The vehicle that passes just inches from you, almost sucking you into its slipstream, is an everyday experience for today’s road cyclists.
You scream abuse, shake your fist or – if you’re brave and quick – confront the errant driver at the next set of traffic lights, but nine times out of ten the driver is either oblivious or gives as good as he gets. Rarely is an apology forthcoming.
Most road cyclists learn to deal with inconsiderate drivers, but all too often an actual encounter between car and bike can end in serious injury or death.
Which is why, in the United States, a Florida man has come up with a cycling jersey that politely but firmly tells the passing driver to keep his distance. Joe Mizereck, from Tallahassee, has had the words ‘3 Feet Please’ printed in black letters on a yellow jersey, and has started a campaign to get as many cyclists as possible wearing them.
And it’s not just applicable to US roads. Joe exclusively told road.cc that riders in South Africa, Australia, Germany, Singapore, Brazil, Canada, the Netherlands and the UK are now sporting the slogan, or its metric equivalent. His aim is to sell a million shirts.
“I even have cyclists riding the streets of Jerusalem wearing the jersey,” he said. “I have just been amazed by the way this message has captured the attention of cyclists worldwide.
“The message can easily transfer to other countries and most certainly, cyclists in the UK can, do and should be wearing the jerseys. The more cyclists wearing this jersey around the world the greater the impact of the message. And that impact means more motorists giving more cyclists more space more often…and that makes cycling safer, which makes it easier for non-cyclists to overcome their fears and become cyclists.
“As those numbers increase cycling becomes even safer. There is a lot of good that can be accomplished by thousands of cyclists worldwide wearing a bright yellow jersey with the words “3 Feet Please” or “1 Metre Please” or Un Metro Por Favor” on the back.”
Thirteen states of the US currently have laws requiring drivers to give cyclists at least three feet of clearance when passing. Others are planning to follow suit.
Is there such legal protection for cyclists in the UK? Not according to Debra Rolfe, campaigns coordinator for the CTC. Drivers are required to give ‘sufficient space’, she said, but the law does not specify how much that should be.
“Three feet should be the minimum amount of space you give a cyclist,” she said. “It all depends on road conditions and how fast the driver is going, and I think it’s important not to get too fixated with numbers. A driver passing a cyclist at 60mph clearly should be much further away than a driver passing at 20mph.
“It’s great that people are campaigning to be aware of cyclists, but we do want people to ride, where possible, in normal clothing. It’s a tricky situation but I wonder whether it might be off-putting to cyclists who feel they have to go out every time in a jersey that warns motorists to keep away.”
* To find out more about Joe’s campaign visit www.3feetplease.com We’d also like to hear your views here at road.cc. Are Joe’s jerseys a good idea, or are they counter-productive? Would British drivers take any notice of them? Would YOU wear one? Drop us a line with your thoughts.