Cyclists praise 'safe pass' plan in Sheffield

Inspector Craig Clifton
Inspector Craig Clifton

Sheffield's cycling fraternity is welcoming a police plan to adopt a 'safe pass' plan in the city, but warn it won't be a magic solution to problems between drivers and riders.

The plan, launched today by South Yorkshire Police, will help ensure drivers give cyclists adequate space - 1.5 metres - when passing them on the road.

Russell Cutts says harmony between riders and drivers on Sheffield's roads is still some time away

Russell Cutts says harmony between riders and drivers on Sheffield's roads is still some time away

Police community support officers will hit the Sheffield and Doncaster streets, recording footage from their bicycles.

Officers will then review the footage and investigate any motorists deemed to be driving too closely to cyclists.

Police say they've listened to concerns from cycling groups.

“This is as a direct result of the public’s feedback and we hope this demonstrates that we do listen to your concerns and will act to address the issues you raise," Inspector Craig Clifton said.

Alistair Ellison rides on plenty of Sheffield's streets

Alistair Ellison rides on plenty of Sheffield's streets

If successful, he said the scheme would be rolled out across South Yorkshire.

"We will also continue to investigate allegations of careless driving locally which are brought to our attention," Insp Clifton said.

It has been rolled out forces including West Midlands and Leicestershire.

Cyclists say it's 'about time' South Yorkshire Police followed suit, but it won't be a magic fix to rid Sheffield of the angst between riders and motorists.

Russell Cutts knows all too well the damage which can be done when a cyclist and car collide.

Mr Cutts owns and runs a city centre bike shop, and hears plenty of stories of accidents and near misses every week.

He estimated at least a dozen people per week come in after being hit by cars.

An employee of the store was rear-ended last week. The driver didn't stop.

Mr Cutts, 38, said the scheme was a 'small brick in the wall'.

"We've got to do lots more stuff before we get a harmonious environment on the road." the Fairbank Road, Shirecliffe man said.

"My concern is, how long will this last. How long will the police be bothered.

"Every month there are new drivers on the road. Are they getting the same information."

Campaigns stretching back to November 2016 have paid off for Cycle Sheffield secretary Dexter Johnstone and his colleagues.

"We're really pleased about it," Mr Johnstone, who lives on Lonsdale Road, said, referring to the implementation of the scheme.

"I look forward to a really positive response when they adopt it.

"It will make the road safer, and improve people's perception of safety."

Cycling abroad has given Millhouses woman Emma Shepherd a new perspective of two-wheel travel.

She said cycling holidays in Spain and Germany had taught her that those countries were far more tolerant towards cyclists than in Britain.

"There's an awareness over there. They definitely have a better attitude towards cyclists," Miss Shepherd said.

"When you're not a cyclist, I'm not sure if you're aware of how vulnerable cyclists are.

"On the odd occasion I've driven, I've certainly felt less vulnerable in my little metal bubble."

Miss Shepherd's commute takes her along Carter Knowle Road, Ecclesall Road and Ecclesall Road south, and she said she still saw problems with cars overtaking on the wider streets.

"Even on those really wide roads where drivers have heaps of room, you still have problems with cars overtaking," she said.

One cyclist involved in a near miss last week will feel better about drivers giving him a wider berth.

Ian Loasby was cycling in a 20 mile per hour school safety zone on Maltravers Road when a Volvo driver almost ran into him.

In a video which he uploaded to YouTube, the Volvo can be seen speeding past Mr Loasby before 'tailgating' a car further up the street.

The driver then overtook the car.

"They went past at a very high speed," Mr Loasby said.

Mr Loasby, 53, said he hadn't reported the incident to police.

"I haven't played it back frame by frame," the Greenhow Street, Walkley resident said.

He said he got 'more than a fright' but was also concerned for the safety of other road users.

The incident happened on Mr Loasby's daily commute from Walkley to the Advanced Manufacturing Park on Wallis Way, Catcliffe.

His ride usually takes 40 minutes. In a car, he said it could take him anywhere from 25 to 40 minutes.

Nether Edge man Alistair Ellison was worried that many of Sheffield's roads weren't wide enough to accommodate the 1.5 metre passing space, moving traffic, parked cars and cyclists.

Mr Ellison, who said he was almost 'numbed' to the fear of close calls while riding, said just avoiding car doors was like 'running the gauntlet'..

"I've had a few close calls [with opening doors]," he said.

"If a door opens up, it's best to go into it. Pulling out, that when a lot of people die."

Mr Ellison commutes on London and Abbeydale roads, and said that less cyclists used those streets, in favour of a Wostenholm Road/Montgomery Road ride towards the city centre.

"Those roads are a no-go really, unless you work for Deliveroo," he said.

"Most people have been scared off them."

The fear of riding in Sheffield has become too much for some people he knew.

"My girlfriend has given up," he said.

"She just finds it too dangerous."

Deliberate close passes, he said, 'leave your legs shaking'.

"It feels like somebody has pulled a knife on you," he said.

"Like they're threatening you."

Sheffield councillor and 'cycling champion' Steve Wilson welcomed the news as 'superb'.

"Let's hope it sends out the right messages," he said.

"Cyclists are entitled to use the roads as much as car users are.

"We all have to share the roads.

"Cyclists can feel exposed on urban roads, or any road.

"It stops accidents and makes riding much more pleasant. We have to give cyclists as much room as possible."