Saturday, 9 July 2011

Passing laws about passing bikes

Cycling in France I again noticed the prevalence of signs urging motorists to pass cyclists with at least 1.5 metres and almost without exception they did (the exception was a Belgian driver on an Alpe d'Huez hairpin!).
Now I am back to my familiar commute and nothing has changed.
Hounslow yesterday evening

A couple of weeks ago we had Nova Scotian friends staying with us.  Naturally I asked them about the new law in Nova Scotia requiring (as of 1st June) that motorists leave at least one metre when passing a cyclist.  Both our visitors are drivers but neither had heard of the new law.  One was also a cyclist but it did not mean much to him as he rides on the pavement, reasoning that the roads are not safe for cyclists.  I rather suspect that if such a law were passed here it would be neither observed nor enforced; it will be interesting to see what, if any, real difference it makes to Nova Scotian cyclists.

I have some expereince of cycling in Nova Scotia.  Not only am I required to wear a helmet but by law
"No person shall ride a bicycle on a highway except as near as practicable to the extreme right of the main travelled portion of the highway and no person shall ride a bicycle abreast of or generally parallel to another bicycle in motion on the highway except for the purpose of passing any such other bicycle."  That is a tough one for anybody who has undertaken any cycle training here and must be even tougher for those on club runs.  My strategy was to hold a secondary position about a metre from the edge as that is as near as practicable for me.  In fairness they do have much wider roads than us  and do not design in width restrictions as a means of traffic calming, so a bicycle and a car side by side in the same lane is not quite the adrenalin rush that it is here.

Having a lot of laws is not necessarily a solution.  What we really need is more consistent and determined enforcement of the laws we have against dangerous driving and driving without due care and attention or due consideration to other road users.  A close pass depends somewhat upon the speed and size of the vehicle concerned.  It is more easily recognised than defined and is self-evidently driving without due consideration.  Will the bus driver (see picture) be prosecuted for driving without due consideration?  Not a chance.  Would additional laws make a difference?  Same answer.


  1. Martin,

    I agree with you that if this law was passed, it would be much honoured in its breach. However, that doesn't mean it isn't a good idea. If a motorist hit a cyclist after the law was passed, the first question the investigating officer could ask would be "why were you driving so close to a cyclist when there is a law that you should give them at least 3 foot clearance?". This would immediately put the burden on the driver to explain his actions. Indeed, he would probably not be able to do so.

  2. Tom is quite correct that the Police should be asking that question , BUT DO THEY THINK TO DO SO ?

    Until there is a change of attitude or the Police Officer has been hit by a vehicle " the motorist " will remain the innocent party !

    LOts going on here at the tour de France but continually see the request for the 1 1/2 m passing regulation to be observed .