The Alliance of British Drivers has argued that there can be “extenuating circumstances” for some close passes, after a driving instructor posted a video on social media of a motorist dangerously overtaking a cyclist towards an oncoming vehicle.
The clip, which shows a truck driver narrowly squeezing past a cyclist on Rugby Road, West Bridgford, while forcing an oncoming motorist to stop, was shared last week by Nottingham-based driving instructor Chris Allsopp.
“This van chose to pass the cyclists with minimum clearance, and encroached on our side of the road forcing us to move left and stop to avoid a collision,” Allsopp wrote on his Moose Driving Facebook page.
“If they planned ahead, slowing on approach to the cyclist, they could have timed their pass much more safely. Hopefully the cyclist wasn’t too shaken after this nasty incident today.”
Speaking to Nottinghamshire Live, the driving instructor said he felt compelled to share the incident to raise awareness of the “poor” decisions made by some drivers when passing cyclists.
“I happened to be driving when I saw that. I am a driving instructor and I could see this developing from down the road,” he said.
“I knew I had to take action. I drive about eight hours a day, and I see many drivers in traffic. Even very good drivers can make poor mistakes. And this was a poor mistake.
“[The overtake] appeared to be less than the recommended 1.5m clearance. I always tell my students to always leave as much space as they would want if they were on a bike.”
> Highway Code changes one year on: Confusion in communication has created the perfect storm and done little to improve safety for cyclists
Responding to the clip, Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the road safety charity IAM RoadSmart, said the dangerous overtake serves as a reminder to motorists to adhere to the Highway Code, which “makes it clear that all drivers and riders travelling at speeds of up to 30mph should leave at least 1.5m, or 5ft, when passing cyclists – and they should leave more space at higher speeds”.
Greig added: “It’s important to give cyclists the room, and time, to pass them safely. If it’s not safe, then don’t overtake. All road users must share the road safely, and be mindful of those more vulnerable to injury, such as cyclists.
“Those driving larger vehicles, and employers using commercial vehicles, need to be even more aware of their responsibility to share the road safely. It’s important to take the time to learn the rules and not take decisions on the road that could cause an accident – ignorance of code and the law is no defence.”
> Highway Code: Alliance of British Drivers claims changes have “created a false sense of winners and losers”
However, the video was met with a somewhat different response from Ian Taylor, the director of the pro-motoring pressure group the Alliance of British Drivers, who argued that “extenuating circumstances” can lead to motorists giving cyclists insufficient space on the road.
“Just because we are pro-drivers, that does not make us anti-cyclists. We are all on the road together,” Taylor said.
“He [the driving instructor] is right to remind drivers of the recommendation [to leave 1.5m space when overtaking] because sometimes the cycling fraternity can get too picky about this too.
“However, in general, I can say that there can be extenuating circumstances if something had suddenly appeared in the way that the driver needs to make more room for it.
“Not allowing the full width may have been the only way out from an even worse situation. I want to say that we are not different tribes – drivers and cyclists.”
> “This is not policing, this is intimidation”: Alliance of British Drivers takes on Sheffield police over close pass conviction
That particular statement is certainly not atypical of the Alliance of British Drivers’ approach to close passes involving people on bikes.
Last April, the group described a court’s decision to convict a motorist for careless driving as “idiotic” and “pathetic sucking up the cycling lobby”.
The ABD – which aims to promote “the interests and concerns of Britain’s drivers” – responded to footage of a close pass posted on Twitter by the Sheffield North West Neighbourhood Policing Team, which resulted in the driver receiving a £417 fine and their licence endorsed with five penalty points.
The clip showed the moment the approaching driver passed a group of oncoming cyclists too closely, at what the officers described as “excessive speed”. The police also added that “if anyone thinks this is an acceptable manner of driving, let this be your warning”.
The ABD then launched a prolonged online attack on the court’s decision, retweeting the footage with the caption “If your [sic] weren’t already convinced that the police are out to get you…”
The alliance described the fine and penalty points issued to the driver as an “idiotic decision that undermines the credibility of the courts and the police”.
The group’s account added: “We all know there are fanatics who want drivers to stop and bow down before every cyclist. If the police foolishly choose to side with them it will damage the relationship with the public.”
The alliance then claimed that the prosecution was evidence of “pathetic sucking up to the cycling lobby”, and described the police’s publicising of the incident as “vile threats” which “make it abundantly clear whose side you are on”.
“This is not policing, this is intimidation,” the account wrote. The group also criticised the use of the term “victims” to describe those on the receiving end of close passes, labelling it a “joke”.
The Sheffield North West officers, on the other hand, were keen to dismiss what they described as anti-cycling “whataboutery”, pointing out that if the offending motorist “had simply driven to the conditions at a less dangerous speed and stayed on his own side of the road he wouldn’t have been prosecuted”.
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