Cyclist deaths prompt new police campaign to keep drivers at a safe distance

  • Watch report by ITV Meridian's Juliette Fletcher

A new campaign has been launched across the Thames Valley to try and help keep cyclists safe following the deaths of two cyclists in two months.

The "Safe to Pass" initiative encourages drivers to leave at least 1.5 metres of space when overtaking someone on a push bike, and more if you are on rural roads.

The road safety team are working in conjunction with Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service to educate motorists who are stopped for not passing a cyclist safely.

Road Safety Officer, Liz Johnson said: "Between the cyclist and the vehicle is an arm's length.

"That's how much space you need to leave when you are overtaking a cyclist -that's in 30mph roads.

  • Road Safety officer Liz Johnson explains how to judge your distances when passing a cyclist.

"If you are going on to rural roads, where speed limits are greater - 50 or 60mph - you need to leave much more space.

"You also need to slow down because the backdraft of the vehicle travelling past will unsteady the person riding the bicycle, so it's really important you do slow down  but you also give much more space."

The campaign comes after two women cyclists died in separate incidents in Oxford within weeks of each other.

Scientist and mother of two Dr Ling Felce, 35, died in a collision with a lorry at The plain Roundabout on Tuesday 1 March. 

Speaking to ITV Meridian following her death, Dr Ling's husband James said cyclists are dicing with death in the city every day.

"Cycling safety in Oxford is this ongoing issue. I've lived here 17 years and it's been a constant issue.

"But the kind of thing that happens to cause a death at roundabouts like The Plain and other junctions, they happen every day. It is just luck that no-one is killed every day."

A week after her death, scores of cyclists and emergency services workers lined the streets of Oxford, to attend a vigil in honour of Dr Ling.At the vigil Chair of Cyclox, Alison Hill said the group feels "enough is enough", and called for a reduction of traffic in the city to help protect cyclists.Less than four weeks before Ling Felce's death, a woman in her 40s, also died when she collided with an HGV near Oxford Parkway station during the morning rush-hour.

PC Barry Duplock of Thames Valley Police said, "Safety is everybody's responsibility.

"But quite rightly, the burden of responsibility goes on the road user that's capable of causing the most harm.

As part of the initiative police released footage, filmed by a police officer with a camera fixed to his helmet.

It shows just how vulnerable cyclists can be the road, as a bus passes too close to a cyclist.

  • Watch the moment a bus passes too close to a cyclist

Dave Nash of Oxford Cycling Club said, "It's terrifying to experience a close pass.

"To have a car pass you at speed, eve in urban areas is terrifying.

"But if you're in more rural roads, the speed limits are often higher, and obviously if anything were to happen, you're much further away from the ambulance services.

"It's unnerving, it's intimidating, incredibly scary and obviously unnecessary in many cases.

  • Dave Nash of Oxford Cycling Club supports the 'Safe Pass' scheme

The scheme also follows changes to the Highway Code, which now means cyclists are given greater priority on the roads as a new hierarchy system comes into force.

As part of the campaign, an operation was carried out in Oxford, where drivers of a car, taxi and a bus were stopped.

They were given an education session instead of a fine and points on their licences.

What are the Highway Code rules for overtaking cyclists?

You must give cyclists at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car (see Rules 211 to 215). As a guide:

leave at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph, and give them more space when overtaking at higher speeds.

Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service has been working with Thames Valley Police and Oxford Cycling Club.

They aim to get the message across that Oxford is a busy and crowded city, and everyone has a right to use the roads.

But cyclists are vulnerable and all road users must drive as safely and responsibly as possible.