Car Tips & Advice 03/10/2018

Rider v Driver - new laws are coming

As cycling becomes ever more popular as both as a leisure activity and as a way of commuting, the potential for a clash between riders and drivers becomes ever greater.

It stands to reason that because a cyclist is many times more vulnerable than a driver, sat inside a ton or more of metal, riders need more protection, and thus the onus – legal and moral – is on the driver to make sure no-one is hurt.

The law has been slow to catch up with the explosion in popularity of cycling, but new measures are being passed to make roads safer for riders and to remind drivers that the time has come for them to have more regard for those on two wheels.

From this summer it has become an offence to leave a gap of less than 1.5 metres – about two arms’ lengths - when overtaking a bike with the threat of a £100 fixed penalty fine and/or up to three points.

For more serious incidents, especially where damage or injury is caused, the matter will go to the courts. Policing will likely be done by cameras, either fixed or those worn by officers.

Under the broad heading of `intimidatory laws’, other areas of road behaviour being looked at include stopping in one of those boxes reserved for cyclists at traffic lights or cutting across a rider going straight on if you are turning left at a minor junction.

Cylist v car at a junction

A driver doesn’t even have to be moving to fall foul of the tone of the new laws. Quite apart from offences committed while driving, there may yet be another, that of `car dooring’.

As its name suggests, this would make it illegal to open a door without first looking either over your shoulder or even straight ahead, depending on which side of the road you have pulled up on so you don’t knock a rider off.

This new measure would apply to both driver and passenger, but as a driver, remember that you would be responsible for everyone in the car.

All these are likely to become law and they seem no more than common sense and reasonable, considerate driving.

Crazy as it sounds, much of what is written at the moment about how drivers should behave around cyclists is only advisory rather than being hard and fast regulations and many on both sides of the issue, cycling and motoring organisations, have been pressing for the Highway Code to be updated to more accurately reflect today’s road usage.

Until this summer’s development, for example, the Highway Code (Rule 139) said that drivers should `give cyclists at least as much room as you would a car when overtaking’ and recommended a gap of 1.5 metres at up to 30 mph, more if going faster.

This has now been codified into a definite rule although it remains to be seen how strong the defence is of a driver saying `Prove I was within 1.5 metres when passing’. We will see.

Now, some drivers say there is another issue which is whether riders should be insured and social media forums are as full of stories, and dashcam footage, of silly cyclists putting themselves in danger by their complete disregard for motorists, as they are of riders being put in danger by inconsiderate drivers, but for the time being, any updating on the laws will only be to curb the excesses of motorists.


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