DRIVERS have been encouraged to give cyclists the space they need on the road when overtaking.

At a public information event in Broad Street, Oxford, officers from Thames Valley Police and Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service joined forces to answer questions about safety.

They showed people the minimum safe distance – 1.5 metres – that should be left by cars passing people on bikes.

Louise Upton, Oxford City Council’s champion for cycling, urged drivers to be ‘considerate’.

The event on Tuesday included a display mat next to a car showing how big the distance looked on the road.

Mrs Upton said: “It was a really useful visual guide for people to look at.

“Of course, it is just advisory but it’s really important that drivers think about the fact cyclists can wobble or swing out to avoid potholes and so they sometimes need to be considerate.

“Most people on the roads are, although sometimes when people are in a hurry they can perhaps drive a little to close for comfort and that can be quite terrifying for nervous cyclists.

“That might save you 20 seconds on your journey, but it could also end up costing a lifetime.

“On the other hand, it’s also vital that if cyclists want to be treated like smaller cars on the road they need to behave like one.

“So they must properly observe the right of way and always stop at red lights.”

The information drive is part of the ‘Give Space, Be Safe’ policing initiative, first trialled in the West Midlands.

It aims to target drivers who fail to follow the Highway Code rules on passing distances when overtaking cyclists.

The code says cyclists should ideally be 0.75 metres from the kerb and drivers overtaking should leave a further 1.5 metres.

Since policing the requirements more strictly from September 2016, West Midlands Police said it saw a 50 per cent drop in so-called ‘close passes’.

It is now being rolled out across Oxfordshire, Hampshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire by Thames Valley Police and Hampshire police, which share a roads policing unit.

The forces said the most important message was for all road users to be considerate and respectful and to avoid confrontation.

Inspector Darren Ord, from the roads policing unit, said: “We frequently receive complaints about drivers who don’t give cyclists enough space when overtaking.

“Since last year we’ve been busy behind the scenes researching and considering the feasibility of this scheme and are pleased we are now in the position to be implementing it.

“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.”