What’s happening with close passes?

A group of police officers sit staring at a computer screen watching a piece of video footage submitted by Samuel Shoesmith.  They listen to him exclaim as the car overtakes within mere inches of his bicycle.  They look at each other.  They laugh.  “Oh, we haven’t got time for this.  The driver of the car didn’t actually touch him.  They were going straight”.  Another officer hits the delete key and watch as the Recycle Bin icon fills up.  “Next!”.

This is what I imagine happens. This nightmare scenario is based on submitting footage and hearing awful police responses a few years ago and in the last year actually not hearing back at all because they claim it is for ‘Data Protection’ reasons.  They could actually be dismissing anything submitted and we would be none the wiser.

The cloak of secrecy still shrouds the outcome of public submitted video content in Northamptonshire.

What’s happening with closs passes?

Right now, if I were to submit footage from a dashcam or bicycle camera to Northants Police I would not hear back whatsoever of the outcome unless it went all the way to court.

This needs to change quickly.

For a long time I have asking Northants Police to be better.

And this example:

The police cannot be everywhere but the public can.  Transparency is needed with the policing of our roads.  More reporting can be encouraged from the act of being more open.  Knowing that a careless or dangerous driver will be receiving points, sent on a compulsory education course, or saying goodbye to their licence will make the reporter more inclined to repeat knowing that their time and energy in doing so has been worthwhile.  The reporting has helped contribute towards the policing of our roads and at the end of the day potentially saved someone from injury or death.

Built into my front and rear bicycle lights are cameras or rather built into my cameras are bicycle lights. For years and years I have used these for each and every ride.  Most drivers are sensible. They wait for a few seconds and when it is safe and legal to do so they overtake.  However, some are careless and dangerous.  Over the years I have reported quite a few.  I can count on one hand the successes.  Most are dismissed.  Some have been given written warnings.  I only know this from a couple of years ago.

It was just over a year ago that Northants Police launched Operation Snap.  The idea was that this was a portal for people to easily submit footage and fill out a binding witness statement at the same time.

The reason I wrote this piece today is because the company, Cycliq, who made the bicycle cameras that I own, run a website called upride.cc and I had a look at the map for Wellingborough.  Their website encourages people who film their journeys to upload footage of close pass, or crashes, or bad paths or roads.  I was shocked no one had yet submitted footage around here so I decided to look through my archive of close passes. As per policy, if I am submitting footage to the police I cannot upload it to social media as it can affect its court outcome should it reach there. Therefore it is the case that the worse instances of close pass and dangerous driving which I have reported have not been uploaded publicly. I was searching through my archive and an incident that happened on 28th June last year flagged up.

Whilst waiting at the traffic light, a car came behind me. We waited. We went to the same exit at the traffic light but rather the driver waiting for a second to safely and legally pass, they close passed and threw some liquid at me. It was a perfectly dry evening. It couldn’t have been rain plus the direction of travel suggests it came from the direction of the car. The liquid entered then entered my mouth.

I got home and went through the rigmarole of reporting this. As per the ridiculous policy change I was not due to hear anything back after submitting it through Operation Snap. I was so angry because not only did they close pass but a liquid was thrown. I emailed to say I wanted to find out what happened. The Police Officer said as I hadn’t suggested in my online report that it was “harmful liquid” it was deemed to be harmless and therefore I would hear no more and she assured me appropriate action would be taken. She stated that as the liquid caused no skin irritation that now due to Northants Police’s policy I would not be updated owing to Data Protection.

Still upset and angry by this, a few weeks later I called the Force Control Room to ask for an update. It took an age to find as apparently the online reference numbers are not dealt with by them. They stated that the case had been reviewed by an officer and the case had been dismissed and the file closed.

The opening paragraph I made above was based on my worries as I know the way that they have dealt with clear cut close passes before.  Back in 2018, I reported a very clear close pass by a van driver.  A week later I had a call back asking me what I wanted them to do.  The police officer stated it was hard to tell how close it was.  I began explaining close passes and the Highway Code to him.  I asked for warning of a Section 59 to be issued.  This was to educate the driver and to allow more room in the future otherwise his van could be seized if he were caught.  The officer, I think reluctantly, agreed.  Another case a few years ago I distinctly remember was a driver wanted to get past me.  I was in the middle of the lane at a junction, checking it was safe to pull out and he close pass overtook on the junction without looking if anything was coming.  The police responded to my report saying essentially he shouldn’t have done that but stated I had goaded him by being in the middle of the lane.  I was shocked.  Operation Snap hides all of this.  Have they miraculously changed?

I think when Operation Snap launched they wrongly scooped up close pass video evidence into their portal of not reporting.  Ironically they have overall feedback by reporting on how the Operation went after a year of running.  It states ‘Operation Snap allows motorists’ to upload footage and fails to even mention cyclists.  With this policy move, they are classing the careless, sometimes dangerous and most definitely anti-social act of close passing as the cyclist being a mere witness rather than the ‘victim’.  Therefore according to this Operation they do not get any feedback.  Strangely to act as an excuse they state that Data Protection is the reason for this obscurity.  This is simply a policy change and one which can be amended.  And it should be.  Other police forces feedback to video submitters including the Metropolitan Police.  At the end of their report talking about Operation Snap they say that the ‘most common reason for a rejected submission is insufficient video evidence’.  The question is, how will the submitter know this?  They will continue submitting the same quality or footage.  If, of course they think anything is happening and it is worthwhile.

Example of how the Metropolitan Police report back and members of the public are encouraged to do so by knowing they are reporting drivers breaking the law.

I have been tweeting the police for ages asking for change.  There are a group of us that have argued how much it is needed.  If you click to see the tweet on twitter you can see the replies which sometimes come from the personal accounts of those who work in road policing.  PC Lee has been responding on his police account saying outright this was his measure and people on bicycles who report will never be able to hear back because of this implemented policy. End of.

I kept pushing and pushing this and every so often sending tweets along the lines of the above. Eventually I managed to get the attention of the Chief Constable for Northamptonshire Police, Nick Adderley. Here is his response:

And then a few days later this:

(Please note that this should say ‘we do not’ according to the website and experience but the second tweet goes on to say about contacting all submitters).

There seemed to be movement in the right direction back in July.  The Chief Constable did state that more people needed to be employed for reviewing the footage.  Obviously they expect it to be busy.  There was a pause whilst these people were recruited.  I hope the Chief Constable sticks to his word. We are in the middle of November and I wonder when is going to happen and how quickly this will be.

I am an advocate of VisionZero. We should have no injuries or deaths on our roads.

We can make our roads safer by catching people who are careless and dangerous and deterring them from doing it again.

This morning I attended RoadPeace‘s World Day of Remembrance of Road Traffic Victims.  I have been affected by a death of a family friend on the road.  I have personally been affected by an injury in a road traffic collision.  Life does move on though sadly and it is events like today’s memorial service which bring to light just how awful and devastating crashes can be.  I saw many photos of some of those who had lost their lives and heard some stories from families who have had their lives ripped apart.  Five people die on average every day on our roads.  This needs to stop.

Thanks for reading or listening,


Samuel x

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