Cyclists’ lives are being put at risk by motorists passing “dangerously close” when they overtake, even if riders are wearing high-visibility clothing, according to a new study.
The research found between 1% and 2% of drivers overtake too closely regardless of what cyclists are wearing.
The average gap left by motorists overtaking cyclists has shrunk by more than half a metre over the past three decades – from 179cm in 1979 to just 118cm today – the study found, making road traffic accidents and subsequent injury compensation claims more likely.
Dr Ian Walker, of the University of Bath’s psychology department, said: “Many people have theories to say that cyclists can make themselves safer if they wear this or that.
“Our study suggests that no matter what you wear, it will do nothing to prevent a small minority of people from getting dangerously close when they overtake you.”
‘Make roads safer for riders’
Dr Walker said the results of the study suggest the solution to improving safety for cyclists lies in making roads safer and changing drivers’ behaviour.
He added: “We can’t make cycling safer by telling cyclists what they should wear. Rather, we should be creating safer spaces for cycling, perhaps by building high-quality separate cycle paths, by encouraging gentler roads with less stop-start traffic, or by making drivers more aware of how it feels to cycle on our roads and of the consequences of impatient overtaking.”
Dr Ian Garrard, of London’s Brunel University and part of the research team, used an ultrasonic distance sensor to measure how close vehicles got when they overtook him on his daily ride to work in Berkshire and outer London.
What he wore alternated between seven different outfits – including Lycra racing clothing and a high-visibility vest with “novice cyclist” printed on the back – to enable the team to assess whether it affected driver behaviour.
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