Are cars passing us closer?

Today’s typical 100km road spin passing three towns, resulted in 4 close passes and one very sketchy late overtake; So a standard road spin.

So is it getting more dangerous for a car to pass a cyclist ? Yes. Two main reasons . Firstly In 1970, there were 200 million cars in the world. In 1990, there were almost 500 million and as of last year there is an estimated  1.5 billion cars on the road. So in the last thirty years the traffic load has increased 300% , passing the average cyclist.

Secondly, In 1976 Ford motor company launched their  Ford Fiesta, it was 1.56 meters wide. The current Ford Fiesta sits at 1,941mm wide with the mirrors extended, and 1,735mm with the mirrors folded. The VW Polo and Honda Civic and both increased nearly 1cm per year, for the last 35 years. The standard carriageway width on local streets should be between 5m – 5.25m.  A modern new build road, should have a minimum width of 6.5-7.3 metres.

Taking the biggest road, with the smallest modern car- With parking on one side, passing space is at a minimum in two way traffic. Cars parked on two sides with two way traffic and two modern ‘small’ cars passing, leaves NO room remaining for cyclists.

Local country Primary Roads generally “should have a width of at least 4 metres”. These roads make up the majority of the world’s infrastructure and were not built for cars. These were communication networks to join villages and were marked on foot and widened subsequently for horses, then carriages, and smoothed for bicycles over hundreds of years. Field walls and houses and trees have limited their expansion. With the introduction of rare, small cars in the middle of the last century- this was OK to integrate their size and volume. But as cars increased in number and size and speed – our B and C roads have remained the 3-4 metres in width from horse and cart passing days. This means very limited room for two small cars to pass. No room for two large cars to pass and negative space for the instruction abnormalities like bicycles or buses or lorries.

The country lane below is common place and 3.5 meters average in width. With the recent 7 months of rain we always come home from a spin covered in mud as the grass verges have been increasingly eroded. Two ‘small’ modern cars passing are being forced into the hedge and spilling the verge onto the tarmac. This is just modern life on a bicycle.

So what can we do? Individually we all have our own opinions and solutions. Cars are not going away and generally, drivers want to kills us. We cyclists are mostly drivers too. For personal safety I run a day time rear light and I will have something to make me feel visible my white helmet or jersey. I will avoid the biggest roads and try not to piss off drivers too much, single out and pull in where possible to avoid them making foolish or erratic manoeuvres. No we don’t have to- but integration is essential for the joy of the spin. I have evolved from 23mm tyres to 35mm tyres to give my pre route planning more car free options.

The current world is what it is. Frustrating and dangerous, but I choose to cycle within it. Static road width and expanding car size and numbers have simply reduced the space to pass a cyclist and increased the number of passes. We can shout at the driver whose wing mirror glanced your hip or we can shout more effectively at the political parties with the power to limit car size and create more cycle lanes. To prosecute drives who do and educate new drivers not to.

We love biking. We use cars there is no single solution but there is a better future. What would you do?

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