Nobody likes a close pass. Whether or not it is intended by the driver they can be at best intimidating to riders of all levels, but downright dangerous at worst.
Currently the Highway Code (rule 163) suggests giving ‘as much room as you would a motor vehicle’ but what that means in practice is left to interpretation.
The petition was started by Tony C Martin. He wrote: “The lack of a clear specification may result in a personal decision what a “plenty of room” means in terms of distance. Therefore, introducing a minimum legal passing distance when overtaking cyclists will considerably reduce the number of cyclist casualties, aiding in a safe cycling practice. Suggestion of 3.28 ft (1 m) when overtaking cyclists on roads with speed limits up to and including 30mph. On roads with higher speed limits, the minimum passing distance should be 4.9 ft (1.5 m).”
Whilst a similar rule exists in other countries, we have little confidence that it would actually be enforced. Having said that, if you are hit from behind or forced off the road by a motorist, there should be little doubt that contravention of that rule had occurred.
The challenge would then be to get the police and Crown Prosecution Service to take your case seriously, but that’s a question for another day.
You can sign the petition over at the Parliament’s petitions page. It is at around 12,000 signatures at the time of writing.
Some tips to deter close passes
Motoring often brings out the worst in people, particularly their inpatient side. If there is a gap just big enough for their car that’ll let them pass without impeding oncoming traffic, they will take it.
So, what you have to do is force them to overtake you properly, by waiting for a gap in the oncoming traffic and moving out into the other lane. For you this means moving away from the kerb, which is where many of us will have been taught to ride.
The gutter is a bad place to be for many reasons, not least the debris and manhole covers, but also because it surrenders far too much of the lane. You don’t have to be there. Give yourself at least a metre. If it is a dual carriageway, take even more –there’s a whole other lane to pass you in.
The Government has responded:
This Government currently does not have plans to legislate on a set minimum space e.g. 1 metre on roads with a speed limit of up to 30mph when overtaking a cyclist.
This type of legislation would be extremely difficult to enforce and the Government does not believe that it would add to the existing rules and guidance, including those set out in the Highway Code, which advises drivers to give cyclists “at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car”.
We are keeping this position under review, and are interested in learning from the experience of places where legislation of this type has been introduced. One example is South Australia, where since 25th October 2015, drivers are required to give a minimum of one metre when passing a cyclist where the speed limit is 60km/h (37.3mph) or less or 1.5 metres where the speed limit is over 60km/h (40mph). The penalty for drivers caught disobeying this rule is a $287 (£148) fine, plus a $60 (£31) victim of crime levy and 2 demerit (penalty) points. However, it will take time to understand the benefits and impacts of this legislation on cyclists and other road users.
Department for Transport