Motorists overtake cyclists closer when they are riding in a cycle lane, according to new research supported by CTC, the national cyclists’ organisation.

Ciaran Meyers from the University of Leeds Institute for Transport Studies used a bicycle equipped with a device that measures the distance of passing vehicles. Meyers then took measurements on roads with and without cycles lanes to make a comparison.

“The analysis shows that significantly wider passing distances are adopted by motorists on a 9.5 metre wide carriageway without a 1.45 metre cycle lane and with speed limits of 40mph and 50mph,” said Meyer.

However, the findings were different on a road with a 30mph speed limit – the road used featured numerous junctions and therefore vehicles on the road were positioned to navigate the road conditions.   

The study concluded that when there is a cycle lane motorists tend to drive within a marked lane rather than moving out to give cyclists room.

CTC’s Policy Coordinator Chris Peck said: “Cycle lanes have a part to play in improving road conditions for cyclists, but this research has raised concerns that they are not always the best solution and may in fact make cycling more unpleasant.

“Where a cycle lane exists, drivers may overtake with the belief that they can use the entire road space outside the cycle lane, and consequently may be paying less attention to the cyclist’s need for space.”

External links

CTC website

  • Audrey Hughes

    Not keen on using any cycle lane that does not have same priority as road it follows. This cancels out most cycle paths too.


  • Mark

    A 1.45m wide cycle lane? Round my way I’m lucky if it’s much wider then my handlebars.
    Surely it’s better to educate all road users on how to respect each other then to try and cram woefully inadequate “token” cycle lanes onto existing roads.

    Unfortunately you’ll never get rid of the idiot motorists who have the “must overtake the cyclist” mentality so I try to ensure I’ll ride in a primary position at times when I don’t think it’s safe for an overtake to be performed but won’t the road if I don’t need to.

  • Tony Haley

    Sometimes I will avoid cycle lanes for various reasons. If they are part of a footpath as they tend to undulate significantly. Those on the verge / gutter of a road tend to be strewn with puncture inducing debris, ironically because car drivers tend not to go there and clean up.

    I would scrap cycle lanes and educate all road users to share more effectively.