Motorists and cyclists everywhere take note:
Dr. Ian Walker, a traffic psychologist from the University of Bath conducted a study in which he discovered that motorists are likely to drive twice as close to a cyclist wearing a helmet than to those without helmets. Large vehicles like buses, trucks, and white vans although surprisingly not SUV’s are the worst offenders in passing closely to cyclists.
“This study shows that when drivers overtake a cyclist, the margin for error they leave is affected by the cyclist’s appearance,” said Dr Walker, from the University’s Department of Psychology.
“By leaving the cyclist less room, drivers reduce the safety margin that cyclists need to deal with obstacles in the road, such as drain covers and potholes, as well as the margin for error in their own judgements.
Good news for us female cyclists though as Dr. Walker’s research demonstrates that motorists tend to give women more room while passing:
To test another theory, Dr Walker donned a long wig to see whether there was any difference in passing distance when drivers thought they were overtaking what appeared to be a female cyclist.
Whilst wearing the wig, drivers gave him an average of 14 centimetres (5.5 inches) more space when passing.
A good point mentioned in the article is that while most adults have experience driving cars most do not ride bicycles and are therefore mostly unaware of the issues and dangers faced by cyclists. I often feel the same way about drivers who pass schoolbuses that have their flashing red lights on that either the driver is distracted or most likely they do not have school age children that ride those buses.