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21/06/2011 // INFO 3 Comments

Ensuring cyclist safety when a car passes



Georgia has become the 17th US state to now enact a law that requires a motorist to give a cyclist at least 3 feet passing difference when a car overtakes. The law introduced there, which comes into effect on July 1, also puts on the statute book the fact that two cyclists are allowed to ride side-by-side on a road.

Sixteen other US states have laws that apply a 3 foot safe passing distance for cars passing bicycles, while some EU Member States, such as Germany, France and Spain, have adopted a 1.5-metre (equivalent to around five feet) minimum passing distance.

The UK position

As yet the UK has no minimum distance set in law despite a campaign led by UK organisation 3feetplease.  The UK Highway Code does not give a minimum distance that drivers should give to cyclists. Rule 163 of the Highway Code advises drivers to “give vulnerable road users at least as much space as you would a car”.

3feetplease says this is confusing and it wants the government to make a 3ft passing distance between motorists and cyclists mandatory for the UK.

“The purpose of the campaign is not to see police chasing motorists waving a tape measure, but to provide a clear benchmark, both to assist driver education and to help resolve conflict or dispute,” says David Love, who is also known for campaigning to get the Department for Transport to put bike awareness training in the car driving test.

Government says no

The previous government led by the Labour Party stressed that it would not change the current rule in the Highway Code following a petition to 10 Downing Street but Mr Love and 3feetplease are hopeful that more cyclists will get behind their campaign to put pressure on the present coalition government to make a positive change.

It is asking cyclists to write a letter to their local MP to demand a change to the current regulations. To find your local MP, go to WriteToThem.com, enter your postcode and select your local MP. A sample letter can be found here.

The policy position of CTC, the national cycling organisation, has been non-committal on whether a minimum passing distance should be set. Instead it has been campaigning for better enforcement by police of existing traffic law and bad driving via its “Sorry Mate, I Didn’t See You” campaign.

What do you think?

Do you think the Highway Code should be more precise on how much space drivers should leave cyclists or do you want better enforcement of the current Rule 163?

See also

Breakfast event promises to get cyclists hungry for safety

Stockholm debates running the red light

from Going Going Bike – Auctions, Bike News, Cycle Stuff

3 comments [leave one]
Rad Wagon June 21, 2011 at 12:38 pm

RT @RadWagon Shud we push 4 3ft gap when vehicles pass bikes?

3ft is min for 30mph limit passes, otherwise 6ft+ required!
See my vids at http://youtu.be/14Fd_JvkjHc & http://youtu.be/Q07RXnfg-Dg & more!


James - Going Going Bike June 21, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Thanks for linking to the vids…”good” examples of bad overtaking.


jonomc June 22, 2011 at 1:17 pm

I think this is a worthy campaign – it has no cost and would greatly increase the saftey of cycling – this type of thing is a worthwhile step into getting more people cycling.


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