As bicycle use spikes during local lockdowns, drivers need to be aware of the 1.5 metre rule which encourages motorists to make room and protect cyclists.
During the first 30 days of lockdown in March, the Department for Transport (DfT) found that cycling fatalities were more than double the number compared to the same periods from 2015-18 even though the level of vehicle traffic had dropped to 36% of its pre-lockdown level.
Of the 15 cyclists in the UK that lost their lives from 23 March – 22 April all but two incidents did not involve a motor vehicle.
Various road safety initiatives have launched to raise awareness of the Highway Code’s Rule 163 that there should ‘plenty of room’ when overtaking – often recommend as 1.5 metre distance or roughly the width of a car. It also states that drivers should overtake only when it is safe and legal to do so.
Motorists who flout the rule face a careless driving charge from the police, which can result in three penalty points on their licence and a £100 fine, or in some cases, a more serious criminal conviction. Undercover policemen on bicycles have used helmet-mounted cameras to help apprehend offenders.
Research commissioned by Cycling Scotland found that 34 per cent of the population don’t always leave a 1.5 metre gap from cyclists, while almost 64 per cent were unaware of the three-point penalty on their licence if they are caught driving too close.
Motorists should also bear in mind that insurance premiums generally increase by around 5% for the first three points on a licence, shooting up to as much as 25% for six points – premium loading can continue to apply until the points come off the licence after five years.
The latest figures from DfT show cycling use jumped 10% during the week beginning 12th October compared to a week earlier.
Greg Wilson, founder of Quotezone.co.uk – which launched one of the UK’s first price comparison services for bicycle insurance – says: “We’ve seen an increase in traffic to our bicycle insurance comparison website since lockdown began – with people keen for socially distanced transport and exercise. I would also expect an upcoming spike in December to January with many putting bikes at the top of their Christmas list this year.
“This increase signals potential dangers – while there may be fewer cars on the road, the reduced congestion levels could encourage some motorists to increase their speed. With so many people taking up cycling during lockdown a greater number of cyclists on the road may be relatively inexperienced, so making sure drivers make room with the 1.5 metre rule has never been so important.
“We work hard to get drivers the best policy at the best price, and even when a driver has received penalty points we still have panel members that can offer them competitive quotes. However, the best plan is to ensure you don’t get those endorsements in the first place, which is why we recommend that drivers take their time, keep their distance and use the 1.5 metre rule when it comes to cyclists – that way we can ensure we all stay safe on the road.”