This article is intended to inform. Everyone is aware of the regular conflict between cyclists and motorised vehicles that so regularly appears in the media, and our intention is not to add to the conflict, but merely to advise on the facts surrounding:
• How to pass cyclists safely on the road,
• The position of the Police on this matter,
• The relevant parts of the Highway Code and,
• The design of the road infrastructure here in the UK
Once you’ve read the sections below you will see that it is not physically possible to pass a cyclist appropriately and legally without crossing over the centreline of the road.
Consequently, if there is:
• oncoming traffic,
• obstructions (e.g. parked vehicles) on either side of the road during your overtaking manoeuvre,
• double white lines,
• insufficient visibility ahead (e.g. a hill or bend)
to name but a few, then overtaking a cyclist will not be appropriate.
You’ll likely find that if you simply count to 10, an appropriate opportunity will present itself.
Let’s face it, 10 seconds is a small price to pay to killing or maiming someone and ruining a family for ever.
Here are the facts to back this all up:
We used DESIGN MANUAL FOR ROADS AND BRIDGES, Volume 6, Section 1 Part 2 (Feb 2005) TD 27/05 CROSS-SECTIONS AND HEADROOMS as a reference.
This document refers to the design of what is defined as SU2 Roads on page 32 of 72.
SU2 Roads: A Single Carriageway Road with a Verge.
SU2 Roads are typical of the A and B roads around our region and each lane of the road is 3.65m.
In other words, each direction of traffic has space of 3.65m width:
The Highway Code:
We’re sure that everyone will remember all the details of the Highway Code, but it’s worth an aide memoir. We’ve put in Italics the sections relevant to cycling, overtaking cyclists
The Highway Code gives the following guidance to vehicles passing cyclists and other road users:
Before overtaking you should make sure
• the road is sufficiently clear ahead
• road users are not beginning to overtake you
• there is a suitable gap in front of the road user you plan to overtake.
Overtake only when it is safe and legal to do so. You should
• not get too close to the vehicle you intend to overtake
• use your mirrors, signal when it is safe to do so, take a quick sideways glance if necessary into the blind spot area and then start to move out
• not assume that you can simply follow a vehicle ahead which is overtaking; there may only be enough room for one vehicle
• move quickly past the vehicle you are overtaking, once you have started to overtake. Allow plenty of room. Move back to the left as soon as you can but do not cut in
• take extra care at night and in poor visibility when it is harder to judge speed and distance
• give way to oncoming vehicles before passing parked vehicles or other obstructions on your side of the road
• only overtake on the left if the vehicle in front is signalling to turn right, and there is room to do so
• stay in your lane if traffic is moving slowly in queues. If the queue on your right is moving more slowly than you are, you may pass on the left
• give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car (see Rules 211 to 215).
This useful video explains this rule in more detail.
You’ll notice a lot of the examples of poor overtaking have resulted from the motorist attempting to overtake safely, but not looking sufficiently far ahead to see obstacles on the other side of the road and oncoming traffic:
When passing motorcyclists and cyclists, give them plenty of room (see Rules 162 to 167). If they look over their shoulder it could mean that they intend to pull out, turn right or change direction. Give them time and space to do so.
Motorcyclists and cyclists may suddenly need to avoid uneven road surfaces and obstacles such as drain covers or oily, wet or icy patches on the road. Give them plenty of room and pay particular attention to any sudden change of direction they may have to make.
Police Enforcement Of Passing Distances:
The Police have begun to take action as the situation has deteriorated over the last few years.
Cycling has grown enormously in popularity. The number of vehicles on the road continues to grow as well.
Whereas the infrastructure we all use has largely remained the same.
It has long been a well-recognised fact that over-crowding is a significant stressor in human psychology
(source: Behavioral and Physiological Consequences of Crowding in Humans1 Author: Gary W. Evans 1974)
Stressors ultimately cause aggression in most cases. It’s unlikely that the:
• number of road users will reduce
• space available will increase
Therefore, the only factor under our control is ourselves and how we respond to this situation.
The Police Initiatives are trying to reinforce this change in behaviour.
This is the Campaign being operated by over 16 Police Forces in the UK at the moment:
The Cyclist is advised to ride at least 0.75m from the kerb. It is not a fixed distance. It is an advisory. However, as you can see from the Highway Code, the passing distance of the car is not advisory. It states imperatives such as “Give” or “You must”.
Cyclists are taught to ride in both the Primary and Secondary Position, which is an area from the kerb to 1m from the kerb. This is explained in more detail below.
Using a Ford Focus as a typical example of a car, the width is 2.01 metres:
Doing the maths you’ll find that the total width necessary for a vehicle to entirely overtake a cyclist is:
0.75 + 1.5 + 2.01 = 4.26 metres
As we’ve seen, each carriageway on a SU2 Single Carriageway Roads are 3.65 metres wide.
Therefore, it is not physically possible to overtake cyclists safely without your vehicle crossing over the centre line of the road.
You need to allow even more room if you drive a larger car, van, bus or lorry.
If there is anything preventing you from doing this safely, it is best (and a legal obligation) to pause and wait until you can do so safely. The Police Campaign is reinforcing this.
Primary and Secondary Riding Positions Explained:
Cyclists adopting the Primary and Secondary riding position can be a cause of some conflict. Apart from the obvious “conflict of space” factors that cause aggression, we hope that some explanation of why cyclists do this may assist some drivers to understand and accept it.
Rules For Cyclists:
Naturally, there are also rules within the Highway Code for cyclists to adhere to. We’re adding them here to help improve the understanding between us all.
However, there will always be cyclists who either make mistakes or ignore the rules. Nevertheless, it does not give anybody the right to dish out their own form of justice.
Riding Two Abreast:
It is legal. This video explains the rationale for cyclists to do it. There are caveats however, that all cyclists should be aware of:
Please also bear in mind that it’ perfectly appropriate for cyclists to overtake a group riding two abreast, so it may well seem like they’re riding 3 or 4 abreast at times. It should only be during an overtaking manoeuvre though. The same rules apply to cyclists as they do for other road users for overtaking.
Here’s the specific Highway Code Rules relating to riding two abreast:
• keep both hands on the handlebars except when signalling or changing gear
• keep both feet on the pedals
• never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends
• not ride close behind another vehicle
• not carry anything which will affect your balance or may get tangled up with your wheels or chain
• be considerate of other road users, particularly blind and partially sighted pedestrians. Let them know you are there when necessary, for example, by ringing your bell if you have one. It is recommended that a bell be fitted.
Use Of Cycle Paths:
The good news is that there has been a lot of investment in cycle paths. Sadly, this has not been wise investment. Whilst there is a strong case for segregating different road users, the design of many cycle paths makes them ineffective for many cyclists and they prefer not to use them. They are often squeezed in to existing infrastructure and as a consequence too many compromises have been made.
Nevertheless, there is no obligation on cyclists to use designated Cycle Paths. Please see Rule 63 below.Rule 63
Cycle Lanes. These are marked by a white line (which may be broken) along the carriageway (see Rule 140). When using a cycle lane, keep within the lane when practicable. When leaving a cycle lane check before pulling out that it is safe to do so and signal your intention clearly to other road users. Use of cycle lanes is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer.
Whilst it is frustrating to have seen such high levels of investment and little change on cyclists’ use of the roads, it is their very design that prevents many cyclists using them.
Here are some videos that explain the problem and a video that explains how it’s done properly in Holland:
This one is funny :
Here’s how it’s done properly:
We hope that you’ve found this article useful.