Police launched a new initiative to raise awareness of cycle safety in Belfast today Friday 16 June.
The first part of the two-pronged initiative will see close-pass operations involving police officers in plain clothes on unmarked bicycles equipped with cameras, supported by police motorcyclists to identify drivers who don’t give cyclists enough room when they pass.
This will be supported by the #seethecyclist element of the pilot initiative, where all cyclists are encouraged to see and be seen by other road users, whether by using day-time lights or contrast clothing to increase their visibility. Additionally cyclists who are members of local cycling clubs are being encouraged to wear a camera logo badge and use special bicycle mounted cameras to record any close-pass incidents which they can then share with Police.
Superintendent Sue Steen explains, “We have adopted and tailored a national scheme initially developed by West Midlands Police colleagues, to educate both drivers and cyclists to regard the roads as a shared space.
“Initially we have been conducting close-pass operations, mainly focused in and around Belfast city centre. This involves plain clothed PSNI cycle officers being deployed to monitor driver behaviour when encountering cyclists on the roadway.
“The cycle officers wear helmet mounted cameras that capture footage of motorists as they pass by. Where a driver has displayed potentially dangerous driving or has failed to allow a safe or adequate space when passing, the officers radio ahead to uniformed motorcycle colleagues who stop the motorist identified and offer the appropriate advice.
“While our primary focus at this early stage is education, where necessary and appropriate, we will consider enforcement action for the most serious examples. Motorists will also be offered the opportunity to view the footage captured by the cycle officers so they can fully appreciate what ‘close passing’ is like from the cyclist perspective.
“As a minimum, 1.5m is the accepted safe distance a motorist should allow between their vehicle and a cyclist on the roadway. Unfortunately, many drivers are falling far short of this safety requirement.
“I should however also stress that police officers are also tasked to observe cyclist behaviour and intervene with any cyclist who fails to observe the rules of the road or where a cyclist may need to give greater consideration to the environment around them.
“While this operation has taken place solely in Belfast, the interest it has generated from both cyclists and motorists on our social media platforms has meant that we are now exploring extending out into other areas of Northern Ireland,” Superintendent Steen said.
Future plans for the initiative include the provision of training to cycling clubs and the limited provision of cameras to record incidents to be shared with police.
More information can be found on PSNI Belfast Facebook pages, including an opportunity to win #seethecyclist rear lights.
Superintendent Steen added, “We all want to make our roads safer, and need to work together to prevent road collisions, fatalities and injuries so let’s each do our part to #sharetheroadtozero.”