NINETEEN drivers were caught in less than two hours in an undercover police crackdown on cycling safety.

A new operation saw a plain-clothed officer film and pull over vehicles that had passed him dangerously.

It comes as a new ‘give space, be safe’ campaign was launched by police as they vowed to slam the brakes on motorists not giving cyclists enough room on the roads.

The worst cases of careless driving could be taken to court for a maximum nine points and £5,000 fine, as well as a possible driving disqualification.

Officers want to tackle the issue after 986 cyclists were killed or seriously injured in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight between 2012 and 2016.

Hampshire Constabulary, the Police and Crime Commissioner and Hampshire County Council all joined forces to launch the scheme this week, following its launch by West Midlands Police in autumn last year.

Inspector Darren Ord, from the roads policing unit said: “A close pass not only presents danger to the cyclist but it’s also intimidating. Drivers should be allowing other road users as much room they would a car – but many seem to not know this, or choose to ignore it.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Michael Lane said: “It’s only by all road users respecting each other, observing the rules of the road and what is going on around them; anticipating the actions of other road users and reacting according to their observations and the conditions, that we can together make our roads safer.”

Nick Tack, 53, from Eastleigh, was one of the drivers pulled over.

Nick, a warehouse manager, said he felt drivers could become complacent on the road.

He said: “It’s a good thing to see police out here educating drivers, I think they can become complacent. I thought I was giving the cyclist enough room, but I’m not sure how on these roads you could give them what the police are asking.”

Officers were advising on a 1.5 metre gap from the cyclist as a safe pass. The operation, along the A335 in Eastleigh on Friday morning, came following a be safe, be seen initiative at the borough’s train station the evening before, advising cyclists on how to be safe and bright.

Officers spoke to 136 cyclists in a similar two-hour period, praising some for their visibility equipment and advising others that they were not bright enough. Police also issued two £50 penalty notices for those cycling without lights after sunset.

Elliot Whieldon, 22, was one of those issued with a fine, which can be cancelled by fitting lights at an approved store.

Elliot, from Eastleigh, said: “Of course, I’ll be going straight to the shop to make sure I don’t have to pay the fine. Usually I have my high-visibility clothes on and my back light has been stolen. The police should offer more education and give out fewer fines.”

Chris Collins, senior road safety officer at Hampshire County Council said: “We’re hoping to reduce the number of casualties and try our best to get the messages across. That’s why we’re educating drivers and cyclists about their roles on the road.”