SEVERAL motorists faced the prospect of criminal convictions after a police sting on the streets of Southampton.

Taxi drivers, commuters and parents dropping children to school were all caught driving too close to an unmarked Hampshire Constabulary cyclist as they drove along, or close to, Hill Lane yesterday morning. 

Nine shocked motorists were pulled over by Sergeant Rob Heard, pictured right, from the Joint Operations Roads Policing Unit, after he receiving information from cyclist PC Phil Robertson.

Faced with either being charged with careless driving or a 15-minute educational talk about the perils of getting too near to a cyclist, the motorists opted to listen to the officers explain some rules of the road.

But it wasn’t just motorists who were given a lesson in the law. 

Around 20 cyclists were stopped by another officer stationed close to the operation’s base at Atherley Bowling Green, who handed out high-visibility equipment, told about why riding on pavements is illegal and encouraged to wear bright clothes.


It’s part of the force’s countywide operation to educate motorists in cycle safety called ‘Give Space, Be Safe’ and ‘Be Bright, Be Seen’.

The campaigns not only target drivers who fail to follow the Highway Code rules on passing distances when overtaking cyclists – sometimes referred to as a near miss or close pass which put cyclists at risk – but also remind cyclists to be more visible and ensure they have lights on and are lit after sunset.

Sergeant Heard, leading the operation, said: “A close pass not only presents a 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.

“At this time of year, we are coming into a clock change which will mean it will be darker earlier during the evening rush hours.

"Many cyclists will still choose to commute to and from work; from a safety perspective motorists need to take added care to look out for cyclists.

"Equally, cyclists need lights on their bikes not only to avoid prosecution but to keep them safer and visible.”

As an educational scheme, yesterday’s operation seemed to have the desired affect.

And many needed to be pursuaded by dashcam footage captured by PC Robertson.

On arrival, the motorists took an eye test. They were then taught about gaps that should be left for cyclists, which is around 1.5m when overtaking.

One man, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Daily Echo he would now take more consideration when overtaking cyclists.

He said: “It’s taught me a lesson and this is a good idea to get motorists thinking more about cyclists on the road.

“Until you’re told about how close and shown, you don’t realise it.

“I was a bit shocked to be pulled over but will definitely change my ways.”


Throughout Hampshire, officers have been carrying out similar operations during the week, including in Portsmouth. 

It is being run in partnership with local fire and council road safety teams.

Above you can see exactly how close a vehicle got to PC Robertson on his bike.

The camera was mounted in the centre of the handlebars of the cycle – the black shape on the right hand side is the upright of the end of the right-hand side of the handle bars.

The last time it was carried out in Southampton, around 20 drivers were pulled over and PC Robertson said he was pleased the number had gone down this time.

He said: “It is really good to see a massive improvement and seeing drivers slowing down and taking the time to go around you.

“This was the quietest we have ever had on our roads and shows that people are changing their habits.”

Despite the positive news from the roads, police say that in Hampshire and Thames Valley, 1,112 cyclists have been killed or seriously injured in the last three years.

The Highway Code states overtake only when it is safe and legal to do so and that drivers should allow vulnerable road users as much room as they would when overtaking a car.

A driver deemed to be driving dangerously closely can expect to be prosecuted and taken to court.

The most important message is for all road users to be considerate and respectful and to avoid confrontation and share the roads together looking out for each other. 

During the week to assist with the operations, free fluorescent rucksack covers and neck tubes for cyclists will be offered, alongside cycle information for cyclists and motorists, and get-you-home lights – for those with no lights.

Stats collected by the police show that adult male commuters account for a third of cyclist casualties and that pedal cyclists tend to be injured near to where they live.

The figures show that 82% of the cyclists are injured on urban roads, with 58% of them were injured near a junction or roundabout. 

They also found that nearly all of the collisions occur in daylight or during the night on roads with street lights

The relaunch of this scheme comes before the clocks go back and the evenings and mornings become darker.