London drivers beware: Starting this spring, the ordinary-looking cyclist pushing past your side mirror might just be a cop. That’s because, in a bid to enforce more careful driving around bikes, the city’s Metropolitan Police is going low key, with plain-clothes police officers pedaling through the streets on bikes to monitor and reprimand drivers’ behavior.
The main goal is to crack down on so-called close passing—that is, drivers overtaking bikes at a distance of less than 1.5 meters (just under 5 feet). The police will be able to make arrests if necessary, but they’re aiming to inform rather than punish. Motorists caught engaging in driving that compromises cyclists’ safety will be given the choice between prosecution or a 15-minute roadside safety training session. The operation won’t cover a very large area of London’s roads at any one time. By introducing the idea that cyclists on the road might just have a police badge in their pocket, however, it may have a far greater effect than punishment alone.