A TRUCK driver has been handed a hefty fine after being found guilty of a dangerous overtake on a cyclist – the first court conviction in West Midlands Police’s operation to protect riders from “close-pass” motorists.
The 60-year-old Birmingham man was convicted of driving without due care and attention having squeezed past the experienced cyclist on a Black Country road last November.
He denied the offence – caught on camera in Tipton’s Park Lane West – but was landed with fines and costs totalling £1,038 and given five points on his licence after being found guilty at Birmingham Magistrates Court on 30 June.
West Midlands Police’s #GiveSpaceBeSafe scheme was launched last September and sees plain clothes cops pedalling the region’s busiest roads on the lookout for motorists who pass too close for comfort.
But in addition to running regular operations the force has also prosecuted more than 300 offenders using helmet- and dash-cam footage provided by members of the public.
PC Mark Hodson from the Central Motorway Police Group (CMPG) said: “Most offenders watch the footage, accept their driving was below par, and elect for a driver improvement course or an offer of three licence points and £100.
“This was a clear case of a close-pass: the cyclist was nearly forced into the kerb and the actions of the truck driver could easily have caused a very serious collision. He maintained his innocence, though, and has now been convicted in court.
“Our advice to drivers overtaking cyclists and other vulnerable road users like horse riders is to be patient, plan your overtake, and give plenty of room – the Highway Code says drivers should give the same room as when overtaking another vehicle which is about 1.5-metres or an open car door’s width.
“A few seconds delay to ensure a safe overtake is nothing compared to the consequences of a poorly planned and executed overtake can be.”
Almost 200 offenders have been pulled over during police close-pass operations. Most have been allowed on their way after being given an on-the-spot educational input on safe overtaking using a specially designed floor mat.
However, 13 drivers went on to be prosecuted and two had licences revoked at the roadside for failing eyesight tests.
West Midlands Police has seen reports of close-passes halve since the scheme was introduced – and 16 police forces the length and breadth of the country are now considering embracing what UK Cycling described as the “best cyclist road safety initiative ever”.
The 56-year-old cyclist, from Wednesbury, affected by the HGV close-pass said he started using cycle cameras after being knock-off his bike by a hit and run driver in 2015.
He added: “I was seriously hurt and it took six weeks to recover – and what made matters worse for me was that we couldn’t trace the driver.
“It helps me greatly to cycle on the roads knowing that, should anyone endanger me, West Midlands Police will act upon it…it gives cyclists the confidence and reassurance that such dangerous driving will not be tolerated.”
Click here for more information on how to complete a ‘standard of driving complaint’ and submit camera evidence.