Not every cyclist has the benefit of a ‘Q’ figure behind the scenes to build them a flamethrower like the one above we developed, so how can you avoid the danger of the close pass?
Faced with the daily danger of close passes, Grahame Cooper has developed a novel – and by all accounts extremely effective – way of protecting his seven-year-old grandaughter when he cycles with her.
Grahame has repurposed the fiberglass pole from a tent and attached it to his luggage rack with an elastic bungee. The pole extends one metre from the centreline of his bike – the Highway Code says motorists should leave at least 1.5 metres when overtaking a cyclist. He’s even written about how and why he developed the idea along with instructions on how to make your own version here.
According to the before and after videos Grahame has posted on Youtube, the flag pole has proved remarkably successful.
“I’ve never felt more relaxed on these roads than I’ve felt since I started using this flag; the difference is amazing. Every single driver seems to be passing further away than drivers normally do, and the careful ones are giving me easily the full 1.5 metres of clearance – something that is normally very rare indeed” explains Grahame on his website.
Why do drivers close over take too close?
Nobody knows for certain why some drivers insist on overtaking cyclists too close. However, it’s not because they’ve failed to spot the person on the bicycle.
If this sounds counter-intuitive, take note of Dr Ian Walker, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Bath University – his research focuses particularly on the safety of vulnerable road users and their interactions with motorists, considering such issues as road user attitudes and stereotypes, and the roles of urban design and policy in affecting vulnerable road users’ safety. Dr Walker has conducted research to monitor cars when they overtake cyclists wearing a variety of high-visibility and disruptive pattern clothing.
Dr Walker found that outfits in the study (except the one with the word ‘police’) were treated exactly the same, almost to the centimetre.
It seems likely that, ‘punishment passes’ aside, close overtaking is a product of ineptitude on the part of drivers. It doesn’t help that so few people in Britain now cycle. When we travelled to the Netherlands last year to shoot our documentary about road danger, Stop Killing our Children, we spoke to Vim Bot – national and international policy adviser for the Fietsersbond, the Dutch Cyclists’ Union:
“Foreign observers notice that behaviour of car drivers in the Netherlands is better than in their own country, and certainly than that in Britain – I think it has to do with the fact that cycling is part of everyday culture in the Netherlands. It means that most car drivers will cycle themselves, or they will have cycle as a child, or they will have their children cycling so they know that there are cyclists everywhere.”
The ethical choice
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