A new study from the University of Bath and Brunel University suggests that no matter what clothing a cyclist wears, around 1-2% of drivers will pass dangerously close when overtaking.
This suggests there is little a rider can do, by altering their outfit or donning a high-visibility jacket, to prevent the most dangerous overtakes from happening. Instead, the researchers suggest, if we want to make cyclists safer, it is our roads, or driver behaviour, that need to change.
The study set out to ask whether drivers passing a cyclist responded to how experienced the cyclist looked. It was expected that drivers would give more space to a rider who seemed inexperienced and less space to a rider who looked highly skilled.
One of the research team, Dr Ian Garrard from Brunel University, used an ultrasonic distance sensor to record how close each vehicle passed during his daily commute in Berkshire and outer London. Each day, he chose one of seven outfits at random, ranging from tight lycra racing cyclist clothes (signalling high experience) to a hi-viz vest with “novice cyclist” printed on the back (signalling low experience).
He sometimes also wore a vest that said he was video-recording his journey, or a vest modelled on a police jacket but with “POLITE” printed on the back. The same bicycle was used every day, and was always ridden in the same way. Over several months, data were collected from 5690 passing vehicles.
The researchers found that, while the vest that mentioned video-recording showed a small increase in the average amount of space drivers left, there was no difference between the outfits in the most dangerous overtakes, where motorists passed within 50 cm of the rider. Whatever was worn, around 1-2% of motorists overtook within this extremely close zone.
Pedestrians need the same respectful distance and slowed speed from cyclists that cyclists demand of cars.
Writing on the rear of any jacket is probably not as visible as one would think. Then there is the factor of the ability of the driver to judge what the cyclist feels is a dangerous overtake.
I would like to know whether the cyclist was the one governing what constitutes a dangerous overtake or whether there were some sonic devices attached to the ride capable of measuring both the distance and speed at which a car passed.
Finally, it seems to me that the people to question about dangerous overtakes are the pedestrians walking along MUPs who are constantly being passed by cyclists who pass closer than the same 3-Feet that cyclists demand and often without the usual verbal warning dictated by the municipalities in which the trails are situated.
Based up my experience cyclists are as guilty of passing too close at too speedily to warrant their passes being called safe. Perhaps they should spend some time having their behavior studied rather than trying to focus on why motorists frighten them?