN. Again a little research before you attend to view the vehicle may pay dividends and help with confidence as it will confirm that you know what you are talking about!

 

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  • If there is only one key for the vehicle be extra cautious. It is rare for a car to be stolen with more than one key, check all the keys work as they should and check that they are not obvious copies, do they all look the same? They should!

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The old blue V5 documents are now out of circulation and all V5 documents should now be the new red ones, they do however need to be checked carefully to check that they are authentic

 

  • Contact the garage that has done any service or warranty work and confirm service history details. Obtain the garages phone number independently, you might be calling the sellers friend!

 

  • Take a photo of the seller with the vehicle. Why would a legitimate seller object to this? Many people have smart phones now with good quality cameras, remember to keep the photos!

 

  • Ask to see proof of ID and check the log book is in the same name as the seller; if the seller offers some form of ID then ask to see something else.

 

  • Do your own HPI check; do not accept one from the seller. Don’t take anything on face value as many cloned vehicle come with a selection of cloned paperwork.

 

  • Research what the vehicle is worth; if it is too good to be true be extra cautious. As a general rule if a vehicle is significantly below book value there will be a reason, the seller might not share this with you.

 

  • Avoid cash payments as card transactions offer the buyer some protection. Be very careful if the seller is having to sell in a hurry or wants to sell outside of an online auction to save on fees or they need a quick sale due to a death in the family etc etc.

 

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  • Don’t buy a vehicle on the street or car park, where possible attend the sellers home/ business address and check that it is their address, don’t be fobbed off, you can always walk away. Kind offers to meet you half way might be a ploy!

 

If you are buying something of value, take a trusted friend with you, if something doesn’t feel right then walk away.

 

It is too late when you say “I thought it was too good to be true”

 

If something seems too good to be true then it probably is!

 

That’s it for 2017, next blogs in 2018 will be on our efforts on the Road Harm Reduction Team to tackle dangerous and inconsiderate parking and a full Operation Closepass update and how it will progress and evolve further throughout the new year.

 

Safe Journeys All.

 

 

Introducing the Road Harm Reduction Team #WMPRHRT

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls…..may we introduce………..The Road Harm Reduction Team

 Autumn is approaching, so with the coming of the “Season of the Witch” it’s only right that this blog is enjoyed with a warming coffee and a large slice of cake, always thought coffee and walnut was quite autumnal, with a little double cream, or maybe some warming bread pudding with custard…..hmmmmm decisions. Once decided on your chosen autumnal cake we can sit, relax and read on, all maybe enjoyed to the delightful sounds of “Season of the Witch” from Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper and Steve Stills’s “Super Session”  yeah that’s nice…………now let us continue 😉

 

The Road Harm Reduction Team ?

The Road Harm Reduction Team……? What’s that then we hear you say, well it’s evolution in progress, it’s the result of the realisation that we need to do more of what we do so well here in the West Midlands Police, to an even higher standard, and most importantly all of the time.

But first a little scene setting….. We (as in Police Forces generally) are great at developing new and exciting ways of tackling property crime, utilising all that the latest technology and analytical techniques to catch those responsible and deter offending offer. Alas when it comes to the threat of harm on our road network nothing has really changed, we police in the same way as we did 30 years ago, doing the same things in the same way, same campaigns at the same time of year, trouble is attitudes, offending, our transport network, our communities resulting needs and concerns have changed dramatically in those 30 years, and given recent environmental, health and congestion concerns those changes are accelerating at a dramatic pace. The long and short of it is the way we police the threat of harm on our roads needs to firstly catch up, and develop at a faster pace than the change. Only this way can we play our part in dealing with some worrying national KSI statistics whilst working in partnership with our local authorities make each and every community’s transport plan work to the benefit of all.

Almost a bit of a mission statement there………

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Rear Admiral Grace Hoppers famous quote couldn’t be more appropriate when it comes to dealing with danger on our roads.

 

 

So what will the Road Harm Reduction Team do ?

Well for a start it will do more of what we’ve been doing over the last 12 months, all our efforts to ensure we target the greatest threat of harm on our road network will get a boost as 7 officers on the team will be dedicated to the task, enabling them to get on with their efforts to reduce the threat of danger without distraction. Our Operations to protect vulnerable road users will become far more common and widespread, thus creating an environment in the West Midlands where firstly road users who pose a threat of harm to others can expect to be caught and dealt with, and secondly where those who wish to utilise a healthier, sustainable form of transport supported by the regions transport plan can do so, confident that we are targeting those on the roads who deter them from doing so presently.

The 7 officers will be working in alongside our Roads Policing 24/7 resources, Neighbourhood Teams, Partnership Agencies, The West Midlands Fire Service and the Force Resource Unit, thus we will have a large targeted resource to make a hugely positive impact on offending in our region. Together we will concentrate on intervention, prevention and detection to reduce the threat of harm to those who use our regions road network. Together with our partnership agencies we will carry out many more Multi Agency Road Safety Operations (#MARSO), which entails ourselves and other enforcement agencies combining with our educational partners to target a specific vulnerable location in large numbers for maximum effect with all manner of road going offenders and offences being targeted at once. As you can imagine the effect on offending, both of the criminal and road harm variety is substantial, so as a result we will look to carry out as many as possible.

To give you an idea a normal days work for officers on the team it could entail running a 20mph speed check followed by a #OpClosePass operation and finishing off with a mobile phone operation. Each and every day of the officer’s time will be dedicated to targeting those who present the greatest threat of harm to our communities whilst they use the regions road network.

Targeting will be analysis and intelligence based, our analysts will constantly update the team as to the most vulnerable locations in the region so they can be appropriately targeted. The team will through analysis of driver records target the most dangerous and emerging prolific road traffic offenders. Through analysis even those with no current points on their licence will be highlighted. For example if a driver has come to our notice repeatedly, even if those interactions resulted in education instead of prosecution they will be highlighted and efforts will be made to change their road going behaviour and seek reform , just as we currently do with criminal offending. This way we can target those who pose a threat of danger to our communities before they actually cause harm.

 

Partnership working to the fore

The team will continue with its partnership working in unison with the local authority and the West Midland Fire Service, both who will educate where necessary, leaving us free to deal with those who offend. Exciting developments using VR as part of the education package on #OpClosePass are already in the pipeline. Our partners will engage with our communities carrying out education and awareness prior to the Road Harm Reduction Team carrying out periods of enforcement, leaving those offenders who as a result face prosecution in no doubt they had they were warned and had chance to “voluntarily” change their behaviour on the roads.

The officers on the team will work on a daily basis with officers from local Neighbourhood Teams and in doing so will “up skill” the Neighbourhood officers. So when the team move on to another area the Neighbourhood officers can carry on with the same tactics and targeting of their communities greatest threat of harm, with the Road Harm Reduction Team coming back on a regular basis to target “hotspot areas” or pass on new tactics and techniques. This ensures a continuous threat of prosecution will remain in all areas of the West Midlands, so important in deterring offending.

Also whilst working with the regions Neighbourhood Policing Teams we will get opportunity to work with and teach every new student officer all that we know, thus every new West Midland Police Officer will be equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to enable them to target and prosecute those who pose a danger to others on our road network as they progress with their careers. This is such an important factor as it will ensure that the work that we do will spread as will the necessary ethos that will ensure that the changes in approach we have started continues and gathers the necessary momentum to ensure a wide scale change in offender behaviour in our region.

 

Tactics, Overt and covert and further innovation

Our tactics will continue to be truly innovative concentrating on putting doubt into any potential offenders mind. We want to create an overriding sense of certainty in any potential offenders mind that should their road use fall below the expected standard to the point where it threatens others with harm then they will be caught and prosecuted. This might be through our efforts or through 3rd party reporting, but either way we will not neglect a single opportunity to deal with the threat of harm on our roads in a direct and pro-active fashion.

Sometimes we will be highly visible for impact, sometimes we won’t be seen at all, the first offender will know we were out there looking for them will be when the notice of intended prosecution drops through their or their employers door, the impact of the unseen threat of prosecution having a huge impact on the psychology of potential offenders we will utilise it where-ever we see fit. Plus it gives us reason to expand our ever growing “fancy dress” box 😉

The innovation with a concentration on those who pose the greatest threat of harm will come to the fore. #OpClosePass #OPSaferSchool #OpSaferCross # and 20’splenty will continue to evolve until we get that perfect formula with each that ensures they deliver the wide scale behavioural change our communities desire.

 

Campaign Ownership

The Road Harm Reduction Team will have campaigns, but these campaigns will last all year, with all the offences that pose greatest threat of harm to our communities being targeted all of the time with the same “gusto“, resources and most importantly results that you usually associate with week long campaigns. We will still participate and support National campaigns but the work associated with them will just be “business as usual” for the team. That’s really the best way to describe the team, imagine a group of officers who are solely tasked with dealing with those who commit the offences that cause the most danger on our regions roads 365 days a year…….it’s like the ultimate campaign if you like. This with the other measures we have discussed and our 3rd party reporting scheme will create an environment on our regions roads where offenders can expect that if they offend they will be caught and prosecuted. The peaks and troughs seen in offending as national campaigns have effect then lessen, will smooth to the levels of the “troughs” and then as our tactics create the desired environment where offenders expect to be dealt with should they offend we will see a steady decline in offending levels, and with it a corresponding reduction collisions across the board. This will have huge benefits to the local environment, business and community wellbeing……as we have said time and time again the work that the Road Harm Reduction Team will engage in is basically the ultimate community policing project. It brings trust, confidence, visibility and change to those communities that want positive changes to their areas, and a road network that offers positive transport choices.

 

There is it then………

Expect to hear a lot from the team, watch out for the #WMPRHRT (West Midlands Police Road Harm Reduction Team) hash tag and the #Interventionandprevention hash tag on the twitter feed and upcoming blogs as we deal with those who pose the greatest threat to our communities on the regions roads. We will feature the developments in #OpClosePass , the 20’s plenty campaign, and also developments in 3rd party reporting in upcoming blogs. There will be a blog dedicated to how the Road Harm Reduction Team have developed a way to combat the worrying rise in “cloned” vehicles on our roads and in doing so eradicate the danger they and those that drive them pose also.

Oh we forgot to mention the being part of or associated with the team will also involve a lot of cake, in-fact any carbohydrate infused mood enhancer will be consumed in vast quantities. This is due to our respective commutes having increased to our new base, which means longer spent cycling and running to work, plus given all the work we plan to take on we will need the energy anyway…….. And we just like cake 😉

Time for another appropriate tune, how about Something in the Air by Thunderclap Newman now there’s a  tune if there ever was one and couldn’t be more appropriate…….pass the coffee and walnut cake.

 

Until next time safe journeys all

 

 

 

Phones, Belts and 20’s

 

Phones, Belts and 20mph limits

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This time around we will be discussing two of this year’s campaigns, firstly the mobile phone campaign from March with its increased penalty and also the latest seatbelt campaign. We will also talk about 20 mph limits and making them work so the local communities they are introduced to protect see the true benefits rather than just a change of signage. This one’s going to be fairly relaxed compared to recent blogs, and shorter, so put on a little light jazz, maybe Take Five by The Dave Brubeck Quartet and grab your favourite coffee or herbal tea and relax….

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Look up !!!!!

 

 

Smart phone + not so smart driver = 6 points and £200

Here’s our narrative from the latest mobile phone campaign….

It’s the start of March, enough is enough, the penalty for using a mobile device whilst driving has been increased to 6 points and £200 fine. The nation stands up and takes notice as white traffic hats dominate mainstream news, never seen so many white hat adorned police officers from so many forces, it’s like an army of really stern ice cream sales people….  a new sentencing package and a week- long awareness campaign to enforce begins :

Day 1…. Sales of phone cradles have rocketed, or they must have as suddenly every other vehicle now has one complete with smart phone secured snugly inside. You can’t miss them as most are unlawfully and inappropriately placed in the swept area of the windscreen creating blind-spots galore!! Drivers treat their once beloved mobile devices like a venomous snake daring not to handle them in the confines of their car knowing that officers are just waiting for one slip up to action the new improved penalties, it’s all over the news, awareness is high, it seems to be working.

Day 2 -7…. Enforcement is high, social media posts highlighting novel detection methods and the worst offenders abound, driving instructors, HGV drivers, and Taxi drivers, the so called professional drivers, are everywhere. The responses on social media condemn the offenders, it still seems to be working.

Day 8 -14…. The mobile phone cradles still create a blind spot in the swept area, but they’re empty now, maybe everyone has given up on, lost or had their mobile device stolen…….. or maybe not. The new penalty is old news, everyone is talking about something else, the offending rate is starting to creep up…..

Day 15……the cradles are gone, as has the fear of prosecution, the phones have re-appeared back in the hands of drivers…..it’s just as it was in the last days of February once again

……and that ladies and gentlemen was the introduction of the new mobile phone penalty, an exercise in evidencing why penalties need a constant, credible threat of wide scale and probable prosecution all year round otherwise they might as well not exist…….which brings us onto the seatbelt campaign…..

 

 

Campaign Culture…this time seatbelts

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Campaign Culture……you’ll hear this a lot from us over the next 12 months and the need to move away from it to a constant credible threat of prosecution all year round. It’s not that we disapprove of campaigns, they have a very important part to play in reducing the inherent threat of danger on our road network, they do impact on many educationally, raising awareness, and they impact behaviourally on some, but not on those who pose the greatest threat of harm to the many…… we’ll bring you some exciting developments in the West Midland Police Force in a blog later this week that address the issues we’ve just discussed, plus there’s more thoughts on this subject at the end of this blog,……any way we’ve digressed back to the seatbelt campaign.

Probably the second most widely contravened of the #Fatal4 offences (behind speeding) it is commonplace to see people not wearing a seatbelt in its various forms, whether it be the unsecured child in the rear through to the un-belted HGV driver, why….well it’s because it just hasn’t been enforced as rigorously as it should have. And like the mobile phone offence that preceded in this blog it probably needs a higher penalty and an all year round concentration on enforcement….let me explain.

It’s all about the bigger picture, we’ve written about this before. Not wearing a seatbelt isn’t as simplistic as it seems. If someone doesn’t wear a belt, the repercussions when it all goes wrong don’t only impact on them and their family, there is a huge cost to wider society, the expense to the NHS for one, the closure of roads placing impacting on the wider economy, the use of emergency services, the cost of a serious or even fatal RTC enquiry which runs to millions of pounds. Surely given all these factors the offence of not wearing a seatbelt should now be an endorsable offence giving at least a 3 point penalty. The driver should be responsible for what occurs in their vehicle, the not wearing of a belt by any occupant should impact on the driver, don’t belt up, don’t get driven, if the driver choses to drive with an unsecured passenger then points should be the consequence. But again, it would need a continuous, realistic threat of enforcement, if not such legislation would be just a waste of ink upon the ever growing statute books. But of course laws needs enforcement, enforcement needs enforcers which brings us nicely onto 20mph limits…………….

 

20 is Plenty – Making it work

20mph limits are the future in urban areas, we’ve discussed the arguments for and against before, but the residents of the areas in Birmingham that have now had them since October last year simply love them, and that is the essence of why their enforcement is so important, because like #OpClosePass , #OpSaferSchools and #OpSaferCross, it is essentially a community policing project, the enforcement  brings an improvement in quality of life and transport choices to residents in effected areas, and that is so very important in modern day society. The benefits of communities being able to engage with and choose sustainable healthier transport choices bring so many positives on so many fronts, not to create a safer road network to enable such choices to all would simply be a disgrace…….which is why we were a little dismayed to hear that in some parts of the country 20 mph limits were at risk, because apparently drivers were not complying with them !!!

 

Well what a surprise….drivers that have for decades failed to comply with 30mph limits now failed to comply with the new 20mph limits…shocker….never saw that coming. Apparently the change of signage didn’t make a bit of difference to their road going behaviour, who would of thought…….

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The self-enforcing 20mph limit is a myth, take it from experienced traffic officers who regularly pursue vehicles over and around all manner of traffic calming measures at speeds in excess of 60mph, there is no such thing. So when some state 20mph limits shouldn’t be enforced, they are in effect “voluntary” we sit here with a quite quizzical look upon our faces. You see no other speed limits have to be self -enforcing, when we drop limits in rural areas, say villages or particularly hazardous country roads, we enforce to ensure compliance, “Smart” motorways with their variable limits have galleries of enforcing cameras. We know 20mph limits are evidently the most important speed limit to our communities, and have the largest potential of any limit to positively effect lifestyle choices and reduce the amount of people killed or seriously injured on our roads, so why not enforce them ?

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Well in the West Midlands we will, rigorously. We’ve spent the last 6 months testing the waters with tactics to see what works best and will in the coming months produce a blog detailing how we will make the 20 mph limits work to their full potential, benefiting all in our region. And those who oppose the idea will in time come around as the concepts of “children being able to play in the street, cycle to school, parents taking the healthier option to walk or cycle to the shops become a reality as the motor vehicle, for so long the negative influence that prevents positive lifestyle choices, is forced into community chosen compliance where it still has a large part to play to the transport infrastructure of our region, but a safer and healthier one.

 

In this blog we’ve talked about the need for a continuous probable threat of prosecution to be present to ensure wide-scale compliance with the laws that are so commonly broken on our roads. Campaigns and the resulting “Campaign culture” that preside over many of the nation’s efforts to reduce the danger on roads offer temporary solace from the seemingly never ending stream of offending by all to many road users. Effective whilst in progress and for a short time after they have a great role to play at key times of the year, such as the Christmas drink drive campaign. All too often though key messages are quickly forgotten as the public’s attention switches to more recent news and the behaviour of those who pose the greatest threat to others on our roads remains unchanged.

Well we think we’ve got the answer that will resolve the never ending cycle of peak/trough wide-scale offending, it’s exciting and new, it’s been taking up a lot of our time over the last month, thus our absence from our social media channels…….but you’ll have to wait until later in the week for the details.

 

That’s it for this one, told you it would be short compared to our normal prolonged ramblings….time for a little more jazz, cake and your favourite brew.

 

Safe journeys all.

 

 

Driving…an extinction event

The golden age of driving….the beginning of the end

This blogs all about the current state of motoring, not only in our region but nation-wide, and is a wake-up call to all those who think that the golden age of motoring has a future. It’s hard to admit, especially for the likes of ourselves, after all most traffic officers have an emotional attachment to driving and the internal combustion engine in at least one of its inceptions, but the writings on the wall, we are living in the last generations of driving, and with it the last generations of Traffic Officers, at least in their current inception….so grab a brew, a few biscuits and dunk and read away, or drop a few crumbs if you prefer not to dunk. Oh and the soundtrack to read this one to should be a Black Sabbath track as Aston’s finest have called it a day, maybe The Wizard or for the “hard pressed motorists” out there (aka those who can’t drive or ride within the law)…….. Paranoid……

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Ahhh, another “trusted” driver fails to uphold their end of the contract

 

 

 

 

“Pleasure drive” – the ultimate oxymoron?

Hilarious isn’t it the term pleasure drive, is there such a thing anymore? There certainly doesn’t seem to anyone relaxed and enjoying the experience, at best a stressful yet functional part of modern life, at worst a bizarre form of 21st Century mock gladiatorial combat where the participants (supposedly law abiding citizens of the land) exhibit traits and behaviour they would never dream of displaying in any other area of their everyday life. Welcome to the beginning of the end, and as with everything that ends, it is usually down to our own behaviour. This particular extinction event, the demise of the driver is no different.

 

The end is nigh!

We were trusted with the ultimate responsibility, the task of piloting motorised vehicles, all be it to a strict set of laws and guidelines, necessary due to the damage a motorised vehicle of any size or form can do to the frail human form. Yet we have shown as a collective, us drivers and riders of mechanically propelled vehicles, that we are incapable of carrying the burden and shrug continually the social responsibility of being good law abiding road users. We championed and celebrated all that is good and enjoyable with motor vehicles, the performance, the luxury, everything that made us look beyond the negatives, the current main one being the 5 people who die and 63 who are seriously injured daily on our road network due to the way we pilot them. Not to mention the tens of thousands a year whose early demise is aided by our favourite steel polluting machines, an impact that is now sending serious repercussions throughout the health and transport world. Imagine if you put those 5 people who die daily and 63 who are seriously injured on a train or plane, there would be a national outcry, no one would use such a dangerous form of transport, it’s insane, almost inhuman some might say. But alas it’s the selfish price we continue to pay, a price that could be dramatically reduced if everyone just obeyed the law and showed due respect to each other, but as I have previously mentioned we have proved ourselves incapable of doing this. That is why technology has taken control of the driver’s destiny, and that destiny is the demise of the driver.  Manufacturers see this and are striving to be the first to make it work. It’s also part of the answer to congestion and pollution issues, after all your self- driving vehicle will not make the errors of judgement or break the road traffic laws that drivers currently do, reducing collisions dramatically keeping roads running smoothly at the busiest of times, and of course driving in the most environmentally appropriate fashion at all times. Computer controlled vehicles will link in with traffic systems reducing waiting times; they won’t block junctions, roundabouts or crossings. Basically they will do everything the human driver or rider has proven themselves unwilling or incapable of doing.  But in the meantime let us explore what those who are minded to do something about the current dire state of motoring can actually do to reduce the horrific cost in death and injury the nation currently demands to keep our road network running.

 

The Behaviour test

Stand outside a school at the start or end of the school day and watch the behaviour of passing drivers. See how many you can catch with a phone in their hand, speeding and the other multitude of sins we have to deal with daily, but surely this should be where a driver is most cautious, after all the likelihood of a child making the ultimate error is at its upmost at such a location, drivers care….don’t they ?. Then go into the busy city centre with its 24/7 congestion plus thousands of vulnerable road users, cyclists and pedestrians everywhere, again surely the drivers would be paying attention, driving slowly, just in case? Then go onto the rural road, unseen potential hazards everywhere around each corner, horses, cyclists, farm vehicles, do you ever see any driver driving to the conditions before them. How many collisions in rain or fog are due to vehicles being too fast and too close? How many of our children must we lose because people think they can drive a car or ride a motorbike like it’s a video game? It’s all down to driver behaviour, remove the driver, remove the collision, it’s simple, vehicles don’t crash themselves. Some will be reading this and uttering to themselves “It’s just the few, I’m a good driver”, are you? Do you drive like it’s your driving test every day? Do you stay under every speed limit, always signal when you should, use your lights correctly, stop at the amber instead of inanely racing towards it to beat the red, wear your seat belt?, The list is endless when it comes to things supposed “good competent” drivers don’t do. The test is the minimum standard, if you don’t drive or ride to that standard every time you get on the road you are part of the problem, be honest with yourselves…….

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So many people to look out for yet most drivers see none of this or chose to ignore, to everyone else’s peril !

Some will say, “why don’t you tell them to pay attention, slow down, take care” well let’s play a game, how many road safety campaigns can you remember….., it’s not hard, we have over a dozen in their various forms a year. We’ve tried to tell them, to educate. We even have a theory and practical test to ensure motorists are fit for the road to reinforce the necessity of complying with the law and having a careful and considerate nature towards our road use. Do the campaigns or test’s effect driver behaviour? we all know the answer. People will read headlines in the national press about families being killed by a driver who used his phone, broke the law, and utter how terrible it was…….. as they travel down the road above the speed limit, phone in their lap with a light out, having never checked their tyre pressures or condition……but they did take the time to have illegal dangerous tints to fitted their drivers windows, or hang something from their rear view mirror that partially blocks their forward view……

 

Changing behaviour, the tools of the trade

The most effective tool to curtail adverse driver behaviour is the threat of prosecution ,if people think they will be caught doing something they don’t do it, we’ll come onto that later…but first another piece of technology that precedes the driverless car, the insurance black box. Yes that’s right those little black boxes really do work, it would seem that the threat of having your insurance cancelled and suffering a large financial penalty if you drive to a substandard level seems to work, fancy that…..it’s almost like enforcement by the back door, shame that insurance companies don’t make them mandatory really, the effect would be profound, cheaper policies, better driving, insurance monitoring black boxes literally saving lives, contributing to the wellbeing of society………just a thought. And for those who are screaming “it’s just the big brother nanny state telling us what to do and how to live our lives” just remember, drivers were trusted to do the right thing, but alas can’t, just stand at the side of any road with a speed gun and see how many cars actually exceed the speed limit, most do. Some may complain of the nanny state but it’s become increasingly necessary when it comes to motorised road use, just look at the comments by most drivers regards road safety on social media, attitude says a lot about behaviour, if you went on some comments seen on social media regards sharing the road and improving safety you wouldn’t let these people drive a child’s pedal car around your garden, let alone a vehicle on the road with all the risk that carries. You see many like to blame someone else, blame the victim, many just don’t have the attitude or demeanour to be on the road in the first place, modern day personalities and priorities just don’t mix with being in charge of a potential killing machine.

Which leads us nicely back to our definition of the “hard pressed motorist” ….the motorist who is expected to obey the law……..

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A speed check at one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in Birmingham, drivers caught at 50 % above the speed limit whilst on their phone, says it all really….

 

 

 

The perfect storm is coming

What’s he on about now I hear you say, well it’s like this, traffic levels are rising at about 1.4% a year. Factor in population growth, of which those in the age bracket most likely to drive is swelled by migration and you see that within 8 years we will have over 10% more vehicles on our roads. Anyone think we’ll have 10 % more road capacity? Imagine the cost for a start, it’s impossible.

So we have more motor vehicles, at the same time we will have more vulnerable road users, as those who are economically excluded from the motor vehicle select club or those who have consciously chosen to “do their bit” and participate in a healthier, cleaner form of transport actually look to take advantage of their local authorities transport plan. You will notice that no local authorities are looking to increase vehicular traffic, to do so would be tantamount to community “self-harming”. The consequence to the driver of this “perfect storm” is more time spent watching a stationary queue of traffic stretching before them, the consequence for those not sat in a vehicle is an increased risk of injury, here’s why ……

You see the modern motor vehicle is a fine feat of engineering, it can be driven into a brick wall at 50mph and the occupants can walk away relatively injury free. This “security” has however endangered vulnerable road users where it protects the driver. Drivers with their subliminal feeling of safety relax, pay less attention, start practicing poor driving, they speed, don’t pay attention, release their frustration that’s been compounded by sitting in slow moving or stationary traffic with an aggressive driving demeanour, all to the detriment of vulnerable road users. Just look at how may don’t wear a seatbelt properly or at all, this is the best evidence of how safe most feel inside a modern vehicle. Given our increasing levels of both vehicular traffic being driven to an ever poorer standard and more vulnerable road users in a finite area of road we are left with only one inevitable consequence, more vulnerable road users killed and seriously on our roads, in contrast to those in vehicles who become safer in heavy traffic due to reduced collision speeds. Now as a police force we are duty bound to protect the vulnerable, pedestrians, child and elderly pedestrians especially, those making socially beneficial transport choices such as cyclists, we are duty bound to support our communities transport policies and do all we can to create an environment where they can succeed. The long and short of it is drivers, who pose the greatest threat of harm on our roads need to get their house in order, or we’ll do it for them.

 

Twenties plenty and the car vs pedestrian

Why 20mph limits? Well because firstly it cuts down dramatically the numbers killed and seriously injured on our urban roads, quite simply it gives drivers and other road users the time needed to first make the correct driving decisions and second react to others mistakes, i.e. that child who suddenly runs into the road or the vehicle that pulls out in-front of you. If nothing else it lessens the seriousness of any collision. 20mph is not far below the average speed for many of our urban roads anyway so time wise drivers are not really losing out either, even if they were, small price to pay to lessen the carnage on our roads surely…..now don’t be selfish drivers after all you only get to the back of the next traffic jam fractionally quicker! Plus it won’t be long given the rising congestion levels before we reach the capital’s average speed of 7.5mph!! So just think in a few years a 20mph limit will be literally be light speed compared to the average speed of traffic on our roads.

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Many will say that no one drives to Birmingham’s new 20mph limits, this is true many don’t, but they will. Despite a highly publicised campaign of educational measures including roadside educational alternatives to prosecution we get numerous complaints and too often see the effects of drivers exceeding the limit. So “Out goes the carrot and in comes the stick”, after nearly 6 months of the limits it’s apparent that many drivers just don’t care or are incapable of driving to the new limit, just like they can’t drive to most limits, including the old 30mph limits. Again we come back to the previously stated situation where drivers proved themselves incapable collectively of driving at 30mph or below, you had your chance now 20mph limits are deemed necessary to protect our communities from drivers who don’t meet the standard of “safe and competent road users”. We need somewhere in the region of one in four compliance for the limits to be effective given urban traffic levels, the one in four slow everyone else down and produce safer roads. We will achieve this through enforcement, we will even use covert speed checks if necessary in the most vulnerable of locations, the loss of life on our regions roads is unacceptable to our communities, some drivers may be dismayed and distraught at the idea of us getting all “sneaky” to catch dangerous drivers, but they had their chance, “the gloves are off” as they say when it comes to the fight against the dangerous motorist in our region. But remember those who can drive to the required standard, “the law abiding motorist” have nothing to worry about, quite the opposite their journeys should become more pleasant as a result. Whilst we are on the subject our region does have some very good drivers, our plain clothes cyclists used in #OpClosePass have been overtaken by tens of thousands of very good, considerate drivers on our regions roads, and they are in the majority and should rest easy in the knowledge that we target only those who pose a threat, those doing the speed limit, not using their phone, not driving without due care and attention never get stopped, funny that………and they never complain when we start prosecuting those who do not comply with the law either, only poor incompetent drivers complain about enforcement campaigns, because they are the ones who are the problem and need to worry.

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Analysis of KSI data shows that drivers are not paying attention at vulnerable locations.

 

And for those who say “traffic cops, nothing better to do…” your right…..we haven’t got anything better to do…….reducing the amount of people killed and seriously injured on our roads is at the top of our list of priorities, so why would we do anything else ?

Our 2017 wish list

If we could change anything to make this year better than the last, these would be top of our road safety wishlist….it is representative of the personal opinions of myself and my colleagues, not the West Midlands Police, though you would be hard pressed to find anyone in our organisation who would disagree.

Points don’t mean prizes !!

12 points is hard to get for a competent safe driver, in fact they don’t get anywhere near. Some pick up 3 at some point during their driving when they switch off and fall below the expected standard, triggering a speed camera or the like, or some might have to attend an educational course when their driving again slips below the expected standard. It serves as a wakeup call to most that their driving and awareness isn’t up to the required standard and they rarely trouble the Traffic Process Office again. So to get to twelve points shows a real inability to drive to a safe and competent level. 12 points should result in disqualification, the farce of letting drivers continue past 12 points for whatever reason is an affront to those who have lost loved ones to drivers who regularly break the law, time it stopped.

Disqualification = mandatory retest

In order to get disqualified from driving you will have had to show a continued disregard for the law or a single act of such magnitude that a court feels you must lose your licence for a period of time. Either of these scenarios shows that such a driver clearly does not have the correct demeanour, responsibility, ability or attitude to be a safe and competent driver and as such is a risk to the safety of everyone else on the road. Surely then given this they should be all be retested as a result, they have clearly displayed the inability to be a safe responsible road user, only a retest can ensure they once again, following their disqualification be deemed fit to be a safe licence holder once again. Courts can impose a disqualification until test passed, we would like to see it imposed for all disqualifications under all circumstances. After all we revoke the licences of new drivers who reach 6 points in their first 2 years of driving resulting in a retest, why not do the same for those who reach 12, or are disqualified for a single offence. By taking a theory test and practical test only then can they prove they are once again at the level that is both practically and mentally suitable to be in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle on our roads.

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You are a huge threat to others when behind the wheel, drivers need to wake up to that fact and drive accordingly ! A wholesale change in driving attitudes is required.

 

 

Reduce the drink drive level

It’s been a success in Scotland, is any other reason needed to follow suit ?, and although this will cause great dismay to many Brexiteers Europe also has the same level as Scotland with no issues making the roads safer all. It’s about time we woke up and caught up, a reduction in the drink drive level leaves no uncertainty such as the situation we have currently where people think its okay to have one or two and drive. The correct amount to drink when driving is nothing, anyone who thinks otherwise again displays all the qualities that lead to the innocent dying on our roads. Once again our drink drive level is yet more evidence as to our prevailing attitude towards road safety in our country.

 

A change in attitude

If I was to say we have a problem with a “Top Gear” mentality its’s not an intentional slight on the programme, it’s a scenario where the selfish, inconsiderate attitude of a motorist takes precedence over the safety of others. This is clearly displayed all too regularly on our roads, it need s to stop. We need caring considerate motorists who display all the traits that prove they are responsible road users. Our vulnerable road users need to come first, those whose choice of transportation is environmentally friendly, reduces congestion, leads to a healthier lifestyle lessening the burden on other public services are doing everything right, everything society asks of them, the motorist, all be it under some circumstances with no alternative, is doing the opposite. Expect in the coming years road safety practitioners to increasingly look to protect and promote those transport choices currently considered vulnerable by making them safe, secure and desirable transport choices. Motorists are going to have to get used to this and the changes in their behaviour and road use it will bring, a change in attitude and an acceptance of no longer being the priority on our road system will be needed.

So that’s where we are, this blogs been a bit of a “scene setter” if you like for what you will see over the next few years. Anyone who thinks differently really does have their head in the sand, if you don’t believe me, have a look at your local transport plan, you will see that vehicles and drivers have no place anymore in our transport solutions, at least not until the driver is finally extinct, having being replaced by a computer and all our vehicles are cleaner and more efficient to the point where they no longer negatively impact on our communities. In an age where we are building record numbers of vehicles in this country we are no longer building roads for them, quite the opposite, all major transport investment is rail, cycle or pedestrian focused.

In the meantime when we do drive our vehicles we must remember that when we do we pose a greater threat to other people than at any other point in our existence. The motor vehicle is a far more destructive and efficient weapon than the gun, remember that next time you drive or ride. If someone handed you a loaded gun you would handle it with the upmost care, do the same in your motor vehicle, because if you don’t, the results are pretty much the same.

At the start you will have read “The Beginning of the End” and it is just the beginning, there’s a good few more years of people being able to drive yet before the technology is ready to take over completely, until we get there let’s make it as painless as possible, take great care when you’re out there, because remember it’s at this point in your daily existence you are the greatest threat not only to yourself, but everyone one else on that road.

For those who have read this and are distraught at the thought that the days of driving are numbered listen to one last Black Sabbath track……”It’s alright”….and remember you can always drive however you like on your games consoles 😉

 

In the next few blogs we’ll look at enforcing the new mobile phone penalties due in March, our new Operation to protect all vulnerable road users at collision hotspots OpSaferCrossing, and everyone’s favourite  insurance, it’s scams, the uninsured, the falsely insured and we’ll also focus on the insurers, and how some companies aren’t really helping a worsening situation.

Climbing Mountains….

A corner turned, a long road ahead

Fruitcake, yes you’re probably going to need a good filling fruitcake for this one, and a nice cup of tea, definitely should accompany fruitcake with a nice cup of traditional tea….followed by a little cheese….and maybe a small glass of warming port…..welcome to the next Safer Cycling blog

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Never happier than with tea, and a bit of cake…..Hudson and Hodson

 

 

We’ve been busy, we’ve been very busy, what started as a conversation between two traffic officers and one member of the Birmingham Cycle Revolution Team over a cup of tea and some chocolate bunnies (yes it was Easter !!), followed by a few hastily drawn sketches 20 minutes later of an educational road mat,  Operation Closepass #GiveSpaceBeSafe has now become a huge thing, a huge work generating  quite awkward thing. Awkward you may ask, why awkward? Well it was rather well received,  all of sudden we were receiving praise and some might say being “liked” which is rather discomforting for traffic officers, as we are somewhat conditioned to being disliked and receiving negative feedback. After all we are not the smiley happy branch of the modern police force, we are the spreaders of misery and gloom generally among the road going populace, the dour faced donut eating aviator wearing, Road Traffic Act preachers of doom. So the positive feedback and support for our first tender new steps in a new direction have left us standing around, blushing slightly with our hands behind our backs whispering things like “well this is all a little unnecessary, we’re only doing what we are paid to do”. Overnight what the officers involved did on a daily basis changed dramatically, there have been no rest days since the start of September, the phones have rung every day, whether it’s our press department, journalists, editors of TV shows or just the interested public the demand has been off the scale. At the same time normal policing has had to continue, those officers involved drive a traffic car 24/7, doing what traffic officers are normally deemed to do, you know that “police Interceptors or road wars” type of thing, you know the drill. So everyone involved, including the supervision are a little bleary eyed but thankful of the great support received from all parts of the road going community, we are also thankful for the negative feedback received from some members of the public and press, your response which was in the minority, strengthens our faith that we have made the right decisions in order to make our roads and communities safer, thankyou, after all you were most likely our primary target audience, and now you’re aware so there can be no excuses…….we don’t care what you think, a life is a life, the law is the law, it’s all a matter of priorities, get used to it, it’s the future.

Then in the midst of this success driven cacophony of chaos there’s two officers who sit deep in conversation, which when not dominated by Star Wars conspiracy theories, comic books, Op Hercules tactics (an illegal street racing operation, their other project), and their somewhat eclectic music tastes, goes something like this “ Well that went rather well”  “Well yes we always knew it would, we just needed the opportunity” “What next then” “More of the same I suppose” “Got the book” “Of Course” and out comes the book of Blue Sky Thinking Road Safety Ops (yes it really does exist !) as you see #OpClosepass  #GiveSpaceBeSafe was just the first of what will be hopefully a string of CMPG Roads Policing initiatives centred on the safeguarding of our vulnerable road users. Then there follows cake and a beverage or two…..as the next plans are hatched to promote improved, safer driving and enforce the law against those who endanger others daily.

 

Close Pass update

 

Op Closepass has been a success, that’s all you can say really. It was cost neutral, just part of our everyday patrols. We have used officers own bikes, equipment and also Cycliq kindly gave us Fly cameras to test, so it cost nothing. It was well received, and most importantly had an immediate impact. Within a week cyclists were contacting us to tell us things had had not only improved, but improved considerably, there were still close passes, always will be, “can’t get them all”, but they have become a rarity rather than commonplace. We noticed the difference, having to move locations on press days as our usual preferred spots now harboured good driving habits, we were literally starting to struggle to find a volume of offences to deal with. Admittedly the huge press attention helped, but if our future efforts to protect vulnerable road users have half the impact that this operation has had we will be guaranteed success each time. Don’t get us wrong, we know there is still a mountain to climb, but if a mountain climbing analogy was needed, let’s just say we’ve got the equipment and made base camp, where we currently enjoy cake and a beverage before pushing on to the lower slopes. The summit, a view from which we can see a land where we let our loved one’s take part in their journey’s as vulnerable road users without undue worry is still sadly out of sight, but hopefully someday soon we will see the view of this promised land. Until then we continue climbing the mountain…..

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Excuses, excuses………..

Feedback from offenders has been good, 99 % of the time. Some of the excuses not so good, but they left with the knowledge and change in perception necessary to firstly be aware of, and then overtake or account for cyclists on the road safely in future. Some said they hadn’t seen the cyclist at all, maybe in the belief that it was better to say this than admit poor driving judgement, both don’t bode well regards their everyday driving ! But they were caught, and hopefully reformed before their poor driving harmed another. The 1% have left with a piece of paper that is titled “Traffic Process Report”, no further explanation is needed, they failed to show not only the driving skills necessary but also the aptitude to guarantee belief they won’t endanger a vulnerable road user again. This 1% of course does not include those who were ruled out of the immediate educational input due to additional offences. These drivers would include those with no tax or insurance, those on the phone, the lady putting her dog back in its cage, the man reading the delivery note in one hand whilst holding his phone in the other…..you think of it, we’ve had an offender who can make your worst road going nightmare come true !

This is why Op Closepass works so well, it targets and catches those who endanger the vulnerable on a daily basis, tens of thousands of drivers have encountered and overtaken our cyclists displaying all the attributes necessary to be not only safe and competent drivers but at times exemplary, we have seen some fantastic driving and although you will never know, if we could stop you and shake your hand we would, unfortunately we still have too many poor drivers to occupy our time at the moment….

But on a side note we always thought that what if in every book of tickets at the back there was a gift voucher that we could give out to particularly good drivers or riders we encountered, that would be novel wouldn’t it. Would people change their driving or riding in the hope that they might get caught being “good”…..(no boss I haven’t drank all the port having finished the fruit cake and cheese 😉

 

What is apparent from Op Close Pass is how little attention drivers actually pay to what is going on around them. This is because of a number of factors but primarily because drivers have little to fear when it comes to their own personal safety on the road. The modern motor vehicle is a fine feat of engineering, it can be driven into a brick wall at 50mph and the occupants can walk away relatively injury free. This “security” has however endangered vulnerable road users where it protects the driver. Drivers with their subliminal feeling of safety relax, pay less attention, start practicing poor driving, they speed, don’t pay attention, all to the detriment of vulnerable road users. This modern day wholesale rapid decline in driving standards combined with ever increasing traffic volume has inevitably seen vulnerable road users bear the unfortunate brunt of this driving trend. As we try to fit an increasing amount of traffic onto the same amount of road the chances of conflict increase proportionally. Factor in the declining amount of attention paid by drivers and the declining standard in driving and it’s only the vulnerable who are threatened. Vulnerable road users instinctively pay more attention, it’s only natural, vulnerability hones the senses. Vehicle drivers cocooned in their protective shells do the exact opposite, they pay less and less attention, to both other road users and road laws.

Falling levels of enforcement have a part to play in this trend, we know this, our last department leader Chief Supt Keasey, now moved onto pastures new stated exactly this to the transport select committee who agreed. You don’t have to be a road safety expert to realise that those with very little chance of being caught will continually offend, that’s why we are determined to utilise our time and talents where they have the most impact, targeted intelligence led enforcement. This combined with greater opportunities for third party reporting should reverse the trend and hopefully see an improvement.

What next

Op Close will is now an everyday part of our workstream, as it should be, its value increasing with each deployment, additional “value adding” offences are being identified, and the operation is continually being honed to be more effective. Locations in Coventry, Solihull and West Bromwich are all pencilled in for attention. We are constantly evolving the Operation, in this New Year we will hopefully be joined by staff from the West Midlands Fire Service Cycle Safety Team, who will deliver the 15 minute educational input instead of one of our officers. Why the change you might ask?, well for a start it frees up our officer to deal with the “other” offences that the operation is detecting in ever increasing numbers. Secondly our partners in the Fire Service come without the “baggage” that some associate with the police and so the educational input is better received.

New bespoke operations concentrating on distracted drivers and also protecting schoolchildren and the elderly on their pedestrian journeys are being approved in the same vain as Op Closepass.  Our favourite analyst Chris has worked his magic once again and has been duly rewarded with calorific carbohydrate mood enhancing treats (otherwise known as chocolate biscuits). One lowlight of the analysis was the finding that over a third of pedestrian KSI’s occurred on or at pedestrian crossings…which again begs the question what are drivers paying attention to at such vulnerable locations…

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Our analyst Chris has been busy again, as has PC Hodson who doodles when thinking!

Birmingham’s 20mph limits are now old news, which means every driver should be aware and complying, to ensure they are we will be out doing what we do best, enforcing the law in these areas. There is really no excuse for speeding, no-one seems to do it on their test………, we’ll be out there with the speed gun, every willing participant will leave with a piece of paper, resulting in a fine and points or an educational course, for those who might disagree with speed checks, read this https://trafficwmp.wordpress.com/2016/04/25/cash-cows-stealth-taxes-and-revenue-raisers/ and if you still disagree, well then you really shouldn’t be the road at all !

These new operations primarily designed to protect pedestrians will of course naturally protect all other vulnerable road users as they significantly concentrate driver’s attention in the most vulnerable of areas. It all supports our regions latest transport plans, and rightly so, after all our communities rightly deserve cleaner, healthier and enjoyable transport opportunities, it’s our job to create an environment which enables safe worry free participation, and as we all know that means curtailing the behaviour of those road users who endanger vulnerable road users, only then will our regions transport goals be achieved.

As we have said previously we will concentrate on those offences and offenders who pose the greatest threat of harm to others, our analysts will help pinpoint locations and also shape our tactics. For example although we like to be highly visible as it has crime prevention and reassurance benefits, if a particular road safety problem requires a covert approach we will use it, offending drivers are going to have to get used to the reality that we will use every tool at our disposal to save lives on our roads.

We aim to rely ever increasingly on our road safety partners to deliver what we term “soft education”, the educating in schools, youth and faith groups, the exchanging places scheme etc. We realise that we, traffic officers are becoming an ever increasing rare and valuable resource, and so our time needs to be spent doing what we do best, enforcing the law and delivering “hard education” as seen in Op ClosePass.

 

Third party footage prosecutions

 

Much like #OpClosepass, third party footage prosecutions have now become the “norm” for ourselves. The numbers of close pass due care offences we receive have dropped by about 50% since the #GiveSpaceBeSafe initiative took effect on our regions roads, we still get the same amount of red light, mobile phone and other offences via third party footage though, no change there yet!  Ultimately Op Closepass will be judged on KSI figures and the increase in the number of people cycling, and rightly so, but what is certain is that to succeed it must run alongside a good easy to use and successful 3rd party reporting scheme. We believe we have achieved this to the point where offenders are starting to realise there doesn’t need to be a police officer present and witnessing for their offending to be detected and punished, that element of doubt put in a potential offenders mind works wonders, the psychology of offending is a wonderful thing and easily manipulated as soon as the threat of potential continuous detection is introduced.

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Third party video prosecutions, protecting all road users not just cyclists

The one thing third party reporting has brought to the fore is that the majority of good law abiding road users, not just vulnerable ones, want the opportunity to report poor road use or offending and see it acted upon . This stream of offence detection and prosecution really will have a large part to play in the future of road safety, after all we can’t be everywhere at once to deal with offending on our roads, but given the ever increasing traffic levels and the spread of vehicle born cameras, there will always be someone with the right intentions waiting to do the right thing.  We are still awaiting our digital reporting portal, this should make the process easier and encourage more to participate, but we have literally stopped counting how many road users we have prosecuted now using 3rd party footage, it’s just normal policing and will pay a large part in future efforts to make our regions road network safer for all.

It’s not all been going to plan though, we have had at least one report made to the traffic process office that wasn’t dealt with in the correct manner, this was a mistake made and apologies have been made, Processes have been put in place to ensure that it doesn’t happen again, like we said at the start “base camp achieved, the summit is a long way off”.

 

A Thankyou

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Smiling, twice in one blog, that’s a record for traffic officers !

As many will be aware we were given an award for our efforts by the Road Danger Reduction Forum and had a great evening at the House of Lords enjoying the company of many who are as passionate as ourselves when it comes to saving lives on our roads. As I wrote earlier, we are not used to praise from outside our organisation, it is quite alien to ourselves, we are grateful to all those who support us and our work. We really couldn’t do it without you and even though we have an exceptionally supportive management team right the way up to our Chief Constable, it is reassuring to know for both them and ourselves that our efforts are well placed and valued.

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We would love to personally thank whoever sent these choccies but the card had no details, but if your reading “Thankyou”, carbohydrate based mood enhancement is always appreciated, good fuel for the Operation as well !

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Thankyou to Safe Cycling Eire for the goodies, this will appear as part of #OpClosePass in the very near future

 

 

 

So to all those who have supported with kind words, sent kit to use or chocolate to fuel the Op Close Pass cyclists, thankyou.

“Shine a light”

For the last two years we’ve tackled the issue of unlit cyclists by having the now well used “alternative” to prosecution approach of giving away light sets provided by Birmingham City Council and local Universities. We have dealt with over 400 offences in this fashion. We don’t have special events or targeted operations anymore, we carry a few sets of lights in our kit bags and deal with offences as we come across them. What we do notice as that most offenders participating in the scheme are teenagers or from newly arrived communities and are apparently unaware of the law attaining to lights on cycles at night. Both groups often have never had any cycling training or road law input. Many of the teenagers or young adults are of a generation that had no “Bikeability” training or the like during their school years. Now with the widespread use of “bikeability” type training both in schools and in all areas of our community’s, hopefully this should be slowly addressed and we should find ourselves giving away fewer sets of lights.

The rise in numbers of these offending groups however only shows how cycling groups that aren’t really accounted for under the usual statistics are on the rise, which is a great positive for the future of cycling.

“Illuminating Stuff”

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Two up front, three behind

Want a little advice on lights well this is our take on what’s best.

  1. A steady light is better than a flasher but if you can have both then that’s the best option. The combination of the 2 provides attention, and the 2 lights even with one being a “flasher” are better for the eye to track making judging speed and direction easier for the observant motorist or pedestrian.
  2. Two to the rear is also the best option, again for the same reasons as above and if you can place them on differing axis i.e. one on the seatpost and one on a chainstay or seatstay again the effect is enhanced.
  3. Position so as not to “dazzle or blind” other road users. Most quality front cycle lights are better than the lights on some scooters, position for best road illumination but also be considerate.
  4. Two lights to the rear and fore also cater for a light or battery failure. Personally I have two front lights and 3 to the rear.
  5. Beware the “Halo” effect. At night you can become very hard to see no matter how well you are lit if you have a bright light very close to the rear of you, i.e. if a following vehicle has its main beams on or an inappropriately fitted bulb and is tailgating you or uncomfortably close not giving room to the rear. On the approach to junctions this can be particularly problematic. If the following vehicle flicks on an indicator and turns left the waiting vehicle might exit the junction not having seen you in front of the turning vehicle as you can become hidden in the “glare” of the vehicle’s lights behind. Although this set of circumstances is thankfully extremely rare you can combat any such effect by moving out from the nearside to an almost prime position, so your light doesn’t get lost in the “Halo” effect of the following cars lights, also an “flasher” can help getting you noticed in high traffic volumes with many lights to get “lost” to the attention in.
  6. If you look directly at a driver with a helmet mounted light on you can be effectively shining a light in their eyes, save the bright helmet lights for the trails, a simple single low level led flasher on your helmet does the trick nicely on the road if you want a light on your helmet.
  7. Nothing to do with lights but when it comes to clothing at night remember reflectivity is the key. Black kit covered in Scotchlite or similar is far more effective than hi vis with none.
  8. And remember, you could be as easy to see as a supernova exploding in your neighbour’s garden, but if another road user is distracted by their phone, lunch or whatever else they prioritise above your wellbeing they won’t see you because they aren’t looking. Ride defensively always, think the worst of everyone and prepare for the unexpected, give yourself time and space to react wherever possible, that’s the mind set we use in our road use, at work and at home, unfortunate but necessary until we reach the “mountain summit”.

 

 

Time for a coffee and a mint, nearly finished !

Well that’s it for now, we recommend reading the next Traffic Blog which will be published in a couple of weeks, it will concentrate on our efforts to prevent pedestrian KSI’s but will include measures that will keep all vulnerable road users safe. Expect more Op ClosePass updates as the year progresses. On 13th January we are holding a Close Pass forum to spread our mindset more than anything when it comes to protecting vulnerable road users, we will of course be covering the practicalities of the operation also for those attending. The actual Operation is easily replicated, changing decades of thinking and resulting practice which is now largely inappropriate given the transport and associated road safety issues we collectively face as a nation is a much harder task……mountains to climb you see…….cake to eat……port to…..I’ll stop there.

 

Safe Cycling All.

Junction Malfunction and a New Dawn

 

 

Despite the first part of this blog being about collisions and keeping safe at the most vulnerable parts of our cycling journeys, hopefully you will come out the other side of this edition of the Safer Cycling blog with a large amount of positivity, so grab a coffee, and maybe even a slice of cake and read on. Oh this blog is a little on the large side, we tried to make it smaller but I’m sure you’ll agree everything that’s in there is necessary, there’s no padding for effect, so in hindsight might want to make it two slices of cake……

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Yet another near miss as a driver pulls across the path of the cyclist

 

Junction Malfunction

When we started the Safer Cycling concept we needed some direction, something on which we could concentrate our efforts to best see results for the work we wanted to do, our core task being to keep vulnerable road users safe on their journeys about the region. In order to make our efforts precise and properly targeted we enlisted the help of our in house analysts at the Central Motorway Police Group. They did what they do best, crunch figures, draw conclusions and give recommendations, the results were as expected, well as expected to those with experience of dealing with collisions involving cyclists, and these collisions were often the ones that did not make the headlines.

The most common complaint we receive from cyclists and now action in the way of prosecution is the close pass scenario, the classic due care and attention offence. This isn’t to be un-expected, we have even highlighted our own close pass experiences and footage/photo’s on our twitter account and previous blogs. So it’s no surprise to all that this remains the priority for most cyclists and more importantly “those considering cycling” when it comes to keeping vulnerable road users safe. However whether it’s a misconception by many or just a lack of awareness the close pass scenario is far from being the greatest threat to cyclists on our regions roads. Between 2010 and 2014 there were 530 KSI (killed or seriously injured) RTC’s (Road Traffic Collisions)involving bicycles, 517 of those KSI RTC’s (98%) involved at least one other vehicle. Of these the most common vehicle to be involved in a KSI RTC with a cyclist was a car (84% of KSI RTC’s).

But this is where the big misconception arises as 75% of KSI RTC’s involving cyclists in the West Midlands from 2010 to 2014 occurred within 20 metres of a junction, involving a cyclist and “another” vehicle. Further analysis (I won’t bore you with the figures, tables etc.) showed that the majority of KSI RTC’s in the West Midlands involving cyclists occur when a car has pulled out of a junction in front of a cyclist that is mid- junction because the car driver has failed to spot the cyclist.

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From the nearside…….

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or the offside drivers just are not looking out for cyclists at junctions

 

Birmingham city centre was the regions hotspot for such collisions, which, as this is where most daily commutes are to and from, and given the heavy traffic volumes, came as no surprise. Further analysis of all KSI RTC’s involving cyclists show that, in the majority of cases there are no environmental factors that have contributed to the collision. In most instances the weather conditions are fine with no winds nor are there any identified carriageway hazards or issues with the road surface. Further, there are regularly no identified special conditions at the collision site (e.g. roadworks, defective signage or markings). Lastly over half the cyclists involved in a KSI collision on the regions roads were commuting to or from work, so in the main we are dealing with experienced cyclists.

Anyone still awake after the number crunching? Well it’s onto the interesting bit….

Conclusions from the statistical analysis and what to do about it……

 

For those of us that cycle daily to work the results came as no surprise. Although the “close pass scenario” remains the greatest concern for the majority of cyclists or for those considering cycling the actual greatest threat we cyclists face on the roads of the West Midlands is the driver pulling out in front of or across a cyclist mid junction, either because they haven’t seen them or miss-judged the cyclists speed or path.

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Classic close pass at a pinch point, aka. driving without due care and attention.

What can be done, well we have two parties involved in this type of collision, analysis of the collisions shows that in such circumstances the blame would lie solely with the driver not the cyclist. This is not uncommon as most drivers are trained and habitually look for other vehicles when negotiating junctions and show a total disregard when it comes to looking for or being aware of vulnerable road users (analysis of KSI collisions involving motorcyclists and pedestrians would prove similar).

We could make use of social media, press releases etc. to tell motorists to “look out” for cyclists, but this has been ongoing with both cyclists and motorcyclists and although has some positive effect it doesn’t reach the target audience we need to engage, those unwilling to take on the message or dismissive of vulnerable road users altogether, which given the rise in KSI collisions involving vulnerable road users seems like the majority of motorists.

Our time and effort, we have quickly realised, is better spent enforcing the law and prosecuting, thus creating a scenario whereby should someone not give a cyclist the time and space necessary or fail to see them completely they should expect to be prosecuted. In other words the carrot goes out the window and in comes the stick. Why some might ask? Well if drivers expect to be prosecuted for committing offences they suddenly stop committing them, unsurprising correlation I know but it’s the truth. Once drivers become aware that an infringement involving a cyclist is one they should expect to be prosecuted for, they suddenly become more aware of them on the road and in turn start giving them the time and space they should lawfully have as an equal road user.  Cyclists suddenly occupy a drivers attention, they actively look out for them and so are less likely to miss them at junctions and contribute to our KSI statistics.

Any offence that would contribute to a driver failing to see a vulnerable road user needs to be enforced, and as has been considered of late, some say needs a greater penalty. Whether that be excess speed that doesn’t give the motorist time to see or react to the vulnerable road user, distraction offences such as mobile phone use, or drug and drink driving.

So drivers need to expect a zero tolerance approach for any offence involving a vulnerable road user, or an offence that could contribute to a collision involving a vulnerable road user. The only way to change driver behaviour and concentrate minds on looking out for vulnerable road users and change driving habits is through enforcement, and the resulting fear of being prosecuted. Now for those who will no doubt be spitting out their finest percolated roasted bean brew at this moment screaming “what about the cyclists !” well…….statistical analysis shows they aren’t to blame, innocent in the majority of KSI collisions it would be a waste of our time, and thus public time and money to concentrate on cyclist behaviour. The figures speak for themselves…….driver’s don’t let your prejudices get in the way of the truth…….

But for those cyclists who want a bit of advice……

Before we carry on, this next section isn’t victim blaming, having read the last several paragraphs you should all have no doubt as to where we think the responsibility lies for the majority of KSI collisions involving cyclist’s and vehicles on our regions roads. I have no doubt a few will be appalled that we offer some safety advice to cyclists on what to do and look out for on the approach to junctions but this isn’t your standard advice, it comes from our thousands of hours watching road user behaviour from an trained advanced road user perspective, even the doubters might learn something from the next section…….and if you’re prepared for the worst you can often avoid it.

Don’t look at the eyes….

Many will say “make eye contact, this ensures they have seen you”, absolute rubbish this, half the time they will be looking not at you but right through you. Ignore the eyes of the driver; watch the wheels of the vehicle instead. A vehicle won’t move without the wheels moving, and you will see the wheels move far before you realise the vehicle is moving thus giving you that split second extra that to react and hopefully avoid a collision.

A red light never stopped anything….

Goes for all road users this one, red lights don’t stop vehicles, they instruct road users to stop their vehicle, if the driver (or cyclist) misses the red light or chooses to ignore it, a miss-placed faith in the power of the red light might be your undoing. Always check the opposing traffic is slowing and intends to stop at a red light, the glance only takes a second, it could be a very valuable second well spent

Hi viz doesn’t mean highly visible and the positive “wobble”

Don’t think hi viz clothing will keep you seen, although hi viz has a place in some circumstances such as low light conditions, it is contrast that catches the attention of the driver who might pull out on you, that, and movements the human eye and brain are wired to detect. White and black all have their place in being seen, white is a particularly visible colour not often naturally occurring so stands out, ever wondered why traffic officers hats are white ? It’s not because we want to look like ice cream salesmen! Lateral movement on the road on the approach to a junction triggers all the receptors visually that drivers need to see, recognise and subsequently react to the cyclist on the road. In low light a flashing front light doesn’t hurt either. So moving out an extra 6 or 12 inches on the approach to a junction can go a long way to making you the centre of the waiting or approaching driver’s attention, as an object moving steadily towards you in a straight line can be missed, the object that is coming towards you with some sideways movement is more easily seen by the drivers whose attention we wish to occupy.

A New Dawn

Cycling is a fantastic thing, it’s benefits are well documented, traffic congestion is reduced, as is pollution, health and wellbeing are boosted for the participants and not forgetting the resultant benefits of less dependence on a stressed NHS. When it comes to playing our part in supporting cycling and cyclists it’s not a case of “why should we?” it’s a case of “why wouldn’t we?” Supporting cyclists and cycling is really a case of policing for the benefit of all, a prime case of policing for the greater good of the community.

Cyclists don’t cause us, as an organisation, problems, that’s because they aren’t causing our communities problems, they aren’t killing nearly 100 people on our regions roads as mechanically propelled vehicles currently do. Yes we do get complaints of the “nuisance” variety, pavement cycling, some anti-social behaviour (usually yobs on bikes rather than “cyclists”), red light running etc. but you get the idea, most peoples interpretation of “1st world problems” or the “modern day blues”, nothing that’s a priority for a force like our own in a modern day society. Bad cycling is an “irritant” to the wider community rather than a danger, and maybe an improvement in infrastructure and policing may alieve many of the reasons that cause a very small minority of cyclists to be an “irritant”

So what can we do to do our bit ?, to encourage along with our partnership agencies people onto bikes and get the personal and community benefits already discussed. Well as we already touched upon in the first part of this blog, people’s fear of the dangers of cycling is the largest barrier, particularly the close pass. The media plays a large part, every cycling tragedy is to the fore, not that they shouldn’t be, such incidents can be a force for change but there is very little to re-address the balance, to convince people that cycling is safe. We as a force must do our upmost to protect the vulnerable on our roads and convince them that if anyone does endanger them on the road the perpetrator will be dealt with. The flip side of this is of course that anyone endangering a vulnerable road user should expect to be identified and prosecuted; this is the key to policing the problem.

The way forward

Although we have had great success prosecuting using cycle camera evidence sent to us by cyclists, not all, even those running cameras on their daily journeys have the desire to start reporting offending drivers (as previously discussed here : Lights, Camera, Action !  ).

So we need to be proactive, and so in partnership with Birmingham City Council we have a new partnership scheme which will see a traffic officer riding the most vulnerable locations for cyclists looking to instantly act upon close passes, distracted driving and the like. The cycling traffic officer when passed too close will let the officer up the road know, who will in turn stop the motorist. Then the offender will be given a choice, prosecution or 15 minutes spent being educated as to the correct way to pass a cyclist.

It’s simple but effective, drivers are shown how far they should be from a cyclist, we have chosen the widely advocated 1.5mtr as our minimum but of course a much further distance will be needed in many circumstances depending on the vehicle type and speed. For instance if the opposite carriageway is available for an overtake and isn’t used in its entirety the driver will be pulled and shown why they should utilise all the available road room available to facilitate a safe overtake. A full sized replica road floor mat with various hazards positioned on it will give perspective and equip drivers with the knowledge needed to prevent further offences being committed.

Those who are committing any other offence as well as the “close pass” due care offence will be prosecuted for all offences, no immediate educational alternative for those who show such a low standard of driving.

Days without education

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Expect prosecution, not education for anything of this standard !

Following a period of education at a particular location if offences persist we will have “enforcement” only days where education isn’t an option for those committing close pass due care offences. Hopefully given the amount of publicity we anticipate this tactic will receive, most drivers should very quickly get the message and hopefully the enforcement only days should be few and far between!

We anticipate a change in driver behaviour as awareness of the tactic spreads, after all, every cyclist on the road ahead may well be a traffic officer on the operation, as our cyclists will not be liveried in any way, drivers will have no way of knowing !

RoSPA

For those who are reading this and think they need to make themselves or others (for example employee’s, friends or colleagues) more aware of how to share the road with cyclists in a way that will avoid prosecution, we recently teamed up with RoSPA and produced an interactive presentation which is free to download and is ideal. The presentation gives drivers examples of how to overtake cyclists, examples of what cyclists may do in certain situations to ensure their safety, and highlights blind spot awareness plus much more, and unlike anything that’s gone before it is filmed on live roads with live traffic, so those who have never cycled on a road get everything from a cyclists perspective. Well worth a look you’ll find it here : RoSPA Share the Road

Well that’s it for this blog, that’s where we are at, anyone from the media who would like more details of the new “Share the Road” scheme which proactively deals with close passes or attend a media launch day for the scheme in the coming week please contact Brigg Ford at our Corporate Communications Department, as for the rest of you, feel free to tweet us with any questions.

Until the next blog

Take care and safe cycling.