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Operation Close Pass is a road safety initiative working to educate drivers and vulnerable road users to help everyone stay safer on Northamptonshire’s roads.

Operation Close Pass is part of a range of road safety work being undertaken by Northamptonshire Police and partners Northamptonshire Highways and the Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner.

Promoting the message that roads are shared space for all users, Operation Close Pass involves taking action against drivers who endanger cyclists and horse riders by passing them too closely, and sharing advice with vulnerable road users to help them ride safely, legally and responsibly.

The Highway Code states motorists should give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as they would when overtaking a car.

Patrolling on bicycles, police officers look out for motorists who fail to pass cyclists at a safe distance – a minimum of 1.5 metres at 30mph. 

By radioing in-car colleagues, drivers who ‘close pass’ are stopped and offered roadside education. 

Anyone deemed to have driven too close to a cyclist can be given penalty points and a fine, or even prosecuted and taken to court. 

Advice is given to cyclists too, to help them ride proactively, safely and responsibly, with any offences they may have committed dealt with accordingly.

Officers also work with the force’s Volunteers on Horseback to educate drivers about how to safely pass horses and riders.

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Passing cyclists: recommended minimum safe passing distances and speeds

  • At 20mph, the minimum safe passing distance is 1 metre
  • At 30mph, the minimum safe passing distance is 1.5 metres
  • Above 30mph, the minimum safe passing distance is 2 metres

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Passing horses: recommended minimum safe passing distance and speed 

When passing a horse and rider, drivers should pass at no more than 15mph and leave at least a car’s width between their vehicle and the horse.

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Information for drivers

Give enough room when passing a cyclist or horse rider.

  • Cyclists require additional room in case they need to avoid potholes, storm drain covers, debris or other hazardous surfaces
  • The higher the speed limit, the more room will be required when passing – if passing a cyclist at 30mph, the minimum distance is 1.5m. Horses should be passed wide and slow, leaving at least the width of a car and travelling at 15mph or less
  • Allow ample room to pull back in after overtaking
  • If there is not enough room to give the required clearance, drivers should wait until sufficient space becomes available

Cyclists sometimes need to ride in the centre of the lane. This is called primary position, or taking the lane. They do this for several reasons:

  • Riding in the middle of the lane helps cyclists to see and be seen better
  • There may be insufficient room for drivers to overtake safely, such as at a pinch point or traffic island
  • Cyclists may take the central position on the approach to a bend, junction or when they are making a right turn

Cyclists are not obliged to use cycle tracks or stay within cycle lanes

  • Off-road cycle tracks can be useful for novice cyclists
  • Cycle tracks are designed to be ridden at slower speeds than can be achieved on the road
  • Many, however, are not joined up and not always suitable for commuting to work, where using the road will be far quicker and more direct
  • Some on-road cycle lanes are too narrow and at times it may be safer for a cyclist to ride outside of the lane, especially alongside parked cars or if there are potholes
  • Drivers are still required to give cyclists the minimum passing distance whether a cycle lane is present

Information for cyclists

  • Obey all traffic signals and always stop at red lights
  • This is for your own safety
  • Be cautious about passing on the inside of large vehicles, particularly at junctions where the vehicle may turn left
  • Disobeying red traffic lights is an offence

Ride in the centre of the lane (primary position) where the road is too narrow for overtaking

  • Ride assertively and make yourself visible in the road by not riding too close to the kerb
  • Take the lane where needed to discourage other vehicles from overtaking where it is unsafe to do so, e.g. at a pinch point in the road, on a bend or near a junction
  • A little wave or thumbs up, thanking the other road users for giving you enough room when passing, never goes amiss

Always use lights after dark or in poor weather conditions

  • The law requires cyclists to display a white light to the front and a red light to the rear
  • Ensure lights are aimed correctly (pointing slightly downwards) to avoid dazzling drivers
  • It’s a good idea to wear high visibility reflective clothing and/or accessories

Do not ride on pavements, unless it is designated as a cycle way

Find out more about cycling in Northamptonshire at www.cyclenorthants.co.uk