Plainclothes PC in Portsmouth snares drivers who come too close as taxi, refuse lorry and van drivers given stark warning
DRIVERS who gave perilously little space when they overtook a plainclothes PC on a bike were issued with a stark warning after being caught in a police operation.
Among the drivers stopped in Northern Parade and London Road, Hilsea, were those behind the wheels of a taxi, refuse lorry and van.
PC Paul Farquharson cycled in a loop on both roads equipped with a video camera ready to catch any drivers coming too close or driving unsafely.
He then radioed ahead to one of his colleagues who pulled the driver into a car park in Alex Way, where a police team supported by Portsmouth City Council would explain what they had done wrong.
Within just 15 minutes of venturing into the road PC Farquharson snared the first driver who came way too close to him and his bike.
A white van driver had continued to go forward as the vehicle reached a traffic island pinch point – with precious little space between bike and van.
The driver, 52-year-old Jason Hatherley from Hilsea, was stopped and educated by traffic officers.
‘What they’re doing has a valid point, it’s educating people,’ he told The News.
‘That has made me a bit aware of what I should be doing.’
Not long after a city taxi driver was pulled over for a similar offence.
He said: ‘I would say it is a good thing you have stopped me to make me aware.
‘But I would like to think you are doing the same for cyclists as well.’
When back on the road it wasn’t long until PC Farquharson had to screech to a halt when a bin lorry came too close.
He said: ‘They came past me going into a bit that was too narrow and a short distance ahead of me they came to a complete stop so I had to brake.
‘All of the incidents have felt unsafe and dangerous. But this was a classic example of not thinking about the length of the vehicle.’
After the driver spoke to the team his supervisor from Biffa, Mike Hobbs, said: ‘I will work with the drivers to reinforce the message about keeping that distance while overtaking cyclists. It is good to be refreshed on any health and safety matter.’
Over the course of a few hours a total of five drivers were flagged down for getting too close.
Another was pulled over after a child passenger had no seatbelt or booster seat.
PC Farquharson was radioing ahead to stop drivers who came within 1.5 metres – recognised as a safe distance.
He said: ‘More than 90 per cent of fatal accidents on push bikes involve a vehicle. So it is the biggest danger factor when cycling.
‘It’s not just about the fact you could hit them, you’ve got to think what would happen if the cyclist were to suddenly fall sideways.
‘They need that space to ensure you don’t go over them.’
According to the Department for Transport Portsmouth has the 16th highest number of incidents involving cyclists being injured – with 74 per 100,000 people in 2019.
Overall there were 160 cyclist casualties that year, with 47 of those seriously injured placing it as one of the most dangerous areas out of 339 places in England and Wales.
And the youngest casualty in the city was aged just four.
Road safety sergeant Dave Hazlett, who oversaw the operation, told The News: ‘It’s all about sharing the road safely.
‘We know that cyclists are vulnerable on the road, especially in urban areas.
‘It’s been a particular problem in Portsmouth, which has quite a high rate of collisions involving bikes, because it’s a city with small roads used for lots of journeys.
‘By doing this we are highlighting the issue and getting drivers to be more aware of keeping a distance.’
Chairman of the Pompey Cycle Forum, Ian Saunders, welcomed the education for drivers but warned greater change was needed to keep cyclists safe.
He said: ‘Safety for cyclists in the city is not great and hasn’t really improved in the seven years since we launched the city to share strategy.
‘Northern Parade is a key commuting road, and should be a part of a city-wide cycling network. We need a network of safe cycle lanes on these key roads otherwise cyclists will always feel unsafe.
‘We know cyclists need to be careful too but these things happen to even the most sensible, when they’re wearing high visibility clothing and lights. Are those two seconds you gain by passing a cyclist really worth it?’
Work to widen the cycle path along Eastern Road, another key commuting route in the city, is set to start soon.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
You can subscribe here for unlimited access to our online coverage, including Pompey, for 26p a day.