The petition to the UK Government to introduce a minimum legal passing distance of one metre when overtaking cyclists is at almost 17,000 signatures


A petition on the UK Parliament website requesting new legislation for a minimum passing distance when overtaking cyclists is nearing 17,000 signatures.

The petition requests legal passing distances of “3.28 ft (1 m) when overtaking cyclists on roads with speed limits up to and including 30mph. On roads with higher speed limits, the minimum passing distance should be 4.9 ft (1.5 m)”.

You can sign here: Petition to introduce a permanent, minimum passing distance when overtaking cyclists

At present, Highway Code Rule 212 states only that drivers should give “plenty of room when passing cyclists.”

The Government responded to the petition, stating that the legislation “would be extremely difficult to enforce and the Government does not believe that it would add to the existing rules and guidance”.

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The Government response goes on to detail a similar change to the law in South Australia from October last year.

Drivers are required to give a minimum of one metre when passing a cyclist where the speed limit is 60km/h (37.3mph) or less or 1.5 metres where the speed limit is over 60km/h (40mph).

Penalties for breaches of these passing distances include fines and penalty points.

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“It will take time to understand the benefits and impacts of this legislation on cyclists and other road users,” says the Department for Transport.

If the petition reaches 100,000 signatures it will be considered for debate in Parliament.

  • Michael

    No, it doesn’t put drivers in this mindset at all because this arbitrary distance will be next to impossible to enforce.

    And really suggesting that in the event of an accident this matters is ridiculous. If you hit someone you obviously left no room – that’s what hitting someone means. i.e if the distance between 2 objects is zero, then they’re touching. No one could possibly argue they thought “leave plenty of room” meant it was ok to hit a bicycle. So your argument doesn’t work.

    It’s like saying by bringing in legislation meaning you get a £40 fine if you carry a knife over 4″ in length that, in the event of a murder, you can convict someone for owning a knife that’s too large more easily.

    Like, if you were killed, you’d be happy the guy who did it got a £50 fine for having a large knife or for cycling too close to you?

    Clearly, if cyclists are injured or killed in accidents where another driver is at fault they want them charged with a serious crime, not some silly “1.5 metre” nonsense.

  • MD

    You miss my point perhaps. I’m not saying the courts don’t have to prove you broke the law, rather than a change in laws makes it easier to prove that you did break it. Further more, it (over time) puts drivers in the mindset that they had better be sure they have given _at least_ 1.5m room to be on the safe side.

    When you put in place a law that is not subjective, you create a situation that is far more easily judged by the court.

    E.g. The law says you must pass at least 1.5m from cyclist. Both cyclist and other witnesses state there was on coming traffic and there was a no over taking centre line. The driver too states that he did not illegally cross the centre line. Measurements at the accident site shows it would be impossible to safely pass 1.5m from the victim without crossing the centre line. The court would pretty much rule on that basis under the proposed law. Under the current law, the motorist only has to say he _thought_ he’d given sufficient space (and no guideline on what “sufficient” space is). It is then up to the court to prove he either knew he hadn’t or that he had erred so badly that he should have known he hadn’t. With a set fixed passing distance, there would be no wiggle room to say that you thought it was OK.

  • Michael

    “is a set minimum that they must be able to show they complied with in the case of an accident”

    Well, no. Courts have to prove defendants broke the law not the other way around.

  • MD

    It doesn’t have to be enforced by active policing. The existence of the law itself would have some effect. It would raise motorist awareness that the minimum acceptable passing distance is not something that they as the driver determine subjectively (as a present) but is a set minimum that they must be able to show they complied with in the case of an accident. It would mean that if you are clipped by a car, then the motorist has broken a specific law – they almost certainly must have passed closer than the set minimum distance. A defence of “I thought I’d given sufficient space” wouldn’t suffice because clearly the motorist had not (as things stand, that defence is sufficient). When it is then shown that they didn’t cross the centre line to overtake (on coming traffic for instance) and yet it would have been impossible to overtaken (e.g) 1.5m from the cyclist to do that, then they have by default broken a law. It’s about changing the driver mindset of “_I_ think it’s OK, so it must be OK to pass” to one of “I need to be careful because I can be shown to be in the wrong if an accident occurs – there is a set standard safe distance which must be met”. It’s worth realising too that the drink-driving change in attitude hasn’t occurred through heavy enforcement prior to accidents (i.e. constant road blocks and testing, though that does occur) but rather through a public mindset of where the guilt will lie if you do have an accident and are found to have broken that law. In other words, the application of the law after an accident occurs, placing guilt on the driver, also has an effect on the general attitude of all drivers sense of where responsibility lies.

  • J1

    Where is the common sense?? You shouldn’t need anybody to tell you things like this, if you do you’re not fit to drive/function in society.

    Motorcyclists won’t adhere to this anyway, they’re the worst for close passes.

  • sam

    I see your points. However, we are speculating somewhat: you contend that the majority currently get it right – which I’m in agreement with – and that the rule will diminish this majority, but I’d suggest “1 metre” will not change these people’s behavior to doing it wrong. Likely it will make no difference, perhaps to anyone! Which of course raises another issue… I don’t really know what the solution is. Until it becomes socially unacceptable for drivers to barge, harass and harry cyclists, like it is with open racism or other forms of bullying, cyclists have a problem.

  • Geoff

    Just a small correction: Kinetic energy is F=mv(squared), Momentum is p=mv. F=ma really doesn’t apply here. Billiard balls and marbles work as good examples. If one billiard ball strikes another stationary billiard ball square on, the moving one stops and all the energy and momentum is transferred to the stationary one. However, if a marble is stationary and is stuck by a billiard ball, the marble goes flying and the billiard ball is hardly effected. The reverse is also true. —- The transfer of energy and momentum can be calculated, but we all see the obvious results.

  • TheVexatiousLitigant .

    Just because you are unable to see how easy policing this could be does not mean in is not easy, like I said, simple.

  • Michael

    Like I said, evidence from cameras is an issue.

    It doesn’t matter how you try to police this, you simply cannot and, therefore it would not be an effective measure.

    If you could then there would already be a variety of similar offences that didn’t happen because of cameras or so-called “simple” fixes.

    Yet there isn’t. Perhaps the real world is not as simple as your fantasy world.

  • TheVexatiousLitigant .

    If there was a legal minimum (note this petition is useless as it is not asking for that) then surely the CPS would find charging drivers even easier than it is now, at the moment “inappropriately close” is enough, so inappropriately close & less than 1.5 meters would make it child’s play.
    I would not expect it to be restricted to static cameras, just as speed cameras aren’t.
    If you can’t judge when you are giving “more” than 1.5 meters you should not be driving, you simply aim to give more than the minimum so you know you will not be charged. the mentality of a speed limit of 70mph meaning you must drive at 70mph and a passing limit of 1.5 meters meaning you must give exactly 1.5 meters is ridiculous. Add a safety margin, simple

  • Michael

    Nope. Unfortunately video evidence from random helmet cameras is not typically being accepted as evidence by the CPS and courts. It’s not that simple to get stuff into evidence.

    Similarly some ‘speed camera’ like location might generate revenue but will, obviously, be useless to any cyclists who are being passed closely elsewhere.

    Saying “leave 2.5 not 1.5” just shows how ridiculous giving an exact measurement is.

  • TheVexatiousLitigant .

    Simple to enforce, if a cyclist can show from video evidence that a driver passed with about 50cm clearance then job done.
    As with speeding, there is no need for a Police car to follow each driver, just the set up at a few locations where cameras can be used by Police to prove a pass is below 1.5 meters, this is already significantly less than the picture in the Highway Code. If a driver isn’t sure they are giving more than 1.5 then they can aim to give 2.5 to be sure, simple.

  • Slim

    Surely what happens after the collision is related to momentum though, isn’t it? F=ma. So whether you’re sent towards the lamp post at 5mph or 20mph depends on whether you’ve been hit by a car or a loaf of bread (for instance)

  • Colin

    Data from the Queensland evaluation of their passing law estimated the distance left between cyclists and passing vehicles from video observations at 15 sites. Queensland police issued only 60 infringement tickets to drivers but survey information suggested approximately 95% of drivers were aware of the legislation. Actual cyclist deaths reduced from 23 to 10 and the number of serious (fatal and hospitalisations) reduced from 674 to 485.

    Dr Ian Walker from Bath University reported on 2355 vehicle passes. Approximately 109 passes were within 1 metre and 20 passing within 0.8 metre. That is approximately 1 in 22 passing within one metre and 1 in 80 passes were within 0.8 metre. From the 20 close passes, 8 occurred on main roads and 11 on regular urban roads. A legal requirement would help identify dangerous drivers who pass too close.

    Cyclist passing vehicles is not part of the proposed legislation.

  • lee

    I cant believe that life in todays society is soo discourteous that people who drive cars are so cocooned & seperated that they think they cant even give 1 increment of respect when a car will kill a cyclist/pedestrian yet the fear of assault or crime that exists within society is soo paramount that any essence of warmth towards ‘another is an admission of weakness..

    WTF has happened to this land

  • Stevo

    The enforceability problem isn’t just due to lack of evidence though.

  • Stevo

    That is not correct. Momentum has nothing to do with it. The direct effect of the collision will depend only on the relative speeds of car and cyclist. Of course, what happens after the impact will depend on absolute speed (e.g. if, after the collision, you fly into a lamp post at 5 mph / 20 mph, or if you fall and come to a standstill in the middle of a road with a 20 mph / 70 mph limit).

  • LaszloZoltan

    don’t think it’s unenforceable- with more cyclists recording from mounted cameras, there will be opportunities for authorities to view the evidence presented

  • Michael

    I disagree, plenty of room is better than saying 1 metre.

    Both are open to interpretation because although you think “1 metre” is some kind of scientific measurement, if I asked 100 drivers tell me what 1 metre was I’ll get a lot of variation.

    And I think the only thing “1 metre” is, is too close to ride to anything. I wouldn’t overtake a parked car that closely, let alone another human being.

    Of course a few drivers will ignore it anyway.

    As I said there are probably more drivers on my journeys who overtake in the other lane (which is a better guide – if you asked 100 drivers what the other lane was, I bet at least 99 would get it right and a car that overtakes in the other lane is giving plenty of room – so it’s win-win – any idiot can do it and it fits with the existing advice.

    So by petitioning for “1m” you’re actually advising the majority of drivers to give less room to cyclists than they are now. Which makes no sense.

    Lastly, there’ll no officer looking that can do anything because there simply won’t be any valid evidence of “1m” or not.

  • Michael

    No there is no difference. You should go and learn physics.

    Either way the outcome is likely to be worse for you, but you can’t claim one is dangerous and the other isn’t. Either being close is bad or it isn’t. If it is then cyclists will need to obey 1m too.

  • Alan

    Doesn’t Para 163 do a better job of spelling out the requirement to leave ample space than the weasel wording of Para 212? There is even an accompanying photo to assist the hard-of-empathising.

    Although the reservations about impossibility of enforcement are inescapable, it is undoubtedly better to at least have this legislation in place than not even have a starting-point to work from.

  • llos25

    There must be a difference between massive artics and small cars the suction from the former when they are too close is nerve jangling.

  • Slim

    “Either being close to cars is dangerous or it isn’t – it really doesn’t matter which of the vehicles is overtaking and closed the gap between them”. Yes it does. It’s called momentum. There’s a world of difference between you bumping into a car and a car bumping into you

  • sam

    It’s a guide. The current wording of the HC is ambiguous and open to interpretation. As example, I have had drivers say that they had given me “enough” space despite me tapping the car. A distance gives a guide. It is unenforcible in practice, unless you have a copper watching, but if a driver thinks “I need to give 1 metre” then that’s better than simply not thinking or forcing past. It won’t stop the nutters, but ultimately nothing will.

  • Dave Wilby

    Agree with you on the passing/be passed statement with weaving through traffic. I live in the countryside, and do do some town riding when it’s busy, so I can see the sense of what you’ve said. Same can be applied to motorcyclists on the roads, when they “whie line” it between fast flowing traffic.
    Drivers do need to apply some sense though, they’re sat in a tin can, cyclists/motorcyclists are not.
    It’s always going to be a tit for tat arguement between everyone.

    In my opinion, similar to yours, give a cyclist as much as you would like if you’re riding. 1m isn’t enough, I’ve been clipped on the arm when cars have passed too close and I’ve moved across to avoid a hole or gravel.

    The problem with most situations, is the majority of people have become too impatience and are always in a hurry. The natural mentality is “I want it now, I don’t want to wait”. That’s an observation coming from a 27yr old bloke.

    There was a good video showing bus drivers being stuck on bikes fitted to turbo trainers, and made to sit there whilst buses drove passed them. The amount that freaked out didn’t suprise me.

  • Phew

    I’ve recently returned from living in France for over 20 years where there is a minimum 1M passing law when overtaking cyclists. On the whole drivers adhere religiously to it. I have on many occasions had a long line of traffic behind me waiting for a safe place to overtake in circumstances where in the UK they wouldn’t hesitate to squeeze past. I think the biggest benefit of introducing such a law would be the media attention it would bring and raising an awareness that the law does require motorists to give room to cyclists when overtaking. I would bet that most motorists are unaware of the “give plenty of room when passing cyclists” bit of the highway code.

  • Michael

    Trouble is, it’s completely unenforceable because it would require every cyclist to be followed by an officer with calibrated measuring equipment, and it’s ridiculously prescriptive.

    Are drivers supposed to take a tape measure with them?

    Plus it would mean a significant number of cyclists overtaking cars in London will be breaking the law by passing too close. You can’t have it both ways. If you think you can weave closely through moving cars then you can’t really complain about moving cars overtaking you closely in return. Either being close to cars is dangerous or it isn’t – it really doesn’t matter which of the vehicles is overtaking and closed the gap between them.

    “Overtake using the other ferchunking side of the road” would be the campaign I’d introduce. It’s still pretty unenforceable but it’s much easier to teach people to overtake using the other lane (and to wait for a gap before they do) and there’s a neat line drawn on the road showing where your car needs to be so you don’t need a tape measure or some arbitrary gap.

    The other downside with the 1m rule is that it might encourage some drivers who already give a wide berth or use the other lane to overtake that they don’t need to because they only need to leave 1m.

    To me “give plenty of room when passing cyclists” is already suggesting more than 1m because I don’t really think 1m is that good given that a cyclist might have to move to avoid a pothole.