US 3ft passing guru backs 1.5m rule for UK and challenges CTC to do likewise

CTC urged to press UK government to follow EU neighbours' example

by Simon_MacMichael   November 10, 2009  

3ft Please Jersey UK back

Joe Mizereck, whose website www.3feetplease.com has been one of the driving forces behind getting a three-foot minimum distance passed into law in 14 states in the US, has thrown his weight behind UK cyclists campaigning for Britain to adopt the more generous minimum passing distance of 1.5 metres which applies in a number of other EU states.

Commenting on road.cc, Mizereck also challenged UK cyclists’ organisation CTC to push the government to come into line with its European neighbours and set five feet as the minimum distance.

Mizereck had initially urged British cyclists to support the 3-foot petition, but on learning that the wider distance already applied in other EU countries, accepted that it made sense for parliament to be lobbied to bring the UK into line with laws elsewhere.

“Given the precedents set in other European countries,” Mizereck suggested that UK cyclists should “agree to pursue the adoption of a law that requires motorists to give cyclists 1.5 metres clearance when passing from the rear. Get everyone on the same page and make it happen.” He added that he hoped “the CTC will lead the charge in securing this protection for UK cyclists,” and urged cyclists to sign a further petition on the Prime Minister’s site pushing for a five-foot minimum distance.

Tom Amos’s petition on Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s official site to set a minimum distance of three feet for cars passing cyclists is now heading towards 2,000 signatures. But the petition has provoked fierce debate among cyclists on road.cc, with many saying that three feet isn’t enough and they would not be prepared to sign it as a result.

There’s a groundswell of opinion that the minimum distance should be set at five feet – around the same as the 1.5 metres stipulated by law in a number of the UK’s fellow EU member states including Germany, France (outside urban areas, where it is one metre) and Spain.

Much of the support for the wider distance stems from the fact that while three feet may prove just about adequate in areas where 30mph speed limits apply – although in such areas, there is often the additional problem of restricted road width making such a measure difficult to adhere to in practice – it is wholly insufficient on other roads with speed limits of 50 or 60mph or above.

Furthermore, many have expressed the opinion that by setting the safe passing limit at three feet, motorists may view that as adequate, whatever the driving conditions and speed limits in force, thereby increasing the risk to cyclists.

But Tom Amos, the instigator of the petition, disagrees, urging “all those who don't think that 3 feet is sufficient, [to] sign the petition and we can argue over the distance later! Remember, it is a minimum requirement, NOT a recommendation to drive within 3 feet of a cyclist. If we ever do manage to get a meeting with Lord Adonis, we will ask for 1.5m as a starting point!”

Part of the resistance to the suggestion of lobbying for a minimum of three feet and then trying to extend it later, however, is due to a perception that if that distance were adopted – which would of necessity mean it passing through the various stages of the legislative process in parliament – it would prove impossible to have it further extended in the future.

But whether three feet or five feet, the desire to have legislation in place defining a minimum passing limit stems from what is seen as lack of precision from official quarters on the subject, with the Department for Transport (DfT) telling road.cc last week that “our advice to motorists in the Highway Code is clear that drivers should leave plenty of room when overtaking a cyclist, especially if they are towing a trailer or are driving a large vehicle. ”

When we asked the DfT to clarify its definition of “plenty of room,” we were told that “Rule 163 of the Highway Code adds that a driver should give cyclists ‘at least as much room’ as you would a car,” and that there is a picture illustrating this in the Highway Code.”

As a result, campaigners believe that it is difficult for all road users to know where the line should be drawn in terms of safe passing distance. Moreover, the adoption of a stipulated distance would also help determine issues of liability in cases where cyclists are “clipped” by overtaking drivers.

Neither is the situation helped by the inadequacy of many existing bike lanes, often narrower than three feet from kerb to outer marking, which may encourage drivers to believe that as long as they are not infringing on the lane itself, they are giving enough room.

If you are a British citizen or resident and haven’t already signed the petition, you can do so here, while a separate petition asking the Prime Minister to "give cyclists more room" and called "5 feet or more" can be found here

 

12 user comments

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of all the laws that i've seen discussed on the various threads about this on here, the french law - 1m in town and 1.5m in the country - seems by far the most sensible. five feet in town isn't going to get passed, and it's out on the open roads you need the most space.

cactuscat's picture

posted by cactuscat [301 posts]
10th November 2009 - 17:20

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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

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

posted by reohn2 [5 posts]
10th November 2009 - 22:07

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Quote:
Why would anyone one want less clearance when overtaking than what the Highway Code recommends?

the highway code doesn't recommend any particular distance, that's one of the problems. There's a nice picture of a car giving a cyclist lots of room but that doesn't constitute any legal minimum.

I'm personally against a blanket five foot ban because i think in city traffic it's not workable. There's plenty of places on my commute (not aparticularly busy one, but a city one) where it's not practical for a car to give me five feet of room, and i wouldn't expect them to - i'd rather they passed me with three feet to spare than sat behind me getting angry, no-one's going very fast anyway. out on the open road there's generally no excuse for not giving a cyclist five feet of space. that's why i think the french statutes are the most sensible. where's the petition i sign for that option? or do i just sign both? Smile

cactuscat's picture

posted by cactuscat [301 posts]
10th November 2009 - 23:18

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Sorry to throw another variable into the debate.... Devil but as important, or perhaps more, is the speed at which a car passes. On my 8 mile commute to work I ride on a variety of roads (and even a bit of cyclepath) by far the worst experiences I have had, have been on a single carriageway rural A-road, where the national speed limit applies. Every day I will be passed by cars taking this stretch of road at 60-70mph and also by more considerate drivers who will slow to 35-45mph. It's a lot less unnerving to be passed at the slower speeds even if the cars pass at the same distance.
I would like to see a practical passing distance (I like the 1m town, 1.5m rural idea) and also a maximum speed limit of 40mph (Is there a similar law already in place for horses maybe?)

posted by pwake [280 posts]
11th November 2009 - 0:36

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I have no problem with the French system. The way to get it is to campaign for the 5ft law. 5ft is at least the distance for overtaking a car and this is what the Highway Code recommends, so that’s what we go for. There are circumstances where this is not possible or practical, but there is scope to make exceptions for such cases. This would be done by proving that it is not possible or not necessary to have 5ft in those circumstances. This is a much more workable alternative to having a 3ft law and trying to prove that circumstances exist where more room is required, i.e. it is the responsibility of authorities and motorists to justify when less is needed. My ideal would be: 5ft is the law except when overtaking at less than 30mph where 3ft would be minimum. If it is not possible to give 5ft then the traffic conditions demand slower speed. The law is not such a black and white thing, there are always mitigation circumstances. For example, some HGVs cannot go round some roundabouts in one lane, in congested traffic motorists recognise the need to cooperate in ignoring priority at Give Way signs, speeding in emergencies etc. The point is; where there is dispute, 5ft is the law and motorists have to justify why this would not be required if it were not already obvious.

I have disagreed with Joe Mizereck’s campaign in the UK, but have never questioned his motives. I welcome his comments in this article and hope that the CTC will rise to the challenge. And thanks John Wood for the 5ft petition.

voujan

posted by voujan [13 posts]
11th November 2009 - 1:06

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3' would certainly have been better than the 6" that the guy roaring past in his hopped up Mini gave me yesterday morning as I cycled to work.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
11th November 2009 - 13:03

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@OldRidgeBack : And people wonder why I started the petition......

posted by Tom Amos [240 posts]
11th November 2009 - 18:59

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@Tom Amos: nobody is saying there shouldn't be a law passed. We just disagree on whether we campaign for 5ft based on current rules, or 3ft, based on ...what?

voujan

posted by voujan [13 posts]
11th November 2009 - 19:57

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I don't wonder why you started the petition.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
12th November 2009 - 10:42

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As I see it if the cycling fraternity ask for 3ft, that is what we're in danger of getting,3ft could mean being overtaken at 60mph with only 3ft to spare.
I too agree with 3ft in towns at a maximum of 30mph.
But if we start at the width of a car(around 5ft,the Highway Code minimum and the French/German standard)3ft in town(the French system)can be negociated which,would be seen as giving something back.
With the 3ft petition we start from an already weak position and it will be a stuggle to get more than that.

I don't doubt Tom Amos's intentions but feel that cyclists will be on a loser with a 3ft petition as it sends out the wrong messages out to government, it shows people are satisfied with 3ft because thats what we are asking for,whereas 5ft is asking for what the government already recommends in the Highway Code,we have to be very careful we don't give away what we already have albeit recommended,but simply seeking it to be reinforced in law and, at the same time being brought into line with the EEC.

John Wood

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

posted by reohn2 [5 posts]
12th November 2009 - 13:23

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The problem with the wording in the Highway Code, it seems to me, is that it assumes that motorists are considerate of other cars ("give as much room as you would a car").

They aren't.

--
"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [418 posts]
12th November 2009 - 17:35

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Exactly! and thats why we need a 5ft overtaking distance the recommendation is there in the HC but because of the inconsideration of some drivers cyclists need the protection and backing of the law.

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]
12th November 2009 - 23:44

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