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Insurer advises motorists to leave cyclists 1 metre of space – when driving behind them

Canada's TD Insurance appears to have confused issue with minimum passing distance...

Usually, when we hear of motorists being advised to give cyclists a certain amount of room, it’s in the context of overtaking – so we were rather surprised when road.cc reader Brent told us of an advert he had seen on YouTube from an insurance company in Canada that says they should allow bike riders one metre of space when driving behind them.

In a page on its website entitled Driving and Bicycle Safety Tips, Toronto-based TD Insurance, one of Canada’s biggest insurers, tells motorists to “Maintain a safe distance of one metre behind cyclists as they do not have brake lights to indicate when they are slowing down or stopping.”

That certainly doesn’t seem a “safe distance” to us, and with good reason. Take a vehicle being driven at 20mph.

The minimum stopping distance at that speed is 40 feet, equivalent to 12 metres – and half of that distance, 6 metres, reflects the distance travelled in the time it takes the driver to see a hazard, assess the situation and apply the brakes (assuming he or she is not distracted at the time).

And stopping distance increases with speed; at 30mph, you’re looking at a thinking distance of 9 metres and braking distance beyond that of 14 metres for a total of 23 metres.

What we suspect has happened here is that whoever compiled the list of advice conflated the issue of minimum passing distance with that of keeping a safe distance back when driving behind cyclists – take a look at this section from the Ontario Driver’s Handbook, the equivalent to the UK’s Highway Code in the province where TD Insurance is based.

When passing a cyclist, drivers of motor vehicles must maintain a minimum distance of one metre, where practical between their vehicle and the cyclist. (See Diagram 2-11.) Failure to do so may result in a fine and an additional two demerit points on the driver’s record. Whenever possible, you should change lanes to pass.

Do not follow too closely behind cyclists. They do not have brake lights to warn you when they are slowing or stopping.

Cut out chunks of that text while seeking to produce a precis and it’s not difficult to see how the two issues can become confused if the person summarising it isn’t paying sufficient attention.

Among the advice given to cyclists, by the way, is to “Be distraction-free” – examples given include not using a mobile device or headphones, although in our experience, having a motor vehicle a metre off your rear wheel is pretty distracting too.

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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25 comments

Avatar
Pedal those squares | 2 years ago
3 likes

Personally I think the most import things here are:

1. How long will it take them to change the recommened 1m rule on the web and indeed any where elese they are using it?

2. What have they changed it to?

3. What is their appology to cyclists for putting they at risk? Especially as an insurance company they want to avoid accidents and therefore avoide payouts!

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PRSboy | 2 years ago
1 like

I can only imagine its a typo.  I cant envisage an insurance company recommending clients follow advice that is likely to give rise to litigation against them in the event of an accident... "but your leaflet said to leave 1 metre. I did, but I hit them and now they are suing me..."

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Sriracha replied to PRSboy | 2 years ago
1 like
PRSboy wrote:

I can only imagine its a typo.

I guess you didn't read to the end of the article then?

What we suspect has happened here...

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jh2727 replied to PRSboy | 2 years ago
5 likes

To be honest even without the mistakes that TD Insurance added, the original Ontario Drivers Handbook is pretty appalling:

'When passing a cyclist, drivers of motor vehicles must maintain a minimum distance of one metre, where practical between their vehicle and the cyclist.'

'Whenever possible, you should change lanes to pass.'

So its okay to drive less safely (AKA unsafely) when it when driving safely "isn't practical" or "isn't 'possible'".

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Sriracha replied to jh2727 | 2 years ago
3 likes

Yes, no advice on what to do when 1m is not "practical". So effectively it's just saying not to close-pass out of simple malice, but only out of practicality to squeeze by. Then it's fine!

So I guess the message to cyclists is, if you've been close-passed by a motorist it's because they had no choice.

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Philh68 replied to jh2727 | 2 years ago
0 likes

North American laws are beset by car addiction, at least the Canadians are trying. The roads are so wide in most places it shouldn't be much of an issue for drivers to give plenty of room without any personal inconvenience.

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Jenova20 replied to jh2727 | 2 years ago
2 likes
jh2727 wrote:

To be honest even without the mistakes that TD Insurance added, the original Ontario Drivers Handbook is pretty appalling:

'When passing a cyclist, drivers of motor vehicles must maintain a minimum distance of one metre, where practical between their vehicle and the cyclist.'

'Whenever possible, you should change lanes to pass.'

So its okay to drive less safely (AKA unsafely) when it when driving safely "isn't practical" or "isn't 'possible'".

 

Change lanes if possible to pass, but if it's not possible then just pass anyway?

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wycombewheeler replied to Jenova20 | 2 years ago
0 likes
Jenova20 wrote:

Change lanes if possible to pass, but if it's not possible then just pass anyway?

To be fair pass with at least a 1m gap and where possible use a different lane entirely seems perfectly sound to me. But "pass with 1m gap where practical" is unsound. 

In reality on UK roads leaving a 1m gap normally means they are well into the next lane anyway, but on a standard single carriageway, I have no issues with the driver straddling the white lines if there is an oncoming cyclist and there is 1m between car and either cyclist as they overtake.

It's like the UK highway code which tells cyclists to ride single file on bust roads, they know that uk lanes are not wide enough for overtaking without crossing the line, but apparently if the road is busy cyclists should facilitate a dangerous pass.

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Hirsute | 2 years ago
3 likes

At 1m some drivers could not possibly even see where the back wheel is

//i.guim.co.uk/img/media/8c1ebf61c3023286a3e1390bdd3a4a391faa1b77/0_235_5315_3189/master/5315.jpg?width=1020&quality=85&auto=format&fit=max&s=9cc24950c5e584afb4634a2b6261a243)

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eburtthebike replied to Hirsute | 2 years ago
2 likes
hirsute wrote:

At 1m some drivers could not possibly even see where the back wheel is

//i.guim.co.uk/img/media/8c1ebf61c3023286a3e1390bdd3a4a391faa1b77/0_235_5315_3189/master/5315.jpg?width=1020&quality=85&auto=format&fit=max&s=9cc24950c5e584afb4634a2b6261a243)

A friend at college had her sports car written off by a Range Rover driver backing over it because he couldn't see it.

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Sriracha replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
6 likes

A common problem!

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Hirsute replied to Sriracha | 2 years ago
1 like

Thanks, I was just thinking of that one but I would not have found it.

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Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
0 likes

Not sure the stopping distance comparisons are useful.  Its a rare cyclist indeed that will be exceeding 20mph in commuter traffic.   A car will usually outbrake a bike.  So all they are really talking aobut it is reaction time distance.  1m is a bit tight but not unusual in heavy traffic.   I'd like more but I'd take it.

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OnYerBike replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
12 likes

1m is still ridiculously close. Travelling at 12mph (as a rough estimate of a typical urban cycling speeds) equals 5.4 metres per second. Using the "two second rule" (which isn't an official rule but seems sensible) would mean leaving at least 10m. 

A car might be able to out-brake a bike (although I'm not convinced), but even so only after the driver actually starts braking! If a cyclist needs to perform an emergency stop for any reason - let alone hits a pothole and falls over - a car is 1m behind is going to hit them before the driver even has a chance to apply the brakes. 

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jh2727 replied to OnYerBike | 2 years ago
4 likes
OnYerBike wrote:

1m is still ridiculously close. Travelling at 12mph (as a rough estimate of a typical urban cycling speeds) equals 5.4 metres per second. Using the "two second rule" (which isn't an official rule but seems sensible) would mean leaving at least 10m. 

A car might be able to out-brake a bike (although I'm not convinced), but even so only after the driver actually starts braking! If a cyclist needs to perform an emergency stop for any reason - let alone hits a pothole and falls over - a car is 1m behind is going to hit them before the driver even has a chance to apply the brakes. 

Two second rule is for following vehicles which have brake lights.  Not for when following vulnerable road users with no brake lights.

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hawkinspeter replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
9 likes
Secret_squirrel wrote:

Not sure the stopping distance comparisons are useful.  Its a rare cyclist indeed that will be exceeding 20mph in commuter traffic.   A car will usually outbrake a bike.  So all they are really talking aobut it is reaction time distance.  1m is a bit tight but not unusual in heavy traffic.   I'd like more but I'd take it.

I wouldn't be happy to have a motorist only 1m from my rear wheel. If someone followed me that closely, I'd be inclined to take primary and slow right down to ensure that they were also travelling slowly enough and also because I like to be an asshole to drivers that take the piss.

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TonyE-H replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
6 likes

1m is scarily close, as others have said leaves almost no reaction + stopping time.

Having been knocked off from behind by a driver once before it's something I hope to never experience again.

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andystow replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
4 likes
Secret_squirrel wrote:

Not sure the stopping distance comparisons are useful.  Its a rare cyclist indeed that will be exceeding 20mph in commuter traffic.   A car will usually outbrake a bike.  So all they are really talking aobut it is reaction time distance.  1m is a bit tight but not unusual in heavy traffic.   I'd like more but I'd take it.

What's the decelleration rate of a cyclist who hits a pothole and her front wheel buckles? A metre is way too close.

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eburtthebike replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
5 likes
Secret_squirrel wrote:

Not sure the stopping distance comparisons are useful.  Its a rare cyclist indeed that will be exceeding 20mph in commuter traffic.   A car will usually outbrake a bike.  So all they are really talking aobut it is reaction time distance.  1m is a bit tight but not unusual in heavy traffic.   I'd like more but I'd take it.

It isn't the braking distance, it's what happens if there is a catastrophic failure leading to a very sharp stop.  At one metre behind, you'd be run over before the driver even registered that anything had happened.

Has the company been contacted and asked to remedy their error, pointing out that if any cyclist is injured/killed because of their advice, their own insurance premiums are going to go up a bit.

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ktache replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
1 like

I've never driven, so one thing that I have only just realised, as opposed to us cyclists is that whenever there are things going on around us, we cover our brakes, accelerating, powering along, weaving about or descending, if there is anything of concern.  But when being close passed, the drivers foot is on the accelerator, and nowhere near covering the brake, especially in a manual, where there other foot is on the clutch.  For me it's why power seems to be the answer when things start to go awry.  And the act of braking therefore takes more time.  There was an electric car, small and practical one, which would brake as the accelerator was lifted, but I don't know if this is being more widely used.

I of course am quite happy to be corrected if my assumptions are very wrong.

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wycombewheeler replied to ktache | 2 years ago
0 likes
ktache wrote:

But when being close passed, the drivers foot is on the accelerator, and nowhere near covering the brake,

This is of course true, while rally drivers may employ left foot braking, it is not taught as the normal means of driving on the highway.

ktache wrote:

especially in a manual, where there other foot is on the clutch.  

This is not true, the left foot should be resting beside the clutch or beside the brake in an automatic. if the foot rests on the clutch pdeal it can lead to reducing contact in the clutch and potential slipping and therefore clutch wear. Even in an automatic it is normal to use the right foot for both braking and accelerating. If nothing else it makes it impossible to keep using the go faster pedal while you are trying to slow down.

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vichycycl replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
1 like

I sent them this graphic, by the chat feature, and Krista thanked me and said she'd pass it on. I sent that to road.cc 4 days later. It's still up. Had I wanted to be taken seriously, I shouldn't have identified as a cyclist.

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Captain Badger replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
1 like
Secret_squirrel wrote:

Not sure the stopping distance comparisons are useful.  Its a rare cyclist indeed that will be exceeding 20mph in commuter traffic.   A car will usually outbrake a bike.  So all they are really talking aobut it is reaction time distance.  1m is a bit tight but not unusual in heavy traffic.   I'd like more but I'd take it.

I'd say that the suitable stopping distance for 20mph is very useful indeed....

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vichycycl replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
1 like

Anybody who follows me by just 1 meter better not be too fond of their grille.

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vichycycl replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
0 likes

I regularly keep up with traffic while commuting, and have footage where I'm doing 50 km/h on my MASI, going downhill past the hospital and gettiing cut off at the light that's green for me. I regularly ride the Fraser Highway and keep up with the traffic doing 60 km/h. The only reason I don't go faster is that I'm topped out on my 2x11 rings, even ludicrous cadence can't keep up.  I think you may be projecting your own speed onto the community at large. No, it's nothing like rare that cyclists exceed 20 mp/h (32 km/h).  That's just wrong.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=794zyvvzgT4

 

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