Give Cyclists Room


enough room to fall off

One of the biggest irritations when cycling is cars that pass too closely when overtaking. The danger of close passing is heightened when the car / van is travelling quickly.

The Highway code states:

“give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car (see Rules 211-215)”

Highway code

“As much room as a car” leaves some discretion, but, I would have thought three feet would be a good minimum. My grandma used to think the law was enough space for cyclist to fall off, without hitting the overtaking car. The highway code doesn’t quite say that but it seems a good rule of thumb.


“Motorcyclists and cyclists may suddenly need to avoid uneven road surfaces and obstacles such as drain covers or oily, wet or icy patches on the road. Give them plenty of room and pay particular attention to any sudden change of direction they may have to make.”

This is an interesting one, as sometimes, if you deviate less than one foot from your line an overtaking car will beep aggressively. True, you should be looking over your shoulder, but, if a small deviation from line causes consternation, it is probably because the car is passing too closely.


Close, but, coach was travelling slowly; have certainly seen alot worse. But, this is a blind spot for drivers.

I have had cars / vans / buses pass so closely if my arm was signalling right, it would have been hit.

You often get the feeling motorists aren’t even aware that might be anything wrong, they just see cyclists as another piece of road furniture to be avoided like a static bollard.

If the road narrows and a motorist feels to squeeze by, at least they should slow down. If nothing else you have less chance of killing someone at slower speeds.

Give Me Three Seconds

Motor cars are very convenient, they enable people to get exactly where they want to go quicker than most other forms of transport. If you have to wait an extra three seconds to safely pass a cyclist  / horse rider is it such an inconvenience? Drivers who are patient and give cyclists space seem the most likely to be happy and smile at you. It is those who squeeze past you who look miserable. If you allow an extra couple of minutes to drive somewhere it creates a much better experience.

But Cyclists Don’t Wear A Cycle Helmet / Should Pay Road tax

Would you overtake a pedestrian at 40mph with a foot to spare? Do pedestrians pay road tax? Do pedestrians wear a helmet? (Should cyclists pay road tax?)

Oxford CyclingThis bus overtook this lady but gave far too little space. She is forced on to kerb. It is especially important for buses and lorries as they have blind spot on inside of coach. It is a high risk area for cyclists.

Cyclists shouldn’t undertake

It is important motorists give cyclist room, cyclists should also avoid overtaking on the underside.



15 Responses to Give Cyclists Room

  1. EricD February 21, 2013 at 5:40 pm #

    “This bus overtook this lady but gave far too little space. She is forced on to kerb.”
    Look again at her left foot.
    I would say she is probably deliberately undertaking the bus by ‘scooting’ along with her left foot on the pavement.
    If she were stopping, her foot would be ahead and flat or even heel-down.
    Good luck getting past before the bus starts !

  2. EricD February 21, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

    @ Gabe :
    Some councils (Cheshire?) have realised the islands are dangerous !
    I doubt if they even make pedestrians safer – just slow cars down, maybe.
    [ /!\ nasty incident ]
    There was a recent UK case where a motorist hit the refuge, lost control then hit a cyclist. Court pretty much let him off – ‘accidents happen’. I don’t remember the location or outcome for the cyclist.

    Definitely ‘take the lane’ early. Signal right before moving right. Take care. Good luck!
    The worst I’ve had was a car that did an emergency stop just before hitting the refuge – he was nearly rear-ended by the car behind him !

  3. Mark Bates June 6, 2011 at 9:36 pm #

    I was on my way home, wind assisted and travelling at approximately 25mph. The next thing I know a large single decker bus is passing me, approaching the brow of a small hill and coming onto a solid white line. I immediately froze, such was the proximity of the said bus to me. I heard car horns beeping, presumeably from oncoming cars whom the bus was encroaching into their lane. I sprinted after the bus and caught up with it in a nearby village. Furious, I remonstrated with the driver, who simply said he thought he had given me sufficient room. I contacted the bus company who advised me by letter that the driver had been spoken too. Not happy, I contacted the police. An officer, who eventually attended on me at my house, said there was nothing they could do. Furthermore, he said that the bus was entitled to cross the white line when overtaking me as I was on a bike; that he overtakes bikes on solid white lines and that there was no chance of gaining a prosecution of driving without due care and attention or dangerous driving as it would be my word against that of the driver. This advice seemed to contradict sections 163, 165, 166 and 213 of the Highway Code as well as section 36 of the Roads and Traffic Act (RTA). Unfortunately with this kind of attitude from the Police, it is unlikely that we will see any improvement from motorists towards those on bicycles with the likely consequence been continued unecessary deaths and serious injuries. It is high time Parliament amend the RTA to offer cyclists more protection due to our vulnerability and pass guidence onto the Police. This incident has made me reconsider my cycling activities, at least on the roads. Certainly, I feel that the value placed on my life is such that it is not worth risking it on the public highway!

  4. steve May 4, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

    I travel to work regularly on by road bike at speed when I deem it safe to do so. I also drive a car and when I do I give more than ample room for other road users especially cyclists. The opposite is said of other drivers wanting to get to work at speed, racing away…mundane and do not give a toss about any cyclist apart from the obvious tool who rides a bike without thought…we all know them. Added to which I get p*ssed off at drivers who do not give enough room when I am going through road furniture…bollards, narrow sections. I get the ‘we’ll there were bollards I had to pass, sorry’ answer…should’nt even get to that stage…from now on I ma going to get in the middle…If I am in front i should have right of way until its safe for me to pull over and then let the tools pass. If they hit or rear end then they’ll have to answer to the law…I also wear a head cam for evidence now.

  5. Lewis May 2, 2011 at 10:31 pm #

    In my town the few cycle lanes that exist are very poor. They’re incredibly narrow and motorists pass VERY closely, justifiable because I’m in a different lane. In these cycle lanes I feel terrified! Far from the effect they are supposed to achieve. However, a new orbital has just been completed that goes through and around the town in different parts. It goes for 17 miles I believe and I’m very eager to try it.

  6. tejvan April 23, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    > Gabe, I agree. It’s ironic that many traffic calming measures can make road dangerous. Because some users will just keep same speed and squeeze through.

  7. Gabe April 23, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    What’s always bugged me is motorists trying to overtake too close to islands.
    There’s a corner near where I live. It goes uphill, has a hidden road entrance and turns sharply into a blind corner. to calm the traffic there’s a long pair of islands with a short gap in between.
    And most times I head up there someone will try and over take me, and if they did they’d either hit the second island or have to veer into me to avoid it >.<

  8. Fred Southam January 26, 2011 at 7:07 pm #

    PS Three feet is not enough

  9. Fred Southam January 26, 2011 at 7:06 pm #

    When I took a high performance driving course in 2000 I was told by my instructor John Lyon that a high court Judge had ruled in a case that ” A cyclist should be given enough room to measure his own length in the road in cas he fell off” I can’t remember the name of the law Lord unfortunately.

    My feeling about cycle lanes is that many drivers feel that if there is a cycle lane it absolves them of the need to give sufficient room for the cyclist. This is compounded by councils putting cycle lanes on roads that are to narrow to accomodate them

  10. Lee May 8, 2010 at 10:19 am #


    I have started a facebook group called “give cyclists space” Please join to help raise awareness.


  11. Kim October 27, 2009 at 12:17 pm #

    There is now a petition to the Prime Minister to introduce legislation that all motorists must allow a minimum of 3 feet in distance between their vehicle and a cyclist that they drive past. To sign it go to

  12. Lee Hall September 29, 2009 at 9:53 am #

    Colin great advice thank you, I cycled to work this morning took a little more room than usual, I found I was out of the way of the bad road surfaces and drains, and believe it or not most cars gave me much more room than they do when I cycle quite close to the road side. in fact only one came close however it didnt bother me as I had scope to move away without hitting the curb. I will be taking a little more room from now on.

  13. tejvan September 28, 2009 at 6:27 pm #

    Yes, it’s a narrow road, I think there is something in the theory cycle lanes encourage cars to drive closers

  14. No September 28, 2009 at 2:57 pm #

    Ouch that kid is really in the gutter. And the second photo shows why cycle lanes like that are problematic.

  15. Colin Griffiths September 28, 2009 at 1:56 pm #

    Good post, I always try to ride far enough away from the edge of road in order to give myself somewhere to go if needed. A policeman stopped me once, then proceeded to ask me about the Mavic Speedcity 700C wheels that I had on mountain bike, apparently he too wanted some and had noticed mine as he drove past! Before he got back in his car he said “make sure you keep command of your space on the road”.

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