The insurer advises motorists to leave 1 meter of space for cyclists – when riding behind them
Usually when we hear motorists saying that it is advisable to leave a certain space for cyclists, it is in the context of overtaking. in Canada which says they should leave a yard of space for cyclists when riding behind them.
In a page of its website entitled Safety tips for driving and cycling, based in Toronto TD Insurance, one of Canada’s largest insurers, tells motorists to “Maintain a safety distance of one meter behind cyclists because they do not have brake lights to indicate when they are slowing down or stopping.
It certainly does not seem like a “safe distance” to us, and for good reason. Take a vehicle traveling at 20 mph.
The minimum stopping distance at this speed is 40 feet, which equates to 12 meters – and half that distance, 6 meters, reflects the distance traveled in the time it takes for the driver to see a danger, assess the situation and apply the brakes (assuming he’s not distracted at the time).
And the stopping distance increases with speed; at 30 mph, you’re looking at a reflection distance of 9 meters and a braking distance beyond that of 14 meters for a total of 23 meters.
What we suspect here is that whoever compiled the list of advice confused the issue of minimum passing distance with that of maintaining a safe distance while riding behind cyclists – take a look at this section of the Ontario Motorists Handbook, UK Highway Traffic Act in the province where TD Insurance is based.
When passing a cyclist, drivers of motor vehicles must maintain a minimum distance of one meter, as far as possible, between their vehicle and the cyclist. (See Figure 2-11.) Failure to do so may result in a fine and two additional demerit points on the driver’s record. If possible, you must change lanes to pass.
Do not follow cyclists too closely. They don’t have brake lights to alert you when they slow down or stop.
Cut out pieces of this text trying to be precise, and it is not difficult to see how the two problems can merge if the person summarizing it does not pay enough attention to it.
By the way, one of the advice given to cyclists is to “Don’t be distracted” – examples given include not using a mobile device or headphones, although in our experience having a vehicle at hand. engine within a meter of your rear wheel is also quite distracting.