A petition calling for a safe passing distance between motorists and cyclists currently has 8,524 signatures – it will get a response from the Government should it reach 10,000 signatures.The petition calls for a permanent, minimum passing distance when overtaking cyclists.
The petition was started by Tony C Martin. He wrote: "The lack of a clear specification may result in a personal decision what a "plenty of room" means in terms of distance. Therefore, introducing a minimum legal passing distance when overtaking cyclists will considerably reduce the number of cyclist casualties, aiding in a safe cycling practice. Suggestion of 3.28 ft (1 m) when overtaking cyclists on roads with speed limits up to and including 30mph. On roads with higher speed limits, the minimum passing distance should be 4.9 ft (1.5 m)."
Other countries have "minimum passing distance laws" to protect cyclists. In 2015 South Australia mandated the minimum overtaking distance, as part of a range of "safe cycling measures". The law requires motorised road users to allow at least a one metre gap on roads with speed limits of up to 60km/h, and 1.5 metres for anything above that speed. Drivers are allowed to cross centre lines, straddle lane-lines and drive on painted islands, provided that "it is safe to do so." However, the introduction of the passing law was "balanced" with a stipulation that cyclists had to carry ID at all times, and the fines for traffic violations – such as running red lights – were made equal for both cyclists and motorists, in effect increasing the possible fines for cyclists, including for not wearing cycle helmets. "Roadie" organisations which helped draft, and supported, the new rules were bitterly opposed by commuter cycling organisations.
Queensland’s 1.5 metre passing law – also known as the ‘Split Rule’ – has been cited in cases against motorists, with prosecutions brought after evidence was supplied from "helmetcam" footage. Under the Split Rule, drivers in Queensland can face a maximum penalty of AU$4,400.
Pedal Power Association of South Africa launched a “stay wider of the rider” campaign in 2015, based on a 1.5 metre safe passing distance campaign running since 2011.
In the UK, rule 163 of the Highway Code states that motorists should give cyclists (and pedestrians and equestrians) as much space as they would give a motor vehicle when overtaking but does not specify a set distance. Last year Olympian Chris Boardman starred in an industry-funded video which reminded drivers that “People on bicycles are flesh and blood, they’re mums and dads, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.” He stressed that motorists need to “give them plenty of space when overtaking.”
In the video Boardman also talks about the “dynamic envelope”, or wobble room that cyclists need on the road.