This week, PC Heidi Moxam, Dorset Police casualty reduction officer, is quoted in the Echo saying ‘The Highway Code states that cyclists should ride within 0.75m of the kerb’ but I could find no mention of this in the Highway Code. Was this a misquote by the Echo or a simple misunderstanding of the West Midlands Police Operation Close Pass initiative, which used an educational mat to show a cyclist’s secondary position at approximately 0.75m from the kerb. In this position, they will not be forced to cycle around drains as PC Moxam is also quoted as saying in the Echo.
When the educational mat was first released and later expanded with the help of a kickstarter fund by Cycling UK, concerns were raised, both on twitter and various cycling blogs, about the media’s interpretation of the image and wordings. West Midland’s Police response was that the mat was not a media campaign but an educational tool which would help drivers visualise how much space they should give when overtaking.
Personally, I’d be very happy if every single driver gave me at least 1.5 metres space when overtaking me, and I mean me, not the front wheel of my bike. It is also worth noting that along Wallisdown Road, where the initiative took place, it is almost impossible to cycle nearer than 1m to the kerb, even if you wanted to, due to the severely uneven road surface.
While I welcome any initiative that encourages more people to cycle and makes it safer for those who already do, I really hope that the drivers were not educated into thinking cyclists should remain within 0.75 metres of the kerb. There are plenty of times when cyclists will find it necessary to position themselves further out, and it is imperative that the initiative helps raise awareness of these, too.
No doubt this piece will garner the usual response from the entitled motorists’ brigade; one commenter in the Echo even suggested ‘bikes should be banned from dawn to dusk’. But, all reasonable road users should be able to agree that more bikes on the road and fewer cars should keep us all moving in the direction we want to go.