Cycling in Yorkshire & Beyond

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Attitude at Op Snap North Yorkshire

Close pass on Beech Grove
Close pass on Beech Grove

Op Snap allows people to submit video footage of driving offences to the police via an online portal.

Done well by some forces, it can make people on bikes feel that the police have their backs. Instead of being powerless and unsupported in the face of routine close passes, you have confidence that someone in authority will do something about it.

West Yorkshire have a very good Op Snap reputation, but North Yorkshire don’t.

When I last wrote about Op Snap North Yorkshire a year ago, North Yorkshire Police were failing to act on many submissions within the time limit, resulting in No Further Action in most cases.

Now, they seem to respond more often, albeit not every time, but there is still an attitude problem.

This is illustrated by their response to a submission I made in May this year.

Close Pass on Beech Grove

This video shows a close pass on Beech Grove by the driver of YD19DVU.

Op Snap Response

This is the response I received when I submitted the video to Op Snap North Yorkshire.

Op Snap response to close pass on Beech Grove
Op Snap response to close pass on Beech Grove

The police said they would take positive action against the driver – good news.

However, the response came with this commentary:

‘I have taken positive action against this driver as you are correct in saying that they passed you too closely whilst you were alongside a parked vehicle, however I note from your footage that you continue to ride in this position in the road even when the parking bays are empty.

If you consider Highway Code Rule 72 (…if a faster vehicle comes up behind you, move to the left to enable them to overtake, if you can do so safely) then you may find that fewer drivers become frustrated and attempt to overtake you when it is not safe to do so. Thank you.’

police commentary in response to op snap submission

This commentary lays bare a disappointingly hostile attitude from North Yorkshire Police.

Analysing the Police Commentary

1) Criticism of My Road Position

The police criticise my road position. They imply that I should be riding in the parking bays, not on the road.

That can’t be right. Would they criticise a driver for using the carriageway as a default road position, not the parking spaces? Highly unlikely.

I’m happy to ride in the parking spaces if they are free for a long stretch, but it is not good practice to dive in and out when only a short stretch is empty. It is also completely unnecessary when no vehicles are coming up behind me.

In this case I was riding on the left hand side of the carriageway, leaving enough clearance where there were parked cars to avoid getting doored. That was the right place for me to be.

My strong impression is that the person giving me advice about road positioning when cycling does not actually do any utility cycling, and therefore doesn’t know what’s safe in practice and what isn’t.

2) Imaginary Faster Vehicles Coming Up Behind Me

The police appear to criticise me for failing to move to the left to enable imaginary faster vehicles coming up behind me to overtake.

Other than the driver who actually overtook me when I was level with a parked car, there were no other moving vehicles in the video I submitted to the police.

Their comment about faster vehicles coming up behind me is therefore not applicable.

Why make that comment when it’s irrelevant to the circumstances?

3) Quoting the Highway Code

The provision of the Highway Code about getting out of the way of faster vehicles is not relevant when there aren’t any.

Why were the police quoting the Highway Code at me? Probably because I referred to relevant provisions of the Highway Code in my submission.

I do that because, in my experience, I have to. I mention:

  • Rule 67, which advises cyclists to leave 1m clearance when passing parked cars, to avoid being hit if a car door is opened and
  • Rule 163, which tells drivers to leave at least 1.5m when overtaking cyclists, and to wait behind the cyclist and not overtake if it is not possible to meet that clearance

I’ve had police responses which show that they don’t know Rule 67 – for example ‘cyclist riding wide’ when I left the appropriate amount to space to a parked car – nor Rule 163.

'Cyclist riding wide' feedback
‘Cyclist riding wide’ feedback

The requirement not to overtake if you can’t leave 1.5m is ignored by North Yorkshire Police, who apply their own made-up test instead: did the driver leave as much space as they could given that it was a narrow road?

This is an example of applying the Myway Code instead of the Highway Code.

4) ‘Fewer Drivers [Will] Become Frustrated’

The police say that if I move further left I may find that ‘fewer drivers become frustrated and attempt to overtake you when it is not safe to do so’.

That is appalling feedback. The police appear to be blaming me for being close-passed, and making excuses for the drivers responsible for the close passes.

I get the impression that the staff who deal with Op Snap submisisons may have a hostile attitude towards me. I have made quite a few close pass submissions under Op Snap, and they probably don’t like having to do the work involved in dealing with them.

I would like to feel that the police support vulnerable road users and want to make the roads safer, one close-passing driver at a time. The impression I actually get is that their attitude is ‘why are you bothering us with this? It must be your fault if you’re getting close-passed all the time’.

I am not cycling around trying to be close-passed by drivers; it just happens.

Many drivers don’t know the Highway Code, or are too impatient to apply it. They know that there is zero roads policing in towns in North Yorkshire.

So I have made a few Op Snap submissions, but with their prickly responses North Yorkshire Police have now successfully put me off doing it most of the time.

5) Equivalence Between Dangerous Driving and Impatience to Overtake

The person who wrote the commentary appears to see dangerous close passes on the one hand, and frustration at being unable to overtake immediately on the other hand, as more or less equivalent.

In effect, if you delay someone in a car, you deserve to be close passed.

They seem to see the road primarily through a windscreen.

How to Improve Op Snap North Yorkshire

Op Snap North Yorkshire needs improvement.

Ideally the staff dealing with submissions would be regular utility cyclists, so that they understand the considerations and challenges. At the least they should be trained in the Highway Code and how it applies to overtaking cyclists.

They should be determined to use Op Snap to improve road safety for people on bikes, instead of sympathising with drivers who make dangerous close passes out of impatience.

Attitude at Op Snap North Yorkshire

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