The 'obese car addiction' has gone too far, says national charity for cyclists

The campaign group's comments come off the back of new report that insists new car width must be limited

A cyclist negotiates London's streets
(Image credit: Getty Images / Leon Neal)

Drivers in wider cars are more likely to pass cyclists closely and make the roads more dangerous, and the government needs to take action to stop Britain's "addiction to ever more obese cars", Cycling UK - the national charity for cyclists - has said.

The comments, by CUK's external affairs director Sarah McMonagle, were in response to a new report by environmental think tank Transport & Environment, which found the size of new cars continues to grow, and called for a mandated width limit.

McMonagle said that close passes by wide cars was, "particularly the case on narrow rural lanes or on residential streets with lots of parking, where those on bikes are often bullied off the road to make way.

"We need government action to stop motor manufacturers fuelling our addiction to ever more obese cars," she added. "Bigger cars are not better, they’re less sustainable, make our roads more dangerous, and take up more space, increasing congestion.” 

Bolstered by the trend for SUV-type cars, the average width of a new car has broached the 180cm (5ft 11) mark for the first time, said the T&E report. It reached 180.3cm last year, up from 177.8cm in 2018, suggesting that cars are growing wider to the tune of a centimetre every two years, and leaving less and less room for bike riders, other road users and pedestrians.

T&E wants to see a limit placed on car width to stop them growing to the current 255cm limit which covers trucks and buses. It wants the limit to be imposed on new cars from Jan 1, 2030.

The think tank also points out that along with width, cars are growing taller, and references a study by the Belgian safety institute VIAS, which found that a 10 cm increase in the height of vehicle fronts carries a 30% higher risk of fatalities in collisions with pedestrians and cyclists.

T&E vehicles policy manager James Nix said: “Cars have been getting wider for decades and that trend will continue until we set a stricter limit. Currently the law allows new cars to be as wide as trucks.

"The result has been big SUVs and American style pick-up trucks parking on our footpaths and endangering pedestrians, cyclists and everyone else on the road.”

The report was based on new car information from 2018 and 2023, a report by the International Council on Clean Transport on car widths, and a 2023 VIAS study on safety.

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