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.