Close passes by motorists are as much a part of cycling on British roads as potholes, but there can be only two possible explanations for why a motorist overtakes dangerously close to a cyclist – incompetence or malice. So how best to deal with this scourge of the roads?
Two years ago, there were changes to the practical element of the driving test in Britain. Reversing around corners and three-point-turns were removed, while driving with a sat-nav was introduced and the test duration was extended. It’s right and proper that the test evolves to adapt to the country’s changing roads – given the difficulty that many motorists have in passing a cyclist safely, has the time come for ‘safe overtaking’ to form part of the driving test?
The close pass is something that cyclists of all ages have to contend with. The photograph at the top the page was taken by a coordinator at the Richmond Borough group of London Cycling Campaign when he was out with his 7-year-old daughter. Luckily the dangerous driving did not injure the little girl…or put her off cycling. The cycle cam footage below was taken by an adult cyclist who was close passed by a driver at 50mph.
What does the law say about overtaking cyclists?
Rule 163 of the Highway Code states ‘Overtake only when it is safe and legal to do so. You should not get too close to the vehicle you intend to overtake
– move quickly past the vehicle you are overtaking, once you have started to overtake. Allow plenty of room. Move back to the left as soon as you can but do not cut in. Give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car’
In the absence of widespread and good quality infrastructure to protect cyclists from motorised traffic, The Safer Roads Partnership and operational policing teams from both Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police have pioneered Operation Close Pass – a scheme to reduce the number of cyclists killed or injured on their region’s roads. Close passes are intimidating and nationally account for around a third of all threatening incidents between drivers and cyclists. The initiative, which is now being adopted by other forces, uses plain clothes officers on bikes equipped with front and rear facing cameras. Any driver seen passing closer than the recommended distance (1.5 metres) is pulled over. Unfortunately, the law in Britain doesn’t specify a minimum passing distance.
Many rules in the Highway Code are legal requirements, and if you disobey them you may be fined, receive penalty points or a disqualification or sent to prison. Failure to comply with the other rules of the Code will not, in itself, cause a person to be prosecuted although it is often used in evidence to establish liability.
When it’s alleged that a driver has close passed, consideration is given to the offences of careless driving (section 3 the Road Traffic Act 1988) or dangerous driving (section 2 of the Road Traffic Act 1988). Cycle cam evidence is invaluable in such cases. If you are the victim of a close pass and have footage of the incident, some police forces allow you to submit evidence online. If yours doesn’t, contact them via the non-emergency 101 number for guidance.
Ethical cycle insurance
On the face of it, one cycle insurance policy is much like another, but the devil is the detail. Check your small print for so-called ‘new-for-old’ replacement – many insurers use the term, but if your bicycle is more than a few years old, devalue it severely. This means you are left out of pocket when you come to replace it.
With ETA cycle insurance, however old the bike, if it’s stolen you get enough to buy a new model. Furthermore, every cycle insurance policy you buy from us helps support the work of the ETA Trust, our charity campaigning for a cleaner, safer transport future. No wonder The Good Shopping Guide judges us to be Britain’s most ethical insurance company.