Petition for 3 feet passing law in the UK already has 785 signatures

Campaign to get cyclists more room on the roads gathers pace

by Kevin Emery   October 28, 2009  

3ft Please jersey UK

Cars flying past at ridiculous speeds and inconsiderate distances is a common experience for today’s road cyclists. Most learn to deal with such drivers, but all too often an actual encounter between car and bike can end in serious injury or death.

Which is why a petition for the Prime Minister to introduce legislation that all motorists must allow a minimum of 3 feet in distance between their vehicle and a cyclist that they drive past has gained 785 signatures to date.

The petition was started by Tom Amos, who wants the UK to follow suit with the 3 feet to pass law which has been introduced in 11 US states.

Tom says on the petition: “There is an American pressure group that is campaigning to introduce legislation to allow 3 foot in distance between all motor vehicles and cyclists. So far, they have managed to introduce this Law in 11 US States and also France. There is a Global movement towards the introduction of this Law. The Government is currently introducing many pro-cycling policies and this one MUST be included. It's really just a matter of when rather than if so please support this cause. Many thanks.”

As yet there is no such legal protection for UK cyclists, with motorists required to give cyclists sufficient space but the law does not specify how much that should be.

Debra Rolfe, campaigns coordinator for the CTC has said: “Three feet should be the minimum amount of space you give a cyclist. It all depends on road conditions and how fast the driver is going, and I think it’s important not to get too fixated with numbers. A driver passing a cyclist at 60mph clearly should be much further away than a driver passing at 20mph.”

The law would give cyclists a bigger piece of pavement and greater legal protection on the road as more cyclists take to the streets. And the impact of motorists giving cyclists more space more often could encourage more non-cyclists to overcome their fears on safety and take to the roads.

Many cyclists around the world, including the UK, are sporting a yellow cycling jersey which has the words ‘3 Feet Please’ printed in black letters. The shirt is designed by Joe Mizereck from Tallahassee in Florida, who earlier this year started a campaign to get as many cyclists as possible wearing them.

You must be a British citizen or resident to sign the petition and you can add your name to the petition by visiting http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/3feet2Pass/sign

The deadline to sign up by is Wednesday, January 6.
 

20 user comments

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Picture looks like Buxton.

I'm a bit concerned that 3 feet is weaker than what it says in the Highway Code, which is to give a cyclist the same space you would a car when overtaking.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1333 posts]
28th October 2009 - 13:01

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It does look like Buxton - trouble about saying that a cyclist should be given the same room as when passing a car is that it is vague - and some car drivers pass other vehicles by millimetres anyway.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
28th October 2009 - 13:19

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It is Buxton. 3ft - 1 metre would at least give motorists a defined distance, the Highway Code leaves it up to the individual road user's judgement which is likely to be both subjective and sometimes impaired.

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4132 posts]
28th October 2009 - 13:38

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The only flaw in this is the actual enforcing of the rule, seems to me like it would be close to impossible.

I'm quite lucky with my commute, from Bristol Temple Meads to Wick along Feeder Road, up to St. Georges then along the A420 through Kingswood/Warmley/Bridgeyate. However when incidents do happen such as cars pulling out or overtaking dangerously, I have no way of writing down their number plates, and if I had to remember all of them then there wouldn't be much room left in my head for anything else.

All the gear and no idea!

posted by JonMack [171 posts]
28th October 2009 - 14:17

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I think having a 3ft law, even it is hard to enforce would make drivers more aware of their responsibilities the law on driving with mobiles is hard to enforce, lots of drivers do it, but even they acknowledge that it is wrong as a result it is becoming a generally unacceptable practice + off course it would be enforced on those occasions where a cyclist was hit by a car.

On a bike somewhere…

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posted by thebikeboy [138 posts]
28th October 2009 - 14:48

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3' = 914.4mm, not quite a metre.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
28th October 2009 - 15:54

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I wish I actually got passed by cars giving me 3ft!

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posted by jobysp [145 posts]
29th October 2009 - 14:00

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Although the law would be hard to enforce, it should at least make motorists more aware when passing. It should also mean that if they do clip a cyclist, it would probably mean that they were in the wrong, and should hopefully be easier to prosecute.

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posted by mr-andrew [294 posts]
29th October 2009 - 14:52

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I agree that creating a law for overtaking a cyclist will cause motorists to think. Although it is not possible to have a blanket enforcement of such a law, police do see motorists overtaking cyclists too close but will never prosecute since it is difficult to get a result without such clear legislation. The publicity surrounding the intorduction of an overtaking law, particuarly if there are some prosecutions, would in my opinion make the roads safer. The Highway Code does state that a cyclist should be given the same room as a car, and this can be currently used to judge if someone overtook dangerously. This would be a distance no less than 5 feet. In most of Europe they would say 1.5 metres. I think it is very unfortunate that this campaign has chosen a distance of 3 feet. I cannot sign this petition because I would see at as encouraging motorists to drive closer than they should.

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posted by bike ie [10 posts]
29th October 2009 - 19:34

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We have just got the law here in Louisiana.

The point of the law (IMO) is 2 fold - it defines something that drivers should aim for and secondly, and more importantly, it should start a programme of education (the Louisiana statute actually came with a driver education mandate and funding). A 3-foot law will be useless if drivers aren't educated on the reasons for it and what they need to do. To enforce 3 feet is probably impossible but enforcing dangerous driving when someone gets too close will be possible (and we all know the difference between safe and dangerous). However, what it must not become is a law that is only used after the fact...it has to be a deterrent to bad driving (and sensible riding).

The real driving factor behind the law in the US has been the number of serious injuries and deaths caused by motorists hitting cyclists from behind (Louisiana's was called the Colin Goodier Bicycle Protection Act named after a local doctor that was killed).

P.s. there are now 14 states with the law and a few soon to follow.

posted by billyboy [2 posts]
29th October 2009 - 20:57

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Please do not back this campaign. 3 feet is too close. We need to have an education programme for motorists on how to cope with cyclists. If we were to base it on the Highway Code and current European standards we would be warning drivers that they need to leave 5 feet when overtaking cyclists. At the moment 3 feet would be considered dangerous in most circumstances (even though this is currently normal practice as is speeding). It does not leave room for wobble, obstacles, bad weather etc. And you know that if we specify 3 feet most would think 2.5 feet is fair game. Fair enough to have closer than 3 feet as a serious crimnal offence with a severe penalty, but to have 5 feet as the legal distance (with some discretion of enforcement). This campaign makes a mockery of the Highway Code and legitimises careless driving. We need to campaign for legislation based on current safety standards.

voujan

posted by voujan [13 posts]
29th October 2009 - 21:22

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The trouble with the law in the UK is that it is so vague as to be useless. I found this out when I reported a driver to the Met Police earlier this year. Despite having video evidence with clear indication of close overtaking and the number plate the Police did little apart from (so they claim) write a letter to the driver notifying him of my complaint. The bottom line with the Police, with whom I exchanged a number of letters, was that:

1) Highway Code rule 163 states only that motorists SHOULD give cyclists as much room as a car (ie not MUST);
2) the driver hadn't forced me to take evasive action/crash;
3) they felt my video showed inconclusive evidence of close overtaking.

Well, see for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpfHniL2Ee8.

In my opinion we desperately need a statutory minimum safe distance for overtaking cyclists in the UK. As it stands, the current legislation is a joke.

TiNuts's picture

posted by TiNuts [93 posts]
30th October 2009 - 10:09

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TiNuts is right: the trouble with the law here is that there is no law. The highway code is *not* law, except where it states that you MUST do something and references the appropriate legislation. It doesn't say that for overtaking cyclists, so there's no recourse in law for a driver to be taken to task unless they actually cause an accident, and even then it's a pretty murky legal area.

If the 3ft law was passed, then a driver would automatically be liable if they clipped a cyclist with their wing mirror or sideswiped them into the kerb. That's progress, so far as I'm concerned.

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posted by cactuscat [302 posts]
30th October 2009 - 10:45

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Well I signed it when Tom sent out the original contact on Facebook.

Whilst for some, 3ft is not a wide enough gap, it is a minimum, tbh many motorists choose much larger margins (whether its because they are considerate or because they don't know the size of their vehicle who knows?). However making it law would remove the ambiguity that we currently have. If you clip a cyclist the argument will always have a starting point of "did you give the cyclist 3ft as required by law?" which then puts the onus of proof on the driver, not on the cyclist, which is the situation we are currently in.

Rode the E'Tape Caledonia - first sportiv ever and thoroughly enjoyed it

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posted by badbunny [71 posts]
30th October 2009 - 12:40

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I agree, other than in low-speed urban environments, 3 feet is nowhere near enough.

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posted by G-bitch [302 posts]
30th October 2009 - 14:44

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Who actually decided that 3 feet was a good idea? What research was done to come to this conclussion? I would be interested to know why this differs from the Highway Code, CTC advice and European standards. The 3 feet campaign does not take into account speed or different road conditions, or if it does, it i certainly is not giving out that message! I more often than not cycle in 50 and 6o mph limits, often in rain and wind. I hope nobody is going to come round my way wearing one of those shirts suggesting it is ok to ignore the current guidlines and put me in danger. This is a completely irresponsible campaign giving out mis-information to the detriment of cyclists.

bike ie's picture

posted by bike ie [10 posts]
31st October 2009 - 18:52

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Is it measured from end of bars to start of wing mirror?

posted by Ogg [8 posts]
5th November 2009 - 14:31

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I live in Adlington lancs and 98% of the drivers pass me with at least 3ft, I was really surprised because I've just moved from inner city Manchester and obviously it's not always feasible for drivers to pass with a metre so when the first few did I thought something was wrong like my bag was open and all my stuff was falling out or something.

Dave

Rookie rider

posted by dave6779 [36 posts]
9th November 2009 - 14:27

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bike ie wrote:
Who actually decided that 3 feet was a good idea? What research was done to come to this conclussion? I would be interested to know why this differs from the Highway Code, CTC advice and European standards. The 3 feet campaign does not take into account speed or different road conditions, or if it does, it i certainly is not giving out that message! I more often than not cycle in 50 and 6o mph limits, often in rain and wind. I hope nobody is going to come round my way wearing one of those shirts suggesting it is ok to ignore the current guidlines and put me in danger. This is a completely irresponsible campaign giving out mis-information to the detriment of cyclists.

You have a good point here, I cycle on single lane national speed limit roads then 40 roads and I certainly wouldn't want to be passed at 3ft at 60mph! Luckily people where i live actually realise i'm there and take note of me. Thanks guys.

Rookie rider

posted by dave6779 [36 posts]
9th November 2009 - 14:33

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Why would anyone one want less clearance when overtaking than what the Highway Code recommends?
My name is John Wood and I'm the organiser of the 5ft(1.5m)clearance petition,Can I urge you to sign it,Tom Amos(organiser of the 3ft petition) says 3ft is a starting point and we could extend it to 5ft,we won't stand a cat in hells chance of getting legislation changed from 3ft to 5ft if a petition is lodged that has more signitures than a 5ft petition.

Thanks for you support.
John

http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/5feet-or-more/

Do cycling a favour support this:-
http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/5feet-or-more/

posted by reohn2 [5 posts]
10th November 2009 - 22:11

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