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Drivers give cyclists more space on roads without central markings, study finds

20mph speed limit also leads motorists to give bike riders wider berth

A study funded by the national cyclists’ charity, CTC, suggests that the absence of central road markings and a speed limit of 20 miles an hour cause motorists to take more care when overtaking cyclists. However, the presence of a bike lane was found to make no difference, which CTC says reinforces the need for segregated space for bike riders.

Due to be published in the December issue of the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention, the article, entitled Measuring the influence of on-road features and driver behaviour on proximity and speed of vehicles overtaking cyclists, was presented at the annual symposium of the Cycling and Society Research Group in Newcastle earlier this week.

It is the work of John Parkin, Professor of Transport Engineering at the University of the West of England, and Stella Shackel from the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds. It can be consulted free of charge until 3 November.

They found that where there was no centre line on the road, motorists gave cyclists more space when overtaking them, and suggested that where one is present, it gives drivers a “visual clue” of where they should “drive up to.”

They added that the absence of a centre line, on the other hand, “may cause the driver to consider his or her road position and speed more carefully.” A lower speed limit of 20mph also resulted in a reduced speed when overtaking.

Sam Jones of CTC Campaigns said: “The report’s findings that drivers’ overtaking behaviour is not dependent on cycle lanes makes a strong case for protected space for cyclists. This is an issue that highway authorities should take seriously.

“Well-designed cycling infrastructure which leads to people’s feeling of safety is essential to getting more people on the road.”

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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