Why space matters

Freedom, fitness, fun. Cycling promises so much, yet each year thousands of people are put off by fear of traffic.

Regular cyclists know that vehicles pass too close, too often. This is not only intimidating, but increases the chance of collision, sometimes with appalling consequences.

Some think the Highway Code already tells drivers to give cyclists more than 3 feet when passing. It doesn’t. Rule 163 advises drivers to “give vulnerable road users at least as much space as you would a car”. We say this is confusing.

Bikes are not cars. They’re less predictable, they travel more slowly, they can’t see what’s behind them, they swerve to avoid potholes, and they have no steel shell to protect them. It’s pretty obvious that such vague guidance puts cyclists at a disadvantage.

For the rules of the road to be respected, they need to be clear. That’s why we think there should be a mandatory minimum three feet of space between bicycles and passing motor vehicles. More and more countries are adopting safe passing rules, including France and 15 US states.

A fair and measurable distance would reduce the scope for error and dispute. Fewer close calls would improve perceptions of safety, make existing cyclists more confident and encourage more drivers to use the bike instead. And if everyone complied, there need never be another collision.