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Spain plans to make drivers slow down when overtaking cyclists

Motorists will still be required to also give 1.5 metres of space when passing people on bikes

Spain is planning to introduce a new law that will make drivers slow down when overtaking cyclists, reports the motoring website Diario Motor.

The measure would supplement existing legislation that requires motorists to allow a minimum distance of 1.5 metres when passing someone on a bike.

Current laws also allow drivers to cross a solid white line in the middle of the road to overtake cyclists at a safe distance, provided no vehicles are approaching from the other direction and visibility is good, as illustrated in this video from 2019.

The proposed new rule is part of a sweeping reform of the country’s traffic laws as the DGT (Directorate General of Traffic) aims to improve safety of vulnerable road users – deaths of whom in 2019 exceeded those of motor vehicle occupants for the first time in Spain’s history.

Readers familiar with our Near Miss of the Day feature will note that the existing and planned laws address several of the issues we often see on British roads, sometimes all at once â€“ close passes, speeding up when overtaking, and passing cyclists despite oncoming traffic.

With more people taking to bicycles in Spain as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the DGT has also launched online courses and exams for cyclists, which can be accessed here, and which are not compulsory but are recommended.

Thanks to road.cc reader Greg Neary for flagging up the proposed change, and who said that in welcoming it, Diario Motor's "take on the idea [is] very different from what you would expect in the UK."

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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27 comments

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Bmblbzzz | 3 years ago
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I don't get the bit about slowing down when overtaking cyclists. There's no detail given in the text. What does it actually mean? Does it literally mean to slow down, so that if a driver is doing 90km/h (I think that's the standard main road speed limit for cars) they must reduce their speed (to what or by how much?) while overtaking a cyclist even if there is no oncoming traffic and they don't have to wait behind? Or is it more a general intention that passing speeds should be slower? It really isn't clear.

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IanGlasgow replied to Bmblbzzz | 3 years ago
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Bmblbzzz wrote:

I don't get the bit about slowing down when overtaking cyclists. There's no detail given in the text. What does it actually mean? Does it literally mean to slow down, so that if a driver is doing 90km/h (I think that's the standard main road speed limit for cars) they must reduce their speed (to what or by how much?) while overtaking a cyclist even if there is no oncoming traffic and they don't have to wait behind? Or is it more a general intention that passing speeds should be slower? It really isn't clear.

In the US drivers are obliged to slow down to 10mph below the speed limit or move out a lane (on multi lane roads) when passing a stationary emergency services vehicle.

According to The Independent: "the new amendment to Spain’s traffic regulations mean that drivers must slow down to below 20km the speed limit on that road to make a pass"
Which could mean if you're cycling withing 20km/h of the speed limit, it's illegal for a motorist to pass. This is great news for when I'm ambling through Glasgow's 20mph city centre at a leisurely 8mph.

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Bmblbzzz replied to IanGlasgow | 3 years ago
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Oh, that's clear. And sensible! Thanks for the answer (and lol at the Glasgow example!)

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Geoff Ingram replied to Bmblbzzz | 3 years ago
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Correct. 90 is limit on general roads. Now DGT says you should overtake at 70.

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mdavidford | 3 years ago
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Isn't the point of solid white lines meant to be to mark sections of road where it's not appropriate to overtake? Why would you have them on clear, straight sections with good visibility in the first place?

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andystow replied to mdavidford | 3 years ago
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mdavidford wrote:

Isn't the point of solid white lines meant to be to mark sections of road where it's not appropriate to overtake? Why would you have them on clear, straight sections with good visibility in the first place?

You need a lot less time and distance to pass a 15 MPH cyclist than a 45 MPH car, so therefore need less clear visible distance ahead to do so.

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mdavidford replied to andystow | 3 years ago
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andystow wrote:

mdavidford wrote:

Isn't the point of solid white lines meant to be to mark sections of road where it's not appropriate to overtake? Why would you have them on clear, straight sections with good visibility in the first place?

You need a lot less time and distance to pass a 15 MPH cyclist than a 45 MPH car, so therefore need less clear visible distance ahead to do so.

It's as much about the potential speed of traffic coming the other way, though - once you factor that in, the difference isn't anything like as great. And in the example above it seems to be a long, straight, wide road - no obvious reason for preventing overtakes.

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don simon fbpe replied to mdavidford | 3 years ago
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mdavidford wrote:

Isn't the point of solid white lines meant to be to mark sections of road where it's not appropriate to overtake? Why would you have them on clear, straight sections with good visibility in the first place?

Maybe the line is there to prevent you from stopping in the middle of the road to turn left. Rules and reasons are different in Spain. Surprisingly.

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mdavidford replied to don simon fbpe | 3 years ago
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don simon fbpe wrote:

mdavidford wrote:

Isn't the point of solid white lines meant to be to mark sections of road where it's not appropriate to overtake? Why would you have them on clear, straight sections with good visibility in the first place?

Maybe the line is there to prevent you from stopping in the middle of the road to turn left. Rules and reasons are different in Spain. Surprisingly.

Maybe. But then why would the line be relevant to this rule change at all?

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don simon fbpe replied to mdavidford | 3 years ago
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mdavidford wrote:

don simon fbpe wrote:

mdavidford wrote:

Isn't the point of solid white lines meant to be to mark sections of road where it's not appropriate to overtake? Why would you have them on clear, straight sections with good visibility in the first place?

Maybe the line is there to prevent you from stopping in the middle of the road to turn left. Rules and reasons are different in Spain. Surprisingly.

Maybe. But then why would the line be relevant to this rule change at all?

I'm not sure I understand your question, and I definitely don't understand how the Spanish write the rules, but on the stretch of road below you can see that it's straight enough to overtake. But there are two petrol stations up ahead. The solid white line prohibits you from turning left into that forecourt (but is broken on that side so that you can leave and turn left). You will get charged if the Guardia Civil catch you turning across a solid white line and the Spanish obey. That means you've got a fair distance stuck behind the cyclist. This law allows the car to cross the white line to pass cyclists but not dangerously overtake faster moving cars.

I also guess that there is a change that obliged the cyclist to ride to the right of the white line marking the shoulder on the right.

 

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mdavidford replied to don simon fbpe | 3 years ago
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I may have confused things slightly because when I originally read the article I thought it was implying that this part of the rules was changing. Reading it again, it's not clear that it is - it just says that's what the rule is - not that it's changing (in which case, I'm not really sure why it was included in the article in the first place).

What I understand from your explanation is that the solid line in Spain has a double meaning - i.e. do not overtake or turn. However, I still don't see why you would prohibit either of those on a stretch where visibility of the road ahead is clear. And where it's not clear, why would you allow overtaking of cycles?

It's hard to judge from a still like that, but in the image you've posted I can see why it might be considered necessary to prevent turning across the road, due to the bend it's approaching limiting the views of the road ahead. But then I'd say that also means that it's not safe to overtake.

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don simon fbpe replied to mdavidford | 3 years ago
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It has a single meaning- do not cross it. This is why the exemption has to be explicit and clear. Which it is.

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mdavidford replied to don simon fbpe | 3 years ago
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Which is basically the same as the UK then? So I'm not sure what your original comment, and our subsquent discussion, was all about?

cool

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don simon fbpe replied to mdavidford | 3 years ago
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UK doesn't use the solid white line to prevent crossing it on right turns, as far as I'm aware. The line pattern changes and "no right turn" signs are used.

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mdavidford replied to don simon fbpe | 3 years ago
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Sorry - yes - you're right:

Quote:

you MUST NOT cross or straddle it unless it is safe and you need to enter adjoining premises or a side road.

In that respect, the Spanish system seems more sensible than the UK one - if it's not safe to cross the line to overtake, turning across it doesn't seem sensible either (and vice versa).

The turning issue seems a bit of a distraction from the main point, though. Essentially, the solid line is there to tell you not to cross it, because crossing it is dangerous. If visibility is good and therefore crossing the line is not dangerous, why have a solid line? If visibility isn't good and therefore crossing the line is dangerous, why say it's OK when passing a cycle?

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cdamian replied to mdavidford | 3 years ago
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In Spain you are allowed to overtake bicycles, horses and tractors (maybe more) if there is a solid line.

Some people think they are not allowed to cross the line and then try to squeeze between the cyclist and the centre line. Which is annoying.

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alchemilla | 3 years ago
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I thought that was already the law there. They have signs beside roads everywhere telling motorists to give cyclists 1.5m space. About time we started seeing those signs over here.

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wtjs replied to alchemilla | 3 years ago
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They have signs beside roads everywhere telling motorists to give cyclists 1.5m space. About time we started seeing those signs over here.

There are lots of them here already- the difference is that motorists and the police do not take them seriously. Both groups also ignore the laws prohibiting crossing traffic lights at red, crossing double and single unbroken white lines...In those circumstances, the police feel entitled to ignore the mere 'rules' about close-passing cyclists and to forgive the definite offences at the same time. 

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eburtthebike | 3 years ago
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"... aims to improve safety of vulnerable road users – deaths of whom in 2019 exceeded those of motor vehicle occupants for the first time...."

Clearly their helmet law has been an unqualified success.

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Rendel Harris replied to eburtthebike | 3 years ago
4 likes

eburtthebike wrote:

"... aims to improve safety of vulnerable road users – deaths of whom in 2019 exceeded those of motor vehicle occupants for the first time...."

Clearly their helmet law has been an unqualified success.

Helmets aren't compulsory in any urban area in Spain, so not sure that proves much. I could just as well say they have 50% the UK number of cyclist deaths for a population 75% of ours and say that proves their helmet law is a success, but without proper analysis that would clearly be nonsense.

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zeeridesbikes replied to Rendel Harris | 3 years ago
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Aren't helmets compulsory in urban areas of Majorca? - updated this after I realised it seems to be compulsory outside of urban areas. 

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OldRidgeback replied to eburtthebike | 3 years ago
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It's worth noting that Spain's road safety programme has been remarkably successful. The country used to have a bad record for crashes. Cracking down on drinkdriving and speeding has made a huge difference for the better.

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Pyro Tim | 3 years ago
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Was already so much nicer to ride there. This just makes it better ❤

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Dnnnnnn replied to Pyro Tim | 3 years ago
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After 1000km in Andalusia, I'm inclined to agree with you.

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cdamian replied to Pyro Tim | 3 years ago
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I always complained about Spanish drivers, until I spend some time cycling in France, Italy, Germany and the UK, then I realised that we have the nicest drivers in the world  1

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don simon fbpe replied to cdamian | 3 years ago
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I always found Spanish drivers to be courteous, and more importantly not malicious. Close passes were because they weren't aware of the danger rather than punishments that we get in UK.

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Nick in Bilbao replied to Pyro Tim | 3 years ago
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Spanish drivers have their moments, but on the whole they are generally good about passing cyclists. I personally think it has a lot to do with the population density (92/km^2 vs. 277/km^2 for the UK).

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