Road Safety News

UK police forces to adopt ‘Give Space, be Safe’ initiative

Thursday 9th February 2017

A number of police forces across England are looking to roll out an initiative designed to actively target motorists who ignore Highway Code rules on overtaking cyclists, has reported.

First introduced by West Midlands Police in September 2016, the ‘Give Space, be Safe’ operation sees police officers saddle up to look out for motorists who do not leave the required space when passing cyclists.

In an article published on 7 February, says the West Yorkshire and Devon & Cornwall forces will adapt the scheme for use in their areas, while police in Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, who work together on roads policing, and Dorset Police are considering the initiative.

This latest news follows earlier announcements, also reported by, that the Met Police, along with the forces in Avon and Somerset and East of Scotland, will trial the operation. Surrey Police are also said to be considering taking up the scheme.

Under Give Space, be Safe, police officers on bicycles pass on details of offending drivers to in-car colleagues who intercept at a designated holding point, where the driver is offered educational input on safe overtaking.

Repeat offenders, or anyone deemed to have driven dangerously close to a cyclist, is prosecuted and taken to court.

Related stories

Police hail success of ‘close pass’ initiative
16 January 2017

Police to ‘actively target’ close passing motorists
16 September 2016

In January, West Midlands Police reported that there had been a 50% drop in poor overtaking of cyclists by drivers since the launch of the operation.

The Highway Code states that drivers should allow vulnerable road users as much room as they would a car when overtaking.

A spokesperson for West Yorkshire Police told “The trial is likely to run in the Inner North West area of Leeds in spring, focussing on areas where there are statistically more cycling collisions.

“If shown to have a positive impact on reducing casualties, then West Yorkshire Police and other authorities, who work collaboratively in an established Safer Roads Partnership, will consider a greater roll out.”

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This is a pointless exercise and nothing will come of it. I cycle commute all year round and experience close passes on a daily basis. The main reason this happens is because the driver is going too fast and isn't observing the road ahead. I observe many drivers who act hastily and squeeze past me and the oncoming vehicle or another cyclist because they can't alter their speed in time. The government should reintroduce a cost-effective speed camera or fit a device to all vehicles that restricts their speed when they enter a 20, 30, 40, 50 mph zone.
Richard Satterthwaite, Solihull

Agree (0) | Disagree (1)

Whilst I applaud any effort to reducing accidents for all road users I wonder whether the police will be stopping groups of cyclists who are riding several abreast during this initiative to discuss how this impacts negatively on driver behaviour?
Karin, Leeds

Agree (10) | Disagree (7)

We hear 'cries' from the cycle lobby because cyclist fall into many types, not just young males, there are families, older people, disabled riders etc. Some will prefer to use the highway and others will prefer a segregated cycle path - in fact some would not cycle unless these are available.
Jon in Bristol

Agree (5) | Disagree (0)

Why do we hear cries from the cycling lobby for cycle paths then, if they (apparently) still prefer to use the mixed use, main c/way, for the reasons David has stated? Cycle paths are typically smooth bitmac, whilst main road c/ways are usually coarser, hot-rolled asphalt which can be hard-going on a bicycle and have their fair share of debris anyway, not to mention gully grids.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (2) | Disagree (2)

Hugh, cyclists choose to use the main carriageway and not a segregated cycle path because their use is not compulsory. The surface of a segregated cycle path is rarely swept clear of debris, glass, etc., by the passage of larger vehicles, so the incidence of punctures is higher. The surface is usually poor and nowhere near as smooth and easy to ride on as the main carriageway, and in poor weather it is highly unlikely to have been salted/gritted.
David, Suffolk

Agree (14) | Disagree (3)

I am pleased that this initiaitve is being rolled out more widely. the 'close passing' of cyclists by motorists is a behaviour that needs highlighting to them. Many motorists may not have been on two wheels for many years and have no idea what it may feel like or how intimidating it might be to be passed closely at relatveily high speed. From what I understand this initiaitve is about educating motorists about good and respectful driving behaviour, whilst being mindful that for many motorists the behaviour is not any wilful intent to cause injury or distress to the two wheeler..... And of course, there is the potential that if a driver passes closely to a cyclist, they may also be engaging in other inadvertant dangerous driving behaviour (tailgating), cutting across other road users at junctions etc, general lack of observance. Therefore any engagement in some kind of general road safety education is to be welcomed. At the very least this gets motorists to think about their actions and the consequences of these and perhaps nudge or amend their behaviour.
Becky Leeds

Agree (14) | Disagree (2)

Bob, experienced cyclists prefer the primary position because it actually deters dangerous drivers from overtaking them ludicrously close when there is oncoming traffic or a central island. If you cycle to the left of the lane dangerous drivers assume that because the gap between you and the oncoming traffic or island is just wider than their vehicle that it's OK for them to whizz through with little or no thought of leaving space for error or contingency (yours or theirs).
Charles, England

Agree (15) | Disagree (6)

In motorcycling they no longer promote the near to kerb as the safety position. It's either in general terms going to be about the middle of the carriageway or slightly from there towards the outside of the carriageway about 2/3rds distant from the kerb.

The only difference from a motorcyclist occupying that position and a bicycle is that whilst it has been found to be a safer position than the nearside kerb a motorcyclist can keep up with and not hold up traffic.

Those in the profession of cycle training have adopted this safer central position and used it in the same way that a motorcyclist would but with the difference that they may actually be holding up traffic by travelling slower. In some cases slower than the traffic could otherwise freely flow.

The secondary or close to the kerb position being considered more dangerous due to the fact that it places the cyclist into the peripheral vision of drivers and indeed if drivers drive to close to each other as in the tailgate position its hardly likely that a cyclist would in fact be seen before it is to late. If traffic strung themselves out a bit more with greater distances in between, that being closer to the following on position then there is a greater likelihood that cyclists would be seen and accommodated. Less injuries and deaths would ensue.
Bob Craven Lancs

Agree (5) | Disagree (2)

Re: Cyclists in the middle of the road. I have never forgotton the wise advice my motorcycle trainer gave me as a new rider back in 1969. "No point in lying in a pool of blood after a collision saying I had the right of way". I always seek to follow that defensive riding mindset especially when on 2 wheels, whether motorised or pedal power.
Pat, Wales

Agree (21) | Disagree (1)

Slightly off the subject perhaps but relevant, the A540 between Heswall and Thursaston, Wirral, is a 1.5 mile stretch of rural 'A' road where typical speeds, because of its characteristics, are around 50-60mph. A signed cycle path has been provided, segregated from the c/way by several metres of verge (but still paralleling the main c/way) i.e. well away from traffic, nevertheless I still see cyclists using the main c/way where they would be vulnerable, instead of the cycle path where they are not and cannot figure out why a cyclist would choose to do this.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (8) | Disagree (9)

Cyclists are now taught that there are two riding positions. The first is the preferred or primary one of being slap bang in the middle their carriageway and directly in front of any following traffic. This is as some trainers say the safest position and commands the road space around the cyclist. It also discourages possible dangerous overtakes by other vehicles. That is the preferred position, the secondary position is now the nearside of the road where there may be a cycle lane. Or not.

That being said there is no lawful reason why a cyclist cannot move from one position (secondary) to the other (primary) as he so wishes. It therefore follows that cyclists can use most of the road on the correct side of the line just like any other vehicles on our highways.
Bob Craven Lancs

Agree (21) | Disagree (3)

Cyclist this morning drifted out about 3 metres from the kerb. Almost to the centre of the road before correcting. No apparent reason. Hope the cyclist is intercepted by the police and "offered educational input".
Pat, Wales

Agree (19) | Disagree (21)

Missed off that GMP started doing this about 2 weeks after attending the West Mids Police workshop. Recommend anyone doubting this reads the WMP blog on safer cycling. Well done to West Mids Police.

Agree (9) | Disagree (11)

It is fraught with problems. What if a driver specifically gave such distance to a cyclist and was in close proximity to overtake when the cyclist suddenly decided to move out, away from the kerb for whatever reason. What then, the driver overtaking would clearly be breaking the law. Should we not therefore give more distance and solve the problem and then traffic will have to slow and follow. I am quite sure that some would enjoy that to happen.
Bob Craven Lancs

Agree (15) | Disagree (6)

I did wonder how they were able to monitor this Nick and be able to claim the 50% reduction, however that aside, if such an initiative can bring about such dramatic improvements, why not now launch a similar campaign for close following and other undesirable behaviour, using the same methods?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (17) | Disagree (0)

Yes I have a full report by the author of the intervention. It is not as originally reported as being sucessful. One might have a number of offenders appologising for the infringement. The fact that police were seen in uniform on certain roads and over a number of days and that would be sufficient reason for drivers to slow down and or take more care. Several drivers were reported for offences but none for Sect 3 RTA. which they could have done.

As such it was merely an exercise and if taken through to courts through prosecutions the distance of 1.5 meters would be given in evidence and it would have to be proven that it was dangerous, lacking due care and attention or reasonable consideration. At present it has no standing in law.

On the other hand the safe stopping distances as shown in the Highway Code are specific and well established and could be used in evidence. Why then are the police not out there reporting offenders for Tailgating.
Bob Craven Lancs

Agree (13) | Disagree (5)

Hugh and Bob
West Midlands Police are reporting big success with this initiative in terms of a reduction in the number of 'close passing' incidents involving cyclists. Perhaps that is the yardstick by which it success should be judged?
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

Agree (19) | Disagree (8)

It's well-intentioned, but what are the chances of the police being in the right place at the right time to observe such an offence and even then, being prepared to take action? Also, that distance may be acceptable at low passing speeds, but not at higher speeds. Imagine as a cyclist, being passed by a vehicle doing 60mph, 1.5m away.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (14) | Disagree (4)

The police are using an arbitrary (made up) distance as the Highway Code does not specify 4'6" it just requires a driver to give them plenty of room. It's the police that have decided that the distance should be that or the same for overtaking a parked vehicle and a distance that would take into account a car door being opened. Nothing to do with cyclists.

However when it comes to Safe Stopping Distances (the safe following on position) at whatever speed one cares to mention the Highway Code gives specific distances that should be observed and a distance that would enable a car to stop in and avoid a collision with the vehicle in front. That being the case where are the police when vehicle drivers are tailgating and totally disobeying those distances and again are also committing an offence under S.3. of the RTA. Nowhere.

A lot more collisions, injuries and deaths could be dramatically reduced if that Safe Stopping Space was policed. Of course it could, but they would rather put their services where it would appear to be a more politically expedient issue.
Bob Craven Lancs

Agree (18) | Disagree (8)