Here's how things currently stand: D & C Police have three road casualty reduction officers and of the three, two are on long-term sick leave - we wish them a speedy recovery for their and our sakes. That leaves a single such officer, plus a police sergeant who has since realised how big an issue this actually is. Together, the pair of them are trying to push water uphill, so to speak and if there is little to no visible progress, I do believe it isn't for lack of trying on their part.
D & C Police confirmed they have NO short-term plans to implement a close pass inititative at all. In fact, the closest they get to offering any sort of commitment is to say that once all three road casualty reduction officers are available again, they will look into the possibility of delivering such an initiative in Devon and Cornwall.
As D & C Police works closely with Dorset Police in a policing alliance, and given that Dorset Police also said they'd look into the possibility of delivering a close pass initiative, D & C Police indicated they might even explore this further in partnership with Dorset Police.
This sounds hopeful, and certainly - for the first time ever, many cyclists would say - D & C Police are starting to act on reports of dangerous driving as reported by cyclists. It may not seem like much, but D & C Police is a large organisation, and like a big ship on the ocean, turning around takes a long time before it's noticeable.
Recently I spoke with Alison Hernandez, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall. When I raised this issue with her, she said it hasn't been raised before, and that quite understandably, she feels she should focus on issues raised by the majority.
Think about that for a moment, as it directly affects all cyclists in and around Devon and Cornwall. To put it simply, if YOU don't raise the issue by emailing Alison Hernandez, then YOU are failing to raise the profile of the problem and YOU are failing to help turn things around. It really is down to each and every single one of us to bombard both police and the PCC with reports highlighting the seriousness of this matter.
It's down to YOU!
Here's what YOU can and should do:
- Report every instance of dangerous driving you experience while out cycling. Yes, even if you don't have the reg number of the vehicle involved. This is (at this stage) more about getting the scale of the problem recognised, and for that YOU need to report things. Reporting is quick and easy via D & C's 101 email address (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Email Alison Hernandez. Email her every month, asking what she is doing about this issue. Tell her that the facts speak for themselves: KSI stats overall on the force's area are down, except for cyclists, where KSI stats are climbing fast. Yes, cycling is now more dangerous than a year ago, and Alison Hernandez needs to address that. Of course, she won't, unless YOU email her, or call her, and pile on the pressure.
- Get each and every cyclist you know in Devon and Cornwall to do the same. Tell them again, and again, and again. Because if YOU don't do this, nothing will get done. It really is that simple!
There are other points you can raise with Alison Hernandez too. For example, D & C Police think they need special officers to deliver this, when West Mids Police delivered it without any new resources, and on a cost-neutral basis. This is a vital point - after all, if West Mids Police can do it, why can't D & C Police?
Find out when your next neighbourhood policing meeting is. These meetings are usually attended by people who love to moan about dog mess and similar issues. Yes, those matter, but people's lives aren't directly at risk, while poor driving often kills.
The points raised at these meetings collectively add up to help set overall policing priorities, so if YOU don't attend and if YOU don't raise cyclists' safety, then YOU are failing yourself, as well as all other cyclists.
Seriously, this is a numbers game - we need to ensure more of our voices are heard. There simply isn't any other way to get this moving forward.
So if YOU want to be safer on the roads, you know what to do!