share the roadThe other day I was a passenger in a car, not something that often happens as I tend to cycle everywhere.

What got me to put ‘pen to paper’ was the way the driver overtook a cyclist and the driver’s comments after.

We were on a dual carriageway with a 40mph speed limit. There was a cycle lane to the left marked with a white dotted line. The cycle lane was just about two and a bit feet wide and the cyclist was right in the middle of that lane.

If I had rolled down the window and stuck my arm out I would have hit the cyclist as we went past. The car driver was way too close, even for an experienced cyclist like me.

What worried me was that the driver of the car, who is a keen cyclist himself didn’t give the cyclist more space when passing. He must know how scary it is when getting passed by a car at speed that close. However, when pressed on the matter he stated that as a driver, he shouldn’t move out of the lane to give more room to the cyclist when passing, because “the cyclist had their own lane”.

The cycle lane was, as nearly all cycle lanes in the country are, crap (for lack of a better word)*. It was just over two feet wide, with plenty of stuff, mud (we saw later on), stones etc in it. The state of the cycle lane was even commented on by the driver. Which in my opinion should have been enough for the driver to know that he should give more space to the cyclist.

* Top website to show you what I’m talking about.

So, not a nice place to cycle in the first place, and then you get other road users passing you very close on top of that.

I teach my trainees to be at least a door length away from anything they pass, even if the object they are passing doesn’t have a door. This tactic makes them more visible to other road users, gets them away from all the crap (broken glass, pot holes etc) that is near the kerb and most important away from these dreaded car doors**. If the cycle lane is narrower than a car door, I still recommend the car door length away. If you as a cyclist deem the cycle lane to be not suitable to ride on, or you simply prefer not to use it, you have the right to go on the road.

** Highway code 239, which quite a few car users forget about.

In the Highway Code, there is a whole section about cycling, even as a driver or a cyclist it would be great to read, Rules for cyclists 59-82.

When you overtake anything you should keep in mind the Highway Code 162-169.

I paraphrase here “You can only overtake when it is safe and clear to do so and give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car”.

A bit more to read here about road users who require extra care, Highway code 204-225.

The comment I quite often get shouted at me while cycling from other road users is to “use the ****ing cycle lane!” If you as a cyclist or even a car driver have ever tried the cycle lanes that are around London and elsewhere, you’re fully aware that they often send you the wrong way. Or, they’re dangerous or full of crap that will ruin you journey.

Just today I found a great example of a rubbish cycle lane here in London SW4, on Cycle Route 3. I think the lane was just about two feet wide. To your left was a kerb that around half a foot high and, to your right, a wooden block just over a foot high. And the lane was full of broken glass and old road markings along with potholes. Simply not a safe cycle lane.

I digress, back to the overtaking of the cyclist…

As a cyclist, I would probably have been on the right side of the dotted line marking the cycle lane, because of the state of the road surface and the amount of crap in there. And I also would have looked back over my right shoulder, because showing your face to drivers often buys you more room, as you’re recognised as a person rather than ‘just a cyclist’.

As a car driver I would have moved out nice and early and overtaken the cyclist with plenty of space. The cyclist wore a nice bright red jacket and it was daylight so there was really no excuse for not doing so, as you could clearly see her nice and early.

So, the moral of this tale is that even experienced cyclists can misjudge a situation when behind the wheel. Cyclists are vulnerable road users and should be given at least as much room as when overtaking a car. Even if they’re in a dedicated cycle lane.

LINK: Share the road