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Drivers Must Learn How to Correctly Overtake Cyclists

Cycling Scotland has launched a campaign to educate drivers about the correct amount of road space they should give when overtaking a cyclist.

The Give Everyone Cycle Space campaign aims to encourage more people to start cycling and to improve driver awareness around cyclists to ensure Scotland’s roads are more cycle-friendly.

The campaign will work on a national and local level, with the Give Everyone Cycle Space message visible on buses, billboards, bus shelters, online and on television.

A campaign like this can obviously be applied to drivers across the UK. I cycle to work and practically every day I encounter a driver who overtakes me by skimming past my right leg.

It is very easy, as a driver, to forget how much a cyclist can be affected by the wind or the condition of the road surface. Either one of these factors can cause a bike to unexpectedly wobble, which, if a car is overtaking too close, could obviously cause serious consequences.

Paragraph 163 of the Highway Code clearly states that drivers should only overtake when it is safe and legal to do so and to “give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car.”

This basically means that cars overtaking cyclists should be on the other side of the road. It sounds simple enough but this rule is routinely ignored or misunderstood by drivers.

It is sadly not uncommon for some drivers to beep and shout and generally get extremely impatient and angry when finding themselves “stuck” behind a cyclist due to the cyclist’s road position away from the kerb. Cyclists do not choose road positions to annoy motorists. They are simply cycling in the safest place for them to avoid potholes, gutters, blind spots and dangerous junctions.

Less animosity and more understanding on both sides to end the so-called “two-tribes” mentality that often exists between motorists and cyclists is needed. Most cyclists also drive. In fact, 80% of cyclists and 94% of adult national cycling charity (CTC) members hold a valid driving licence, whereas 18% of AA members cycle.

A recent blog post on the CTC website lists a number of points every driver needs to know about sharing the road with cyclists.

These are just a few of them:

  • Leave plenty of space when overtaking a cyclist, ideally at least a car’s width when overtaking at speeds of between 20-30mph; and even more space when (a) travelling at higher speeds; (b) when driving a lorry or any other large vehicle; (c) in poor weather when rain for example, makes it harder for cyclists to see potholes in the road, and gusts of wind can cause them to sway and wobble.
  • Avoid becoming impatient with cyclists who ride away from the kerb or parked cars. Cyclists are trained to cycle away from the kerb and parked cars as it increases their visibility and helps them avoid the risks of stationary car doors being opened in their path and having to swerve towards traffic to avoid gutters, potholes and uneven road surfaces. 
  • Always look carefully for cyclists before pulling out at a junction or roundabout. Junctions can be incredibly dangerous places for cyclists, with around 75% of cycling accidents occurring at or near them.
  • Drivers must ensure they understand how advanced stop lines (ASLs) and mandatory cycle lanes work as well as the regulations that apply. They must also be aware of cycle symbols painted on the road and understand why they are there.
  • Drivers and passengers alike must look out for cyclists before opening vehicle doors. It is an offence to injure or simply endanger someone by opening a vehicle door, or permitting someone else to do so. If dropping off a passenger when stationary at traffic lights, ensure they check for cyclists riding up on the inside or outside.
  • Drivers should avoid parking in cycle lanes as this forces cyclists who are using the lanes to pull out into the main stream of traffic, potentially putting them at risk.
  • Cyclists riding in groups are not required to ride in single file. Cyclists on recreational rides for example, will often ride two abreast on narrow and winding lanes in the interests of safety. If they form a long, single-file line, drivers may try to overtake only to find that they are forced to pull in dangerously. Riding two abreast is a way of deterring drivers from dangerous overtaking manoeuvres.

The second annual cycle report by the European Cyclists’ Federation has highlighted which countries currently lead the way on cycling issues in 27 EU countries. The UK just scraped its way into the top ten.

The report considers, in equal measure, tourism, safety, bike sales, cycling levels and advocacy efforts, scoring each country on the results from five verifiable EU surveys.

Luxembourg and Malta came joint first for road safety, the Netherlands unsurprisingly topped the league for cycling usage, Finland came first for cycling tourism, Denmark for cycling advocacy, and Slovenia, surpassed both the UK and France, for market size.

The UK just scraped its way into the top ten. Clearly cycling usage and safety has come a long way over the last five years but at the very least, much more needs to be done to create a culture in which all road users can better respect each other.

Richard Allbeson is a Senior Personal Injury Solicitor specialising in cycling accident claims at Slater and Gordon Lawyers and is a member of British Cycling.

For a free consultation about how to claim compensation for a cycling accident injury call freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we will call you.

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