Minimum Overtaking Gaps for Cyclists

The trialling of mandatory minimum overtaking distances for motor vehicles overtaking cyclists was a key recommendation of the New Zealand Cycle Safety Panel in 2014.
CAN is represented on an Opus / NZTA advisory panel.

CAN says:

  • People on bikes often say close passing puts them off cycling
  • NZ research will help ensure decisions on overtaking gaps are based on evidence
  • Having a public conversation can help foster safer behaviour
  • A rule on minimum overtaking gaps is not a magic fix, but is part of a package of measures to make cycling safer and more attractive
  • NZ has minimum following distances. A rule on overtaking gaps is similar.

From NZTA, 2016

The NZ Transport Agency has engaged Opus Research to investigate the feasibility and possible implications of introducing mandatory minimum overtaking gaps for cyclists, together with a behaviour change programme encouraging motorists to give a safe overtaking gap when passing people on bikes.

The Opus research will help to inform decisions on whether to proceed with a trial of mandatory minimum overtaking distances. Along with investigation of what's happening overseas the research will use state-of-art sensor technology on bikes that measure speed and passing distance. The bikes will also have video cameras.

This investigation will increase our understanding of what safe passing distances are, and how they could be trialled. The research findings are due by 30 September 2016.


From Opus research

NZTA is looking to explore how motorists and cyclists interact on the road and what impact this has on cyclist safety and comfort. They have contracted Opus to study this, and CAN is an important contributor, examining such issues as-

  • When do motorists choose to overtake cyclists?
  • How close do they travel behind and next to cyclists?
  • How fast do they overtake cyclists?
  • How do all these driving behaviours impact the rider's safety and comfort?


Trucks are the worst offenders in passing too close mostly because of their large size, they are a lot more scary than a car.

It would be good if truck drivers were a little more professional and applied their training to situations with bicycles. My understanding is that truck drivers are encouraged to be planning their driving for conditions that will prevail maybe 500m down the road. This is not always possible because there are times when 500m of visibility is not available. However, when it is available it would be good to see truck drivers doing this more often. They should be able to work out that it is likely they will be passing a cyclist at the same time as an approaching car will be occupying the other lane so they should adjust there speed to make the manouvre after the approaching car has passed. The same is true for corners, if it appears that the truck will be passing the cycle on a corner where their back wheels will track towards the inside of the bend then they should adjust their speed to pass after the corner. Truck drivers are also a lot more resistant to take advantage of the fact that they are allowed to cross the centre line while passing cycles. Keeping left of the centre line is paramount and if they get too close to a cyclist well that is unfortunate.

Obviously there are good truck drivers and bad ones, I am surprised by how much the distinction between them follows the livery of the truck they are driving. In my local area Move Logistics and Container Transport Services are usually very good but the local rural catage firm are more likely to pass extremely close.

CAN runs a Share the Road Campaign.
The purpose of the campaign is to address the lack of understanding and awareness among people on bikes and drivers of heavy vehicles as to the issues involving the safety of those who cycle around heavy vehicles. The campaign will provide these groups with clear guidance on sharing the road in a manner that is respectful of their individual needs. The Campaign goal is Making safer roads for heavy vehicle drivers & bicycle users.
More at

Update from Patrick, 9 Dec 2016: NZTA has done some research on this. It is with the Associate Minister and is expected to be released soon.