Driving too close to a cyclist could lead to a £100 fine

The petrol prices monitoring website petrolprices.com highlights in a recent news item that under new laws introduced this year, drivers leaving less than the safe passing distance for a cyclist - widely considered to be a minimum of 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) - run the risk of being prosecuted and fined for driving without due care and attention.

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Posted: 180816
With the increasing popularity of cycling, drivers see more cyclists on our urban roads and also on some rural roads. How cyclists and drivers use the roads and the relative speeds and visibility mean both have to be alert all the time to avoid potentially dangerous situations - for example cyclists undertaking in drivers' blind spots and drivers passing too close to cyclists. The awareness both cyclists and drivers have of their situation when riding or driving on the roads and what they need to take in from carefully watching other road users means they have to be alert all the time. Their individual attitudes to how they use the roads are influenced by their experience as a driver or as a cyclist on the roads - and in a relatively few cases some of them have experience as both a driver and from frequent or occasional recent cycling experience.
What do we mean by "individual attitudes to how they use the roads"?
Drivers have a lot to watch for when behind the wheel of their vehicle from unexpected activity of other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. There is a lot to take in as well as watching road conditions and the behaviour of other road users, not least monitoring traffic signs and pedestrian crossings. This means drivers have to be alert all the time to avoid collisions. As with a great deal in life conditioning from frequent activity is a major factor in social and practical awareness and behaviour. For many years most of the activity on our roads has been in vehicles with relatively fewer cycles on the roads, but over the last decade the popularity of cycling has increased substantially in the UK so now the traffic on our roads has become more mixed and significantly with more cyclists. They tend to travel at slower speeds and are less visible than cars and other vehicles. Cycles are also narrower than cars providing cyclists with opportunities in queues of traffic to pass slower vehicles on the inside requiring drivers to be vigilant in checking their nearside mirror.

Drivers with experience of cycling on public roads will be aware that once on a bike your attitude to using the road changes to some extent in several ways. First you are travelling using your own "steam" so making progress along a road requires physical effort. Second on urban roads with traffic lights and congestion when a cyclist approaches a queue of vehicles they have the benefit of the narrow width of a bicycle so a cyclist can pass the vehicles in the queue, usually on the inside using the usable space between the nearside of the vehicles and the kerb. Road markings at traffic lights usually have a cycle box providing cyclists with a preferential waiting space so they can set off ahead of vehicles once the lights turn to green. A third feature is a combination of relative speed and visibility - generally when traffic is on the move there will be a relative speed differential of say 15 to 20 mph in an urban area and where there is clear space ahead of a cyclist a driver will need to make a judgement of when and how to pass the cyclist. That passing can be sometimes be more difficult and require close attention where a cyclist pulls out to pass a parked vehicle or to avoid a pothole in the road surface. Occasionally that judgment is made more difficult where two cyclists ride alongside each other.

Leaving sufficient safe space when a driver passes a cyclist
As part of a "Close Pass Initiative" adopted by the West Midlands Police they say "motorists should give cyclists at least the same space as vehicles when overtaking and that anyone leaving less than the safe passing distance - widely considered to be a minimum of 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) - runs the risk of being prosecuted for driving without due care and attention". That could now cost you £100 and three penalty points under new laws introduced this year. From the image above (taken from the West Midlands Police website) they show a 0.75m space for riding a cycle so the total distance from the kerb (or from a parked vehicle) you need to allow when passing a cyclist is 2.25 metres (7.3 ft). Many cyclists use more than 0.75 metres as they often weave to avoid potholes and other damage to the road surface, so in effect a safe passing distance of 2.5 metres (or over 8 ft) from the kerb or parked vehicle is something to have in mind when a driver is passing a cyclist.

Drivers - cyclists: it's a contentious topic
This NEWS item is not intended to fan the debate about driver or cyclist behaviour on our roads, it's simply to highlight the change in the law. What is clear though is the case for having a dash cam installed in a car to record the road ahead and the behaviour of other road users is increasingly a very wise move. Equally having one on a cyclist's helmet too. See our earlier articles on dash cams. More