posted 3 years ago

Cyclists Are Flesh and Blood – Give Them Space When Overtaking

That’s the message in a new road safety video starring Olympic gold medal winning cyclist Chris Boardman and master driving instructor Blaine Walsh.

Remember when what Charley said mattered? OK, all he said was “miaow, miaow” but Kenny Everett’s 1970s voiceover still managed to convey an important safety message, whether it was about the dangers of matches, talking to strangers or falling in water. Public information films have a long and glorious history (and an inglorious one, the frontman for “Clunk Click Every Trip” isn’t so popular any more) but the funding for them was canned in 2011 when the Government wound up the Central Office of Information. The Department for Transport carried on funding its “don’t drink and drive campaign” but even this has now dried up to almost nothing. (In 2008-09 the DfT spent almost £3m on video promotions; this fell to less than £1m in 2013-2014 and it’s now gone the way of the dodo.)

This is a crying shame because bad behaviour on the roads impacts on us all. Public information films can resonate. Because the Central Office of Information no longer exists it’s up to “Big society” to step in and that’s why I helped to produce a public information film on how to safely overtake cyclists. This was funded by the Bicycle Association and British Cycling. It went online last night and has already been promoted on social media by police forces.

The video highlights rule 163 of the Highway Code which states that motorists should give cyclists (and pedestrians and equestrians) as much space as they would give a motor vehicle when overtaking. YouTube is littered with footage of awful, close overtakes of cyclists (and other vulnerable road users) and the new video aims to tackle this.

Olympian Chris Boardman starts the video by reminding drivers that “People on bicycles are flesh and blood, they’re mums and dads, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.” He stresses that motorists need to “give them plenty of space when overtaking.”

He also talks about the “dynamic envelope”, or wobble room that cyclists need on the road.

“Cyclists do not ride in a perfect straight line, they have to make slight side to side adjustments in order to stay upright. The space a cyclist takes up while moving is known as the “dynamic envelope” … You should think of this dynamic envelope as an exclusion zone around the cyclist, a zone you must not enter.”

Bending down to point at a pothole, Boardman said: “The dynamic envelope often needs to be stretched, for instance when cyclists have to deviate from their chosen line to avoid imperfections on the road, imperfections that motorists may not even see.”

The video also stars master driving instructor Blaine Walsh. He said: “Overtaking is one of the riskiest things you do when you’re driving and it’s critical to get it right, for your safety and for the safety of others. Sadly, you don’t have to search too hard on YouTube to find some incredibly close and dangerous overtaking of cyclists.”

Walsh points out the appropriate section of the Highway Code: “Rule 163 says “give cyclists at least as much space as you would a car.”

He’s then shown driving behind a group of cyclists, and overtakes them safely when the road becomes clear.

“There. Job done. I’m safe, they’re safe.” One of the cyclists waves an acknowledgement at Walsh for the safe overtake.

While the video majors on how to overtake a group of cyclists, Boardman reminds viewers that what works for overtaking a group of racing cyclists also works for passing everyday cyclists.

A follow-up video will explain how riding two abreast is allowed in the Highway Code.

Walsh said: “A typical complaint from motorists, and even from some of my fellow driving instructors, is that cyclists ride two abreast. Well, in the Highway Code they are allowed to.”

Boardman replied: “Blaine’s right. According to rule 66 in the Highway Code cyclists are advised to “never ride more than two abreast. So, three’s out but riding side by side is fine.”

With the use of aerial footage the video also shows that it’s easier for a motorist to pass a tightly-packed group of cyclists than it is to pass a strung out group of riders following each other:

“Whether cyclists are riding single file or two by two you still have to give them ample room when overtaking,” said Boardman.


Carlton Reid is the executive editor of and the author of Roads Were Not Built For Cars. He drives a Nissan Note every single day: “I get the car out of the garage for my wife.”