Half of drivers unaware of Highway Code advice on safe passing

More than half of the British public may be at risk of not following the Highway Code advice for safely passing a cyclist, according to a poll created for Cycling UK.

A ComRes survey of 2,039 British adults revealed that 52 per cent of participants weren’t aware that the Highway Code recommendation is to give cyclists at least as much space as you would a car when overtaking.

Eight per cent of respondents wrongly state that Highway Code recommends you should only give cyclists space that is at least the width of their handlebars when overtaking by car. This represents one in ten British adults who could be leaving cyclists with a dangerously low amount of space.

Cycling UK, the national cycling charity, released the data as the Department for Transport announced driving instructors are to be offered bespoke training on cycle safety, and police forces will be provided training materials and support to educate drivers on safely passing cyclists.

The announcement will be made today by the cycling minister, Jesse Norman MP, at the Cycle City Active City conference.

Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns at Cycling UK commented: “These figures show most close passes come from a position of ignorance rather than malicious intent. Cycling UK has long argued that the driver training and testing processes should ensure that drivers are made aware of and understand both cyclists’ needs and their safety.

“Training the trainers, and embedding cyclists’ safety in the mindset of driving instructors, is a fantastic first step towards achieving this.

“But education and awareness on its own is not enough, which is why close pass operations by police forces have proved so effective in places like the West Midlands.

“It’s fantastic that there’s now a commitment to make additional government resources available to help the police crackdown on close passing.

“Cycling UK looks forward to working with the Department for Transport, as we have with willing police forces, to try to make sure this initiative helps lead to close pass policing being the norm, not the exception.”

In July 2017, Cycling UK launched its Too Close for Comfort campaign, and has provided to date 38 out of 45 police forces across the UK with close pass mats to conduct public awareness campaigns and road traffic operations.

The close pass mats are modelled on those used in West Midlands Traffic Police’s award-winning road safety operation – ‘Give Space, Be Safe’ – which targeted close passes.

The force sent plain clothed officers out on bikes and pulled over drivers who overtook too closely. Using a close pass mat, the force then demonstrated to these drivers how to overtake vulnerable road users safely.

The force also reported a 20 per cent reduction in casualties among vulnerable road users over the course of a year when national road casualty figures had shown an increase.

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