Does anyone have a solution to the close pass? In the absence of segregated infrastructure, you can buy all manner of high-vis tops, flags, stickers and lights designed to remind inattentive drivers about their legal (not to mention moral) responsibility to leave a gap of 1.5m when overtaking people on bikes, but scientific research reveals most make no difference at all.
The Halloween-themed Toxic Waste bike trailer isn’t the first time we’ve built something outlandish to highlight the danger of the close pass. Inspired by our inflatable pop-up zebra crossing – we cobbled together a blow-up backpack designed to dissuade drivers from overtaking too close.
If the inflatable star is too passive for you, how about the James Bond-themed bike we built 15 years ago? It’s equipped with an ejector seat to deal with thieves and a sideways-facing flame thrower to ward off dangerous close passes.
Why do drivers close over take too close?
Nobody knows for certain why some drivers insist on overtaking cyclists too close. However, it’s rarely because they’ve failed to spot the person on the bicycle.
Environmental psychologist Dr Ian Walker conducted research to monitor cars as they overtook cyclists wearing a variety of high-visibility and disruptive pattern clothing.
He 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
The ETA was established in 1990 as an ethical provider of green, reliable travel services. Over 30 years on, we continue to offer cycle insurance (covers cargo bikes), breakdown cover and mobility scooter insurance while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.
The Good Shopping Guide judges us to be the UK’s most ethical provider.