Dr Alan Billings joined South Yorkshire Police’s Sheffield North West Neighbourhood team in welcoming a very recognisable face to a safe passing operation in the Rivelin Valley on Friday (17 September) to highlight the dangers faced by cyclists from inconsiderate drivers.
Dame Sarah Storey, Britain’s most successful Paralympian and the Active Travel Commissioner for the Sheffield City Region, joined Inspector Kevin Smith and his team to help pass on the bike safety message.
These formed part of the force’s efforts towards Project EDWARD, a national road safety campaign which stands for Every Day Without A Road Death and sees the police joining forces with partner agencies to promote the road safety message. In this region, all efforts were put on between South Yorkshire Police and the South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership.
Dr Billings joined Dame Sarah and the neighbourhood team on the A57 for a safe passing operation where they cycled the Rivelin Valley Road, recording the behaviour of passing motorists on cameras mounted on their bikes.
Those who passed very close or drove dangerously were reported ahead and pulled in by police officers who then explained why they had been stopped and how they needed to improve their driving when approaching or overtaking cyclists.
Earlier in the Day Dr Billings attended a similar operation in the Loxley valley, this time involving mounted police officers monitoring of driver behaviour when passing horses.
Dr Billings said: “The operations were educational rather than enforcement action, though vehicles were checked for tax, insurance and general roadworthiness.
“What was noticeable in both instances was the very different attitudes drivers adopted. Some immediately accepted that they had been rather thoughtless and readily took instruction and advice. They were kept for little more than ten minutes. But others started to argue and posture – which probably doubled the time they were detained.
“My thanks go to Dame Sarah who, despite an extraordinarily busy schedule since her astonishing wins at the Tokyo Paralympics, still found time to support the EDWARD initiative in South Yorkshire. For the motorists who were told they had just carelessly passed Dame Sarah Storey, it was a lesson about the safety of other road users they are unlikely to forget.”
In total, 25 motorists were pulled over and spoken to in the two-hour event. Five more who will be receiving a Notice of Intended Prosecution through the post as they were not stopped at the time.
In total there were 10 prosecutions for offences such as driving without due care and attention and contravening double white lines. Three motorists were also issued with warnings under the Police Reform Act which means if they are found to be using their vehicles in an antisocial or careless manner again within the next 12 months then they can be seized to reduce the danger they pose to other road users.
Speaking about taking part, Dame Sarah, who was there on behalf of Sheffield City Region’s Cycle Walk South Yorkshire Scheme, said: “Clearly, these operations are music to the ears of anyone who rides a bike, so it was great to be able to witness the police work so hard to improve road conditions for everyone.
“The animosity some people cycling have received from other road users is completely unnecessary and the more work that can be done to reiterate that driving a vehicle is a privilege, not a right, the better.
“As anyone who commutes by cycle will tell you, abuse from vehicle drivers is a daily issue. Sometimes it’s borderline bad driving, but all too often it is deliberate, dangerous driving and unnecessary intimidation through anti-social behaviour.
“It’s a public road, so everyone has the right to be there. Obviously I have personal reasons for being involved in a safe pass operation, but I also know the reason why so many people are put off walking and cycling, and why our rates of everyday cycling journeys are so low – it is down to the levels of road danger.”
Earlier in the day Dame Sarah joined Insp Smith at Deepcar St John’s Primary School to give a talk to cyclists of the future who were undertaking a session as part of the national Bikeability scheme – which helps youngsters gain important cycling proficiency while having some fun in the saddle.
For more information on Project EDWARD, visit www.projectedward.org