Calling All Cyclists, It’s Not Just Drivers Who Get Distracted!

To coincide with this year’s Tour de France cycle race, the THINK! Road Safety team have issued a timely reminder that it’s not just drivers who get distracted and cause crashes, people on bicycles do, too!

From the THINK! Road Safety team.

As a footnote:  Congratulations to British rider Chris Froome for his fourth overall TdF  victory today, and his third win in succession.

Three Feet is Too Close to pass a Bicycle – See the UK Way!

Undercover police officers in Birmingham, England, posing as cyclists, caught a trucker who has becomes one of first motorists in Britain to be prosecuted under a new law for driving too close to a bicycle.

The 60-year-old wagon driver was fined  £1,038 [U.S. $1350], including costs, and also got five penalty points on his driving license — a penalty which is undoubtedly intended to reflect the significant danger caused by the offence in question.

In several American states, recent laws have mandated a minimum gap of just three feet when a motor vehicle is passing a person riding a bicycle but other countries have laws requiring a 1.5 metre gap — in other words 36 inches in the USA versus 59 inches in other countries… 62 percent more safety space.

This image is the wrong way around for American viewers who, of course, drive on the right, but this gives some idea of where the bicyclist must be allowed to ride (i.e. not in the gutter) and how much gap is truly needed for safety when a motor vehicle is passing. (Five feet is a very close equivalent to the 1.5 metres shown here.)  Photo:  Daily Mail; used here under ‘fair use’, for safety purposes.

Will having just three feet of space be acceptable?  It is surely obvious that having a large vehicle, maybe even something as big as a semi-tractor-trailer whizzing past just three feet away will at the very least be unnerving, and given the buffeting of the air that can be created by a large vehicle, it’s not hard to conclude that it could be risky, too.  And then there’s the question of what happens when a driver is incapable of accurately judging a gap of three feet.  There is clearly and indeed most literally not much room for error.

And the second question  is:  How exactly is this law going to be actively enforced in the states in question?  Or should the question be: IS this law going to be actively enforced in the states in question?

One thing is for certain, and that is that I am very curious about how the gap is going to be measured, from one state (or country) to another,

The Psychology of the Clash Between Drivers and Cyclists


“Not too long ago, I was riding my bicycle near the corner of 9th and Carpenter behind a motor vehicle, which was behind another motor vehicle, which was behind a bus. No one was moving very fast, as is often the case on South Philadelphia’s narrow streets.  But that didn’t matter to the middle-aged man in the pickup truck behind me. Flustered and in a red-faced rage, he incorrectly told me I was legally required to get out of his way.  Ignoring him at first, I turned my head only when he threatened to violently run me over with his vehicle. I pointed to the car in front of me, and the one in front of that car. “No one’s going anywhere fast,” I said with a shrug.  But that only made him angrier. “I don’t care,” he yelled out the driver’s side window. “I’ll run you down!”  Sound familiar? If you’re a person who rides a bike, it probably does…”

“…[Bad] situations occur because people on bicycles and motor vehicle users are expected to share city streets. And while people on bicycles make mistakes, too, their mistakes don’t have the same potential to hurt other road users like that of a guy in a pick up truck who thinks he’d get to his endpoint two minutes faster if the bicyclist were out of the way…”


Read:  Unlocking the psychology behind the driver/cyclist clash, from Metro (Philadelphia)