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Cycling UK welcomes move aimed at reducing number of close passes

The Department for Transport (DfT) has said that it is reviewing the Highway Code with the aim of providing clearer guidance to motorists on how to overtake cyclists safely and reduce the number of close passes bike riders experience.

News of the review was contained in a press release from the DfT this morning announcing the opening of a consultation into potential reform of the law regarding careless and dangerous cycling.

> Government opens dangerous and careless cycling law consultation

Currently, Rule 163 of the Highway Code says, among other things, that motorists should “give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car,” and is accompanied by the photograph shown above.

Campaigners have urged however that there should be greater clarity over the minimum safe overtaking distance that drivers should provide.

The award-winning Operation Close Pass launched in late 2016 by West Midlands Police and since adopted by many other forces across the UK suggests that 1.5 metres should be the minimum space given.

> West Midlands Police outline how their award-winning Operation Close Pass will evolve

In today’s announcement, the DfT said that it is “looking at updating parts of the Highway Code, including measures to counter the dangerous practice of ‘close passing’ which puts people off cycling, and would benefit other vulnerable road users like horse riders.”

The news was welcomed by Cycling UK, which last year launched a successful crowdfunding campaign to buy ‘close pass mats’ which enable police officers to show drivers who have been seen overtaking cyclists too closely what the safe passing distance should be.

So far, 38 of the 45 police forces in the UK have received mats under Cycling UK’s Too Close For Comfort initiative.

However, the charity has highlighted research it commissioned earlier this year which showed that one in two drivers in the UK are unaware of the provisions of Rule 143 regarding how much space they should give cyclists and as road.cc’s own Near Miss of the Day series demonstrates, close passes are a daily occurrence for many riders.

In response to today’s announcement, cycling UK’s policy director, Roger Geffen, said: “Most close passes come from a position of ignorance rather than malicious intent and it’s heartening to see the government is acknowledging the problem of close passing with a review of the Highway Code.”

The DfT also said today that it aims to provide new design guidance for local authorities for cycling infrastructure.

Geffen said: “This is a vital move in the right direction. At present, the confusing plethora of often-contradictory design guidance is clearly failing to ensure safe and sensible designs.

“Too many cycle facilities in the UK are still worse than useless, and in some cases even downright dangerous,” he added.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc 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.