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Petition to introduce minimum passing distance when overtaking cyclists nears 10,000 signatures

Highway Code only instructs drivers to allow ‘plenty of room’ at present

At the time of writing, a petition calling for the introduction of a minimum passing distance when overtaking cyclists has attracted almost 9,000 signatures. 10,000 signatures would bring about a government response.

Rule 212 of the Highway Code states only that drivers should allow "plenty of room" when passing a cyclist.

BikeBiz reports that the petition was started by Tony C Martin, who wrote:

“The lack of a clear specification may result in a personal decision what ‘plenty of room’ means in terms of distance. Therefore, introducing a minimum legal passing distance when overtaking cyclists will considerably reduce the number of cyclist casualties, aiding in a safe cycling practice. Suggestion of 3.28 ft (1 m) when overtaking cyclists on roads with speed limits up to and including 30mph. On roads with higher speed limits, the minimum passing distance should be 4.9 ft (1.5 m).”

A number of countries have laws relating to a legal minimum passing distance. As of February last year, drivers in Tasmania have been obliged to allow one metre between their vehicle and a cyclist on roads up to and including 60km/h, and 1.5 metres on roads above 60 km/h with a public information film getting the message across in memorable and entertaining fashion.

Here in the UK, BikeBiz editor Carlton Reid produced a video in which Chris Boardman explained how to safely overtake a cyclist. The video, which also featured cycling club Exeter Wheelers and master driving instructor Blaine Walsh, demonstrated how much room a cyclist or group of riders need, and why they might need it.

The handlebar sonar unit that measures passing distance

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the road.cc team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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27 comments

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antigee | 7 years ago
0 likes

back again - rather than just moan on a cycling forum have emailed the petitions committee:

(if asked to explain the "48.5 fewer serious bicycle crashes"  everyone shout "unicycle"smiley)

_________________________________________________________________________

Petition To introduce a permanent, minimum passing distance when overtaking cyclists.

Ref: Recent Government response

Request for a timetabled review of potential benefits of a minimum passing distance law

 

I am a UK citizen currently living in Australia. I was interested to see that the recently commenced trial of a minimum safe distance passing law in South Australia was mentioned as part of the response to this petition. Obviously this has been a much discussed topic here.

The Queensland Government commenced a similar trial in April 2014 and confirmed in April 2016 that the trial was considered successful and the law has now become permanent.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-07/cyclist-one-metre-rule-to-stay-in-...

Possibly this trial was unique in that there was an evaluation of the law’s impact by The Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety - Queensland University of Technology, available in full here:

http://eprints.qut.edu.au/94655/1/Final_Report_TMR_170316.pdf

The conclusion section of the Executive Summary is lengthy. This section suggests a generally positive outcome:

“....Despite the problems of practical implementation, drivers reported being more aware of bicycle riders when driving on the road than 12 months ago. Most riders and drivers surveyed had observed motorists giving bicycle riders more room when overtaking than they used to. However, there was no reported change in empathy for bicycle riders or in incidents of harassment between motorists and bicyclists. Thus it appears that drivers have become more aware of cyclists and leave them more room, but their attitudes towards cyclists have not necessarily changed. The level of observed compliance with the new rule was relatively good....”

Of course the big question is does a minimum passing distance (MPD) law make the roads safer?

From page 69 of the report:

“Analyses of uncleansed preliminary police data showed that during the two years prior to the commencement of the MPD trial, the number of serious (fatal and hospitalisation) bicycle-related crashes per month showed no statistically significant trend but that from the commencement of the trial until October 2015 there has been a statistically significant decreasing trend. This has resulted in an estimated 48.5 fewer serious bicycle crashes in the post-commencement period than would have been expected based on extrapolation from the pre-trial trend.”

The report goes on to suggest that other sources of data need to be looked at to get a clearer picture of the impact of minimum passing distance road rule on serious bicycle crashes and car on car crashes but that the data is not yet available.

The population of Queensland is less than 5million.  

Obviously there are a lot of differences in terms of road layout, population densities, travel mode, weather etc to the UK but if this level of reduction in serious injurious/deaths  is near correct then for the UK this could  translate to a very significant number of  reductions in deaths and serious injuries .

 This would indicate that urgent action is required to speed up any review and make it a definitive rather than an ongoing learning process.

Can the committee ask the relevant department(s) to establish a fixed time table for a review and confirm what the elements of the review would be?

Yours Truly

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antigee | 7 years ago
0 likes

"....interested in learning from the experience of places where legislation of this type has been introduced. One example is South Australia...."

pushing the ball into the long grass?

if really interested in learning from Australia why not look at Queensland?  Queensland trialled minimum passing legislation in 2014 and made it permanent in 2015. This article also refers to research by Queensland University of Technology that found that most drivers were complying with the rule. 

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-07/cyclist-one-metre-rule-to-stay-in-...

Following the introduction of the rule cyclist deaths on Queenland's roads reduced:

2013: 13deaths, 2014: 9deaths, 2015: 5deaths

sadly looks like this year to date may suggest that this could just be a random effect  - would be interesting to find out if cycling related road serious injuries (a bigger sample) reduced at all, but not been able to find this data.* 

The full (189page) QUT report

 http://eprints.qut.edu.au/94655/1/Final_Report_TMR_170316.pdf

 

*edit the QUT report confirms, P69, that serious injury data not yet available but did look at raw police data which suggested a positive trend:

"7.3.1 Bicycle crash trends The delays in data availability prevented any direct assessment of the benefits of the road rule in terms of reductions in crash occurrence and severity from the official road crash data, or in terms of injury occurrence and severity from the hospital emergency presentations and admissions data. Realistically, it may not be until the end of 2016 that any robust assessment of changes in crashes and injuries can be made. Analyses of uncleansed preliminary police data showed that during the two years prior to the commencement of the MPD trial, the number of serious (fatal and hospitalisation) bicycle-related crashes per month showed no statistically significant trend but that from the commencement of the trial until October 2015 there has been a statistically significant decreasing trend. This has resulted in an estimated 48.5 fewer serious bicycle crashes in the post-commencement period than would have been expected based on extrapolation from the pre-trial trend. "

 

 

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cjwebb | 7 years ago
0 likes

Response from the government - same answer as for the previous petitions on subject:

The Government has responded to the petition you signed – “To introduce a permanent, minimum passing distance when overtaking cyclists.”.

Government responded:

This Government currently does not have plans to legislate on a set minimum space e.g. 1 metre on roads with a speed limit of up to 30mph when overtaking a cyclist.

This type of legislation would be extremely difficult to enforce and the Government does not believe that it would add to the existing rules and guidance, including those set out in the Highway Code, which advises drivers to give cyclists “at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car”.

We are keeping this position under review, and are interested in learning from the experience of places where legislation of this type has been introduced. One example is South Australia, where since 25th October 2015, drivers are required to give a minimum of one metre when passing a cyclist where the speed limit is 60km/h (37.3mph) or less or 1.5 metres where the speed limit is over 60km/h (40mph). The penalty for drivers caught disobeying this rule is a $287 (£148) fine, plus a $60 (£31) victim of crime levy and 2 demerit (penalty) points. However, it will take time to understand the benefits and impacts of this legislation on cyclists and other road users.

Department for Transport

Click this link to view the response online:

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/128190?reveal_response=yes

The Petitions Committee will take a look at this petition and its response. They can press the government for action and gather evidence. If this petition reaches 100,000 signatures, the Committee will consider it for a debate.

The Committee is made up of 11 MPs, from political parties in government and in opposition. It is entirely independent of the Government. Find out more about the Committee: https://petition.parliament.uk/help#petitions-committee

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andrewball | 7 years ago
0 likes

i'm just going to buy a wide arse that looks like a roundabout and adorn it with flashing lights, the idiots fellow road users imaginary car width amounts to, can i brush their arm wih my wing mirror and then shave a bit off for good measure. I'm off to majorca for a bit of sun........

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tritecommentbot | 7 years ago
2 likes

If it's law, then it'll be at least taught (or could be) to learner drivers. Enforcement is neither here nor there except in a small number of cases that may arise. This is about the incremental promotion of cycling and cycling safety.

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alansmurphy | 7 years ago
2 likes

Got hit again last night, car passing me over a blind bridge about 10m from a concrete island and roundabout. After refusing to acknowledge he'd hit me, trying to mount the island and hitting me again I set about his car with my d-lock. He seemed to notice me then!

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robertoegg | 7 years ago
1 like

Rather than bring in unenforceable laws that risk infuriating people on "both sides", it would be better to have a funded program of education through media outlets. Something that gently reminded everyone of the rules and managed to balance the perspective of someone riding a bike and someone driving a vehicle (eg blind spots for trucks / close pass = scary / some stats about how little time you get delayed sitting at 15-20mph for 100meters as opposed to 30mph).

Something like this was tried, but then the helmet brigade / bike-taking-too-much-of-the-road-grr-pay-road-tax-etc eejits completely trashed it.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2014/jan/29/bike-blog-c...

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brakesmadly replied to robertoegg | 7 years ago
3 likes
robertoegg wrote:

Rather than bring in unenforceable laws that risk infuriating people on "both sides", it would be better to have a funded program of education through media outlets. Something that gently reminded everyone of the rules and managed to balance the perspective of someone riding a bike and someone driving a vehicle (eg blind spots for trucks / close pass = scary / some stats about how little time you get delayed sitting at 15-20mph for 100meters as opposed to 30mph).

Something like this was tried, but then the helmet brigade / bike-taking-too-much-of-the-road-grr-pay-road-tax-etc eejits completely trashed it.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2014/jan/29/bike-blog-c...

Pissing in the wind. The type of person who needs educating is exactly the type of person least likely to take any notice of being 'gently reminded', as evidenced by your last paragraph. They need to be forcefully reminded that carelessly or willfully endangering an innocent 3rd party's life is not acceptable.

It doesn't matter that it's unenforceable in its own right. Mobile phone use while driving seems to be largely unenforceable too, but at least the offender knows they are offending and therefore is less likely to try to refute their guilt when their carelessness causes a collision.

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ontheroad | 7 years ago
2 likes

A study of the effects of the minimum passing distance law in Queensland concluded that despite limited enforcement and inconclusive effects on casualties:

"Overall, 56.3% of riders and 43.1% of drivers agreed or strongly agreed that “compared to 12 months ago I am more aware of bicycle riders when driving on the road”.  In response to the question regarding their opinion of the MPD rule, 26.8% of drivers said that it has made them more aware of cyclists"

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HarrogateSpa | 7 years ago
3 likes

Quiff, at the start of your comment, you say that the wording in the Highway Code is ambiguous, which it is. Then at the end of the comment, you say, 'So the rules are pretty clear already', which is not the case, as you have stated.

Too many drivers do not allow enough space when overtaking. The rules are unclear. Clarifying the rules won't be a magic bullet, but it is a vital first step. Once the rules are clear, they can be publicised, and, we hope, enforced. 

Sign the petition.

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quiff replied to HarrogateSpa | 7 years ago
0 likes
HarrogateSpa wrote:

Quiff, at the start of your comment, you say that the wording in the Highway Code is ambiguous, which it is. Then at the end of the comment, you say, 'So the rules are pretty clear already', which is not the case, as you have stated.

Too many drivers do not allow enough space when overtaking. The rules are unclear. Clarifying the rules won't be a magic bullet, but it is a vital first step. Once the rules are clear, they can be publicised, and, we hope, enforced. 

Sign the petition.

My point was that, while the wording of the rule is ambiguous, the picture which accompanies it in the highway code (see https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-highway-code/using-the-road-159-to-203) makes clear the intended meaning of "at least as much space as you would [give] a car" - and the passing distance shown in the picture is more favourable to the cyclist than that being lobbied for by this petition. 

I don't like close passes any more than anyone else, but I very much doubt that they happen because drivers are confused as to the meaning of the existing rule; I suspect offending drivers are simply ignorant of it or give it insufficient consideration.  I agree with you that it's no good just making rules; you need to publicise and enforce them too. But you could equally well publicise and enforce the existing rule - I'm just not sure it's necessary or helpful to specify a minimum distance.  

  

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ron611087 | 7 years ago
1 like

The police won't issue a FPN for speeding unless the speed has been measured by an approved calibrated device. That can be done with speed, but how do you enforce a law specifying distance where you can't measure the infingement?

Unless you can find a practical solution to this problem the law will be unenforceable, and it won't take drivers long to twig.

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hawkinspeter replied to ron611087 | 7 years ago
2 likes
ron611087 wrote:

The police won't issue a FPN for speeding unless the speed has been measured by an approved calibrated device. That can be done with speed, but how do you enforce a law specifying distance where you can't measure the infingement?

Unless you can find a practical solution to this problem the law will be unenforceable, and it won't take drivers long to twig.

It should be quite feasible to do this if there's photographic/video evidence. If you've got access to the device used, then it's trivial to fit some kind of measuring stick to the bike and work out the relevant distance along with the likely error margin (maybe 5-10cm each way). Even without access to the original camera, it's still possible to use known objects to calibrate videos.

A bigger problem would be detecting doctored/'shopped evidence.

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ron611087 replied to hawkinspeter | 7 years ago
1 like
hawkinspeter wrote:

A bigger problem would be detecting doctored/'shopped evidence.

This is why an approved calibated device is  required for measuring speeding offences. The evidence is tamper proof.

There is another pracical problem with hardcoding the passing distance, and that is it's relative to speed and size. I may feel comfortable with a 1.5m passing distance on urban roads, but I wouldn't like that gap for car passing me at 60/70mph on a rural road, and if it was a lorry I'd be scared shitless.

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Eric D replied to hawkinspeter | 7 years ago
2 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

A bigger problem would be detecting doctored/'shopped evidence.

If your camera's memory card fits your phone, you (or police) can use an app to create a CheckSum or Hash, that acts as a 'digital fingerprint' for the video file. (e.g.6ECE11C426B75329643B027D0515C7AF) That can be recorded in the officer's pocketbook, or phoned-in to be logged at the police call-centre to give a record that proves the video file played in court is completely identical to the one present at the time and the scene of the incident.

You can also copy the file to the phone, and pass the memory-card to the police on the spot.

Nikon used to sell forensic versions of its cameras with this Checksum software (built-in?)
http://imaging.nikon.com/lineup/software/img_auth/
http://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/1797786

Apps are available - search 'MD5 Checksum'.

It might still be theoretically possible to fake a checksum (given huge computing power and weeks of time), but certainly as OK 'beyond reasonable doubt' as fingerprint or DNA.

But all that would require police to be
1) technically aware
2) prepared to do something

Calibration of a camera after an incident should be about as valid as calibration beforehand (if the camera still works).

Positioning  2x car-lighting-clusters to give an image that matches the recording could be done (even live in court) using the same camera. Of course, focus- and motion-blur will give some uncertainty, but it should be possible to find one position that gives a slightly bigger image and another that is slightly smaller. (Minimum and maximum distance.)

Maybe a same-size wheel-trim could be positioned to match the front and rear wheels in the video, giving two points/times of reference, showing the path of the car (moving inwards or outwards).

There may still be some niggling doubts, but it should be good enough. Much better than even police eyewitness estimation, anyway. Better cameras = more precision.

Whether objectively accurate evidence would be compelling enough to overcome a jury's extreme prejudice is another question.
Martin Porter's prosecution team struggled to get the defendant to accept that
speed = distance/time !
http://beyondthekerb.org.uk/2016/03/23/an-obvious-problem/

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mike the bike | 7 years ago
4 likes

The 'cycling silk', Martin Porter, recently attempted a private prosecution against a driver who allegedly executed a dangerously close overtake.  Despite pretty conclusive film evidence and witness testimony the jury found the defendant not guilty.

If you don't know of him, try that nice Mr Google. 

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j@n | 7 years ago
4 likes

My local constabulary announced that it would no longer investigate counts of careless driving (unless an injury has occurred). I can only imagine the response I would get, if I rang up complaining about a bad pass.

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bendertherobot replied to j@n | 7 years ago
1 like
j@n wrote:

My local constabulary announced that it would no longer investigate counts of careless driving (unless an injury has occurred). I can only imagine the response I would get, if I rang up complaining about a bad pass.

 

Which is doubly weird as there's no offence of causing injury by careless driving.

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robertoegg | 7 years ago
1 like

What a load of bow lacks.... more fuel to the them / us fire.

Dickheads will be dickheads. You think an inconsiderate person in a vehicle will suddenly start giving more space? How do you measure it? How would that stand up in court? Exactly.... no chance.

Have a think about the reaction on here to the suggestion of numberplates for bikes, or insurance, or compulsary helmets - yep, that's the reaction you'll get from other road users for this sort of crap imo.

Love, not regs! 

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oldstrath replied to robertoegg | 7 years ago
2 likes
robertoegg wrote:

What a load of bow lacks.... more fuel to the them / us fire.

Dickheads will be dickheads. You think an inconsiderate person in a vehicle will suddenly start giving more space? How do you measure it? How would that stand up in court? Exactly.... no chance.

Have a think about the reaction on here to the suggestion of numberplates for bikes, or insurance, or compulsary helmets - yep, that's the reaction you'll get from other road users for this sort of crap imo.

Love, not regs! 

Depressingly you're probably right. Conflating giving people adequate space while charging around in a tonne of metal with suggestions that have been dismnissed everywhere else in the world as offering no benefit seems weird to me, but I guess the love motorists feel for their cars really does blind them as you suggest.

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quiff | 7 years ago
3 likes

To be fair, Rule 212 doesn't only state "plenty of space" - it also cross-refers to Rule 163, which advises that you should "give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car".   

That wording is ambiguous though - does it mean:

(a) you should give a cyclist the same actual passing distance as you would a car (which may not actually be that much, and may not be comfortable or appropriate for overtaking a cyclist); or 

(b) you should adopt the same road position as you would when overtaking a car (which, by definition, is likely to be substantially in the opposite lane)? 

However Rule 163 is also accompanied by a helpful diagram which shows a car moving almost entirely into the opposite lane to overtake a cyclist, which suggests the latter is intended.

So the rules are pretty clear already. If even a cycling website can't read the existing rules properly then I can't see what purpose it would serve to bury another more rigid one in there.   

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Cyclosis replied to quiff | 7 years ago
4 likes
quiff wrote:

So the rules are pretty clear already. If even a cycling website can't read the existing rules properly then I can't see what purpose it would serve to bury another more rigid one in there.   

I think you've just explained why the highway code in this regard isn't very clear.

It should obviously by (b), but it's open to interpretation.

Besides, what the highway code says and what the law defines as unacceptable driving standards are two very different things. That's what needs to be changed.

This daft minimum passing distance idea  is just a distraction, and would most likely make things worse. Just take a look at Australia for some examples.

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L.Willo | 7 years ago
4 likes

Great choice of pic. Under the proposed legislation, that pass would be perfectly legal.

So why were 95% of road.cc complaining demanding police action not that long ago ... probably going to sign up to a law that would make legal action impossible?

Not a lot of logic, below the line ....

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alansmurphy replied to L.Willo | 7 years ago
2 likes
L.Willo wrote:

Great choice of pic. Under the proposed legislation, that pass would be perfectly legal.

So why were 95% of road.cc complaining demanding police action not that long ago ... probably going to sign up to a law that would make legal action impossible?

Not a lot of logic, below the line ....

 

DO NOT FEED THE TROLL

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Guanajuato | 7 years ago
5 likes

Adding the suggestion to Rule 163 would be a good start.

Mind you, you'll never stop some cocks.  I had someone come within 6" of me, whilst I was riding about a foot from the kerb.  Only they were coming the other direction and very clearly swerved AT me.  No matter what the law says, some motorists are absolute dicks and will remain dicks until the day that they die.  Hopefully not taking some innocent bystander with them.

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Cyclosis | 7 years ago
6 likes

Quite a number of reasons why this is a bad idea.

As usual Bez has the low-down on this:

http://singletrackworld.com/columns/2016/04/passing-laws/

I'd encourage people not to sign the petition.

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imajez replied to Cyclosis | 7 years ago
4 likes
Cyclosis wrote:

Quite a number of reasons why this is a bad idea.

As usual Bez has the low-down on this:

http://singletrackworld.com/columns/2016/04/passing-laws/

I'd encourage people not to sign the petition.

That's a terrible argument against laws being introduced. By his dubious reckoning a lot of current laws should be binned too.
The point of laws like this is so that when there is a breach, you do not have to prove the point of the law, but just that there was in fact a transgression. The difficult of proving something bears no relevence. Proving a murderer was guilty beyound any reasonable doubt is far, far  trickier. So should murder as a crime be binned too.
Besides, police cars with dashcams could be used as evidence as well as bike cameras.

 

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