Government ‘interested’ in cyclists’ minimum passing distance

12.00 | 2 June 2016 | | 9 comments

The Government is considering introducing legislation requiring motorists to give a minimum passing distance when overtaking cyclists, according to a news report in the Evening Standard.

Last week (23 May), Road Safety GB reported on a petition which has been launched calling for a legal minimum passing distance when drivers overtake cyclists.

The petition, set up by Tony Martin on the Government’s petition website, has attracted more than 16,000 signatures and will run until 24 October.

It calls for drivers to give a one metre clearance when overtaking cyclists on roads with speed limits up to and including 30mph, while on roads with higher speed limits the petition says the minimum passing distance should be 1.5 metres.

The Highway Code currently advises motorists to give ‘plenty of room’ when passing cyclists.

In response to the petition, the Government previously said any legislation of this type would be ‘difficult to enforce’.

This is a notion supported by the RAC, who says the legistlation would be both ‘unworkable and unenforceable’.

However, talking to the Evening Standard, transport minister Robert Goodwill now says the DfT is ‘interested’ in the idea, which is under review.

Mr Goodwill said: “The introduction of a legally enforceable minimum passing distance between cyclists and other vehicles in South Australia is relatively recent.

“As a result, there is limited information available regarding the impacts both positive and negative following this change in the law.

“As with other changes of this type introduced overseas, we remain interested in the change and are keeping it under review.”

The Evening Standard says minimum passing distances have been imposed in European countries including France, Germany, Spain and Portugal, and in parts of Australia.
If the legislation comes into effect, it would be the first time a legally enforceable distance between cars and bicycles has been set in Britain.

David Bizley, RAC chief engineer, said: “We believe a proposal for a minimum passing distance between cyclists and motorists would likely be both unworkable and unenforceable. Given the dwindling numbers of full time road traffic police officers, it’s hard to see how the law would be enforced and how it could be proved that a motorist gave too little space when passing a cyclist.

"However if evidence of a reduction in collisions exists from countries that already have a legal minimum distance then this should form part of this debate.

“The question is whether Government resources would be better allocated to running road safety campaigns that educate all road users about how to use shared road space safely and responsibly."


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    Regardless of enforceability, if and a big if it goes ahead would it not make sense to extend it to equestrians and pedestrians (if no footway available) all at the same time?

    Dan, Devon
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I never ever pass a cyclist unless there is a minimum 2 metre gap.

    Good Driver
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    A “legally enforceable minimum passing distance”. I think the RAC has that covered.

    I usually give ample room when overtaking cyclists. But last week we had the misfortune to be caught in a cycle race on open public roads in the Scottish Highlands where sevaral groups of 60 to 100 riders occupied lengths of road covering sixty or more yards. When the group thinned out into two distinct groups, progress was made, but halted as more bends in the road loomed. This enabled the rearmost group to catch up with us, and they began riding alongside and very close to our back end. Their action was intimidating and aggressive. What chance any enforceable distance there?

    Derek Reynolds, Salop.
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I think typically where there is no oncoming traffic, drivers do tend give cyclists a decent margin when passing, however where there is oncoming traffic, I’ve noticed that some drivers would still rather squeeze through, passing too close, rather than hold back till they can pass wide. Also, can the average driver gauge 1m or 1.5m from their driving seat I wonder? For that matter, could an observing police officer?

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Data from the Queensland evaluation of their passing law estimated the distance left between cyclists and passing vehicles from video observations at 15 sites. Queensland police issued only 60 infringement tickets to drivers but survey information suggested approximately 95% of drivers were aware of the legislation. Actual cyclist deaths reduced from 23 to 10 and the number of serious (fatal and hospitalisations) reduced from 674 to 485.

    Dr Ian Walker from Bath University reported on 2355 vehicle passes. Approximately 109 passes were within 1 metre and 20 passing within 0.8 metre. That is approximately 1 in 22 passing within one metre and 1 in 80 passes were within 0.8 metre. From the 20 close passes, 8 occurred on main roads and 11 on regular urban roads. A legal requirement would help identify dangerous drivers who pass too close.

    Colin Clarke
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Whilst talking about giving room to others on the road, how’s about a minimum distance whilst following other vehicles? Whilst we have already the offence of tailgating known to be a against Sect 3 RTA 1960 there is still no absolute distance that is considered to be insufficient. Therefore no one gets done for it and collisions still occur because of it. Until we get that distance sorted out the police will have to use their discretion and that means they will hardly ever stop and report anyone for not giving enough safe space. If more room was given in general we would see fewer incidents and collisions as there would be greater time and space in which to stop. Pile ups on the motorway or approaches to roundabouts for examples would be a thing of the past. As would a number of smidsys at road junctions, and road rage would be reduced.

    R.Craven Blackpool
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Rod makes some very valid points that sensible cyclists will/may/should apply. But many of us know of cyclists that seem to have suicidal tendencies who disregard both rules and common sense.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I am sure they will with proportionality, taking into account:-

    The relative speed of vehicle and cycle
    The relative mass of vehicle and cycle
    The relative vulnerability of vehicle and cycle
    The relative maneuverability of vehicle and cycle
    The relative vision of controller of vehicle and cycle

    Rod King, 20’s Plenty for Us, Cheshire
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Will cyclists reciprocate with a similar distance when they pass cars?

    Peter City of Westminster
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

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