'I don't want to knock on that door' : Northamptonshire constable explains why drivers should give cyclists a wide berth

PC Maureen Allsopp-Clarke
PC Maureen Allsopp-Clarke

Northamptonshire drivers are being reminded of the safe passing distance when overtaking cyclists and horseriders as the evidence of near misses grows.

Statistics show that a handful of cyclists are killed on the county's roads each year but helmet and handlebar-mounted cameras are now showing that there are a huge number of a unreported near misses.

Northamptonshire Police's Operation Close Pass, launched today, seeks to educate motorists how to overtake at a safe distance of 1.5 metres and not add to the horror clips online.

There will also be emphasis on plain clothes cyclists and volunteer horse riders who can report dangerous manoeuvres to police officers waiting nearby.

But PC Maureen Allsopp-Clarke said she would rather the campaign made drivers change their risky behaviour than it result in more arrests, especially given she and colleagues are the ones who have to inform families of a tragedy face-to-face.

She said: "A day when we don't catch anyone for hitting a cyclist or horse rider is a good day.

Four-year-old Rhoda Jones of Wellingborough gives the thumbs up to a lorry driver who passed her and her family safely while they were cycling

Four-year-old Rhoda Jones of Wellingborough gives the thumbs up to a lorry driver who passed her and her family safely while they were cycling

"I'm the one that has to knock on the door. I don't want to knock that door."

Operation Close Pass emphasises respect for those using four legs or pedal power who always have the potential to act unpredictably, suddenly veering around hazards unseen by the motorist.

The operation was the brainchild of cyclist David Dawes, a father of two who says he has at least three near misses per week while pedaling to and from work.

He showed the video footage of potential accidents from his helmet camera to former Chief Constable Simon Edens, who was shocked.

The safe clearance for overtaking a cyclist at 30mph is 1.5 metres

The safe clearance for overtaking a cyclist at 30mph is 1.5 metres

Mr Dawes said: "The figures showing cyclists who are killed and seriously injured don't tell the story. On paper it doesn't look like a problem.

"Until that half-hour meeting, there was an acceptance there was an issue but the videos really showed how bad things are out there."

Operation Close Pass is part of a range of road safety work being undertaken by the force’s Safer Roads Team and partners Northamptonshire Highways and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Also at the launch was Wellingborough cyclist Tom Jones, whose video of his daughter Rhoda giving a thumbs-up to an HGV driver passing the family safely went viral on YouTube during the summer.

He said: "In some ways it is sad that that's the video that did so well. One that could do with being shared was when her sister, Ruth, was almost knocked over by a caravan."

Mr Jones said if motorists took the same care passing an adult cyclist as they usually would passing a child on a bike, there would be far fewer tragic accidents.

"I suppose what drivers need to remember is that they should be careful overtaking all cyclists. I'm just as squishy as a little girl. And we are all someone's child."