Research into the effectiveness or otherwise of one-metreÂ safe passing distances for cyclistsÂ is limited. In part because such rules have only been promulgated in a limited number of jurisdictions including fourteen states in the United States.Â To my knowledge no such legislation exists in Australia and in my personal experience the current so called “safe passing” in Western Australia are a waste of time.
Love (2012) has examined the effectiveness or otherwise of the three-foot passing law which took effect in Maryland (MD), United States (US) in October 2010.Â Of course the law as only been in place for a limited time and the research undertaken by Love was some 11 to 12 months after the law was passed.Â Is this a sufficient time period for a law to become embedded into the psychic of motorists?Â Love’s findings suggest not.
While further research is need into one-metre safe passing laws, this preliminary paper does suggest that the one-metre safe passing laws on their own are not sufficient to change motorists behaviour and to encourage safer respectful sharing of common land, i.e., roads.
The abstract for Love (2012) follows and the full paper can be download here.
Maryland (MD) recently became one of fourteen states in the United States to enact a trafï¬c law requiring motor vehicles to pass bicyclists at a distance of greater than three feet. To our knowledge, motorist compliance with the law has never been assessed. This study measured the distance between overtaking motor vehicles and cyclists [e.g. vehicle passing distance (VPD)], to develop baseline metrics for tracking
implementation of the three-foot passing law in Baltimore, MD and to assess risk factors for dangerous passes. During September and October 2011, cyclists (n = 5) measured VPD using a previously published video technique (Parkin and Meyers, 2010). Cyclists logged a total of 10.8 h of video footage and 586 vehicle passes on 34 bicycle commuting trips. The average trip lasted 19.5 Â± 4.9min and cyclists were passed on average 17.2 Â± 11.8 times per trip. VPDs of three feet or less were common when cycling in standard lanes (17%; 78 of 451 passes) and lanes with a shared lane marking (e.g. sharrows) (23%; 11 of 47 passes). No passes of three feet or less occurred in bicycle lanes (0 of 88 passes). A multiple linear regression model was created, which explained 26% of the variability in VPD. Signiï¬cant model variables were lane width, bicycle infrastructure, cyclist identity, and street identity. Interventions, such as driver education, signage, enforcement, and bicycle infrastructure changes are needed to inï¬‚uence driving behavior in Baltimore to increase motorist compliance with the three-foot law.
Love, D.C. (2012). Is the three-foot bicycle passing law working in Baltimore, Maryland? Accident Analysis and Prevention, in-press.