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‘Safe pass’ operation to protect cyclists rides into Wirral

A ‘safe pass’ operation which aims to better protect the region’s cyclists has taken to the roads of Wirral.

Merseyside Road Safety Partnership Safer Roads team has introduced Operation Safe Pass with the aim of educating drivers about the minimum space needed when overtaking cyclists in order to ensure they can use the roads safely.

The Highway Code stipulate that motorists should give cyclists at least the same distance as vehicles when overtaking and anyone encroaching within the safe passing distance – widely considered to be a minimum of 1.5metres – runs the risk of being prosecuted for driving without due care and attention.

The operation saw drivers who failed to give cyclists the minimum safe space pulled over by the police and given advice about the potential dangers of their driving. During the operation, held around Liscard Road and supported by the council's Road Safety Officers, a total of 22 motorists were pulled over and shown an educational cycle mat to demonstrate the actual distance they should leave when overtaking a cyclist. Leaflets explaining the importance of safe pass were also handed out and information was provided to passing members of the public and bike users.

The ‘safe pass operation’ was first developed by West Midlands Police in September last year and has since been adopted by a number of other police forces and road safety partnerships. It was first introduced on Merseyside in July, with the first operation taking place in Sefton.

The initiative has been welcomed by the region’s Police Commissioner, Jane Kennedy, who in May this year made improving road safety one of her five policing priorities.  Earlier this month, she also united with new Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram and the Road Safety Partnership to launch a new road safety strategy for the region.

Jane said: “Since 2010 Merseyside has witnessed an increase in the number of people killed or seriously injured on its roads. Cyclists are particularly vulnerable and that is why more needs to be done to better protect them and ensure other road users are considerate of their needs.

“This operation is designed to better educate drivers so they are aware of the space they need to allocate when passing cyclists, but it also carries with it a deterrent - those who continue to flout the law will be prosecuted. Our priority must be making the roads a safer place for all who use them and I hope we can reduce the need for enforcement action by increasing awareness and understanding among drivers through initiatives such as this.”

Sergeant Ian McPhail who leads Merseyside Road Safety Partnership’s Safer Roads problem solving team said: “We are committed to protecting all road users and that means putting in place measures to better protect those who use the road who are particularly vulnerable, including cyclists. This was a really productive operation on the Wirral which got a very positive response from motorists who clearly understood the importance of this work.

“We know that the failure by some drivers to give cyclists sufficient space when overtaking is a significant factor in why people are put off from using bikes. Drivers need to be aware that by passing a cyclist too closely they are putting an individual in danger. It is not good enough for motorists to simply concentrate on getting from A to B - they need to be aware of those around them and ensure they are driving in a safe manner which does not put endanger anyone else around them. Drivers who fail to do this face being prosecuted for driving carelessly or even dangerously.                     

“I want to get the message out ‘pass safer, not closer’.”