Road Safety News

RSO issues overtaking plea

Thursday 8th January 2015

A road safety officer in Ireland is calling for a new law setting a minimum passing distance of 1.5-metres that a vehicle driver must allow when overtaking a cyclist.

Noel Gibbons, Mayo County Council’s road safety officer, says the move would bring Ireland into line with several other EU Member States, including Germany, Spain and France*, where a 1.5-metre minimum passing distance has been adopted.

Noel Gibbons said: “If the road is too narrow for a vehicle to overtake a cycle at a distance of 1.5m, then that vehicle must travel behind the cycle until it is able to overtake it lawfully.”

Mr Gibbons is using a video clip taken on a straight piece of road with no other traffic coming from either direction, to highlight the issue and the dangers of not leaving a suitable gap when overtaking.

The driver in the clip passed close to the cyclist even though he was wearing bright yellow clothing stating ‘give cyclists 1.5 m when overtaking’.

Mr Gibbons has joined forces with the ‘Stayin' Alive at 1.5’ campaign which was founded in April 2013 by Phil Skelton, who lived in Australia for a number of years and says he saw first hand the benefits of a 1.5m law.

Phil Skelton said: “The value of introducing a safe overtaking law in conjunction with a safety campaign is that one is crystallised by the other allowing its full effect to take place.

“In Queensland, for example, a recent survey after just six months of a trial there found that 75% are aware of the legislation, 67% support the legislation and most importantly 61% of cyclists have experienced greater distance from overtaking motorists.

“Ad campaigns alone can come nowhere near this outcome especially in such a short time.”

*In France the minimum passing distance in urban areas is one metre and on other roads 1.5 metres.


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A valid point Eon but there are many more motorcyclists killed on our streets than cyclists. That frustration ,unfortunately,has been with us ever since cycling fell into disrepute in the 1970s some 4 decades ago. It's still with us today.

The question is, are our roads engineered for cycling?... no they are not. Are drivers AND CYCLISTS educated in the rules of the road?... no they are not. And finally are the laws to the land ....ENFORCEMENT being enforced? No they are not.

So there is quite a lot that needs changing. Until that time comes more cyclists will be killed and injured. Will it be their fault, some maybe. Will it be the fault of someone else, yes possibly.

Will it be the fault of our society and history? Only time will tell.

One thing we don't want is a return to the 1930s as maybe some others would like. Then two wheeled vehicles made up 40% of all traffic on our roads. In 1934 1536 cyclists were killed. At the moment it's around 100 per year.
Bob Craven Lancs... Space is Safe Campaigner.

Agree (0) | Disagree (2)

Duncan - mirrors. The view is that it is better for the cyclist to look behind them (regularly and on hearing a vehicle) not necessarily to see the vehicle, but to let the driver know that the cyclist is aware of them. Too few cyclists do this confidence building measure.
Mark, Caerphilly

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I understand how frustrating it can be, witnessing many cyclists breaking all sorts of rules and laws on the road. But when it comes down to it - how many drivers are killed by cyclists?
Eon Hetherton, Glasgow

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I don't think that talking about what's coming up from behind is relevant. If the Law is changed in favour of cyclists then it's another Law for cyclists made as I said there would be. If that is the case then let's include horses and motorcycles and scooter riders and invalid cars and anything else, not just for the benefit of one road user as we have been with cars since the 1950s. Two wrongs don't make a right.
Bob Craven Lancs.....Space is Safe Campaigner

Agree (10) | Disagree (5)

I too have found that when I'm cycling, it is possible to determine from its sound, the rough position of a vehicle behind me - certainly enough to determine whether it's a 'threat'. A mirror makes sense on a push-bike - provided the handlebar can be kept still long enough!
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Interesting story Gareth. Am I right in saying then that the way most cyclists have of predicting the approach path of a vehicle behind them is by only using aural sensory data?

Your ears of course only have 30,000 sensory neurons whereas your eyes have over 150 million so the amount of information they can handle is actually quite limited! I have a cunning contrivance on my motorbike called a mirror and it allows me to use my eyes to see what's actually behind me rather than relying on my ears. I see that very few cycles are fitted with these devices although you would have thought they would be a good idea considering the threats are coming from behind.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident

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In my distant pass I cycled on my own from Land's End to John O'Groats. The situation as seen above was so common and frightening at times I feared for my life. I can clearly remember diving off the road on hearing a fast moving vehicle approaching from behind.
Gareth, Surrey

Agree (8) | Disagree (1)

According to the Highway Code I should give "give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car (see Rules 211 to 213) and 214 to 215). Maybe I only give half a metre currently!

And where it refers to double white lines where the line nearest you is solid, this means you MUST NOT cross or straddle it unless it is safe and you need to enter adjoining premises or a side road. You may cross the line if necessary, provided the road is clear, to pass a stationary vehicle, or overtake a pedal cycle, horse or road maintenance vehicle, if they are travelling at 10 mph (16 km/h) or less. Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD regs 10 & 26

It is getting to the point where the rules are begining to outnumber the collisions.
Peter Westminster

Agree (12) | Disagree (5)

While I give cyclists as much room as I can when overtaking them, what happens on a narrow road where the cyclist rides 1-2 meters from the kerb as is often the case. I also travel down roads where this rule would even make it impossible for another cyclist to overtake another. Plus of course not being able to overtake a cyclist if the road doesn not allow 1.5 meters could mean a car could end up following a cyclist for miles on some of Berkshires roads. Not really practical unless cyclists show understanding and pull over every now and again to let cars etc pass.
Keith Reading

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Who is going to measure the 1.5 metres and how?
Paul Biggs, Staffodshire

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So long as the same rule is applied to cyclists overtaking cars in cities then I don't think anyone should have a problem with it.
Duncan MacKillop, No surprise - No accident.

Agree (12) | Disagree (7)