Motorists drive closer to bikes in cycle lanes than on roads

Research suggests drivers do not feel the need to give cyclists in bike lanes as much room as they do on standard sections of road

Motorists drive significantly closer to cyclists riding in bike lanes than they do to ones using a standard section of road, a new study has suggested.

Researchers in Australia collected data on 60 cyclists in Melbourne riding bikes equipped with GPS and ultrasonic sensors to detect how much space drivers left when overtaking.

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Some 18,527 passes were recorded from 422 trips, with the median passing distance working out at 1.73 metres, while six per cent were less than one metre.

Published in the research journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, the study compared how much space drivers gave cyclists on roads with and without painted cycle lanes.

On average, drivers on roads with a cycle lane and no parked cars gave bicycles 27cm less room on average, while they came 40cm closer on roads with a cycle lane and parked cars.

Although cycle lanes do not physically separate cyclists from other traffic, the authors of the study believe drivers do not feel the need to give them as much space when they have their own lane.

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One in 17 vehicles that passed the cyclists left less than a metre of space, with nearly two passes closer than a metre for every 10km (6.2 miles) travelled.

Meanwhile, on roads with a speed limit of more than 37mph, around one in three overtakes were defined as “close” passes, with drivers leaving less than 1.5 metres of space.

Drivers in the UK can be given three penalty points and fined £100 for failing to give cyclists at least 1.5 metres of space when passing.

Monash University’s Dr Ben Beck, lead author of the study, said: “Our results demonstrate that a single strip of white paint is not sufficient to protect people who ride bikes,” according to the Times.

Do you think cyclists should be given more room when using the roads? Let us know in the comments below…

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