when there is a cycle lane, motorists drive within their own marked lane with less recognition of the need to provide a safe and comfortable passing distance to those using the cycle lane
New research supported by CTC – the UK’s national cyclists’ organisation shows that motorists give cyclists less room when they are riding in a cycle lane.
Using a bicycle with instruments that measure the distance of passing vehicles, Ciaran Meyers from the University of Leeds Institute for Transport Studies undertook the research on roads with and without cycle lanes. Ciaran said: “The analysis shows that significantly wider passing distances are adopted by motorists on a 9.5 metre wide carriageway without a 1.45 metre cycle lane and with speed limits of 40mph and 50mph.” The same finding was not found on a carriageway with a 30mph speed limit, but that location had more side road junctions and there is likely to be a greater amount of variability in road positioning by motor vehicles.
The results reveal that, when there is a cycle lane, motorists drive within their own marked lane with less recognition of the need to provide a safe and comfortable passing distance to those using the cycle lane.
John Parkin of the University of Bolton, who was also involved in the study, said: “In the presence of a cycle lane, a driver is likely to drive between the cycle lane line and the centre line in a position which is appropriate for the visible highway horizontal geometry ahead of the driver. A cyclist within a cycle lane does not seem to cause a driver to adopt a different position in his or her lane. This has important implications for the width of cycle lanes and implies that their width should never be compromised.”
CTC’s Policy Coordinator Chris Peck said: “Cycle lanes have a part to play in improving road conditions for cyclists, but this research has raised concerns that they are not always the best solution and may in fact make cycling more unpleasant. Where a cycle lane exists, drivers may overtake with the belief that they can use the entire road space outside the cycle lane, and consequently may be paying less attention to the cyclist’s need for space.”
Non-cyclists often say that more cycle lanes would encourage them to cycle more. A recent survey found 83% of non-cycling motorist men agreeing with this. However, the same survey found that only 2% of regular cyclists had a problem with a lack of cycle lanes – for them the most serious concerns were inconsiderate motorists (71%), busy roads (59%), lorries (60%) and poor road maintenance (58%).