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,