How much space do drivers provide when passing cyclists? Understanding the impact of motor vehicle and infrastructure characteristics on passing distance
Background: Understanding factors that influence the distance that drivers provide when passing cyclists is critical to reducing subjective risk and improving cycling participation. This study aimed to quantify passing distance and assess the impact of motor vehicle and road infrastructure characteristics on passing distance.
Methods: An on-road observational study was conducted in Victoria, Australia. Participants had a custom device installed on their bicycle and rode as per their usual cycling for one to two weeks. A hierarchical linear model was used to investigate the relationship between motor vehicle and infrastructure characteristics (location, presence of on-road marked bicycle lane and the presence of parked cars on the kerbside) and passing distance (defined as the lateral distance between the end of the bicycle handlebars and the passing motor vehicle).
Results: Sixty cyclists recorded 18,527 passing events over 422 trips. The median passing distance was 173 cm (Q1: 137 cm, Q3: 224 cm) and 1085 (5.9%) passing events were less than 100 cm. Relative to sedans, 4WDs had a reduced mean passing distance of 15 cm (Q1: 12 cm, Q3: 17 cm) and buses had a reduced mean passing distance of 28 cm (Q1: 16 cm, Q3: 40 cm). Relative to passing events that occurred on roads without a marked bicycle lane and without parked cars, passing events on roads with a bike lane with no parked cars had a reduced mean passing distance of 27 cm (Q1: 25 cm, Q3: 29 cm), and passing events on roads with a bike lane and parked cars had a mean lower passing distance of 40 cm (Q1: 37 cm, Q3: 43 cm).
Conclusions: One in every 17 passing events was a close (<100 cm) passing event. We identified that on-road bicycle lanes and parked cars reduced passing distance. These data can be used to inform the selection and design of cycling-related infrastructure and road use with the aim of improving safety for cyclists.