Road Safety News

New film shows drivers how to overtake cyclists

Thursday 13th August 2015


A new film featuring British Cycling’s Chris Boardman and driving instructor Blaine Walsh, and produced by BikeBiz editor Carlton Reid, shows drivers how to safely overtake cyclists (BikeBiz).

The video highlights rule 163 of the Highway Code which states that motorists should give cyclists (and pedestrians and equestrians) as much space as they would give a motor vehicle when overtaking.

In the film, titled ‘Space’ Chris Boardman explains that drivers need to give cyclists plenty of space when overtaking, and refers to the “dynamic envelope”, or wobble room, that cyclists need on the road.

He says: “Cyclists do not ride in a perfect straight line, they have to make slight side to side adjustments in order to stay upright. The space a cyclist takes up while moving is known as the ‘dynamic envelope’. You should think of this dynamic envelope as an exclusion zone around the cyclist … a zone you must not enter.”

Driving instructor Blaine Walsh tells viewers: “Overtaking is one of the riskiest things you do when you’re driving and it’s critical to get it right, for your safety and for the safety of others. Sadly, you don’t have to search too hard on YouTube to find some incredibly close and dangerous overtaking of cyclists.”


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At 1:40 he says he won't overtake there because he can't see what's ahead. There are double white lines so you MUST NOT overtake regardless of what you can see ahead. At 1:47 he then goes on to overtake on approach to the brow of a hill, with an isolated farm-like building visible in the distance on the right. Incredibly dangerous, and a great example of when NOT to overtake.
Chris, UK

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I live in rural Kent, (no pavements and no lighting) cyclists are at least as big a pest as cars, as far as pedestrians are concerned. They silently come from behind expecting pedestrians to have eyes in the back of their heads. I seriously wonder at the IQ of these mainly middle aged lunatics in lycra who suddenly and mysteriously appear racing up from behind, most noticeably in the TDF season. I wonder if they are also likely to be prosecuted? Why no instruction/guidance and adverse publicity for these pests?
Paul, Kent.

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Concern about cyclists behaviour is not confined to the roads. Sustrans have included part of Birmingham's towpaths as one of their favoured routes, this is bringing conflict amongst walkers who it seems are not given any such "dynamic envelope", and are at times brought in close proximity to an unwelcome ducking:

As I posted myself on that website, "The drawback of all this, is not that drivers are becoming more aware of cyclists for the increased safety of all, it is setting one group of individuals against another - wherever it may be."
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

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To some drivers, there is something about the sight of a cyclist and other perceived slower moving vehicle up ahead which shouts: 'I am expected to overtake this cyclist/tractor/JCB etc. without delay, even though it may not be that safe or prudent or advantageous for me to do so,' such is the psychology and mind-set of those for whom the car reigns supreme.

It's not compulsory to pass slower road users at all costs! Recently I was happily following a cyclist doing 25-30mph down a hill with some cars behind me and whilst I was happy to stay behind until the cyclist lost speed when the road would inevitably level out, not so the drivers behind me, who seemed to see the cyclist as a target to be overtaken as soon as possible, which they all did in convoy, following each other like lemmings until the tail-enders found themselves on the wrong side of the road facing oncoming traffic. A little more patience and restraint is the order of the day with cyclists - it's not a race.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Rule 167 of the Highway Code states you DO NOT overtake in the stated places. Whilst the legality may rest with MUST NOT, it nonetheless has been well known for generations that to overtake in the stated places is dangerous, well worth remembering as they are collectively places where one must not overtake, and was once a question in the examination for places where one must not overtake. DO NOT is not the same as SHOULD NOT.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

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Considering that such a vast proportion of overtaking accidents happen when the vehicle being overtaken turns into a clearly visible side road it seems strange that Neil should assert that an overtake next to an open junction is in any way safe.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

Agree (7) | Disagree (5)

I'm glad now I ended up on the cutting room floor! I should point out that this was filmed at the Devon Travel Academy because we were able to offer a safe highway simulation in which Carlton, Chris, the riders etc were able to operate. An absence of power lines for the drone probably helped too!

When I saw the initial draft I noticed the inevitable and unfortunate juxtaposition between the overtaking car and the junctions and white lining. However, our circuit is only 1km long so compression on road features is inevitable (zig zags overlapping a parking bay - the horror!) and, I reminded myself, this film is about a singular and simple message on giving space when overtaking. It isn't about overtaking and topography or compliance with signing and lining regimes - just about the cyclist's need for space. And courtesy.

It's easy to get distracted by the other items in the video, but really they're just noise. The primary message is perfectly well delivered I think, and this is also the case for the companion piece on riding two-abreast.
Jeremy, Devon

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I think that this is another excellent video from Carlton and Blaine. As an advanced driving instructor and instructor trainer I would like to state that there is nothing at all wrong with the overtake near two open junctions. This is both safe and legal. To prioritise a non-existant threat that you can see does not exist over an actual hazard (the cyclists) would show very poor decision maling skills and would be an abject failure to accurately assess risk on the road. HC 167 is not a MUST NOT. It is general advice. To criticise this video for Blaine's overtake is not only petty but inaccurate.I would politely advise some of the commentators here to read RoadCraft in conjunction with the Highway Code.
Neil Snow, Nottingham City Council

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Why was it felt to put "and pedestrians and equestrians" in brackets? Please don't separate out cyclists as if they have a greater right to a share of the road.

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In response to Honor's comments - I would not have believed 20 or 30 years ago that so many drivers would choose so many huge vehicles, which certainly cause space and clearance problems but also, it seems to me, results in many drivers becoming arrogant and threatening as they look down on - and tailgate more normal vehicles.

My heart sinks as I see yet another of them catching me up rapidly, even when I am driving at or near the limit - and am only too happy to move out of their way when possible.
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

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I am utterly appalled that the driving instructor, Blaine Walsh, failed to comply with Para 167 of the HWC, when he overtook the cyclists as they approached a junction, and also a brow of a hill (a slight one). A shocking example of bad driving, made even worse by his 'day job' in life.

The film should be re-made. Whilst the scene was undoubtedly filmed under controlled conditions, it sends the wrong message to motorists that is is ok to drive so badly. In real life, a cyclist might just make a mistake and not signal they intend to turn at a junction - and with an overtaking motorist in close proximity, the consequences could easily be fatal.

Agree (10) | Disagree (6)

The ever increasing numbers of vehicles on our roads and the fact that most vehicles are significantly longer and wider than when most urban and rural roads were laid out means that there is frequent competition for the available road space. These pressures are likely to induce "herd" or "tribal" thinking and behaviours and that seems to be what we see. Couple this with everyone’s sense of ownership of the tarmac in front of them i.e. where they want to go next should be free and available to me, and their expectation to be able to make unimpeded progress, and we have this volatile mix of competing aims and expectations rather than a view that we are in a neutral, shared roadway on which we all want to travel in collaboration with each other.

This is a complicated, intense scenario and how we, in Highways Authorities and other public agencies, manage them with a care for everyone’s safety and interests is a daily challenge.
Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB, North Yorkshire

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There never used to be such antipathy between cyclists and motor vehicles on the roads and the prevalence of so much cycling awareness publicity. Are they so invisible? Or are they creating or being created as a target? All road users need to be aware of each other. Are the individual groups being so segregated, that the inevitable occurs of segregation - that of conflict?

I used to ride to work five miles each way through urban London in the sixties when there were no bus lanes, cycle lanes, or advanced lines at junctions, and never had half the problems that seem to be raised today – what has changed? I think in part the “denied war” on the motorist through government restrictions and congestion charging, encouraging people to cycle leaving the polluting vehicle at home, and taking valuable tarmac space from all road users and allocating it to just cyclists - does not help. Nor do cyclists help their position by riding through red lights, up one way streets the wrong way and on pavements, and in the opening seconds of this video we see a group of dedicated cycling enthusiasts riding through a red traffic signal. So it may be on a private road, but the example is bad. Why should this be picked up? Because the attitudes of such people – who may well be car drivers themselves – shows an arrogant disregard to other road users, fuelled by their “green” transport credentials, group clothing and dare I say - herd mentality.

Even the Highway Code shows a conflicting situation where vehicles and cyclists are abiding by the rules through the presence of segregated lane markings, but give rise to a possible conflict – page 77 of the Highway Code. The cyclists depicted should give way to the car indicating to turn left. But will they? They are in their segregated lane, which they may believe gives them priority. Road layouts, and traffic regulations have become far too complex, to the point of needing to quote rules in support of our claims of one against another, and in the process, exacerbating the core problem – one of intolerance.

Overtaking cyclists where a solid white line is centre road of a double white, is not illegal, provided no danger is caused to other road users, and the vehicle to be overtaken is doing less than 10mph (rule 129).

The wearing of a helmet for cyclists is a personal choice, long may it remain so.
The highway code only states one should be used, not must. (rule 59).
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

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Actually they acted quite well. Well they would wouldn't they. Whenever I have been behind club cyclists they just keep in a large ragged pack and hardly ever in twos never mind single file.

Ps Duncan. keep up with things its no longer 'Wobble Room' but its now a 'dynamic envelope'
Bob Craven Lancs...Space is Safe Campaigner

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The cyclists in the video don't seem to be allowing themselves much wobble room in that group.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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This is from a man who I understand doesn't believe in the wearing of helmets. Sect 59 Highway Code. He makes mention of Sect 163 and demonstrates the principal of riding and driving safely past a close group of cyclists. We see a couple of bends with double white lines where overtaking wouldn't be permissible if it was found necessary to pass over the white line. There being no problem if the cyclists were in single file. Usually such bends are on country roads. Such roads are generally fairly narrow ones and therefore as in the Highway Code Sect 66, cyclists should ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends.

The car driver then, after passing the white lines, commenced an overtake but failed to follow rule 167 DO NOT overtake when approaching or at a junction on either side of the road. Apart from those minor circumstances it's a good video.
Bob Craven Lancs...Space is Safe Campaigner

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