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Flawed advice on passing and advanced stop lines retained

THINK! Cyclist, a campaign designed to highlight to cyclists and motorists ways to share the road safely that has been running in London since September 2012, is to be rolled out to five other cities in England.

Outdoor advertising will be put in place in Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Leeds and Manchester to highlight to drivers and people on bikes alike potential hazards when sharing space.

Developed by Transport for London (TfL) and the Department for Transport (DfT), the initiative aims to reinforce a culture of mutual respect among road users with the aim of improving safety.

When the campaign was launched last year in London, no cycling body endorsed it, and CTC was critical of some of the campaign’s advice.

CTC campaigns and policy director Roger Geffen says the organisation’s stance hasn’t changed.

He told road.cc: “CTC welcomes the posters and has no problem with the imagery, but has long-standing concerns about some of THINK!’s associated ‘tips’, especially its advice to drivers to give cyclists at least half a car’s width.

“This is far less than the overtaking distance recommended in the Highway Code: “…as much room as you  would when overtaking a car" – i.e. far more than half a car's width in most cases.

“CTC also believes that THINK!’s recommendation that cyclists should wear a helmet implies that it is irresponsible not to wear one, advice that could be prejudicial to cyclists in legal cases.

“CTC points out that helmets are not designed to protect riders in the sort of collisions that are likely to happen in fast or heavy traffic and that it is far more important to provide sound advice to road users on how to avoid collisions in the first place.”

While we admit we haven’t exactly been keeping an eye out, the only place in London where we’ve spotted the posters is on bus shelters. The pic at the top, and this one are from shelters on a quiet suburban shopping street close to road.cc’s east London office. Has anyone out there seen them on, say, buses?

The advice

The campaign contains advice aimed at both drivers and cyclists. The advice to drivers includes:

  • Look out for cyclists, especially when turning - make eye contact if possible so they know you’ve seen them
  • Use your indicators - signal your intentions so that cyclists can react
  • Give cyclists space – at least half a car’s width. If there isn’t sufficient space to pass, hold back. Remember that cyclists may need to manoeuvre suddenly if the road is poor, it’s windy or if a car door is opened
  • Always check for cyclists when you open your car door
  • Avoid driving over advanced stop lines – these allow cyclists to get to the front and increase their visibility
  • Follow the Highway Code including ‘stop’ and ‘give way’ signs and traffic lights.

When the campaign was launched, CTC also criticised the phrasing of the advice over advanced stop lines, which is weaker than the instructions in the Highway Code. The Highway Code says: “Motorists, including motorcyclists, MUST stop at the first white line reached if the lights are amber or red and should avoid blocking the way or encroaching on the marked area at other times.”

Cyclists, meanwhile, are advised:

  • Ride positively, decisively and well clear of the kerb – look and signal to show drivers what you plan to do and make eye contact where possible so you know drivers have seen you
  • Avoid riding up the inside of large vehicles, like lorries or buses, where you might not be seen
  • Always use lights after dark or when visibility is poor
  • Wearing light coloured or reflective clothing during the day and reflective clothing and/or accessories in the dark increases your visibility
  • Follow the Highway Code including observing ‘stop’ and ‘give way’ signs and traffic lights
  • THINK! recommends wearing a correctly fitted cycle helmet, which is securely fastened and conforms to current regulations.

British Cycling, which has been lobbying for a campaign to promote understanding between cyclists and other road users for two years, has welcomed the initiative.

Martin Key, its campaigns manager, commented: “British Cycling has long championed the need for a driver and cyclist awareness campaign.

“It is vital when talking about safety on the roads that we don’t get a ‘them and us’ mentality emerging between drivers and cyclists.

"We are all road users and I hope that this campaign can help foster mutual respect between everyone who uses the roads to make journeys safer, more pleasant experiences.

“We hope it will not be long before this this media campaign is launched nationwide.”

We contacted British Cycling to ask what had persuaded them to change their stance and back this year's THINK! Campaign but as yet have had no reply - we will update this article with their response when we get it.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

37 comments

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oozaveared [934 posts] 3 years ago
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I think the CTC is right on this and I have no idea why TFL didn't ask them about the advice before issuing it. It appears to be written without also referring to the highway code regarding passing space and ASLs. or the efficacy of helmets.

I have a feeling it wasn't written by an experienced cyclist or even an advanced or experienced motorist.

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notfastenough [3719 posts] 3 years ago
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I can certainly understand the criticisms, but it's the best we've had so far, and a damn far cry from the niceway nonsense.

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Edgeley [452 posts] 3 years ago
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The Highway Code advice on passing a cyclist is ambiguous at best. I'd like more than "half a car's width" on the posters too, but at least it doesn't say that you only have to leave as much room as you would leave a car, which is what the HC appears to say, and which could mean only the width of a white line.

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mrmo [2092 posts] 3 years ago
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Edgeley wrote:

The Highway Code advice on passing a cyclist is ambiguous at best. I'd like more than "half a car's width" on the posters too, but at least it doesn't say that you only have to leave as much room as you would leave a car, which is what the HC appears to say, and which could mean only the width of a white line.

//assets.digital.cabinet-office.gov.uk/static/hc/hc_rule_163_give_vulnerable_road_users_at_least_as_much_space_as_you_would_a_car.jpg)

i wouldn't say that is very ambiguous.

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FluffyKittenofT... [1582 posts] 3 years ago
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mrmo wrote:

i wouldn't say that is very ambiguous.

Well the text in isolation certainly is. The picture points clearly to one interpretation, but motorists seem to prefer to interpret it the other way.

This is the one single issue I would most like to see the driving test properly drum home. I am so sick of motorists passing ludicrously close and fast at ridiculous points. Only the other day a motorcyclist came roaring up behind me while I was 'taking the lane' passing parked cars, with a long line of traffic coming the other way. I thought "he won't be daft enough to try and squeeze past me, surely?". But he did, snarling something incomprehensible at me as he missed me by inches, squeezing between me and the oncoming cars in the other lane. (Note I didn't veer in front of him, I was already passing the long line of parked cars long before he came roaring up behind).

Presumably he thought I should have just gone into the door zone to make room for him? Too many motorists don't seem to have a clue about the door-zone issue in particular, and seem to imagine cyclists are just 'getting in the way' for the hell of it.

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koko56 [330 posts] 3 years ago
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CTC is being awkward here - all of the advice above is sound including half a cars width for overtaking and if you think cars should be giving you the whole lane in all situations then it's just not needed 99% of the time. Helmets, as usual personal choice and is the only questionable point

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Edgeley [452 posts] 3 years ago
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The picture and the text contradict each other.

Read the HC again.

It doesn't say "leave a car's width". It should.

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oozaveared [934 posts] 3 years ago
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notfastenough wrote:

I can certainly understand the criticisms, but it's the best we've had so far, and a damn far cry from the niceway nonsense.

OK but my point is that they should have consulted the CTC or BC or RoSPA even blimey even the Institute of Advanced Motorists has good advice for cyclists and motorists. The CTC would have been best though. The question is why they didn't? The answer is because in a lot of people's minds cycling safety is kids stuff that any office junior can write advice about in their lunch break.

I work in media btw and this as well as the the fact that the posters are on bus stops and not on buses means that it has more to do with buying up cheap ad space rather than buying properly targeted space. I mean if you were paying proper money for the ad space on a bus then maybe just maybe you would make sure the message was a good one. But since the space is free/mega cheap last minute filler stuff then why bother.

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oozaveared [934 posts] 3 years ago
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koko56 wrote:

CTC is being awkward here - all of the advice above is sound including half a cars width for overtaking and if you think cars should be giving you the whole lane in all situations then it's just not needed 99% of the time. Helmets, as usual personal choice and is the only questionable point

CTC has been developing expertise in road safety as it refers to cyclists for decades. They advise the DfT run campaigns, develop statistics and advice. They have a legal department that specialises in cycle safety legislation. They are the genuine bona fide experts on the HC and UK cycle safety.

Their advice is free. It's a charity. So why not call and get it right from the horses mouth. hell why not get them to write it for you for free.

So then when they don't consult and get the best advice I think its fair that the CTC don't just rubber stamp it.

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congokid [310 posts] 3 years ago
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Where, apart from bus shelters, are the messages aimed at drivers going to appear? Television adverts? The backs of buses?

The campaign's website doesn't offer us any clues.
http://think.direct.gov.uk/cycling.html

It seems a very hit and miss approach to rolling out a campaign that supposedly aims to make roads safer for vulnerable road users (if that indeed is its aim - to me the campaign looks wishy washy in the extreme, to the extent of being completely ineffectual).

Apparently the campaign has already been running in London since September 2012. But is there any data to suggest how effective it has been? I noted that when the original campaign was launched, there were quite a few 'going in the right direction' comments. Does anyone think now that any progress has been made? To me, it looks like we're exactly where we were a year ago.

If the campaign aims to change attitudes between motorists and people on bikes, I'd say nothing has changed. From what I've seen over the past year, ask motorists to 'think cyclist' and the prevailing 'thought' appears to be 'they're in my way' followed by 'they don't even pay road tax'.

I'd actually want to see something a lot more effective and also know more about how it's being publicised before I start 'welcoming' it as the CTC does.

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rogdog [10 posts] 3 years ago
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Sig - I Totally agree, I'm happy with a foot or two from cars and a bit more from lorries and buses, much more is unrealistic. I have had my hand clipped a few times and that's clearly too close. But half a car - good advise I'd say, a car that's stuck behind you for half a mile is as dangerous as one passing too closely!

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Tom Amos [236 posts] 3 years ago
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Roadcc has an east London office? I thought you guys worked out of Bath?

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Tony Farrelly [2893 posts] 3 years ago
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We're all over the place we are Tom  16

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Tony Farrelly [2893 posts] 3 years ago
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rogdog wrote:

a car that's stuck behind you for half a mile is as dangerous as one passing too closely!

Surely that depends who's driving it?

if it's an impatient idiot then probably it is, if it's a considerate road user who understands their responsibilities to other, and particularly to vulnerable road users then there shouldn't be any risk at all.

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Paul99 [26 posts] 3 years ago
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Just to add something that no one else has seen - these things are plastered over the back of a lot of buses. I commute every day in London (all the way up the old kent road, which is horrible) and as far as I'm concerned, any highlighting of the issues is a good thing. There will always be those who don't agree with the advice, whoever has been consulted, so some visibility and at least putting it in people's minds is better than none at all.

As for the highway code - Edgeley and Fluffy are spot on. The text is fine if seen with the picture, but without the pic, it's open to interpretation. As someone who has also had their hand clipped by overtakers (mopeds, motorcycles and cars), and seeing other drivers overtake cars, buses and lorries etc, I can assure you that most people's interpretation of "as much space as you would a car" is about 6 inches...at least on London's congested roads.

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jova54 [675 posts] 3 years ago
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What's all this 'Half a car is OK' crap?
What sort of car, Fiat 500 or Humvee?
HC says leave as much room as you would for a car; and that is generally interpreted as a car's width. It was when I took my test over 30 years ago and also when my daughter took hers 4 years ago. The rule hasn't changed, just some drivers' interpretation of it.
If you take up prime position on the road and they can't get round you safely then they shouldn't be trying to pass.
Remember, you have as much right to be on the road as they have.

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Leodis [423 posts] 3 years ago
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I feel so much more safer now in Leeds...  39

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Mr Agreeable [180 posts] 3 years ago
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I saw one of these adverts in central Bristol today, which suggests that they may have a bit more budget behind the campaign than previous efforts. However the initial CTC reports suggested otherwise, and £80k really isn't going to do a lot to raise awareness, even without some of the slightly dodgy advice: http://www.ctc.org.uk/government-think-cycling-campaign-misses-bigger-pi...

I also have to wonder, even if they're giving out sound advice, how much effect these types of campaigns have. For example there are plenty of people who are aware of the advice to "take the lane" where a road narrows, but don't want to do it because they're worried about antagonising the people driving behind them.

Changing conditions on the ground seems a lot more sensible than blowing a bit of leftover budget on an underfunded advertising campaign; this seems like another example of lip service to cycling that the government can point to when criticised, but which isn't going to make a blind bit of difference overall.

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sm [399 posts] 3 years ago
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Why do we think we can solve all our problems in the UK with posters? Immigrants, bad driving, terrible cycling, you name it, we've a poster for it! Lip service.

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banzicyclist2 [299 posts] 3 years ago
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Leave a cars width......  24 it really would be funny if it wasn't so sad. A lot of motorists leaving just enough space not damage their wing mirrors if the cyclist wobbles or falls off. Half a cars width is far more than I usually get!

As far as the rest of it goes, I think the thinking behind it is very sound, the wording is just a case of interpretation. It's good the authorities are making an effort.

As far as helmets are concerned, my wife's an A&E nurse; over the years she's seen the aftermath on not wearing one compared to wearing one. I'm convinced and never go out without mine.

Overall I'd rather have these campaigns than not, anything promoting a better attitude between cyclists and motorists is surely a good thing!  7

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lolol [211 posts] 3 years ago
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Goes along with my experience with a corpulent driver today, who overtook and turned left across me, when I caught up with her, and after she had almost immediately shouted that I didn't pay road tax, she informed me that she hadn't cut me up, she had gone around me. I was lost for words, printable words.

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paulfg42 [392 posts] 3 years ago
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Who, when driving, leaves a car's width between them and the car they are overtaking?

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koko56 [330 posts] 3 years ago
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oozaveared - Good point, just comes across as kind of whiny. Fair enough if the advice was not good, but it's mostly spot on.

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John Stevenson [285 posts] 3 years ago
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Paul99 wrote:

Just to add something that no one else has seen - these things are plastered over the back of a lot of buses.

Thanks for adding that detail. I confess I hadn't noticed them, but that's because I see buses as something to avoid, not something to read. I bet I'm not the only one.

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Rouboy [93 posts] 3 years ago
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Perhaps the posters should have pictures like the rule 163 highway code as detailed above printed on them.. There is absolutely no question where everyone should be having seen that.

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Bhachgen [115 posts] 3 years ago
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Overall this looks like a decent campaign. Certainly the messages it is trying to put across are infinitely better than the Nice Way Code.

Heading into Manchester a couple of times over the next couple of weeks so will be looking out for these.

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a.jumper [848 posts] 3 years ago
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Another close- but- no- cigar waste of taxpaying cyclists' money!  2

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toothache90 [40 posts] 3 years ago
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you can see how one sided the advice is.

Advice to cyclists "Follow the Highway Code including observing ‘stop’ and ‘give way’ signs and traffic lights"

Yet they don't give that same assertive tone to ASL and giving the same width as a car when passing.

I'm all for this campaign but TfL/DfT must not be biased to vehicles, cyclists are considered a 'carriage' that has the same road rights as any other.

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burtthebike [806 posts] 3 years ago
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So, mostly good, but sheer unadulterated genius to put them in bus shelters, where the only people to see them will be bus passengers. What are they going to do, give the driver advice as he follows the bus route?

This would have been a much better use of the advertising vans recently stopped by the govt, which were telling illegal immigrants to go home. And they could have demonstrated their cycle awareness to other road users at the same time.

 39

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jarredscycling [456 posts] 3 years ago
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I don't get why they would half bake the advice. It seems quite reasonable to try and educate all road users including cyclists; but why not working with cycling groups to make sure you are accurate with one's advice?

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